Palaau State Park

Palaau State Park: Unforgettable Sights and Photo Ops at Molokai's Only State Park
Local Expert's Rating:
4.5 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Unusual sights abound at Palaau State Park, which offers a panoramic view of a former leprosy colony, as well as the opportunity to view a phallic rock up close. If you have an extra hour or two set aside, treat yourself to a short hike to some of the most memorable spots on the island of Molokai. 

- The Local Expert Team

The tiny island of Molokai only has one state park. Known as Palaau State Park, it’s a small, yet impressive destination that is an absolute must for your Molokai itinerary. Expansive views, lovely ironwood trees, and historically unique sights: there’s a lot to love about this impressionable park.

The views from Palaau State Park’s main overlook aren’t merely picturesque — they’re historically significant. From this vantage point, you can enjoy an expansive view of the former leprosy colony known as Kalalupapa. Signs provide insight into the tragic, yet intriguing history of this landmark.

Another noteworthy feature that you won’t find at just any state park: is the phallic rock. Also known as “Kaule o Nanahoa” or “the penis of Nanahoa,” this intriguing display has long been visited by those praying for fertility. Some have even been known to leave offerings. While the rock formation is technically natural, humans have definitely played a role in its current appearance. It is, as can be expected, a popular photo spot.

Free to enter and affordable for campers, this state park can provide hours of enjoyment for visitors on a budget. The amenities may be modest, but they’re well-maintained. The bathrooms, in particular, are noteworthy for their cleanliness.

Multiple shaded grill areas are available, so you can enjoy an excellent meal. These picnic spots are surrounded by beautiful ironwood trees. 

If you have a busy day planned, you can easily see the best of this park in a mere hour. It doesn’t take long to walk to the aforementioned overlooks, with the average visitor reaching each in ten minutes. 

Camping can be a great option, but be prepared to rough it. The rustic campground does not allow vehicles, so you’ll need to pack your tent and hike in. You’ll also need a permit, which can be obtained from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

While the campground is decent, it’s nowhere near as noteworthy as the overlook and the phallic rock. As such, most vacationers are content to visit for a short time and move on to other destinations.

Whether you stay the night in a tent or limit yourself to a short hike, you’ll enjoy your visit to Palaau State Park. Set aside some room in your itinerary for a Molokai experience like no other. 

Insider Tips:
-Bring plenty of bug spray, as mosquitos are a common source of complaint. The park is cool, however, so if you wear enough layers, you might not need to overdo it with the bug spray. 
-While the main lookout is a short trek from the parking lot, it’s still important to wear proper footwear. Flip-flops will not cut it for this brief journey; tennis shoes or hiking boots are strongly advised. 
-The best views can be enjoyed in the early morning. Later in the day, clouds are more likely; sometimes, these obstruct the view to a significant extent.