Hawaii Vacation: HNL-MKK Mokulele Airlines Review

Today we’re heading to Molokai! Getting there isn’t easy, this review will included Mokulele Airlines from HNL-MKK and this flight is one that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. First we need to get to the Mokulele terminal here at HNL. After arriving into HNL’s interisland Terminal 1, A Gates, this is where all the Hawaiian Airlines Inter-island flights arrive and depart here on Honolulu. Our next flight to Molokai is on Mokulele Airlines, Mokulele departs from Terminal 3, H Gates. That terminal is separate from the rest of the airport, there is no air side transfer to the H Gates.

If you’d like to check out the differences between the different airlines flying interisland Hawaii flights, here is a guide to all of your options. ​

In this review I’ll detail the transfer from HNL Terminal 1/2(A-G Gates) to Terminal 3 (H Gate) and discuss how long someone needs to make this un-protected transfer. Then I’ll discuss riding on Mokulele Airlines to Molokai!

In This Trip

HNL Airport: Terminal 3 Mokulele Airlines Transfer

Mokulele Airlines has it’s own terminal here at HNL. Like I mentioned, there’s no air side transfer to that terminal. It’s also not walkable, you must exit the main airport terminal and take the WikiWiki bus.

HNL Airport Terminal 1

In the gate area, because it was early we wanted a snack. Val found a news stand and got a snack and a drink, we hadn’t really eaten breakfast yet today.

HNL Airport Terminal Exit

We exited the secure side of the terminal and walked through baggage claim. We just have carry on bags today so no need to stop.

HNL Terminal Shuttle

We then walked outside and followed the signs for the Terminal Shuttle. The HNL Terminal Shuttle runs landside between the 3 terminals. It runs relatively frequently from the designated stops.

HNL WikiWiki Bus

Here’s the WikiWiki Terminal shuttle. When boarding the driver asked what airline we’re flying, we told him Mokulele Airlines. A few other people boarded and some workmen were going to Mokulele.

HNL WikiWiki Bus Ride

On the WikiWiki Bus we stopped at a few places on the way to Terminal 3.

HNL wikiwiki shuttle

It almost feels like you’re exiting the airport, but after passing through some warehouses and the airline shipping terminals we arrived at the H Gate that Mokulele Airlines uses.

How long did transferring from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 at HNL take? About 35 minutes from walking off the plane, to walking into Terminal 3.

HNL Airport Mokulele Airlines Terminal 3

HNL Terminal 3 Mokulele Airlines

Yep, here’s the whole terminal. Terminal 3 is obviously small and is only used for Mokulele flights. There’s a small parking lot, some benches and picnic tables, and a few vending machines. I love small airports and this is no exception.

HNL Terminal 3 Mokulele Airlines

This is the check-in counter here for Mokulele. We gave our IDs and then our bags were weighted and tagged. No avoiding the $20 checked baggage fee, even with our carry on sized bags, if it’s bigger than a personal item, it gets checked. They also asked our body weight, it’s a small plane, they have to use real numbers not just assumed averages.

HNL Terminal 3 Mokulele Airlines

Here’s the whole terminal, none of it is indoors. Like much of Hawaii the weather is pleasant and it’s really not necessary.

HNL Terminal 3 Mokulele Airlines

There are no paper boarding passes here at Mokulele, we were told to just hang out and wait for a boarding call for our flight to Molokai.

HNL Terminal 3 Mokulele Airlines

We found some benches outside the Mokulele terminal and had a little snack. Not much to do here to kill time.

We booked flights about 2:30 apart on our un-protected connection from Hawaiian Airlines to Mokulele Airlines, that was more than needed. 1:30 would be more than enough time.

HNL Airport Mokulele Airlines Terminal 3 Amenities

HNL Terminal 3 Mokulele Airlines Vending Machine

There is a vending machine with some snacks.

HNL Terminal 3 Mokulele Airlines Bathroom

Some bathrooms and water fountains.

And an amazing view of the airport.

This isn’t a Centurion Lounge, it’s better. Waiting outside for a flight is such a simple pleasure. Yes, it’s a sandwich from a vending machine along with a soda, from a similar vending machine. There’s also no power here, always important to travel with a battery pack.

Mokulele Airlines Honolulu to Molokai Trip Report

Ok, lets go to Molokai!

HNL Mokulele Airlines Boarding Process

I am a little nervous about these flights, it’s been windy and this isn’t exactly a large plane. I had looked at San Spotter’s review, I was nervous that I might not feel well too, We’ll see what happens!

