Swimming While on Molokai

If you’re staying on Molokai (Hawaii), where can you swim/snorkel [safely] from the beach?

Featured image is Papahaku… mind the rocks.

This depends on a lot of different factors, mainly what level of swimmer you are, if you’re used to ocean swimming and are comfortable in the ocean, and what time of year it is. I’ve heard from many people that the winter months present much more dangerous conditions for swimming, even as far as “murder you waves” on the West end. A divemaster’s words, not mine.

Now, my boyfriend and I visited Molokai in the summer (July) of 2021 and found Murphy’s Beach, Kepuhi Beach, and Papahaku Beach to be fun and swimmable! However, that’s us… pretty good swimmers and comfortable in the ocean/sea (waves, potential mildish currents, etc). Here are some things to consider in general when swimming on Molokai and for the beaches mentioned.

  1. There are no life guards. DO NOT swim beyond your limits and beyond your comfort in terms of depth, etc. There were many times when it was just my boyfriend and I swimming on one of the aforementioned beaches, meaning, if you run into trouble you better trust your swimming companion because ain’t no jet skis coming to pull your ass out! I’m not saying this to scare you, but rather to just keep things in perspective. Keep your wits about you and stay by a buddy. I don’t care if you’re Michael Phelps… NEVER swim in the ocean (or anywhere) alone.
  2. Bring everything you need with you. Everything. There are no corner stores or Walgreens near the beaches to grab last minute things like sunscreen or snorkels. When I say remote, I mean remote. Some of the beaches have showers, toilets, etc, and some don’t.

Now, on to the specific beaches we visited.

Murphy’s Beach [pictured above] right around mile marker 20 is on the East end, generally the more lush and wet side of the island. It was about a 20 minute scenic drive from Hotel Molokai. Every time we were here there were other people swimming (good sign). The reef generally looks to break up the waves here, which makes it a quite pleasant swim. Don’t let this fool you though, the waves can get pretty big not far from shore and there was a slight current when we were there. At my skill level, I was able to swim comfortably with my snorkel without fins (my toe got bashed and was hurting me… story for another blog). Anyway, we did see some cute fish at Murphy’s beach too! Though you’ll generally be seeing most of the interesting marine life on the other side of the fringe reef, I found Murphy’s to be a fun snorkeling location, even spotted a couple cute unicorn fish of some kind. When we were there, there were port o johns if needed. No showers. WEAR SANDALS at least from your car to the beach as there are thorny brambly things on the ground. Youch!

Papahaku Beach [pictured above]. West end of Molokai. Beautiful, remote, three miles long. You may not see another soul while there. I chose this picture strategically. There’s rocks. If you’re not a strong and self-assured swimmer, I wouldn’t go in because you’ll want to check out rock formations but be comfortable enough to avoid them. And yes if the swell takes you out, it’ll likely push you back… but still. If you’re panicky in water, don’t go in. We heard that this beach is a lot more dangerous in winter, but we found it lovely and pretty calm in July. If you go all the way down toward the rocks on the distant end of the beach in the above picture, there’s some lovely snorkeling and you can see fish. A local told us it’s generally safe this time of year to go out a bit far toward the point and check out the fish. We found this fun and enjoyable [visibility wasn’t amazing], but again, go with your comfort level. I would also say that this might not be your “relax on the beach” type beach… what I mean by that is, it was rather windy, so the sand gets kicked up and smacks you. If you don’t mind that so much, hang out for the sunset like we did, but just be aware. Also, wear sandals because there are HUGE thorns on the walk to the beach [yes, I pulled one out of my foot lol]. There are toilets and showers in the first right hand turnoff toward Papahaku and I found them pleasant.

Kepuhi Beach. We didn’t spend too much time here, since our favorite seemed to be Papahaku, but this is worth checking out. Again, mind the rocks and the waves. Kepuhi has some awesome under water rock formations and is just a little north of Papahaku on the dryer West end of the Molokai. I believe we found just a foot shower here, no toiled and by this point I was wearing sandals everywhere until we got closer to the shore.

Final Thoughts

At least when we visited, there seemed to be more people at Murphy’s Beach. So if you’re a bit unsure of yourself as a swimmer, stick to Murpy’s I would say, or just check out the West end without going in. All in all, Molokai has some great swimming and snorkeling spots. You don’t need to take a boat out to experience some good snorkeling… though, I would recommend taking a boat out to see the reef… it’s unfathomably beautiful [another post]. Though, you can certainly have a pleasant time swimming and snorkeling on the beaches too. Just be safe about it.

Much love,


2 thoughts on “Swimming While on Molokai

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