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Molokai Day 2 – Dixie Maru Beach, Papohaku Beach, Halawa Valley

Molokai Day 2 – Dixie Maru Beach, Papohaku Beach, Halawa Valley

The second day of our Family of Five’s Journey to Molokai. After a satisfying night of peaceful sleep, we were ready to explore Molokai!  The girls wanted to check out the beach along the property edge of Molokai Shores. We soon discovered that this was an unusual spot. Rather than proper sand, this was a mud beach. Every step was met with the interesting sensation of warm mud squishing between our toes. The water was very shallow so our ocean swim turned more into a wade through muddy water. The sky was turquoise, streaked with sparse white cotton clouds. We had no complaints. The girls giggled as they squished in the mud and threw a bit at each other. Another lovely Molokai moment.

A young girl in the sun facing the ocean on Molokai Shores beach

Heading to Dixie Maru Beach

Next we jumped in the car and headed west to some of the beaches that we heard were pretty special.  The first one we hit is known as Dixie Maru Beach or Dixie Maru Cove or Kapukahehu Beach.  This is named after a Japanese sailboat of the same name that wrecked there in the 1920s. The ship’s name plate eventually washed ashore and was hung casually on the shoreline. There is a small parking lot and a single shower head for rinsing off.

We hiked down to the protected cove here. We were met by a lot of mud—our second mud adventure that day. When we reached the sand we found the beach completely deserted. Our youngest daughter, 4 years old, was experiencing serious wave anxiety. Even the smallest ripples lapping onto the sand made her nervous. The shoreline of Dixie Maru beach was protected and the water calm, but we couldn’t coax her in. The rest of us enjoyed the beautiful water and perfect weather while she watched from a safe spot.

Dixie Maru beach is located in a small bay, protecting it from the ocean waves
Protected waters of Dixie Maru beach on Molokai

I went to sit with her and play in the sand. I noticed that she was enviously watching her older sisters as they dove and splashed carefree. In a moment of inspiration, I decided to let my youngest have her first skinny dipping experience. The spontaneity of the moment did the trick. Giggling, she waded into the protected water. The funny aspect of not having on a swim suit distracted her from her fear of the waves. Deserted beaches are awesome.

 Playing at Papohaku Beach

After swimming at Dixie Maru beach we drove further north, to Papohaku Beach. It is the longest beach on Molokai. It is also very wide with about 100 yards of clean white sand. Because of the ample sand, Waikiki was built-up with sand from Papohaku beach to battle erosion.

Papohaku Beach is the longest beach on Molokai
Papohaku Beach is the longest beach on Molokai

On this day, Papohaku Beach was not a safe place to swim, especially with small kids. Instead we walked along the sand, enjoying the view. The kids ran and cartwheeled to their hearts’ content. We let them yell and sing at the top of their lungs—an extremely rare treat for kids. Looking both ways, we could see that once again we had this pristine beauty to ourselves.

Three happy young sisters on a Molokai beach

The waves were hitting the shore with such force that foam and spray were sent flying onto the sand. This created an interesting shoreline lake of salt water. After the kids tired of running, they enjoyed sitting at a safe distance and watching the foam fly. They splashed in the beach lake and the little one enjoyed another suit-free, completely carefree romp. And Papohaku Beach was the perfect spot to enjoy our Thanksgiving leftovers.

Driving Over the Sea Cliffs

Leaving Papohaku Beach, we headed east to meet up with the Kamehameha V Highway. Kamehameha V ascended to the throne at the age of 33. He promoted the cattle industry in Hawaii, served as President of the Graziers’ Association, and founded Molokai Ranch. Mark Twain once wrote about Kamehameha V: “There was no trivial royal nonsense about him… He dressed plainly, poked about Honolulu, night or day, on his old horse, unattended; he was popular, greatly respected, and even beloved.”

Prince Lot Kapuaiwa, future king Kamehameha V, in 1850 (source: Wikipedia)
Future King Kamehameha V in 1850


We headed east in a non-hurried manner, pulling over to take in the coast views whenever we wanted. As we got into East Molokai, the terrain changed. Eastern Molokai features largely inaccessible mountains and sea cliffs. Mt. Kamakou is Molokai’s highest point at 4,970 feet.

As the road started to climb higher, my husband’s hands gripped the wheel a little tighter. The narrowness of the road and the unexpected switchbacks were enough to make even the toughest drivers concerned. My husband’s admitted acrophobia was being pushed to the limits.

Sea cliffs of East Molokai with waterfall, aerial view

The views of the fuzzy green covered mountains meeting up with the glittering sea were spectacular. On the downside, the road gave us many blind corners and little to no wiggle room in case we encountered a large truck coming in the opposite direction.

Arriving at Halawa Valley

After a white-knuckled ride, we arrived at the end of road in Halawa Valley. Halawa Valley is a sacred site with hidden heiaus throughout the valley. Polynesians are believed to have settled here as early as 650 A.D. Guided hikes are available into the valley and to the 250-foot Moa’ula Falls.

Old Hawaiian legends tell of a big lizard, a mo‘o, that lives in the pool at the base of the waterfall. Visitors who wish to swim in it must first drop a ti leaf on the surface of the water. If it floats, it is ok and safe to swim here. If it sinks, the mo‘o is not happy and doesn’t want you to enter the water.

A beach at Halawa Bay at the east end of Molokai
A beach at Halawa Bay at the east end of Molokai

We weren’t up for a hike but we befriended a tour guide on her break. She kindly offered to take us on an unofficial tour of the flower farm in Halawa Valley, which belongs to a friend of hers. Barefoot we trailed our generous guide into the lush jungle. She pointed out many varieties of ginger, like the Torch Ginger and unreal looking Heliconia varieties. Our guide picked shampoo ginger, Awapuhi, flowers for the girls with instructions on how to use it. She shared lilikoi that we savored as we walked deeper into the heart of the farm.

Red torch ginger flower (Etlingera elatior)
Red torch ginger flower (Etlingera elatior)

At the end of the unexpected tour, we returned to our car. On our drive towards our condo we stopped for a surprise treat at a roadside restaurant, Mana’e Goods and Grindz. We enjoyed grilled cheese, fries, and delicious banana splits on the side of the road. A bonus thrill—it was our daughters’ first taste of an authentic banana split!

Our second day in Molokai will always remain a special memory for our family. Squishing in mud at the beach. Skinny dipping on deserted beaches. An expected tour of a tropical flower farm. Banana splits at the end of a beautiful Molokai day. We all agreed -Molokai nō ka ’oi (Molokai is the best).

Previous: Molokai Day 1 – A Family of Five’s Journey to the Friendly Isle

Next: Molokai Day 3 – Kalaupapa Peninsula and Pala’au State Park. Our third and final day on Molokai. We appreciate our visits to Kalaupapa Lookout and Pala’au State Park.


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