The Hawaiian name for Mokapu is believed to be a contraction of Moku kapu, or ‘sacred island.’
Mokapu is a roughly 10-acre island located approximately 0.7 miles off the north coast of Molokai just east of the Kalaupapa Peninsula.
Mokapu rises steeply out of the water to 360-feet above sea level, ending in a narrow summit ridge.
Like the nearby islands of Okala and Huelo, Mokapu supports some of the most diverse native coastal plant communities in Hawai’i. For example, Mokapu contains 29 native plant species; several of these species are rare and vulnerable to extinction.
The island is dominated by native shrubs, but retains small groves of native lama trees, some native palm trees, which dominate
nearby Huelo, and 11 of the last 14 individuals of the shrub hoawa that is endemic to Molokai.
Mokapu is one of the many offshore islets that form the Hawai‘i State Seabird Sanctuary, created to protect the thousands of seabirds who seek refuge in and around the main Hawaiian Islands.
The majority of seabird-nesting colonies in the main Hawaiian Islands are located on the offshore islands, islets and rocks.
The sanctuary, administered by DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife, exists to protect not only seabirds but also endangered native coastal vegetation.
These sanctuaries protect seabirds, Hawaiian Monk seals, migrating shorebirds, and native coastal vegetation.
These small sanctuary areas represent the last vestiges of a once widespread coastal ecosystem that included the coastlines of all the main Hawaiian Islands. (DLNR)
“It is prohibited for any person to land upon, enter or attempt to enter, or remain in any wildlife sanctuaries …” Regardless, landing by boat is nearly impossible due to the lack of a safe beach.
Like the nearby islands of Okala and Huelo, Mokapu supports some of the best native coastal plant habitat in Hawai‘i, with 29 native plant species, several of which are rare and vulnerable. (DOFAW)
Historical uses of the island are unknown although rock mound structures are present on the ridgeline of Mokapu. However, the nature and source of these rock structures are unknown.
The difficulty of accessing Mokapu by water and the steepness of its slopes make it unlikely that it was visited often in the past and there are no known human uses of terrestrial areas today.
However, there is fishing along the north shore of Molokai, including areas near Mokapu. Fishing is primarily during the summer since winter seas are often very rough. (DOFAW)