You can’t get lost on Moloka‘i. Just one road (Hi 460 and HI 450) spans the 38-mile island west to east. If you pick up your car at the airport, you’ll see a sign reading, “Slow down, you’re on Molokai.” That says it all.
Then head to the west end and sleepy Maunaloa town, where the Big Wind Kite Factory is the place to stop. This town was once the headquarters for Molokai Ranch when paniolo or cowboys herded cattle on the dusty brushy areas surrounding the town. The ranch left years ago.
Moving east, the the road curves south to the shore where you’ll find Kapuaiwa palm grove, planted by King Kamehameha V in the mid-1800s. Now you’re at Kaunakakai, the island’s big town. Fortify yourself with some fresh bread from Kanemitsu Bakery. Then continue east.
For several miles, you’ll notice rocky enclosures along the shoreline. These are fishponds. Hawaiians practiced aquaculture long before contact with North Americans. St. Joseph Church merits a stop. It’s one of several on the island built by Father Damien, the Belgium priest who came here to care for lepers in the large colony at Kalaupapa. He’s now St. Damien of Moloka‘i.
The fishponds play out at about MM 20, but a fine sandy beach and lovely bay is safe for swimming, though you won’t find facilities. Then the road turns north and climbs through ranch pastureland. Just before the east end it hovers high above the Halawa Valley. Your reward is a swim on the beach.