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For the 1999 film, see Molokai: The Story of Father Damien.
Nickname: The Friendly Isle
Satellite image of Molokaʻi.
Map of Hawaii highlighting Molokai.svg
Location 21°08′N 157°02′W / 21.133°N 157.033°W / 21.133; -157.033
Area 260 sq mi (670 km2)
Area rank 5th largest Hawaiian Island
Highest elevation 4,961 ft (1,512.1 m)
Highest point Kamakou
Flower Kukui
Color ʻŌmaʻomaʻo (green)
Population 7,404 (as of 2000)
Density 28 /sq mi (10.8 /km2)

Molokaʻi or Molokai (/ˈmɒlək/; Hawaiian: [ˈmoloˈkɐʔi]) is an island in the Hawaiian archipelago. It is 38 by 10 miles (61 by 16 km) in size at its extreme length and width with a usable land area of 260 square miles (673.40 km2), making it the fifth largest of the main Hawaiian Islands and the 27th largest island in the United States.[1] It lies east of Oʻahu across the 25-mile (40 km) wide Kaiwi Channel and north of Lānaʻi, separated from it by the Kalohi Channel. The lights of Honolulu are visible at night from the west end of Molokaʻi, while nearby Lānaʻi and Maui are clearly visible from anywhere along the south shore of the island. The shape of Molokai Island can be recalled as that of a shoe or a fish.

Molokaʻi is distinguished in the Roman Catholic religion as the longtime residence of Father Damien de Veuster, a Belgian priest and Mother Marianne Cope of the Sisters of St. Francis, both of whom have been canonized Roman Catholic Saints for their treatment and care given during the 19th century to long term sufferers of Hansen's Disease, also known as leprosy.

A site of a Roman Catholic Saint is deemed a sacred place and is visited by practising Catholics from around the world for giving prayers asking for healing and religious guidance. The Kalaupapa Colony is one of the two sites in the United States where a Roman Catholic Saint resided; it is the only single site where two Saints (Saint Damien and Saint Marianne) both resided.

Historically, a small north shore colony on Molokaʻi, Kalaupapa, was the place where sufferers of Hansen's Disease were forced into quarantine by the Hawaiian government, but there are no active cases of Hansen's Disease on Molokaʻi today. Those who continue to live in the settlement are patients who chose to stay after the segregation policy was lifted in 1969.[2][3]

The first European sailor to visit the island was Captain George Dixon in 1786.


Eastern Molokai with a portion of Kamakou and Molokai Forest Reserve

Molokaʻi is built from two distinct shield volcanoes known as East Molokaʻi and the much smaller West Molokaʻi. The highest point is Kamakou[4] on East Molokaʻi, at 4,970 feet (1,510 m). East Molokaʻi volcano, like the Koʻolau Range on Oʻahu, is today only what remains standing of the southern half of the original mountain. The northern half suffered a catastrophic collapse about 1.5 million years ago and now lies as a debris field scattered northward across the Pacific Ocean bottom,[5] while what remains on the island are the highest sea cliffs in the world.[6] Views of these sea cliffs are presented in the movie Jurassic Park III. The south shore of Molokaʻi boasts the longest fringing reef in the U.S. and its holdings—nearly 25 miles (40 km) long.[7]

Molokaʻi is part of the state of Hawaiʻi and located in Maui County, except for the Kalaupapa Peninsula, which is separately administered as Kalawao County. Maui County encompasses Maui, Lānaʻi, and Kahoʻolawe in addition to Molokaʻi. The largest town on the island is Kaunakakai, which is one of two small ports on the island. Molokai Airport is located on West Molokaʻi. The United States Census Bureau divides the island into three census tracts: Census Tract 317 and Census Tract 318 of Maui County, Hawaii, and Census Tract 319 of Kalawao County, Hawaii. The total 2000 census population of these was 7,404, living on a land area of 260.02 square miles (673.45 km2).[8] Molokaʻi is separated from Oʻahu on the west by the Kaiwi Channel, from Maui on the southeast by the Pailolo Channel, and from Lānaʻi on the south by the Kalohi Channel.


Halawa Bay Beach Park, located at the extreme east end of Molokaʻi

Molokaʻi is split into two main geographical areas. The low western half is very dry and the soil is heavily denuded due to grazing by goats and poor land management practices. It lacks significant ground cover and virtually the entire section is covered in non-native kiawe (Prosopis pallida) trees. One of the few natural areas remaining almost intact are the coastal dunes of Moʻomomi, which are part of a Nature Conservancy preserve.

