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On your trip from Kahului Airport to Molokai's North Shore, you will encounter whales, rugged coastlines, 1,500 foot waterfalls, rain forests, sail boats, and smooth, North- Easterly trade winds.


Kahului Airport: This busy Class-C airport is the home of Maui Aviators, LLC.  Kahului Airport is famous for its gusty trade winds that blow through the valley created by 10,000 foot mount Haleakala to the East and the 6,000 foot West Maui Mountains to the West.  You will be sharing the field with numerous tour helicopters, inter-island commuters and jets, heavy jets such as mainland-bound 777's, 767's 757's and A330 aircraft, and numerous business jets.  Prior to departure, pick up your ATIS on 128.6, call for clearance on 120.6, and switch to Maui Ground121.9 when you are ready to taxi. 

Kahului Airport looking west.  Runway 5-23 (5000') is in the foreground.  Runway 2-20 (7000') intersects Runway 5.  The beach in the right foreground is the world-famous Kanaha beach park.

Kahului Airport looking west.  Runway 5-23 (5000') is in the foreground.  Runway 2-20 (7000') intersects Runway 5.  The beach on the right is the world-famous Kanaha beach park.

1) Waihee.  Your clearance (Maui Clearance 120.6) to depart to the North West will probably be to remain two miles offshore, and maintain 1000 ft.  (Remember that in Hawaii our West-bound altitudes are 1,000, 2,000 and 3,000 feet when we are flying below 3,500 ft.  East-bound altitudes are 500, 1,500, and 2,500).  Dial in 310 on the Kahului Vortac (115.1) and add about 10-15 degrees of cross-wind correction for the strong North-Easterly trade winds.  Once airborne, look at the ocean to determine the direction and strength of the wind.  The frequency of the white caps gives you an indication of the strength of the wind, which usually blows perpendicular to the direction of the swells.  Be sure to notice the dramatic limestone sea cliffs of Waihee ("Why-hay") and the sand dunes of Wailuku ("Why-lou-coo").  Keep your eyes open for tour helicopters coming in and out of the valleys here

2) Kahakuloa ("Kaw-haw-kou-low-ah").  This prominent rock jutting out from the cliffs and protecting a small sheltered bay lies just inside class-c airspace and is a reporting point marked on the charts.  Abeam or just past Kahakuloa Maui Approach should tell you to squawk VFR.  When they do, set your transponder to 1200 and switch to the Maui ITAF (Island Traffic Advisory Frequency of 120.65) for your local reports on the Norhwest Coast of Maui to Molokai.

3) Nakalele ("knock-ah-lay-lay")Point.  This is the Northernmost tip of the Island of Maui. Here you can see the Nakalele Blow Hole, And when there is a north swell rolling in it will shoot ocean water several feet into the air.

4) Kahana ("Kaw-haw-nah") and Kapalua ("Kah-paw-lou-ah").  Looking South West as you traverse the Pailolo Channel you will see Kapalua bay, with its two North facing sandy beaches and the Ritz Carlton Hotel, and Honolua bay marine preserve, a favorite among surfers in the Winter.  You may want to contact Kapalua Unicom (122.7) to let them know of your intentions and ask them for traffic advisories.  However, you will not enter their airspace and should monitor the Maui ITAF (120.65) for other aircraft in the area who might not be talking to Kapalua.

5) Elephant Rock.  The Hawaiian name for this little island is "Mokuhooniki".  That is why we aviators call it Elephant Rock.  Make your first report to Molokai North Shore Traffic here on the Molokai ITAF 121.95.  It should sound something like: "Molokai North Shore Traffic, Cessna Five Sierra Papa is Elephant Rock, Westbound at 1,000 ft., Molokai North Shore Traffic.")

See the Elephant?

Elephant Rock Molokai

6) Cape Halawa ("Haw-law-vah").  Your next reporting point is the scenic Halawa Valley which marks the end of the road on Molokai's Eastern shore.  Note the waterfall in the back of the valley.  Keep a sharp lookout for helicopters and cross-country traffic coming from Honolulu.

