A mile off Molokai’s northeastern coast, Moku Hooniki is a rocky islet that’s known for its world-class scuba diving.
One of the dive spots, “Fish Rain,” got its name from the fact that it seems like fish are raining down from above. Pelagic fish like mahimahi are also sometimes spotted, as are Humpback whales in winter and schools of a passing tuna. The main species that draws visitors, however, are the dozens of Scalloped Hammerhead sharks that are known to gather around “The Rock” and patrol the offshore waters.
Because it’s a rough, deep-water dive, Moku Hooniki is only reserved for advanced, open ocean divers, but is arguably one of Hawaii’s best dives for those with the proper experience.
That said, there’s more to this rock than Hammerhead sharks and groups of wide-eyed divers. This rock was used as a bombing range throughout the Second World War, and the bombing continued all the way up until 1958. It’s believed there could still be unexploded ordinance that’s stuck in some rocks and crevices, though not many people would know for sure since the island is protected as a seabird sanctuary and closed to the general public.
Because it’s free of mongoose and rats, the islet offers a safe haven for breeding pairs of seabirds, like the Bulwer’s Petrel and Uau Kani—also called Wedge-tailed Shearwaters.
Looking back at Hawaiian history, it seems the 14-acre islet has always been popular with seabirds, since legend tells of a man, Manukula, who was sent to live on Moku Hooniki to care for the hundreds of seabirds. Due to exceptional loneliness, however, he briefly transformed into a bird himself to fly to neighboring Halawa Valley on Molokai, in hopes of finding a wife. Eventually, he did find a companion—who he met at the top of a waterfall. The story explains that all of their children turned into birds on the day of Manukula’s death.
Geologists estimate that Moku Hooniki was formed by the same volcanic eruption that spawned Makanalua Peninsula—now home to Kalaupapa. That was 200,000 years ago, which makes it relatively young when compared to 1.5-million year old Molokai. The islet is made of a palogonite tuff, which interestingly enough is the same composition of Diamond Head crater on Oahu.