The eastern half of the island is a high plateau rising up to an elevation of 4,900 ft (1,500 m) on Kamakou peak and includes the 2,774 acres (11.23 km2; 4.334 sq mi) Molokai Forest Reserve.[9] The eastern half is covered with lush wet forests that get over 300 in (7,600 mm) of rain per year. The high elevation forests are populated by native ʻōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) trees and an extremely diverse endemic flora and fauna in the understory. Much of the summit area is protected by the Nature Conservancy's Kamakou and Pelekunu valley preserves. Below 4,000 feet (1,200 m), the vegetation is dominated by exotic flora, including strawberry guava (Psidium littorale), eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.), and cypress (Cupressus spp.). Introduced axis deer (Axis axis) and feral pigs (Sus scrofa) roam native forests, destroying native plants, expanding exotic plants through disturbance and distribution of their seeds, and threatening endemic insects. Near the summit of Kamakou is the unique Pepeʻopae bog, where dwarf ʻōhiʻa and other plants cover the soggy ground. .

Molokaʻi is home to a great number of endemic plant and animal species. However, many of its species, including the olomaʻo (Myadestes lanaiensis), kākāwahie (Paroreomyza flammea), and the Molokaʻi ʻŌʻō (Moho bishopi) have become extinct. Molokaʻi is home to a wingless fly among many other endemic insects.


Sign greeting visitors to Molokaʻi at exit to Molokai Airport

For years, residents of Molokaʻi have resisted attempts to dramatically increase tourism. This island is also the least populated, according to 2012 population test.[10] Community members successfully opposed the development company Molokai Ranch's attempt to expand through the "Save La'au Point" movement.[11] As a result, on March 24, 2008 what was then the island's largest employer decided to shut all operations including hotels, movie theater, restaurants, and golf course and dismiss 120 workers.[12] Molokaʻi has Hawaiʻi's highest unemployment rate.[13]

National Geographic Traveler magazine and the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations conduct annual Destination Scorecard surveys, aided by George Washington University. In 2007, a panel of 522 experts in sustainable tourism and destination stewardship reviewed 111 selected human-inhabited islands and archipelagos around the world. Molokaʻi ranked 10th among the 111 locales. The survey cited Molokaʻi's pristine, breathtaking tropical landscape, environmental stewardship, rich and deep Hawaiian traditions (the island's mana), and visitor-friendly culture. The neighbor islands Hawaiʻi, Kauaʻi, Maui and Oʻahu, ranked 50, 61, 81 and 104, respectively. Tahiti ranked 57.[14]

Molokai is also the title of the 2010 Christmas Special of BBC Radio 4's "Cabin Pressure", a show about an airplane crew in which each episode's title is the destination they are flying to.

Molokai is believed to be the birthplace of hula and the annual Molokai Ka Hula Piko festival is held on this island.[15]

Health care[edit]

The island of Molokai is served by Molokai General Hospital, which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Towns and villages[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Table 5.08 - Land Area of Islands: 2000". 2004 State of Hawaii Data Book. State of Hawaii. 2004. Retrieved 2007-07-23. 
  2. ^ "Kalaupapa National Historical Park - Hansen's Disease Patients at Kalawao and Kalaupapa (U.S. National Park Service)." U.S. National Park Service - Experience Your America. Web. 19 Nov. 2009.
  3. ^ "Kalaupapa, Molokai, Hawaii - Father Damien". web site. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  4. ^ "Table 5.11 - Elevations of Major Summits". 2004 State of Hawaii Data Book. State of Hawaii. 2004. Retrieved 2007-07-23. 
  5. ^ Hawaiian landslides have been catastrophic, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
  6. ^ Culliney, John L. (2006) Islands in a Far Sea: The Fate of Nature in Hawaii. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. p. 17.
  7. ^ Quantitative morphology of a fringing reef tract from high-resolution laser bathymetry: Southern Molokai, Hawaii
  8. ^ Census Tracts 317 and 318, Maui County; and Census Tract 319, Kalawao County United States Census Bureau
  9. ^ Molokai Forest Reserve — Department of Land and Natural Resources
  10. ^ "Molokai Ranch: A year after closure, times are hard but spirit is alive". Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  11. ^ | Business | /2007/01/14/
  12. ^ Molokai Ranch: A year after closure, times are hard but spirit is alive - | News, Sports, Jobs, Visitor's Information - The Maui News
  13. ^ Hawaii Unemployment at Two-Year Low | Hawaii Reporter
  14. ^ Tourtellot, Jonathan B. (November–December 2007). "Destinations Rated: Islands". National Geographic Traveler: 108–127. 
  15. ^ Molokai Ka Hula Piko


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 21°08′N 157°02′W / 21.133°N 157.033°W / 21.133; -157.033