Geography of Kalawao County, Hawaii

Geography of Kalawao County, Hawaii

Kalawao County is a unique and secluded area located on the island of Molokai in the state of Hawaii. Known for its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and remote location, Kalawao County offers a glimpse into Hawaii’s past and showcases the resilience of its people.


According to Payhelpcenter, Kalawao County experiences a tropical climate, characterized by warm temperatures, abundant rainfall, and consistent trade winds. The county’s climate is influenced by its location in the central Pacific Ocean and its proximity to the equator.

Summer in Kalawao County, which typically lasts from May to October, is warm and humid, with average temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to low 80s Fahrenheit (around 24-28°C). Trade winds provide relief from the heat, keeping conditions comfortable for outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, and snorkeling.

Winter in Kalawao County, from November to April, is slightly cooler and wetter, with average temperatures in the high 60s to low 70s Fahrenheit (around 20-23°C). Rainfall is more frequent during the winter months, especially in the higher elevations, contributing to the lush green landscapes and vibrant flora of the region.


Kalawao County is characterized by its rugged terrain, lush valleys, and dramatic sea cliffs, offering breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the neighboring islands of Maui and Lanai. The county’s topography is shaped by volcanic activity, erosion, and the forces of nature over millions of years.

The most notable geographic feature of Kalawao County is the Kalaupapa Peninsula, a remote and isolated area located on the northern coast of Molokai. Encircled by towering sea cliffs that rise over 1,600 feet (490 meters) above sea level, the peninsula is accessible only by mule ride, hiking trail, or small aircraft.

The Kalaupapa Peninsula is home to the Kalaupapa National Historical Park, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site that preserves the history and cultural significance of the area. The park encompasses lush valleys, pristine beaches, and historic landmarks, including churches, homes, and gravesites dating back to the 19th century.

Rivers and Streams:

Kalawao County is crisscrossed by several rivers and streams that originate in the mountains and flow towards the coast, providing freshwater resources, habitat for wildlife, and opportunities for recreation. The most significant river in the county is the Waikolu Stream, which runs through the rugged valleys of the Kalaupapa Peninsula.

Other notable rivers and streams in Kalawao County include the Waikolu Stream, the Kainalu Stream, and the Waialau Stream, each contributing to the county’s ecological diversity and providing habitat for native plants and animals. These waterways are also important for agriculture, supporting taro cultivation and other traditional Hawaiian crops.

Coastline and Beaches:

Kalawao County boasts a stunning coastline with pristine beaches, rocky coves, and crystal-clear waters ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. The county’s coastline is characterized by its rugged beauty, dramatic sea cliffs, and secluded coves, offering visitors a sense of peace and tranquility amidst the natural splendor.

The most popular beach in Kalawao County is Papohaku Beach, located on the western coast of Molokai. Stretching for three miles along the shoreline, Papohaku Beach is one of the longest white sand beaches in Hawaii, offering opportunities for swimming, beachcombing, and watching the sunset over the ocean.

Other notable beaches in Kalawao County include Kepuhi Beach, Kumimi Beach, and Dixie Maru Beach, each with its own unique charm and attractions. These beaches are popular destinations for locals and visitors alike, providing opportunities for relaxation, recreation, and enjoying the beauty of Hawaii’s coastline.

Cultural and Historical Sites:

Kalawao County is rich in cultural and historical sites that reflect the unique heritage and traditions of Hawaii’s indigenous people. The Kalaupapa Peninsula is home to several historic landmarks and buildings, including the Father Damien Statue, the Saint Philomena Church, and the Kalaupapa Lookout.

The Kalaupapa Settlement, established in 1866 as a quarantine for people with leprosy (Hansen’s disease), is a testament to the resilience and strength of its residents. Despite the challenges they faced, the people of Kalaupapa created a thriving community that continues to endure to this day.


Kalawao County, Hawaii, offers a glimpse into the natural beauty, cultural heritage, and historical significance of the Hawaiian Islands. From its rugged landscapes and stunning coastline to its rich history and vibrant communities, Kalawao County is a place of unparalleled beauty and resilience.

As stewards of this remarkable landscape, residents and local authorities work together to preserve and protect Kalawao County’s natural resources and cultural heritage for future generations to enjoy. Whether exploring the rugged coastline, hiking through lush valleys, or learning about the history of the Kalaupapa Settlement, Kalawao County invites all who visit to experience the beauty and spirit of Hawaii’s past and present.

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