Despite the fact that hula was invented here, the world seems to spin a little slower on this charming island near the middle of the Hawaiian islands, thought by some to be the “most Hawaiian” of the Islands. Come here to rediscover the simple pleasures of exploration and conversation (called “talking story”) under palm trees and wind chimes. Speaking of palm trees, you won’t see any buildings higher than a coconut palm tree (three stories), and traffic lights, honking horns and car snarls are nonexistent.
Before You Go: Need-to-know info
Languages: English, Hawaiian and Pidgin (a blend of English, Hawaiian, Japanese and Portuguese)
Flight time (to Honolulu): 11 hours from New York City; 6 hours from LA; a 25-minute flight from Honolulu
Getting around: Rental car (preferably four-wheel drive) and taxi
When to Go: Molokai at its best
Best weather: Sunny and warm, temperatures average 75 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, but it’s slightly rainy in winter.
Best prices: Mid-April to mid-December
Festival highlights: Beautiful leis blanket Hawaii for statewide Lei Day on May 1; Molokai Ka Hula Piko (a celebration of the birth of hula on Molokai) in May is a daylong event filled with hula shows, music and storytellers; Aloha Festivals in September and October inspire street parties, music, dance and craft shows to celebrate Hawaiian culture statewide.
What to Do
Take on water and land adventures: Check out the aquaculture at historical fishponds, an ingenious and indigenous method of trapping fish used by 13th-century Hawaiians. Hit the sand at the gorgeous, and relatively private, three-mile-long Papohaku Beach on the island’s west coast, one of the longest on the Hawaiian Islands. Then head up to the mountains. Hike or hop a mule down a steep, slender mountain path to the fascinating town of Kalaupapa National Historic Park, once a leprosy colony. The path runs three miles (with 26 switchbacks!) and takes about two hours by mule. Or tour Kamakou Preserve, a Hawaii Nature Conservancy rain forest preserve on the slopes of Mt. Kamakou, Molokai’s highest peak at slightly less than 5,000 feet.
Try the homegrown goodies: Near the tiny town of Kualapuu in central Moloka’i, tour 500 acres of coffee plants in a mule-drawn wagon, learn how coffee is made and enjoy a few espressos at Coffees of Hawaii. For coffee connoisseurs, Molokai coffee may not have the same cachet as Kona, but it’s just as good and half the price. And don’t miss the nearby Plantation Store, which sells Molokai-made products such as bracelets and jewelry made from coconut shells and wiliwili seeds, jellies, jams, soaps and pottery. Nearby is Purdy’s Macadamia Nut Farm, where you can tour the farm and sample nuts straight from the shell.