Save money on your next flight

Skyscanner is the world’s leading flight search engine, helping you find the cheapest flights to destinations all over the world.

If you’ve ever wondered where exactly Molokai, one of Hawaii’s most pristine and untouched islands, is located, you’re not alone. This rugged and remote island offers natural beauty and serenity unlike anywhere else in the Hawaiian island chain.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Molokai is located in the middle of the Hawaiian archipelago, nestled between the islands of Oahu and Maui in the Pacific Ocean.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the geographic location of Molokai. We’ll look at where it sits in relation to the other Hawaiian islands, map out key towns and landmarks, break down distances across the island itself, discuss how to get there, and more.

Locating Molokai Among the Hawaiian Islands

Molokai’s Placement Within the Archipelago

The island of Molokai lies in the heart of the Hawaiian archipelago, nestled between the islands of Oahu to the southeast and Maui to the northeast. Spanning 260 square miles, Molokai is the fifth largest of the inhabited Hawaiian Islands.

Molokai’s central location means it is often seen as the “heart of the Hawaiian culture.” Despite tourism development on other islands like Oahu and Maui, Molokai has remained relatively isolated and undeveloped, making it an ideal destination for experiencing authentic Hawaiian traditions and the island lifestyle.

Islands Bordering Molokai

Molokai shares borders with the two larger Hawaiian islands of Maui to the northeast and Lanai and Kahoolawe to the east. Just across the Kalohi Channel to the southeast sits Oahu, home to the capital city of Honolulu and iconic Waikiki Beach.

The Pailolo Channel separating Molokai and Maui is only about 8 miles wide at its narrowest point, making Maui clearly visible from Molokai on clear days. This proximity has led to close historical ties between the two islands over the centuries.

Notable Geographic Features

Molokai is made up of two distinct landmasses joined by an isthmus, or narrow strip of land. The eastern side contains the lush green valleys and towering sea cliffs that Molokai is famous for. Meanwhile, the arid western plains stretch out to the remote Kalaupapa Peninsula.

Some of Molokai’s most iconic landmarks include:

  • Kalaupapa Peninsula – Remote site of the former leper colony turned National Historical Park.
  • Halawa Valley – Lush, untouched valley accessible only by guided tour.
  • Kamakou Preserve – Lush rainforest home to unique native birds and plants.
  • World’s Highest Sea Cliffs – Molokai’s northern coast features sea cliffs towering over 3,000 feet high.
  • Papohaku Beach – Stunning 3-mile long white sand beach on the arid west end.

With such diversity packed into a relatively small area, Molokai offers incredible geographic variety unmatched by its island neighbors. These landscapes have played a vital role in shaping the history and culture of Molokai that visitors still experience today.

Map of Molokai and Its Towns

West Molokai

West Molokai is the least populated area of the island, with much of the land owned by native Hawaiians. This region contains fantastic beaches like Papohaku Beach, which is over 3 miles long and 100 yards wide – perfect for long walks on the sand or watching magical sunsets.

The quaint laidback town of Maunaloa also lies on the west end of the island, featuring a small grocery store and gas station for visitors driving up to this tranquil part of Molokai.

Central Molokai and the North Shore

The central part of Molokai island hosts the main town area of Kaunakakai, where about half of the island’s residents call home. Here you’ll find restaurants, shops, gas stations, and other services for visitors and locals alike.

Heading further north brings you to the lush North Shore, home to famous destinations like Kalaupapa National Historical Park. This gorgeous but remote peninsula was once used to forcibly quarantine people suffering from leprosy, but today offers incredibly scenic hiking trails and sites honoring the history of the patients who once resided here involuntarily.

It’s only accessible by foot, mule, or plane.

East Molokai

On the eastern end of Molokai lies Halawa Valley, a gorgeous destination cherished for its towering waterfalls and ancient history as the original landing point of Hawaiians when they first arrived on the island centuries ago.

Guided cultural tours lead visitors on adventures to swim at the base of 250-foot Moa’ula Falls, traverse lush rainforests, and explore ancient religious temples left behind by the earliest inhabitants.

This magical valley feels like taking a step back in time, complemented by stunning vistas along Molokai’s eastern coastline. The sleepy towns of Puko’o and Kaunakakai offer places to refuel or relax after a long day of exploration as well.

Distances and Drive Times Around Molokai

Molokai is a small island, only 38 miles long and 10 miles wide at its widest point. However, driving around the island does take some time due to the winding roads and slower speed limits. Here are some approximate drive times to key destinations around Molokai:

From Kaunakakai to East End

The main town of Kaunakakai is centrally located on the south shore of Molokai. To reach the more remote and wild East End with its towering sea cliffs, beautiful beaches, and sleepy towns like Puko’o, plan for about a 1.5 to 2 hour drive covering around 30 miles.

From Kaunakakai to West End

Driving from Kaunakakai to the serene West End including the historic town of Maunaloa takes about 30-45 minutes to drive the 20 miles. The West End offers peaceful beaches good for swimming and relaxing.