After a snack and some drinks on our bench outside the terminal, around 15 minutes before our Mokulele Airlines flight we packed up our backpacks and headed to the front of the building.

Mokulele Airline baggage loading

I saw the gate agent bringing the checked luggage to the plane and then loading it into the luggage lockers below the plane. Nothing is automated here, luggage goes on a push cart and then gets loaded.

Mokulele Airline Pilots Waiting at the gate

When she came back she called for flight Mokulele Airlines 858 to gather around the literal gate. She then called names and seats were assigned. The Cessna 208 has 5 rows of 2, but the last row only has a single seat. Seating was assigned due to weight and balance reasons. I was assigned row 2 and Val row 5. It didn’t matter what side of the plane we sat on, I ended up on the left, Val too as there’s only a seat on the left.

We all lined up in our respective seat order and then followed the Mokulele Airlines agent out to the plane. The pilots were also walking just ahead of us too.

Molokai Airlines Boarding Process

How cool is this, I’ve long been on a crusade to rid the world jet bridges, this is the best boarding experience I’ve ever had. Following the pilot out to the plane is just cool.

Molokai Airlines Special Livery Airplane

We got super lucky today, today we’re riding on a Mokulele Airlines special livery aircraft today. It’s entirely airbrushed with a Hawaiian motif. This side of the plane has a waterfall with a Hawaiian Dancer.

Mokulele Airlines Special Livery

The other side had a lava flow. Seriously, how cool is that paint job!

The Mokulele Airlines pilot then helped us board.

Pro tip: take off your backpack before you climb the stairs. Crouching into the plane you’ll need to have it in hand. That tip came from the pilot, thanks for that!

Mokulele Airlines Interior

I was a little disappointed Val and I weren’t sitting next to each other, but it’s a short flight, we’ll live.

Mokulele Airlines Seats

Mokulele Airlines Seating

These are the seats on the Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208. There are only 9 seats on the plane, 4 rows of 2 with a single seat in the rear next to the main door.

Mokulele Airlines Seating

Very comfortable seats, felt just like a regular car seat. There’s also a shoulder belt like a car.

Mokulele Airlines Seating Under Seat Storage

There’s no “under the seat in front of you” bags just go between your legs. The seat was surprisingly comfortable, it did have a shoulder strap and felt more like a car seat than an airplane.

Mokulele Airlines Departure and Takeoff

Mokulele Airlines Emergency Exit Row

The Mokulele Airlines captain shut the door and asked for Val’s help in doing so. She was sitting right next to the exit. He then boarded through his front door.

Mokulele Airlines Cabin

The safety announcement was brief, hilarious, and extremely professional. The Captain just turned around and told us everything we needed to know. All the standard safety equipment was pointed out except for oxygen masks. These planes are not pressurized and don’t fly high enough to need it.

He said once the engine was started the AC would be turned on, I was looking forward to that as it was pretty hot.

Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208

Mokulele Airlines has lots of different liveries on it’s aircraft. It’s kinda cool.

The engine soon roared to life and we were away. No pushback or waiting around fuss, from boarding to rolling was less than 3 minutes. Mokulele had clearly done this before, it shows.

Mokulele Airlines Pilots working

Our taxi was fun to watch. These pilots really are doing a lot of things the whole time. Talking on the radio, controlling the prop and engine speed, steering, adjusting all sorts of knobs and buttons on the flight screens. It’s really lots of work and very interesting to watch.

Mokulele Airlines Taxi

Such a cool view of the airport. It’s like riding in a pickup truck.

Mokulele Airlines Taxi

The other thing is how much the plane moves around, just stopping and you can feel the weight compressing the springs in the landing gear, shifting the weight forward. Then on acceleration, the reverse and the nose rises.

Mokulele Airlines Takeoff

After finding our runway we turned east and began our short takeoff roll. The engine noise was incredible and the whole plane vibrated and shook as we accelerated into the wind.

Mokulele Airlines Takeoff

I was surprised at how quickly we were off the ground, it’s also a much more gradual climb than in a standard airliner.

It also became a different feeling of smooth in the air. Gone was the small vibration of the wheels and a new sensation of large motion had arrived.

Mokulele Airlines View

Lots of yaw and roll as we climbed through some small clouds surrounding downtown Honolulu and Waikiki. We got some absolutely amazing views from our windows.

I was only able to see out of the left side of the plane because of my seat, Val in the rear of the plane could see out both sides. If you are lucky enough to sit back there, I’d recommend it. On the HNL-MKK route I’d recommend the left side of the plane if you’re not in the rear seat.

Looking back at the Honolulu Airport from our Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208.

