Molokai or Kauai: A Guide To The Best Hawaiian Island

Molokai or Kauai

Hawaii, a vacation destination loved by many, but which island is better? Molokai or Kauai?

Most travelers who visit Hawaii come for the glitz and glamour of a tourist-centered tropical destination. Being drawn in by the fancy restaurants, secluded upmarket B&Bs, and glorious sandy beaches. From Oahu to Maui each island has a spirit of its own.

Molokai is not your typical tourist destination, you won’t find big resorts, shopping malls, or tourist-packed beaches, instead you’ll find that aloha is a lifestyle not just something put on for tourists. You’ll gain a real sense of community. 

Kauai is Hawaii’s fourth-largest island and is often referred to as the ‘Garden Isle’ of Hawaii. It’s the oldest and northernmost island of the Hawaiian chain that’s draped in greenery for miles around. The draw of this island is that some parts are only accessible by air or sea which reveal views far beyond your imagination. Kauai is an island for adventurers and thrill-seekers and a more well-known tourist destination.

Both islands offer something for everyone, but which island should you really visit? We’ve put together a list of the 7 most important aspects of a holiday so you don’t have to spend hours researching. Don’t just take our word for it though, use the information to make your own decision about which island suits your vacation needs better.

Molokai or Kauai: Prices

Molokai island
Photo by Envato Elements

Everyone who travels likes to know an estimate of how much they may spend per day. While the prices for both Molokai and Kauai are relatively high, we’ve done the research for you.

The average cost for a solo traveler:

Average Cost Per Day$268.00$152.00
Average Cost Per Week$1,877.00$1,066.00

The average costs for public transport, food, and entertainment for a solo traveler in Molokai are around $72 a day which is cheaper than Kauai. Kauai’s average costs for food, transport, and entertainment come in at around $98 per day. The approximate cost for accommodation in Molokai is about $116 per night whereas the costs in Kauai are slightly cheaper at only $91. 

Depending on the accommodation you go for, whether it’s a one-bed vacation rental or a 3-star hotel, the cost for the accommodation will vary greatly. Flights to Molokai can start at around $511 for one person in economy class but depending on the season this could be much higher. Flight costs to Kauai start at around $1000 per person depending on the airport you are flying from. 

The average cost for a couple:

Average Cost Per Day$481.00$304.00
Average Cost Per Week$3,371.00$ 2,131.00

For a couples vacation, you’ll want to budget around $143 per day for transport, food, and entertainment when visiting Molokai and around $196 per day if traveling to Kauai. Accommodation costs for Molokai are roughly the same for a couple as they are for a solo traveler, especially if you choose to rent a one-bedroom vacation rental. 

If choosing a hotel then the price for double occupancy will double, for example, if staying in a 3-star hotel in Molokai you’re likely to pay around $232 but if you’re staying in a 3-star hotel in Kauai is going to be a lot cheaper at around $182. Flights to both Molokai and Kauai will double so you would be looking to pay anything between $1000 and $2000, depending on the time of the year you are visiting.

Winner: Kauai. Cheaper overall for a week’s vacation.

Molokai or Kauai: Accommodation

Luxury resort in Hawaii
Photo by Envato Elements

Whether you are looking for swanky 5-star hotels, quaint little B&B’s, or a simple condo; Kauai has a great deal to offer when it comes to accommodation. Many boasting glorious views of Kauai’s exquisite landscape. Three main regions – the north shore, east coast, and south shore – house the majority of Kauai’s tourist accommodation with plenty to offer for any occasion. 

There are around 80 places to stay in Kauai and only 10 in Molokai. Molokai has no major resort which is what a lot of travelers love about this place. You’ll be away from the crowds and the main hustle and bustle. With so little choice of where to stay, you’ll be spoilt with views of towering sea cliffs and incredible ocean views. 

While accommodation costs in Molokai are more expensive than Kauai, you’ll find many of the condos and hotels give you an intimate Hawaiian experience that hasn’t been spoilt by mass tourism.

If looking for cheap accommodation and plenty of choice for the whole family, then Kauaki would be perfect for you. With lots of family-friendly hotels and resorts, you’ll be close to beautiful beaches and plenty of activities to keep you occupied. On price and wide variety choice, Kauai wins our vote. 

Winner: Kauai. Far more choice.

Molokai vs Kauai: Food

Hawaiian poke bowl
Photo by Envato Elements

Eating out is a major part of any vacation and there is plenty on offer in Molokai and Kauai. For more traditional and authentic Hawaiian cuisine you’ll find that Molokai has truly reinvented itself by staying true to its island roots. Kauai, on the other hand, has some tourist hotspots that cater to everyone with many dishes being influenced by European cuisine.

Most restaurants in Kauai are relatively inexpensive however you’ll want to budget around $45 per person, however, although there are fewer restaurants in Molokai and you’ll pay slightly more at around $54 per person, you cannot beat the authentic taste and traditional food on offer here. 

All restaurants across Kauai and Molokai offer stunning views and many of Kauai restaurants offer exquisite sunset views of the ocean. If you’re looking for the more traditional side of these Hawaiian islands Molokai is a must.

Winner: Molokai, because of its more authentic local cuisine.

