The island of Moloka‘i is shrouded in mystery and misconceptions. While the Kalaupapa Peninsula was once the site of a leper colony, a visit to Kalaupapa is now one of the island’s most revered historical and cultural experiences. And while there are no resorts on Moloka‘i, there are plenty of bed-and-breakfasts, condominiums, and easy-going inns that serve as a relaxing base for exploring the island’s valleys, waterfalls, and beaches.

While the Kalaupapa Peninsula was once the site of a leper colony, a visit to Kalaupapa is now one of the island’s most revered historical and cultural experiences.

While the Kalaupapa Peninsula was once the site of a leper colony, a visit to Kalaupapa is now one of the island’s most revered historical and cultural experiences. Photo © Alden Cornell, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

From the empty beaches of the island’s west end, the lights of Honolulu shine brightly behind Diamond Head crater.Regarded as the birthplace of hula, Moloka‘i is a time capsule of Hawaiian history and culture. Visiting the island is an enlightening journey into a culture straddling the divide between modernity and tradition. It’s one of the few places in Hawaii where it’s still possible to hear people speaking the Hawaiian language—possibly while stopped in the middle of the road, “talking story” in a “Moloka‘i traffic jam.” That may be the only cause of traffic on the island: its 7,500 residents still don’t have to worry about stoplights.

From the east end of the island, the high-rise resorts of Ka‘anapali can be seen glittering at night, a floating sea of lights. From the empty beaches of the island’s west end, the lights of Honolulu shine brightly behind Diamond Head crater. In the middle, between the two, Moloka‘i hides beneath a blanket of stars, already asleep while its neighbors stay awake late into the night.

Moloka‘i has a slow pace of life, but by no means is it boring. On the contrary, this island is a tropical playground where the volume of adventure opportunities can keep outdoor lovers busy for days. Imagine surfing perfect waves, scuba diving the longest fringing reef in the Hawaiian Islands, or hiking through rainforests inhabited by 219 species of plants found nowhere else on the planet. If all of the adventure is too much for you, relax on a westward-facing beach, watching the sun sink into the horizon.

Map of Moloka‘i, Hawaii

Moloka‘i


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.