When was the last time you visited a place that didn’t have any stoplights?
Driving on Molokai is a little bit different than other parts of the world—and even different from other places right here in the Hawaiian Islands.
For one thing, driving on Molokai is slow – the highest posted speed limit on the island is 45 mph. You’ll likely be tempted to try and drive faster, especially when heading to West Molokai, but there’s a certain peace in taking it slow and realizing there isn’t any rush.
Because the speed limits on Molokai are slow, make sure to allow for extra driving time between spots that seem relatively close. Papohaku to Halawa, for example, is a distance of only 48 miles, yet the drive can easily take 90 minutes—and that’s not including stops.
Another tip for driving on Molokai is to understand the roads. Highway 460, or Maunaloa Highway, heads west from Kaunakakai and is the route you would take to get to the western beaches. Highway 450 runs east from Kaunakakai out to Halawa where the road dead-ends at the beach, and Highway 470 heads to the misty uplands of Palaau State Park. It’s pretty tough to get lost on Molokai considering there are only three highways, though if you do end up having to ask for directions, locals usually use mileage markers instead of the road’s name or number.
If you plan to drive east to Halawa Valley—perhaps for the guided cultural hike—the road can narrow to a single lane after mile marker 20. This twisting and scenic coastal drive is one of the best in Hawaii, though at sections it looks like the asphalt is going to run straight into the sea. Be sure to take it slow around corners—perhaps even honk your horn—and pull off to the side of the road if you want to stop and take a few photos. Though the drive can be somewhat harrowing for drivers who aren’t used to such narrow roads, the reward is a firsthand view into daily lives of Molokai residents, where farmers work their fields by the highway, fishermen cast from the rocks, and baskets of fruits with honor box payments are placed on the side of the road.
When it’s time to refuel the car, note that Molokai’s two gas stations are both located in Kaunakakai, so be sure you have at least half a tank of gas before leaving town.
In terms of renting a car on Molokai, Alamo is the only corporate company with a rental office at the airport. However there are also some smaller, locally owned companies that rent cars. Molokai Cars has an office in Kaunakakai and can drop a car at the airport. They also offer long-term specials if you plan to extend your stay.