Cape Halawa Molokai

7) Wailau ("why-lah-ow" - 'ow' as in ouch)Valley.  This is a deep valley with 2,000 foot walls that harbors a small community of campers on the Eastern side of its beach.  Hawaiians once lived here by the thousands, farming taro and fishing the abundant waters of Molokai's North Shore.  The sea cliffs here are the highest in the world, plunging over 2,000 feet into the azure depths below.  After a good rainfall the coastline is striped with waterfalls and presents one of the most beautiful scenes on Earth.

Wailau Valley Molokai

8) Kalaupapa Peninsula.  This historic peninsula jutting out from the cliffs is a county unto itself.  The settlement here was established in the late 1800's as a hospital for the treatment of Hansen's disease (Leprosy) patients.  You will see Father Damien's historic church and several historic buildings, including a grand old light house as you over-fly the peninsula.  Monitor Kalaupapa CTAF 122.9 closely for traffic in and out of Kalaupapa field, a small airstrip on the peninsula's North shore, adjacent to the light house, which boasts some of the most severe winds in the state

Be sure to fly an altitude of 1000, 2000 and 3000 when westbound and 1500, 2500, 3500 when eastbound while cruising at at altitude when flying in Hawaii

Kalaupapa Peninsula Molokai
Kalaupapa Peninsula Molokai
Kalaupapa Peninsula Molokai

9) Transition to Molokai Field.  After transitioning across Kalaupapa, you should pick up the MKK ATIS (128.2) and contact the Molokai Tower (125.7) to let them know you are in bound from Kalaupapa.  The field here is up at 454 feet, and pattern altitude is 1,300.  You should get higher, though (about 2,000 ft.) to get over the cliffs.  Crossing the cliffs you can expect some turbulence, so tighten up your seat-belts!  If you don't want to land at Molokai, you must still call the tower, as you will be transiting through their airspace to the South.

10) Molokai Airport.  This is the only airport in Maui County with a snack shop accessible to general aviation, so pilots can refuel on a simple snack or a ready made sandwhich.  It is a good place to stop and stretch your legs, but be wary of the gusty trades and up-sloping terrain on either side of the field.

Molokai Airport

Molokai Airport

11) Kaunakakai ("Cow-nah-kah-kai").  After departing Molokai Airspace, you will cross the South Molokai shoreline.  Note the rings of stone projecting out from the shoreline.  These are ancient Hawaiian fish ponds.  Kaunakakai is recognizable as the population center of Molokai and by its harbor.  From here fly South across the channel to the shipwrecks on the island of Lanai.  Be sure to note the strong Easterly cross-winds and adjust your heading accordingly.  Approching Lanai announce you position reports on the Lanai ITAF 122.9 to local traffic.

12)  The Shipwrecks.  These ships have been wrecked on Lanai's reefs since World War II.  They are old tankers that are gradually returning to the elements.  You will see several other small hulls and debris that has washed up over the years on Lanai's North shore.  The big shipwreck lies just offshore of Lanai on the MKK (116.1) 120 degree radial.  The small shipwreck is on the MKK 135 degree radial.

Big Shipwreck Lanai

Big Shipwreck

Shipwreck Beach Lanai

Little Shipwreck Lanai

Little Shipwreck 

Shipwreck Beach Lanai

13) Club Lanai.  As you proceed around Lanai's eastern tip you will pass Club Lanai, a small destination resort that many years ago used to brings tourists over from Maui to play in Lanai's clear waters.  You may also see whales (in the Winter) and sailboats playing offshore of Lahaina.


Club Lanai

14) Manele Bay.  Lanai was once covered in pineapple fields, however, with the demise of the pineapple industry tourism is now its primary economic engine.  There are two five-star resorts on the island, one at Manele bay, and one up at Lanai City (Koele Lodge).  They both have beautiful golf courses and provide a romantic (and quiet) get away.  Movie stars and billionaires choose Lanai as a quiet, secluded place to get married and get away from it all.  Further down the coast from Lanai you will see Lanai's dramatic sea cliffs and sapphire blue waters.  Turn around here and head back to Lahaina, or land at Lanai airport to stretch your legs.  As you transition from Lanai to Lahaina, you should contact Kapalua Airport Unicom on 122.7 and let them know you will be transitioning to Lahaina from Manele Bay, and then proceeding East to McGregor Point.

