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Ever wondered about the travel difference between Molokai versus Kauai? Well, this blog is inspired by one of our valued email subscribers! Last week we had someone ask us if they should visit Molokai. They described their family as wanting to relax, learn about Hawaiian history and culture, shop at local shops and boutiques, and hoped to avoid the nightlife scene. (They sound like our travel twins!) These are some of the same things we love to do while visiting Hawaii.
Honestly, when we received the email and read about their travel preferences, we were reminded of another island. Their travel wishes are actually what make us LOVE Kauai so much. We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to blog about the similarities and differences of Molokai versus Kauai. If you’ve considered traveling to either island for a laid-back vacation full of Hawaiian culture, read on for some travel insights!
Similarities Between Molokai and Kauai
Molokai and Kauai both have several activity options for travelers who prefer to be off the beaten path. Molokai offers the most remote feel in Hawaii and is often referred to as the “most Hawaiian Island.” The land is mostly undeveloped, very rustic, and offers relatively untouched beaches and hiking trails compared to the other islands.
Kauai also offers several secluded beaches and hiking paths, some more visited than others. Kauai is also known for its lush rainforests, waterfalls, and overall green landscape. Kauai is an outdoor adventurers dream with fantastic options for kayaking, hiking, snorkeling. Overall, both islands are full of natural beauty.
Molokai and Kauai also offer several sites full of history and culture that are worth visiting. One popular spot on Molokai is the Kalaupapa National Historical Park, which is also home to a former leprosy colony. In Kauai, a top destination is Waimea Canyon, which is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.
Molokai and Kauai both have sleepy towns for those who want to experience a slower pace of life in Hawaii and avoid traffic and busy cities. On Molokai, the main town is Kaunakakai, which offers many small shops, boutiques, and a few food options. Don’t worry, this hub on the island only has a population of around 3,000 people, so it is very quiet and laid-back. On Kauai, you’ll find Old Koloa Town and Hanapepe Town, both of which are worth visiting. Fun fact, Hanapepe Town inspired the Disney movie, Lilo & Stitch!
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Differences Between Molokai and Kauai
Molokai is very undeveloped and does not revolve around tourism, unlike the other Hawaiian Islands. For this reason, you won’t find many guided tours or busy tourist attractions. Those who choose to visit Molokai know this, and are typically excited to visit the remote island and have a slow-paced Hawaiian Island experience. However, others prefer the mix of authentic Hawaiian culture and added activities that Kauai offers.
One important thing to keep in mind is since Molokai wasn’t developed with tourists in mind, the island only has one hotel. Aside from the single hotel, you may find a few condos or home rental options, but not many. On the other hand, Kauai offers many different hotel and resort options to fit a variety of budgets. You will also find many condo and home rentals available at any time of year. If you don’t want to be limited in where you’re staying or by the type of vacation rental, Kauai may be a better option.
Most of Molokai doesn’t offer facilities at the beaches, which is quite different from the famous beaches of Kauai. Only three Molokai beaches provide bathrooms. On Kauai, you will find many beaches with restroom facilities, outdoor showers, lifeguards, and possibly even picnic tables. If you want to enjoy Hawaii’s beaches, but still have everyday conveniences, Kauai is a better option.
Molokai also isn’t home to the dining options the other islands offer. Molokai has a couple of small cafes but lacks the fine dining options on Kauai. Kauai does offer small and low-key restaurants for a quick bite but also has many fine dining establishments for those evenings you’d like a delicious meal. We love the cuisine across the Hawaiian Islands and can’t imagine traveling to Hawaii without visiting some of our favorite local restaurants that are missing on Molokai.
Should You Visit Molokai or Kauai?
Here’s the good news…you don’t have to choose! Getting to Molokai is easy via a short commuter flight. In fact, many people make it a point to travel to Molokai when visiting other islands for a day trip or overnight stay. However, we personally wouldn’t recommend Molokai for a week-long vacation, especially if it is your first time visiting Hawaii. Yes, we love to relax and move slow on vacation, but Molokai lacks many of the Hawaiian activities, beaches, and dining options that we love about Hawaii. Here are some of the best things to do on Molokai and Kauai to experience authentic Hawaii and learn about the history of the islands.
Things to Do on Molokai
- Kalaupapa National Historical Park – Pro Tip: You must be led by a tour guide and either fly or hike into the park.
- Drive the Coastal Road to Halawa Valley
- See the Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove
- Visit Purdy’s Macadamia Nut Farm
- Tour Plumeria Orchard – Pro Tip: Make sure to craft your own lei while visiting the farm!
Things to Do on Kauai
- Smith’s Garden Luau – Pro Tip: They have a ticket option without dinner, so you can save money and only go for the show!
- Waimea Canyon
- Smith’s Wailua River Cruise to the Fern Grotto
- Wailua River Kayak & Hiking Tour to Secret Falls
- Visit the Kilauea Lighthouse
- Pro Tip: This is said to be a great place to whale watch during winter.
- Hanapepe Town – Pro Tip: Art Night is every Friday from 5-9 PM and worth a visit. Galleries and boutiques are open, live musicians play, and you can eat from local food trucks.
- Old Koloa Town
- Visit Spouting Horn
- Tour Kauai Coffee Company
- Tour Allerton Gardens
- Tour Limahuli Garden and Preserve
- Take the Kauai Plantation Railway
- Glass Beach
- Salt Pond Beach
- Visit Kauai’s Waterfalls
- Cruise the Napali Coast
We absolutely love vacationing on Hawaii and enjoy the different experiences each island offers. So thankful for our email subscriber that reached out to us with their travel questions. This is a friendly reminder that we do our best to reply to any emails that come our way, so let’s connect! This blog was so much fun to write, and hopefully it added clarity to your decision between visiting Molokai and Kauai.
What is your opinion about visiting Molokai versus Kauai? Have you visited either island before?