Molokai vs Kauai: Nature

Island in Hawaii
Photo by Envato Elements

Molokai is known for being well balanced between man and nature with jaw-dropping sea cliffs and Hawaii’s longest continuous fringing reef. Its three geological anchors – Mauna Loa, Mauna Kamakou, and Kauhako – make Molokai landscape dramatic. Molokai is also home to one of Hawaii’s greatest hikes the Pepe‘opae Trail which takes you along springy boardwalks, high-altitude mountain boglands, and stunted forest.  

While Kauai is known as the “Garden Isle” of Hawaii due to its vast emerald valleys, tropical rainforests, and dramatic coastlines, it’s a world away from Molokai. Kauai’s Na Pali Coast is only accessible by either boat, kayak, helicopter, or paddleboard which may not make it the best place for everyone. 

Home to some rare species of Hawaiian Honeycreepers, Kauai offers a lot for nature lovers and avid bird watchers, while Molokai is home to the Kalaupapa National Historical Park, which offers a significant number of marine resources including monk seals, humpback whales, green sea turtles, and well-preserved coral reefs. Both islands have a lot to offer in terms of nature and its historical significance within Hawaii. 

Winner: Molokai and Kauai. Both are equally as unique and as stunning as each other.

Molokai vs Kauai: Entertainment

Horses in Kauai
Photo by Envato Elements

If you’re looking to party then neither Molokai nor Kauai are the islands for you. However, they both offer entertainment options late into the night. 

The atmosphere on both islands is chilled and laid back, and you’ll be sure to hear the sounds of music drifting in the wind. Molokai isn’t a massive tourist hot spot so the demand for nightlife here is very small. While there are a few options, The Hula Restaurant at Hotel Molokai being one, Kauai has a few more to choose from.

Neither island has any nightclubs, but several of the bars and nice restaurants will feature live bands later in the evening with several having dance floors. So if you’re looking for a chilled night out with a bit more choice then Kauai is the island for you.

Winner: Kauai, there is more choice and variety.

Molokai vs Kauai: Things to do

Scenic view in Kauai
Photo by Envato Elements

Molokai is underdeveloped leaving it the perfect place to embrace the real culture of Hawaii, Kauai, however, is an adventures paradise with a plethora of outdoor activities. While many tourists visit Kauai for its out-of-this-world helicopter tours, boat trips, and hikes, those looking for a quieter, more traditional side to Hawaiian life will prefer the island of Molokai. This underdeveloped island wants you to embrace the culture and (slow) speed of life on Molokai away from the hustle and bustle of many overpopulated tourist resorts.

There is an abundance of things to do on Molokai from visiting the historical parts of Kalaupapa National Historical Park to snorkeling along some of Hawaii’s most incredible coral reefs. No matter what you are looking for in terms of your holiday, you’ll find something for the whole family on Kauai as it’s more geared towards tourists, although it’s still not the most popular tourist destination within Hawaii.

Winner: Kauai. More exciting plus it’s more geared towards tourists.

Molokai vs Kauai: Beaches

Hawaiian beach
Photo by Envato Elements

Molokai has a coastline of over 80 miles, with plenty of unspoiled and uncrowded beaches. While several of Molokai’s beaches are rocky with offshore reefs or shallow near-shore ocean bottoms with murky water, there are still a few that are unrivaled when it comes to swimming.

On Molokai’s West shore, Dixie Maru beach is one of the best if you’re looking for a refreshing swim, however over on Molokai’s East shore is Murphy’s Beach which is a snorkeling paradise. You’ll also find picturesque beaches like Awahau Beach that’s backed by lush vegetation and imposing sea cliffs. There are many beaches across Molokai that provide incredible backdrops for picnics or long beach strolls where you can fully enjoy the sound of the waves and the peaceful air they bring. 

Kauai’s beaches on the other hand are known for their white sands, warm and inviting turquoise waters, and gorgeous tropical backdrops. The island has 50 miles of white-sand coastline that attracts travelers from all walks of life. From the surfing paradise of Hanalei Bay on the north shore to spotting whales and sea turtles at Poipu Beach Park in the south. There is a wide selection of beaches to choose from.

Kauai is still off the beaten path when it comes to tourism so you’ll find many beaches are quiet. Some beaches like Haena beach Bay are great for watching sunsets and spending the day relaxing while enjoying a picturesque mountain backdrop whereas beaches like Kee are great for snorkeling, you’ll also find the trailhead for the Kalalau Trail here. 

Beaches on both Molokai and Kauai have a lot to offer, however, Kauai’s beaches are some of the top-rated beaches on the planet with lifeguards patrolling many of them. They also offer a huge variety of activities on each beach and you can swim in almost all of them, Molokai however only has a few that are worth a visit. 

Winner: Kauai. The island has some of the top-voted beaches on the planet which are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and surfing.


For more than 11 years, Joe has worked as a freelance travel writer. His writing and explorations have brought him to various locations, including the colonial towns of Mexico, the bustling chowks of Mumbai, and the majestic Southern Alps of New Zealand. When he's not crafting his next epic blog post on the top Greek islands or French ski resorts, he can often be found engaging in his top two hobbies of surfing and hiking.

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