Circumnavigating the Island

It’s possible to drive all the way around Molokai following the shoreline. The full island loop covers about 100 miles total and takes 3.5-4 hours of driving non-stop. Allow more time if you’ll be stopping to enjoy sights along the way.

Route Distance Drive Time
Kaunakakai to East End About 30 miles 1.5-2 hours
Kaunakakai to West End About 20 miles 30-45 minutes
Circumnavigating Island About 100 miles 3.5-4 hours

As you can see, while Molokai is geographically small, you still need to budget significant drive time to see all corners of the island. The rewarding, quiet pace of Molokai life demands patience. But the tranquility and the chance to connect with nature makes it worthwhile.

Getting to Molokai

Fly into Molokai

The primary way to reach the island of Molokai is to fly into Molokai Airport (MKK). There are daily flights from Honolulu International Airport on Oahu via Mokulele Airlines or Makani Kai Air. The flight time is only about 25 minutes, providing a quick hop over to this lesser visited Hawaiian island.

Once you land at the small Molokai Airport, which has just a single short runway, you’ll need to rent a car or arrange other transportation to get around the rural island.

There are very limited flight options to Molokai, with mostly small 9-seat prop planes flying the route. So it’s important to book early to ensure you get seats. There are typically just a couple of flights per day, mainly in the mornings and evenings.

Fares can range from around $100 to $300 roundtrip from Honolulu. You’ll enjoy gorgeous views of the islands and Pacific Ocean on the short flight over before arriving at an airport that serves more locals than tourists.

Take a Ferry to Molokai

Alternatively, you can reach Molokai by ferry instead of flying. The Molokai Ferry offers daily service from Lahaina Harbor on Maui to Kaunakakai Wharf on Molokai. The crossing takes about 1.5 hours each way across the Pailolo Channel.

There are generally two or three round trips per day, so you’ll need to plan your island-hopping accordingly. The ferry can accommodate both passengers and vehicles if you want to take your rental car over. Adult passenger fares start at $77.60 one-way.

One advantage of the ferry is the ability to enjoy ocean views and sea breezes during the 45 mile journey. You may even spot whales, dolphins or flying fish along the way. The capacity of the ferry is around 100 passengers, so it typically doesn’t sell out except during peak times.

It’s recommended to show up at least 30 minutes before departure for boarding. Tickets can be purchased online, over the phone or at the ferry terminal.

Where to Stay on Molokai Based on Location

Molokai offers a variety of accommodation options for visitors depending on what type of vacation experience they are looking for. Here is an overview of some of the main areas to stay on Molokai and what each location has to offer:


Kaunakakai is the main town and population center on Molokai located on the southern coast. It offers the most lodging, dining, and shopping options on the island such as:

  • Hotel Molokai – a tropicalPolynesian-themed hotel right along the waterfront
  • Molokai Shores – condo rentals with full kitchens near town
  • Local B&Bs and vacation rentals – cozy and affordable choices often hosted by Molokai residents

Kaunakakai is a good central base for those who want easy access to amenities and island adventures. The town has groceries, eateries, gas stations, outfitters for activities, and more.

West End

Molokai’s West End near the Kaluakoi Resort area offers some of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Lodging choices out this way include:

  • Pāpōhaku Ranch – a peaceful 3,000 acre ranch with cabin rentals nestled between the ocean and Maunaloa mountain
  • Ke Nani Kai – condos right on the ocean known for gorgeous sunset views
  • Kaluakoi Resort – individual condos, townhouses, and villas overlooking white-sand beaches (currently closed but reopening soon)

West End properties place visitors right near world-class beaches, snorkeling, and the most sunsets. And with its rural feel, this end of the island offers a serene escape.

East End

On the more remote and untouched East End, rustic oceanside rentals allow visitors to connect with nature. Two options here include:

  • Waialua Beach – also known as Twenty Mile Beach, this enormous stretch has house and condo rentals nestled along it
  • Pūkoʻo – simple rental beach houses sitting right along the dramatic seaside cliffs on East End

With an undiscovered vibe, Molokai’s East End offers a real off-the-grid retreat immersed in the island’s wild natural beauty.

No matter which area visitors stay, Molokai’s small size makes it easy to explore all parts of the island. But choosing lodging based on location and interests can help shape the type of rustic, beachy, or adventurous Hawaiian trip travelers are dreaming of.


Hopefully this guide has helped answer exactly where Molokai, Hawaii, the secluded island paradise, is situated among the Hawaiian islands and given you a better sense of its unique geography. From its placement in the archipelago to the towns and landscapes across it to getting there, we’ve aimed to be as comprehensive as possible regarding Molokai’s location.

With its remote beaches, towering sea cliffs, lush valleys, and small communities retaining traditional Hawaiian culture, Molokai promises beautiful isolation and calm away from busier tourist destinations in Hawaii.

Whenever you embark on a trip there, this guide on the island’s locale can serve as a helpful reference.

Sharing is caring!

Similar Posts