Kaunakakai, Molokai: The Coolest Small Town?.

By Posted in - Molokai & Travel Blog on September 18th, 2013 Molokai Instagram Photos: An island rainbow.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi ; Watkins Glen, New York; Shepherdstown, West Virginia; any of these sound familiar? How about Kaunakakai, Molokai?

Well, the first three were voted by Budget Travel magazine as its picks for the Coolest Small Towns 2013. As for Kaunakakai, it didn’t even get nominated–nada, nothing, zilch. For god’s sake even Sewickley, PA, got a nod.

Look I get it. Kaunakakai, and Molokai for that matter, aren’t exactly on the nation’s radar. Sure, Molokai may be Hawaii’s fifth largest island and have some of the world’s highest sea cliffs. But it’s also nearly 2,500 miles from the coast of California–not exactly ideal for the great American road trip. In fact it’s pretty far from it. And while I don’t think anyone who lives or has visited this Hawaiian island would want it any other way, sometimes it’s nice when a place and its people get a little love for being awesome. Especially, since Budget Travel describes its criteria for its coolest small towns as such:

The town must have a population under 10,000. It also needs that indescribable something: independent shops, a sense of energy, an epic backyard, culture, delicious coffee. In other words, cool doesn’t necessarily mean quaint: We want towns with an edge and a heart.”

Now if that doesn’t scream Kaunakakai, then I don’t know what does. You know all of those “indescribable somethings” Budget Travel mentions, well this dusty cowboy town not only has them but does them better than most of the small towns on the magazine’s list, including Sewickley, PA.

Beth and I fell madly in love with Molokai. The land is majestic–King Kamehameha V used to have a summer home near Kaunakakai in the 19th century. Hawaiian traditions are rich and run deep, possibly more than any other island in the archipelago. And the white sand beaches are plentiful and empty. I’m not entirely sure how Kaunakakai missed Budget Travel’s cut this year, but I’m hoping that we can change that in 2014.

Alright, I’ve laid out my evidence and I’m excited to hear what you think about this American paradise. Should Kaunakakai be recognized as one of Budget Travel’s Coolest Small Towns?

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(13) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Margot C -

    September 18, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Bay Saint Louis is in Mississippi (just sayin’) – there are no bays in Missouri it being landlocked and all.

    As to Kaunakai Molokai I say great – wish I were there.

  • Jennifer -

    September 19, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    You make a good case. And I bet many of America’s small towns are equally as hard and expensive to reach as Hawaii.

  • Colleen Brynn -

    September 21, 2013 at 8:40 am

    This looks like such a great place! I love small towns, and this one just seems so great by your description. I’m with you on getting Kaunakakai included as one of the coolest small towns! I’d have to visit to be 100% sure though… hehehe!

  • Charu -

    September 24, 2013 at 6:37 am

    Looks quaint, definitely. How small is small? This one looks tiny!

  • Alexandra -

    September 26, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    I am so excited to finally frolic and #seeMolokai next week! It is sort of silly that this Maui girl has been to 40+ countries but never to that island just across the way. Your photos are an inspiration I only hope to take ones half as pretty.

    Next time you are on Maui we MUST meet in real life.

  • Nancy D. Brown -

    September 26, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Show me the cowboys!

  • Sand In My Suitcase -

    October 2, 2013 at 10:58 am

    We recently strolled about Kaunakakai while “un-cruising” Hawaii with Un-Cruise Adventures. It’s a sweet teensy place. But it’s very sleepy zzz (and that’s part of its charm – there aren’t too many places like it, especially in the tourist mecca of Hawaii). Don’t know though if Kaunakakai has the “sense of energy” to fit Budget Travel’s qualifications :-).

  • casacaudill -

    October 3, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been considering a trip to Molokai (we’ve been to Hawaii 10+ times but never made it there) but there’s not a lot of information out there to help a girl plan. I’ll use this post as a jumping off point.

    Also, are you from PA? Because Sewikley is a pretty cool little town. 🙂

  • James Shaw -

    October 3, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Molokai, hmmmm, never heard of it. Will certainly read more about it and if given a chance will go there and experience it first hand.

  • Hannah@GettingStamped -

    October 3, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    We have been to Hawaii before and I am glad i came across your blog. It made me remember how awesome it was to be in Hawaii and would definitely go back and try to visit Molokai.

  • Robert -

    October 7, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    It looks like a beautiful town.

  • Cathy Sweeney -

    October 22, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Hey, why not? I was just there in April. Very quiet little town — nice to experience a place like that once in a while. I loved the “Slow Down, This is Molokai” signs. I think I recognize that stretch of road along the water, too — beautiful!

  • Jeremy -

    March 9, 2014 at 6:48 am

    Looks like a great place to get off the beaten track in Hawaii…!