Putting the pieces together for your next beach vacation to Hawaii? Don’t miss out on adding the best beaches in Molokai to your itinerary. The underrated Hawaiian island provides the white sand you love alongside amazing views, including the tallest sea cliffs on earth.
Perched between Oahu and Maui, Molokai’s beautiful beaches don’t see the same crowds as the more renowned islands. Travelers will be able to enjoy the turquoise water and great snorkeling in peace—not to mention, have their own private patch of sand.
Ready to plan the perfect Molokai beach vacation? Find tranquility at any of these wonderful Molokai beaches.
Top-rated Molokai beaches
Papohaku Beach Park
Papohaku Beach Park is one of the longest and most beautiful Molokai beaches. It features over three miles of white sand beach with a width of a hundred feet. For this reason, it’s easy to feel as if you’re the only one around as you decorate the beach with your footprints.
From your spot on the shore, you’ll have beautiful long-range views across the strait to Oahu. Bring your binoculars to gaze upon the dramatic Diamond Head.
Like many beaches in Molokai, we suggest only swimming during calm seas. Papohaku Beach can feature strong currents and there are no lifeguards on duty.
Popohaku has bathrooms, showers, and picnic tables. You can also camp overnight for a fee. Papohaku’s west-facing shore is also perfect for sunsets.
Also known as Kumimi Beach, this stretch of white sands can be found on Molokai’s east shore at mile marker 20. Murphy’s Beach is a rarity on the island, as it features calm waters throughout the year, offering some of Molokai’s best snorkeling.
Murphy’s Beach is a narrow beach backed by ironwood trees, with shallow translucent water perfect for young families and newbie swimmers.
If you can, arrive at high tide, so you’re swimming above golden sand, rather than the rocky bottom. As you explore, you’ll come across a variety of exotic native fish before eventually stumbling upon the beautiful coral reef.
Although it has a well-earned reputation for calm seas, if waves are breaking against the reef, enjoy the view from the safety of the soft sand.
Just off of Highway 450, Sandy Beach is the last pocket of golden sand before the road ventures inland to the Halawa Valley. The beach can be found at mile marker 22, with the spot just steps away from the driver’s seat.
The drive along Highway 450 comes with everything you love about coastal roads, from endless ocean views to exciting hairpin turns. But by the time you reach Sandy Beach, you’ll be ready for a break.
The beach is a mere slit between the shrubs and the water, and the sand quickly descends into the ocean. It’s a great swimming beach and because it gets deep early, you won’t have to venture far. Thankfully, the water also tends to be calm here, with lovely snorkeling.
Dixie Maru Cove (Kapukahehu Beach)
From one end of the island to the other, Dixie Maru Cove is a great option for families and travelers who want to swim all day long. The off-shore reef acts as a natural barrier, allowing the cove to remain flat as you swim from one end to the other. In doing so, you’ll understand how the beach got its name, with “maru” representing the sense of perfection in Japanese.
Back on dry land, veg out on the beach as you look west towards Honolulu. Kapukahehu Beach is also flanked by ancient lava flow on each end, providing some exciting adventures when you aren’t sunbathing or swimming.
As there are no lifeguards on duty at Kapukahehu, remain on the beach if the waves bypass the reef.
Halawa Beach Park
Deep in the Halawa Valley, Halawa Beach Park comprises not one but two beaches. Both combine to make this one of the best beaches on Molokai.
The beach is remote and rugged, on the secluded northeastern tip of the island. Prepare to feel every bit of that seclusion as you reach the sandy cove, flanked by soaring peaks and the historic valley.
On the eastern end of Halawa Bay, you’ll find Kawili Beach and, on the other end, Kama’alaea Beach. The cove is great for sunbathing and enjoying the majestic scenery.
On calm days, the effervescent water will tempt you in for a swim. Halawa Beach is also renowned for its surf. Today, it’s as popular a surfing spot for local riders as it was for Molokai chiefs in eras past.
At the end of Kuluakoi Road, you’ll find both Kepuhi Beach Resort and the beach it’s named after. Kepuhi Beach sits on the island’s west end and will immediately look inviting for travelers. However, the beach has an untamed personality that makes it a wild place to be.
On calm days, you can go swimming, but be aware of potential rips. On windy days and throughout winter, the waves soar to great heights and smash onto the wide-open beach, exposing old lava and enormous boulders.
While Kepuhi may not be the most pleasant spot for a swim, it’s an excellent opportunity to admire the might of the sea. Plus, the sunsets here are always on point.
From wild Kepuhi Beach, we turn our attention to the delightful Kaupoa Beach. This sandy beach is another glorious spot for swimming and snorkeling on Molokai. It’s broken up into two sections by a rocky outcrop, with both beaches curved like crescent moons.
On either side, you’ll find translucent water and calm swimming, not to mention the soft golden sand. The summer is the best time to experience Kaupoa Beach. In the summer months, the water is at its flattest and you can meet an abundance of native marine life in the lave tide pools.
If you’ve arrived in winter, enjoy the balmy temperatures from your retreat on the sand as the rough surf tumbles in.