15) Lahaina ("Lah-hi-nah") and Kaanapali ("Kah-ah-nah-paw-lee").  Lahaina has hosted international visitors for over 200 years.  In the days of the tall ships, whale ships filled the waters offshore and whalers spent their leave time on shore carousing with the natives.  In modern times you will be sure to notice the frolicking tourists dangling from Parasails being towed behind speed boats.  Be sure to adjust your altitude accordingly so that you do not take home any non-paying and unwitting passengers.  Just North of Lahaina is the world-class resort destination, Kaanapali Beach.  You will recognize this 1/2 mile long beach by the golf course that is immediately on shore, and the black lava cliff jutting out from its North end.  In the Winter their are too many whales to count in the near offshore waters.


Lahaina Maui
Lahaina Maui

16) Oluwalu ("Oh-lou-wall-lou") and Coral Gardens.  The dry valleys and sandy beaches of Oluwalu present a rusty, dusty contrast to the green and verdant valley and North Shore of Maui.  The tour boats like to congregate offshore of Oluwalu for lunch, and to allow their passengers to frolic over the reefs of Coral Gardens. Monitor Maui ITAF 120.65 for local traffic over Oluwalu

Olowalu Valley Maui
Oluwalu Reef

17) McGregor Point("Mack-greg-ohr poh-eent").    As you pass Oluwalu, get your Kahului ATIS (128.6) and contact Maui Approach (119.5) for permission to land at Kahului Airport or to transition to Molokini and Makena and then land at Kahului Airport.  This area is frequented by whales in the Winter time.  This is a good opportunity for pilots to practice their turns around a Whale. Be sure to stay at least 1,000 ft. MSL, to comply with federal regulations as Humpback Whale are an endangered species. Looking North from here you can see the 6,000 ft. West Maui Mountains and the 10,000 ft. mount Haleakala.  The elevation of the isthmus in between is approximately 100 ft. or less in the center.  The trade winds blowing from the North East accelerate through this valley and create ideal conditions for wind-surfing.  They also create a great deal of turbulence on the South-West parts of the island.  McGregor point is famous for its turbulence, so we advise our pilots to stay well offshore (at least 2-3 miles).  You should see the wind shear line on the water and be able to judge the intensity of the turbulence.  If it is too severe you should return to Lahaina and proceed North East bound to return to the field.  (See Circle Maui guide for info.)

18)   Makena  The prominent hill next to the half-mile long Makena beach cradles a small nudist beach along its Western shoreline.  This is a reporting point for entering Kahului Class-C airspace.  If you want to circle to watch whales or take picures of any landmarks just let Maui Approach know and they should allow it.

Makena Beach Maui

Makena cinder cone.  The small beach in the foreground is popluar among nudists.  (A good place to practice eights-on-pylons?)




Just offshore of Makena is the world-famous snorkel and dive destination, Molokini Crater.  This tiny crescent island is over-run with hundreds of cavorting snorkelers every day.  It is much more comfortably viewed from the air.


Molokin Island Maui

19 Kihei ("Key-hay") and the isthmus.  Continuing North from Makena you will pass Wailea resort with its numerous golf-courses and five star resorts.  North of Kihei is the isthmus between the West Maui Mountains and Mount Haleakala commonly called "the Valley."  On the Southern shore of the isthmus is the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge which is comprised of two large ponds adjacent to Sugar Beach just North of Kihei.  To return to Kahului Airport from here you could track in-bound on the Kahului Vortac, 115.1, or follow the highway to the Puunene Sugar Mill.  The highway is clearly recognizable as a dark band of trees proceeding Northward through the sugar fields.  Be sure to note the remnants of the World War II military bases scattered among the fields here.  For your final approach, line up over the Sugar Mill at 800', just to the East (right) of the smoke stacks and you will be on the glide slope.  In fact, there is an official approach procedure called the "Smoke Stack Visual Runway 2" that uses this mill.

North Kihei Coastline Maui