Review of Molokai Ferry Alii Tour

image 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
image 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
image 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
image 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.

Lunch
image 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
image 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.

Kumimi Beach
image 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.

Kaunakakai
image 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.

13 comments
  1. I heard the Oahu Ferry between Barber’s Point and Oahu started today. The seas were a little rough but everyone seemed to enjoy the ride and view. I think the ferry can hold about 150 passengers. I believe a second ferry will go into operation soon. This will help some of the congestion on Oahu.

  2. Hi Sheila,
    Thank you for the day tour of Molokai, I felt like I was right there with you! It has been many years since I have been there, but it didn’t seem to change all that much!

    Did you pass a gas station and see the price of gas? Molokai and Lanai I believe pay the highest gas in the nation around 5 or 6 dollars? because it has to be ferried in. (At Hilo it’s 3.17 a gallon right now.)

  3. Chris – I hope the ferry ride on Oahu is smoother than the afternoon ride on the Molokai Ferry to Maui. I also hope it helps solve some traffic issues.

    HVG – I’m glad you liked the virtual to of Molokai. I don’t recall seeing the gas prices on Molokai, but we paid $4.45 per gallon in Lanai City. We’re paying around $2.90 per gallon in North Carolina.

    Debo Hobo – We certainly have a love of Hawaii in common! 🙂 Which island will you be going to next month?

  4. I know this is an very old posting, but I just wanted to say this is a good review of the tour. I’m planning to go Maui again this year and I wanted to hop over to another island while there, and I wasn’t sure if we should take a day tour or just drive and cruise.

    I don’t know if you know, but if we just take a Ferry over to Moloka’i is there a way for us to rent a car without heading to the airport? Because don’t want to reach the dock and find that we’re stuck on foot or trying to call for a cab to get to the rental place.

    Thanks. Also your site is great! I used this site extensively when I made plans to go to Oahu a couple years ago, and I’m back here again. 🙂

    1. AthenaKTT —

      Welcome back!

      I don’t recall where the rental cars were. The airport was really close by– like less than 5 minutes away, if I remember correctly. Here’s the ferry service contact details — 866.307.6524 and info@molokaiferry.com I’m sure they can help better answer your questions.

      Thanks for the nice feedback about your Oahu trip. It’s music to my ears. 🙂

  5. We took the Alii tour April 14, 2014. It was great, especially the tour guide Rudy.

    However, we found Tuddie Purdy of the macadamia nut farm to be quite a JERK, and I’m putting that in a mild sense. Sure, he provided knowledge of the tree and nut but the manner in which he interacted with us on the tour was a bit obnoxious and fairly rude. An odd experience.

    1. Thanks for sharing your recent experience, Fred.

      Were there still signs and bumper stickers on the Purdy farm that were fairly offensive towards visitors?

      1. Hello Sheila!

        We did not see any signs or other items that might be considered offensive other than the man himself.

        The stop there wasn’t a deal breaker for the tour, but Tuttie sure made the visit a strange one.

        Best,
        Fred

  6. I feel compelled to let you know that my party of five was EXTREMELY disappointed with the Molokai tour upon our vacation to Maui last week. It was boring, to say the least, and did not meet the expectations that are advertised to lure visitors. The visit to the coffee plantation was a joke! Seeing the actual process of harvesting/roasting the coffee beans would have been nice, but a gift shop and coffee shop is all we were offered. Really? The macadamia nut farm wasn’t any better. The lunch was horrible. You could have broken a window with the hamburger patty it was so well done, dry, and hard. The tour guide was very difficult to understand and he kept repeating himself since there obviously wasn’t too much to talk about for over 6 hours. At one time, I looked around to see over 1/2 of the tour bus was asleep!!! That should tell you something.

    This whole tour is obviously an attempt to bring tourist money to the island and nothing more. We spent over $1,200 for nothing really. I know several others on the trip felt the same way. Very disappointed.

    The ferry ride was the ride from hell. If motion sickness affects you, take Dramamine which still may not help. My mom took one and still got very sick. The boat is nasty and the smell of exhaust goes well with the huge waves tossing you about.

    If this excursion is not greatly improved, the people of Molokai will no longer receive tourist money because word will eventually get around to avoid this trip at all cost.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Karen.

      Yes, the coffee stop is just a snack bar and gift shop stop. We too were disappointed that there wasn’t something more educational about coffee growing and roasting on Molokai.

      The ferry ride back to Maui is always rough in the afternoon. It took us a few hours to get over our queasy feeling after the ferry ride.

  7. Thank you for the detailed review Sheila and the additional comments from everyone. Just a quick question. About how rough is the ride from Maui to Molokai.

    Also, if we had the option to do a day trip to Lanai vs. Molokai what would you recommend? Any other day trip suggestions besides Hana which we have already done?

    Much appreciated.

    David

    1. The ride to Molokai isn’t too difficult, however the ride from Molokai back to Maui is ROUGH. We are not prone to motion sickness and both of us nearly got sick.

      Other day trip options:
      – Fly to Molokai (very scenic direct flights from Maui) and do the famous mule ride to Kalaupapa https://www.govisithawaii.com/2013/08/27/molokai-mule-ride-and-tour-of-kalaupapa-an-awesome-adventure/
      – Day trip to Oahu https://www.govisithawaii.com/2011/04/04/a-day-trip-island-hop-to-oahu/
      – You can take the ferry from Maui to Lanai or Trilogy offers a nice day trip over on a catamaran. I think you can either snorkel or go sight seeing with the Trilogy excursion. If you golf, The Challenge, which is operated by the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, is absolutely stunning.

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