South of Papohaku Beach, you’ll find Po’olau Beach that’s more hardened lava than a sandy paradise. It can be tricky to find Po’olau Beach as the signs come and go. But to make sure you aren’t running around in a circle, plug in the GPS to arrive at Kaula Ili Way.
As you walk towards Po’olau, you’ll see nothing but turquoise ocean and blue sky. But as the beach comes into view, the field of lava rocks appears.
This shouldn’t deter visitors as it’s a gorgeous site, with several sandy sections to enjoy. The ocean is great for a dip, but keep in mind that the ocean surface is also rock.
For those who like to combine their beach day with a little hiking on Molokai, then Kawakiu Beach is a perfect choice. The beautiful, secluded white sand beach is yours for the taking if you’re up for tackling the 45-minute walk to get here.
To arrive at the trailhead, drive down Kaluakoi Road, turning onto Paniolo Hale. Soon you’ll pass a dirt road to your right. Put the car in park and get walking. If you’re blessed with a 4WD, you can continue driving.
After completing the walk, you’ll arrive at the tranquil beach greeted only by the sounds of the crashing waves. With plenty of sand to choose from, pick a spot before cooling off in the baby blue ocean.
Hale O Lono Beach
On Molokai’s southeast coast, Hale o Lono Beach is a former place of worship and the modern-day starting point for the Molokai Mole. For centuries, locals would arrive at the House of Lono to visit the heiau (temple) and worship Lono, who was the god of agriculture. They would offer gifts and pray for prosperous crop yields.
Today, the long and thin South Shore beach is a popular spot for fishing throughout the year and watching the migrating whales in the winter.
Away from much of Molokai’s development, it remains a quiet place—except for one day. The Molokai Hoe is an annual outrigger canoe competition that sees boats travel from the island west to Oahu.
On the east end of the beach is a harbor. Walk across to the other side to find Halena Beach.
One Ali’i Beach Park
One Ali’i Beach Park is known as much for its spacious picnic areas as its white sand. You’ll find the beach on the southern coast, right off Kamehameha V Highway. It’s broken into two areas, simply called section I and II.
In front of both sections is a narrow and wide beach that quickly flows into the Pacific Ocean. The shallow water makes for safe swimming, although it’s not as crystal clear as other beaches on Molokai.
After a swim, enjoy what makes One Ali’i Beach so great, especially for families. The wide-open fields are perfect for picnics and games. You’ll also have access to the pavilions, amenities, and beach BBQs.
Venturing back along Highway 450 is Waialua Beach, another golden sand beach with shallow waters that are perfect for beginner snorkelers. You’ll spot the beach at mile marker 18, just before Kumimi Beach. It’s a beautiful stretch of soft sand with some shady spots under the trees to escape the Hawaiian sun.
While the snorkeling here isn’t exceptional, the conditions are forgiving. Venture out into the shallow water, offering lovely clarity, and swim across to the small coral reef that protects the beach. You’ll come across schools of colorful fish who call the area home. With the experience under your belt, you’ll feel ready to experience other snorkel spots in Molokai.
Kiowea Beach Park
On the detrital sands of Kiowea Beach Park is another brilliant spot for friends and family. While the water is murky because of onshore erosion, it’s still a pleasant swim and a great way to cool off. When the tide is out, you’ll spot the freshwater springs bubbling on the surface.
Behind the beach is a large park where you’ll find shaded pavilions and picnic areas. Here, you can cook up a feast on the BBQs while also having access to the beach’s bathrooms and showers.
Another highlight of the beach is the Kamehameha Coconut Grove, that’s believed to have been planted by the king himself.
Pohaku Mauliuli Beach
Featuring two white sand coves, Pohaku Mauliuli Beach is a wonderful place for a day in the sun. The beaches combine to offer enough space to spread out, while the surrounding lava rocks and local cinder cone offer splendid views. The latter is a mini volcano sharing the same name as the beach.
The beach’s other name is Make Horse, translating to “dead horse.” It received this name after a tragic accident involving a horse falling off the beach’s cliff. But there will be no sense of the tragedy as you sunbathe or explore the large lava tide pools.
On the northwest coast, Mo’omomi Beach is home to some of the island’s best sand dunes. The enduring winds sweeping the beach are a necessary evil that form these natural landmarks. It’s worth putting up with to explore the dunes that stretch for over 4 miles inland. It’s no wonder this part of Molokai is called the Desert Strip.
Mo’omomi Beach was once a popular fishing spot but is now a nature preserve. You’ll find the pocket of golden sand at the Hawaiian Home Lands Center. Rather than being a great spot for swimming, it’s your natural trailhead to explore the expansive preserve on any of the nature trails.
Backed by the world’s tallest sea cliffs, Awahua Beach is an unbeatable location. Getting here is the biggest issue, as you navigate the remote Kalaupapa Peninsula. As you venture into the Pala’au State Park, head down a trail that drops over 1,500 feet.
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The difficulty of the hike means those who make the trip will be rewarded with a quiet paradise with, few if, any crowds. As you arrive on the beach, with your legs all jelly from the descent, take in the breathtaking views. Behind you, the sea cliffs soar above to heights of almost 4,000 feet.
Before beginning the ascent, have a quick swim to cool off (beware of rip currents).