Molokai is steeped in cultural tradition and historic sights, which shape much of the island’s agrarian lifestyle even today. Experience what this unique place has to offer, from local musical performances to the heart-wrenching story of Kalaupapa village, one of Hawaii’s most remote and unusual outposts.
The saying goes that Molokai is Hawaii’s most “Hawaiian” island, with a large percentage of ethnic Hawaiians, an agrarian lifestyle and an adherence to tradition. On Molokai, visitors have the chance to actually hear Hawaiian spoken, meet local folks and experience Hawaii more as it was before the statehood boom.
The first stop on your cultural exploration is the Molokai Museum & Cultural Center. Here you’ll learn about the island’s unusual history, including Kalaupapa, and have the chance to explore a fully restored sugar mill from 1878.
The village of Kalaupapa is perhaps the most incredible historic site to witness. Isolated at the base of the world’s highest sea cliffs, for 140 years it has served as a Hansen’s disease (formerly called leprosy) colony. This is a guided-tour-only destination, accessible by a steep hike or mule ride in, or by propeller plane. Antique churches, a lighthouse, stone walls, homes and wee shops, as well as centuries-old Hawaiian archaeological sites, are just some of what you’ll see.
Additional cultural sites include Molokai’s ancient fishponds, which line the southern shore, as well as vintage churches, the Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove and the old sugar-plantation town of Maunaloa.
Molokai’s Hawaiian cultural events take place around the year. One of the biggest is the annual Ka Hula Piko Hula Festival in May, celebrating the birth of the hula. In September and October, experience traditional outrigger canoe paddling at its best when teams from around the world race 41 miles from Molokai to Oahu. Also in October, be sure to see the Festivals of Aloha. Authentic Hawaiian music and dance are always on at local spots around the year, and we highly recommend you catch a performance.
Visit the handful of Island shops in Kaunakakai, Kualapuu and Maunaloa for locally handcrafted treasures from jewelry to paintings, koa-wood bowls, lauhala hats and even kites. You’ll find quality pieces that are available nowhere else and even possibly meet the artists themselves. On Saturdays, Kaunakakai’s Ala Malama Avenue turns into an easygoing farmers’ market with a little bit of everything. It’s classic Molokai—friends and neighbors, lots of chatting and a great time.
Meet the locals and learn about agriculture on the island at one of its many farm and plantation tours, including macadamia-nut, plumeria-flower, coffee and organic papaya.
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