Moloka‘i is home to a culture straddling the divide between modernity and tradition. Residents stopped in the middle of the road “talking story” in a “Moloka‘i traffic jam” may be the only cause of traffic on the island: its 7,500 residents still don’t have to worry about stoplights. That’s one of the reasons why getting around Moloka‘i is fairly easy and convenient.

A 5mph speed limit sign warns of a twisty road ahead on Moloka‘i.

While there may not be much traffic on Moloka‘i, this speed limit sign still warns you to take it easy on the curves. Photo © Big Blue Ocean, licensed Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike.

Another reason getting around is fairly easy is the closest thing to public transportation on all of Moloka‘i: the MEO public shuttle bus. The shuttle operates three routes throughout the island at times just frequent enough to make it convenient. Service in Kaunakakai originates in front of Misaki’s Market on Ala Malama Street and runs six times daily to Maunaloa and eight times daily to Puko‘o in East Moloka‘i. Along the routes the driver will usually let you stop off wherever you please. Though the service is technically free, donations to keep the shuttle going are graciously accepted. Exact schedules can be found by visiting http://www.meoinc.org.

For a more direct route–and best known as a conduit between the airport, ferry, and wherever it is you’re staying–Hele Mai Taxi (808/336-0937 or 808/646-9060) also offers private tours of the island and will get you wherever you need to go 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Also available is Mid-Nite Taxi (808/658-1410 or 808/553-5652), although the service can be a little spottier at times.

If you’d like to take care of the driving yourself, the only rental car agency with a booth in the airport is Alamo (808/567-6381 or 888/826-6893 toll free, 6am-8pm daily), which also has the largest fleet of cars on the island. For those staying a minimum of three days, Moloka‘i Outdoors (808/553-4477) rents SUVs, cars, and vans, and can provide cheaper rates for extended stays. If you’ve taken the ferry, check the Cruise and Car Package deal offered by the Moloka‘i Ferry (877/500-6284).

Keep in mind if you do rent a vehicle that there are only two gas stations on the island—right next to each other in Kaunakakai. Be sure you have at least half a tank of fuel before heading out on an adventurous day trip to Halawa or Papohaku. Rawlins Chevron (Hwy. 450 and Kaunakakai Pl., 6:30am-8:30pm Mon.-Thurs., 6:30am-9pm Fri.-Sat., 6:30am-6pm Sun.) has longer hours and more supplies, though it still will cost you at least $0.75 more per gallon than back on Maui.

On the other hand, if you’d prefer to let someone else entirely deal with the driving, navigating, and planning, Moloka‘i Outdoors (808/553-4477) offers an Island Tour package which scours the island from Halawa Lookout all the way to Papohaku Beach. Operating three times per week, these tours cover the island in an air-conditioned van and usually carry a small group of only 4-8 people. Rates for the island tour run $150 for adults and $78 for children.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.