If there’s one word that defines western Molokai that word would easily be beaches.

Nearly a dozen stretches of soft white sand line Molokai’s arid west coast, and sunset seekers are spoiled for choice on where to enjoy the show. Most of the beaches are also empty because of their isolation, and if you’ve ever wanted to walk down a beach where the only footsteps are your own, then western Molokai is the wave battered spot to realize that popular dream.

By following Kaka‘ako Road away from Ke Nani Kai condos, and making a left on Lio Place toward the condos at Paniolo Hale, a coastal trail leads to a string of beaches it’s common to have all to yourself. Favorites include Pohakumauliuli—sometimes called “Make Horse” Beach—and little-visited Kawakiu Iki with its secluded cove of white sand. Reaching the beaches can mean scrambling over rocks and following a dusty dirt trail, and it’s important to pack water, food, and supplies for enduring this trail with no shade.

Kawakiu Beach Molokai

Easier to access is Kepuhi Beach, located by Ke Nani Kai condos, where the boarded up buildings of the Sheraton resort are a testament to times when this part of the island was buzzing with visitor activity. Today Kepuhi is frequented by surfers and bodyboarders in winter, and sunseekers looking to splash in the shallows on calmer days of summer.

The most popular beach in western Molokai is easily Papohaku, which at nearly three-miles long and 100 yards wide is one of Hawaii’s larger white sand beaches. While the swimming here can be dangerous and rough—particularly in the winter—the beach is perfect for a morning stroll or scouring the shoreline for shells, and is one of the island’s most popular places for catching a fiery sunset.

Papohaku Beach

South of Papohaku is Kapukahehu, better known as “Dixie Maru,” which is named for a Japanese fishing boat that sank here in 1916. Here you’ll find some of Molokai’s best swimming, and even snorkeling in summer, as well as surfing at the mouth of the bay on the largest of winter swells. Unlike some of the northwestern beaches that require trekking on foot, Dixie Maru is set at the end of Pohakuloa Road. If the beach is too crowded or busy for your liking—which means that it isn’t empty—continue south on a thin trail that weaves through a grove of kiawe, and emerges at sandy Kaunala Bay where there’s rarely anyone around.

If the dirt roads are relatively dry, you can find another string of beaches by the Hale O Lono shore, set on the island’s southwestern coast down a rugged and bumpy dirt road. Alamo as well as Molokai Cars discourage their customers from driving dirt roads when exploring the island in their vehicles, and these beaches are best visited with a private car—preferably with 4WD. There isn’t much in the way of swimming, snorkeling, or diving from shore, but the isolation and coastal serenity are what draw people here who are simply looking to disappear for a while.

Stop. Breathe. Listen to the wind. Maybe even hear yourself think. These are the charms of West Molokai’s beaches—and be sure to stick around for sunset.

Hale O Lono Sunset