Join us on a journey through the history of this amazing volcanic islet. Aside from the scientists who have studied it, most people outside of Hawaii don’t know what happened to Molokini in the ancient and recent past.
The volcanic cone of Molokini rises about 500 ft from the submerged side of Haleakalā to a summit only 162 ft above sea level. Molokini is most likely the result of a volcanic eruption dating back 230,000 years. Scientists believe it was originally part of Maui island and that melting ice caps at the end of the last ice age caused sea levels around Molokini to rise 400 feet, surrounding the entirety of the Molokini caldera with water.
Researchers estimate that the Polynesian voyagers first discovered Hawaii and Molokini around 500 AD. Hawaiians were apparently fishing around Molokini for many years, given the discoveries of ancient stone sinkers and fishing lures by SCUBA divers and snorkelers. The waters within Molokini provided settlers to the islands with a valuable food source for hundreds of years with its abundance of fish and other marine life.
After hundreds of years as a food source, Molokini’s history took a dark turn during World War II. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the US military was given the right to use the islet for target practice. Its narrow shape made it comparable to submarines and battleships. The bombing profoundly damaged the islet, the reefs, and the life that they contained.
When the Conservation District was established, a new era for Molokini Crater began. Local divers got involved and removed the remaining ordnance to save the reefs. In the years since, not a single remaining piece of ordnance has been found by the many divers who frequent the area.
Some of the best Molokini snorkeling tours give you the opportunity to swim among abundant life in and around Molokini crater. Molokini snorkeling offers outstanding visibility, up to 80 feet. With numerous options for exploring Molokini crater, you can return often without seeing the same part twice.