|Molokai, though far less developed than its neighbors, can be an extremely interesting island. Gigantic sea cliffs, the tallest in the world, rise 2,000 feet above the waves. Powerful waterfalls, including the 1,750-foot Kahiwa Falls, pound majestically. Papohaku Beach is the longest and widest beach in Hawaii, though definitely not the most crowded. Molokais Kalaupapa Peninsula, which for years has been home to people suffering from Hansen's disease, (leprosy) remains one of the most isolated spots in the Hawaiian Islands. Ironically, formerly the most hidden and inaccessible place of all on Molokai, the Kalaupapa Leper Colony on Makanalua Peninsula beneath 2,000-foot cliffs, is more accessible today (by foot, mule or airplane) than the rest of the north coast. Today, thousands of visitors make their way down a mule path to see the small outcrop of land made famous by the healing efforts of Father Damien, a Belgian priest.
Lying 25 miles southeast of Oahu, Molokai shares with Lanai the distinction of occupying the geographic center of the Hawaiian chain. Serenely embedded between Oahu and Maui, in spirit and pace Molokai is the opposite of these more developed islands.
Molokai acquired its infamous image from Kalaupapa, the living hell of exiled lepers that formed Father Damien's leper colony. Fear, however, is the most unlikely emotion that visitors today experience on The Friendly Isle. With the largest proportion of Hawaiians of all the islands, the legacy of old Hawaii, the spirit of aloha, is most alive on Molokai.
Only 38 miles long and 10 miles wide, about the size of Manhattan, three volcanoes created Molokai which still define the island's geography. Narrow Molokai has three totally contrasting kinds of scenery and climates:
Deep gorges, rainforests and spectacular cliffs rise along the verdant northeast coast to culminate at the 4970-foot Mount Kamakou before falling more than 2000 feet to the island's western shoreline below;
Arid Mauna Loa tableland rises to 1,381 feet, scrubby cattle grazing lands and pineapple fields on the island's West End, edged on north and south shores by some of Hawaii's most scenic, remote beaches;
Flat, rain-and-wind-plagued, lava-encrusted Makanalua Peninsula on the north coast, inaccessible except for a tortuous trail down to this broad lava plain jutting into the Pacific.
Molokai hides its treasures from view and the quest to see them on the island's 261 square miles (less than half the size of Kauai) will not be easily forgotten. Unlike Kauai's magnificent pall, Molokai's comparable pall lacks a trail along the face of the cliffs to make them accessible. Lookouts and especially helicopter excursions compensate in their spectacular ways.
On the east end of the island, Halawa Valley and its beautiful waterfalls require a hike of several hours from the end of the island's access road. In the center of the island, scrub and tough kiaw (like mesquite plants) along a four-wheel-drive upland road conceal lush areas at higher elevations in the Molokai Forest Reserve full of ferns, Ohia, rare birds and plants, and waterfalls.