Best Molokai Hikes: The Top-Rated Hiking Trails & Walks

Planning a hiking trip to Hawaii? We all know about the famed treks on Oahu and Maui. But for a dash of offbeat adventure, leave plenty of room for the best Molokai hikes, too. With few major developments, the island’s landscape remains as it always has. Here, you’re under no illusions that nature is in control.

Molokai is home to some of the rarest landscapes in Hawaii, including the only coastal ecosystem from when the state was the Kingdom of Hawaii. Hikers will also have the opportunity to explore the tallest sea cliffs on earth and elegant waterfalls in untamed jungles.

Ready for the ultimate Molokai hiking adventure? Embark on the best hiking trails in Molokai with this complete guide.

Where to go hiking on Molokai

Halawa Valley Falls

The ancient Halawa Valley is believed to have been home to the oldest village in Hawaii and was originally settled in 650 AD. A tsunami in the 1940s destroyed much of the community, leading to an immense jungle taking over the valley. Today, the best way to explore the incredible environment is on two feet.

Halawa Valley Falls

The trail to Halawa Valley Falls cuts through private land; all hikers must sign up for a guided tour. While your ultimate aim is to see the stunning falls, your guide will help showcase the significance of the valley from a cultural and historical perspective. It only serves to elevate your hiking experience.

You’ll also be thankful for having a guide as you wander down the tricky trail, crossing rivers and meandering through dense canopies. The Halawa Valley is a very remote part of the island. Despite being one of the top hikes on Molokai, it remains relatively quiet.

After two miles, the dual-tiered waterfall appears, tumbling down the moss-laden rock to a refreshing swimming hole below. If you’re able to, continue all the way down the valley to the secluded Halawa Beach Park, one of the most beautiful beaches on Molokai.

  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Time: 2.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Kamakou Preserve

Kamakou Preserve is enveloped in primordial earth. Home of Hawaii’s largest old-growth rainforest, the preserve is a rare look back in time to an era of untamed nature. In keeping with the wilderness vibe, it’s not even easy to reach the beginning of the park’s main trail.

To make it to the trailhead of Pepe’opae Bog Trail, you’ll first have to make your way down 10 miles of four-wheel-drive road, followed by another two miles on foot. But it’s worth every minute. Soon, you’ll be surrounded by 200 indigenous Hawaiian plants, interrupted only by tenuous boardwalks.

The 3-mile trail quickly disappears when you aren’t looking at it, as the colors and nature take over. It guides you in and out of the canopy, switching overgrown rainforests for open meadows with the bog waiting to catch you if you fall.

At the end of the trail, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Pelekunu Valley, one of the most beautiful places to see in Molokai.

  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Palaau State Park

There are two easy and family-friendly hikes in Palaau State Park. With splendid vistas, plenty of culture, and lots of exquisite nature, these are two of the best hiking trails in Molokai—especially if you’re short on time.

Palaau State Park

We use the word trail a bit loosely here: The trek to Kalaupapa Lookout is on a short paved path whose length barely warrants a mention. But at the end of the trail, you’ll find yourself at, arguably, the best viewpoint on the island. Enjoy sweeping views of the record-breaking Pali Coast, home to the tallest sea cliffs on earth.

The second hike is slightly longer, taking no longer than 15 minutes to complete. But the journey is far more fulfilling, as you meander through amazing forests of mossy rocks and age-old ironwood trees. The trail leads to the revered Phallic Rock, a rock worshiped by local women and said to help them become pregnant.

  • Distance: 0.7 miles
  • Time: 45 minutes  
  • Difficulty: Easy

Kalaupapa Pali Trail

Despite being mere steps from the cruisey hikes in Palaau State Park, the Kalaupapa Pali Trail is one of the most strenuous and enthralling hikes in Molokai. The hike begins in the Kalaupapa National Historical Park, a former leper colony where those with leprosy were quarantined for over a century.

Kalaupapa Peninsula

You’ll need to join a guided tour to explore the park and village, which still has residents. However, you can embark on the trail by yourself. The intense hike will take you from the crest of the incredible sea cliffs, down to the Pacific Ocean, losing 1,700 feet in elevation.

With your legs jellied from the 2.9-mile descent, you’ll stumble upon Awahua Beach with a wide grin slapped across your face. Backed by the Kalaupapa Peninsula, you’ll have never felt so small and admired the forces of nature more. Jump in for a swim, before beginning the thigh-burning ascent.

  • Distance: 5.8 miles
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Challenging

Molokai Forest Reserve

The Molokai Forest Reserve is home to the longest hike on our list. This 25.6-mile out-and-back hike is a long but moderately difficult hike mixing dirt road hiking with the bogs and thick rainforests we’ve come to know and love.

The trail follows a dirt road for five miles until officially entering the reserve. From there you’ll wander along metal boardwalks through the bog to the historic Sandalwood Measuring Pit. A mile later, hikers will arrive at the Waikolia Lookout where you’ll gaze up the southwest rim of the Waikolu Canyon.

Throughout the first half of the journey, you’ll come close to or summit multiple mountains, making this trail one of the best ways to explore the island.

  • Distance: 25.6 miles
  • Time: 12 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging

Mo’omomi Preserve

The Mo’omomi Preserve features one of the most unique Molokai hiking trails. The trail guides you through the last major native coastal ecosystems in Hawaii.

Mo'omomi Beach

At the Mo’omomi Preserve, you’ll find towering sand dunes shaped by the perennial northeast trade winds. The wind creates these beautiful linear sand dunes that’ll delight hikers and those with OCD—albeit for different reasons.

The dunes stretch a mile long and often hundreds of feet wide. When you start walking, they’ll look quite typical of dunes around the world. But the protected landscapes are home to native grass and more rare coastal species than anywhere in Hawaii.

  • Distance: 3.3 miles
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

Wailau Trail

The Wailau Trail is a formidable challenge, traipsing through overgrown jungle and ending with spellbinding views. It begins at an ancient Hawaiian temple in a secluded part of the island’s southeast. The temple is can be tricky to find. If you reach the nearby general store, you’ve gone too far.

Once you see the temple, the trail itself will become apparent. From there, it’s a battle of wits between you and the jungle. You want to follow the path and the jungle is doing its best to hide it. Eventually, you’ll win as an open meadow appears with views of Maui and Lanai. You’ll enter the forest again, met this time by bogs, twisted trees, and vines.

Almost without warning, you’ll reach the edge of a cliff, dropping 3,000 feet into a forgotten valley that remains paused in time.

  • Distance: 5.9 miles
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Difficulty: Challenging

Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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