5 Days In Molokai itinerary

Day 3: Wild West Coast Beaches

The third day of our Molokai itinerary is another relaxing day in paradise. Today, we’ll head to Molokai’s desert-like west coast and the island’s finest beaches.

Pro Tip

You can combine one of the beaches listed here with either day two’s itinerary (Kalaupapa) or tomorrow’s (Molokai Forest Reserve). However, keep in mind that it will take about 35 minutes to reach the beach and a further 30+ minutes to get back to the Kaunakakai area. I personally devoted a full beach day to the west and then drove for the sunset post Kalaupapa visit (returning to my Wavecrest condo well after 8 pm).

Scenic Drive from Kaunakakai

There’s no need to get an early start on this day, so enjoy your morning, head to town for a stroll, and either prepare or buy some lunch and snacks for your day at the beach(es). I also recommend packing plenty of water and some form of shade if you “suffer” from direct sunlight. Bring your beach gear and the usual sun protection (lotion and large hat).

From Kaunakakai, head on HWY 460 toward the airport and just keep going. Before the turnoff to HWY 470 (Kalaupapa), don’t forget to look back and see Molokai’s gorgeous coral reef – such a rarity in Hawaii. Over here, on the saddle between the island’s two volcanoes, the scenery quickly changes and is very arid despite the presence of several agricultural farms.

Driving in Molokai Hawaii

After the airport, pull over on the side of the road whenever you feel like it. There are several unofficial scenic spots to admire the rolling red-soiled hills meeting the blue ocean. You’ll eventually enter Molokai’s Kaluakoi region, which was home to the island’s only resort and golf course for many years. The resort is long gone, but a few condos are left (see “where to stay” section).

Kawakiu Beach

By far the prettiest beach I visited in Molokai and right up there in my list of best beaches in Hawaii. Kawakiu Beach is a series of sandy coves hugged by eroding limestone cliffs whose fine interior layers are exposed to the elements. The southern cove is the main beach, where you’ll find shade, relatively calm waters, and an out-of-this-world natural wading pool!

Kawakiu Beach - Molokai Hawaii

Cross the beach and pick up the trail heading north along the cliff line to get to the more secluded coves. After a few minutes, you’ll get a sense of where to park it, and the further you go out, the less of a chance you’ll have of seeing a soul.

Kawakiu Beach golden sand - Molokai Hawaii
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Kawakiu Beach eroded limestone cliffs - Molokai Hawaii

Logistics: keep in mind that swimming is dangerous on the West Coast during the winter months, and there isn’t going to be anyone to rescue you. Park your car in the Paniolo Hale parking lot and walk for a few minutes to pick up the beach’s trailhead. Alternatively, you can continue driving on the dirt road and park in front of the beach. There are (obviously) no facilities so bring everything you need.  

Kepuhi Beach

A well-marked trail leads from Kawakiu Beach to Kepuhi Beach. Even if you aren’t planning to beach-hop, it’s worth walking up the path to catch a view of the two golden beauties. The beach is rougher for swimming and is backed by the former resort-turned-condo.

Kepuhi Beach - Molokai - Hawaii

Papohaku Beach

This is where you want to wrap up this beach day with a sunset that will live in your memory for a very long time. Stretching for over two miles, Papohaku Beach is blessed with some of the softest sand I’ve ever stepped on, and since it is so immense, you can easily find your very own spot to disappear in. Oahu is clearly visible in the distance on an average day, and strolling up and down the beach as you await the setting sun is quite a must.

Papohaku Beach - Molokai - Hawaii
Golden sand in Papohaku Beach - Molokai Hawaii
Coconut on beach - Papohaku Beach - Molokai Hawaii

Swimming, however, is very hazardous out here, so stick to the beach. On a windy day, the flying fine sand will be quite annoying, but moving to one of the wooden benches overlooking the beach will do the trick. Sunsets are (obviously) quite glorious here.

Red sand dune before sunset - Papohaku Beach - Molokai - Hawaii
Sunset in Papohaku Beach - Molokai Hawaii
Sunset in Papohaku Beach - Molokai - Hawaii