Why Molokai Is the Least Developed of Hawai‘i’s Islands

Even Centuries Before Captain Cook’s Arrival, Its Resources Were Exploited by Outsiders

The first thing that strikes a visitor to the Hawaiian island of Molokai is how empty it is. From the approach of the propeller-driven airplane that brings you from bustling Oʻahu or Maui, you see mile after mile of beaches with no sign of people, and square mile after mile of scrubland marked by nothing more than occasional red dirt roads. It seems a throwback to an older, simpler Hawai‘i, before mass tourism, high-rise hotels, crowded beaches, and traffic gridlock.

On Molokai, there is not a single traffic light, and the …