Geography of Kalawao County, Hawaii

Geography and Climate of Kalawao County, Hawaii

Kalawao County is a unique and isolated region located on the island of Molokai in the state of Hawaii. Known for its stunning natural beauty and historical significance, Kalawao County boasts a diverse landscape, encompassing rugged coastlines, lush valleys, and towering cliffs. In this comprehensive overview, we’ll explore the geography, climate, rivers, lakes, and other natural features that define this remarkable area.┬áCheck topmbadirectory to learn more about the state of Hawaii.

Geography and Topography:

Kalawao County is situated on the northern coast of the island of Molokai, encompassing a relatively small area of approximately 53 square miles. Despite its compact size, the county features a diverse range of landscapes, shaped by volcanic activity, erosion, and the forces of nature.

The topography of Kalawao County is characterized by dramatic contrasts, with steep cliffs rising abruptly from the coastline to towering heights. One of the most iconic features of the area is the towering sea cliffs of the Kalaupapa Peninsula, which soar to heights of over 3,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. These majestic cliffs, formed by millennia of volcanic activity and erosion, create a breathtaking backdrop for the county’s coastal scenery.

In addition to its dramatic coastline, Kalawao County is also home to lush valleys, verdant forests, and rolling hills. The central portion of the county is dominated by the rugged terrain of the Molokai Forest Reserve, a protected area that harbors diverse ecosystems and endemic species of flora and fauna.


Kalawao County experiences a tropical rainforest climate, characterized by warm temperatures, high humidity, and abundant rainfall throughout the year. The region’s proximity to the equator ensures relatively consistent temperatures year-round, with average highs ranging from the mid-70s to the low 80s Fahrenheit and average lows in the 60s.

Rainfall is a defining feature of the climate in Kalawao County, with the area receiving ample precipitation due to its exposure to trade winds and proximity to moist ocean air. The wet season typically occurs from October to April, during which time the county experiences frequent rain showers and occasional thunderstorms. The dry season, from May to September, sees reduced precipitation and more stable weather patterns, though rainfall can still occur, particularly in the form of afternoon showers.

Overall, the mild climate and abundant rainfall contribute to the lush vegetation and vibrant ecosystems that characterize Kalawao County, making it a haven for biodiversity and natural beauty.

Rivers and Streams:

Kalawao County is home to several freshwater rivers and streams that flow from the mountains to the sea, nourishing the land and sustaining life. One of the most significant waterways in the area is the Waikolu Stream, which originates in the rugged interior of the island and meanders through lush valleys before emptying into the Pacific Ocean.

The streams of Kalawao County play a vital role in shaping the landscape and supporting ecosystems, providing water for plants, animals, and human inhabitants alike. They also serve as important cultural and recreational resources, offering opportunities for fishing, swimming, and other outdoor activities.

Coastline and Beaches:

The coastline of Kalawao County is characterized by its rugged beauty, featuring towering sea cliffs, rocky shores, and secluded coves. Along the northern coast, the Kalaupapa Peninsula is renowned for its sheer cliffs and dramatic vistas, offering breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and neighboring islands.

Despite its rugged terrain, Kalawao County is home to several pristine beaches, tucked away in sheltered bays and coves. Papohaku Beach, located on the western coast of Molokai, is one of the largest white sand beaches in Hawaii, stretching for three miles along the shoreline. With its turquoise waters and panoramic views, Papohaku Beach is a popular destination for sunbathing, swimming, and beachcombing.

Volcanic Features:

Like the rest of the Hawaiian Islands, Kalawao County bears the unmistakable imprint of volcanic activity, with rugged landscapes and volcanic features dotting the terrain. The island of Molokai is believed to have formed from two shield volcanoes, with the highest peak, Kamakou, reaching an elevation of over 4,900 feet above sea level.

While volcanic activity on Molokai is dormant, evidence of past eruptions can be seen in the island’s geology, including lava flows, cinder cones, and volcanic craters. These geological formations not only contribute to the island’s rugged beauty but also provide insights into its geological history and the forces that have shaped its landscape over millions of years.

In conclusion, Kalawao County is a region of unparalleled natural beauty and geological diversity, characterized by its rugged coastline, lush valleys, and towering cliffs. From its tropical rainforest climate to its volcanic landscapes and pristine beaches, the area offers a unique blend of ecological richness and cultural significance. As stewards of this remarkable land, it is essential to preserve and protect its natural heritage for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.

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