Update: The Molokai Ferry is no longer operating.
Have you ever looked across the Pailolo Channel from Maui over to Molokai and wondered what’s it like over there? Well, I did and curiosity finally got the best of me and I arranged to take the ferry from Maui over to Molokai. I’m not usually one to take a packaged tour, but after reviewing the options, I decided to take the full guided Alii Tour with Molokai Ferry.
Checking In & Ferry Ride to Molokai
The Alii tour requires that you check in at the Lahaina Harbor at 6:45 a.m. The check-in time was a bit ridiculous as the ferry didn’t arrive from Molokai until about 7:30 a.m and we probably didn’t board until 7:35 a.m. The ferry was supposed to start boarding at 7:15 a.m. and no explanation for the tardiness was provided.
The ferry wasn’t the newest or nicest I’ve ever been on, but it provided a fairly smooth ride in the morning. The ferry crew were friendly and willing to answer questions. The package included a basic continental breakfast consisting of juices, fresh fruits, and cakes and breads.
Starting the Tour
When we arrived at the Kaunakakai Wharf on Molokai, we boarded the air-conditioned van and met our tour guide. The tour guide’s name was Van and he had an engaging personality. He was a life long resident of Molokai and obviously very proud of the beautiful island that he calls home. The van was clean and seated around 20 people.
Palaau State Park
Our first stop was a Kalaupapa Lookout at Palaau State Park. A three minute walk leads to the lookout that offers a nice view of the remote Kalaupapa settlement and tall lush green sea cliffs. The elevation here is around 2,000 feet and the settlement is very close to sea level. The history of Kalaupapa is interesting. It was once a colony for victims of Hanson’s disease, formerly known as leprosy. Father Damien lived there and was a great help ministering to the needs of those suffering from Hanson’s disease.
At the same van stop, there was a 10 minute hike through ironwood tree forest to a phallic rock. (No, I’m not kidding.) This is a sacred spot for Hawaiians. It is said that barren women can make an offering at the rock and touch it to improve their fertility. We did see some offerings there.
Coffees of Hawaii
This stop was disappointing. I had hoped we would venture out into the 500-acre coffee farm and learn what makes the farm unique, but no such luck. This tour point was merely a stop at Molokai’s equivalent of a Starbucks and a gift shop. The coffee shop does sell a very good iced coffee drink called a mocha mama. This drink cost $4.25. If you get a chance to buy one, it’s worth the try.
Macadamia Nut Farm
We stopped at Purdy’s Farm and had a thorough tour from the owner, Tuddie. One thing particularly nice about this farm is that everything is grown and processed naturally without pesticides or preservatives. This informative tour showed all the stages of the tree and nut growth. Each person had an opportunity to crack nuts and sample the goodness.
A lunch was included in the tour. We stopped at Hotel Molokai at their beach side Hula Shores restaurant. We had a selection of beef or chicken with rice, steamed vegetables and fresh fruit cup. My husband and I had one of each and thought the food was pretty good.
St Joseph’s Church
From the Hotel Molokai, we followed the coastal road, Kamehameha V Highway. Along the way we saw ancient Hawaiian fishponds that still stand today. Our first stop after lunch was at a historic church built by Father Damien in 1876. It is one of four churches he built in Hawaii, but the only one that remains in its original condition. You are allowed to go inside the small church to admire the interior. On the outside there is a life sized statue of Father Damien. There is a second church built by Father Damien that we also saw along the Kamehameha V Highway, but we didn’t stop there.
We continued East along the Kamehameha V Highway. We stopped at Kumimi Beach that offered views of Maui and Lanai. The beach was the most “crowded” beach we saw and it had about 6 people on it. At this point we turned around heading back west into the “big city” of Kaunakakai.
Quaint would be an accurate description of Kaunakakai, the main city in Molokai. It’s only two blocks long and there are no street lights. The photo on the left was taken during “rush hour” in town. No one seemed to be in a hurry here. All drivers courteously stopped to let pedestrians cross the street. We had about 30 minutes to stroll around. My husband and I stopped in an art shop that sold artwork and crafts made only in Molokai. We also stopped by award winning Dave’s Ice Cream which had all the standard ice cream flavors plus tropical flavors like coconut macadamia nut. There was also a famous bakery that we would have liked to check out, but we didn’t have time.
The Ferry Ride Back to Maui
This ride back to Maui was ROUGH! I am not prone to seasickness, but I came very, very close to losing my lunch. I asked one of the crew members if the ride was always that rough and his response was “This is a good day for us.” The winds pick up in the afternoon making more waves. The ferry ride back is supposed to take 1.5 hours, but it actually took 2 hours. An old movie was shown in the main cabin, which helped to distract us from the extreme rocking motion.
Final Thoughts on the Alii Tour
This tour satisfied my curiosity to see Molokai. I know I didn’t see everything, but I saw enough to feel like I had an understanding of the lay of the land there. The tour was interesting, but not the most memorable or pleasant sight seeing trip I’ve taken in Hawaii. I would only recommend this tour to people who have seen and done everything on Maui and are not prone to seasickness. It seems that most people on the tour had timeshares in Maui so they had been to Maui many times already. The price of the tour is $190.75 per person for adults and $133.51 for children if purchased online.