How great are these views from Mokulele Airlines are just incredible. Flying over the port is awesome.

Waikiki from the air.

Passing over diamond head like this is like being on a private tour group. We continued to follow the coast line around Oahu and the view continues to be breathtaking.

Being just off the coast of Oahu is so cool.

Mokulele Airlines In Flight Services

We soon pointed our nose to the east and directly at Molokai. Watching the pilots truly fly the plane was fantastic fun.

Mokulele Airlines flight view

There’s always something fascinating about watching a professional work. Our right seat pilot, Thad, was doing the flying today. With the left seat Captain, Nick, handling the other systems.

We passed above the clouds and it turned into a very smooth ride. Little noisy and with some vibration, but in no way rough or uncomfortable.

I was really relieved about this, I had studied SanSpotters review of these flights and had me nervous. Fortunately we had great weather and got very lucky on a nice flight.

Mokulele Airlines in seat entertainment

There is an inflight magazine. It’s not particularly long but it was well written and about local things for the markets that Mokulele and Southern Airways service.

I miss inflight magazines. I know we all have phones with much better content, there’s just something fun about an inflight magazine.

Mokulele Airlines Decent Into Molokai

The western shore of Molokai soon came into view. I will say the windows on the Cessna 208 are absolutely massive in comparison with a normal aircraft, made for great sightseeing and picture taking.

Mokulele Airlines Pilots working

The pilots started making several adjustments and it was seemingly a flurry of activity. Pulling up maps, making adjustments to the engine speed and prop setting, adjusting trim and speed, all while flying the plane. Very fun to watch.

We approached Molokai from the south almost dead center of the island. We we headed north as we descended.

Mokulele Airlines over Molokai

To the right and front I could see the airport, this is an amazing view that most passengers just don’t get to see.

Mokulele Airlines over Molokai

We finally got our first up close views of Molokai, it’s very unique in how few people are on this island.

The interesting landscape of Molokai that we’ll soon be exploring.

Again watching the pilots work was just fascinating.

This is so unique. I don’t think I’ve ever arrived into such a location. I’ve traveled to lots of small airports in rural areas, but this is different. I’m both nervous and excited about our upcoming portion of our trip.

We glided down as we made our right turn and soon touched down very gently onto the runway.

Mokulele Airlines Pilots into Molokai

Another flutter of activity up front with the pilots. Seriously fun to see them in action, it’s a new experience for me.

Mokulele Airlines Arrival Into Molokai

We turned off the runway and right to the terminal. The engine was turned off and the captain turned around and welcomed us to Molokai.

He said to just hang out for a minute while the ground crew put in our tail stand and chalked the wheels. About 30 seconds later he opened his door, walked around, and opened the door next to Valerie.

Mokulele Airlines Arrival

The right seat pilot who did the flying today then helped us off the plane and to our luggage that was sitting just under the tail.

We grabbed our stuff and the group was escorted into the terminal by the pilot himself.

Mokulele Airlines Cessna sitting in Molokai

One final look back at our awesome ride back to Molokai. Mokulele Airlines was such a great experience on this short flight.

I will say the terminal at MKK is the smallest I’ve ever seen, but we’ll get into more of that on the return flight in a few days. Now it’s time to pickup our rental and explore the island.

We walked across the street to the Alamo car rental to pickup our Jeep.

Final Thoughts

What an awesome experience and trip. Mokulele Airlines is such a fun way to island hop around Hawaii. This is also the only way to get to Molokai. The transfer from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 at HNL didn’t take that long, really 90 minutes would be more than enough time, assuming everything runs on schedule.

We had good weather today and got a great view of both Oahu and Molokai. I was really glad for that, I didn’t want to worry about feeling sick on these flights.

Mokulele Airlines is extremely fun and professional. No, there’s no in flight service and the planes are loud, but how else will get you such an amazing view of the islands. Bring a set of noise cancelling headphones, you’ll want them when the engine spools up. Hearing damage is no joke.

I’d gladly fly Mokulele Airlines again, and fortunately I will! We have to leave Molokai in a few days and we’ll obviously be flying on Mokulele again!

Follow This Trip

1: Hawaii Vacation: Delta 717 Economy Review and Delta 757 Economy Review

2: Delta 757-200 Economy Flight Review

3: Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay Review

4: Hawaii Vacation: HNL-MKK Mokulele Airlines Review

5: Hawaii Vacation: Hawaiian Airlines 717 Economy Review

6: Review: Hotel Molokai

7: Mokulele Airlines Review MKK-OGG

8: Southwest Airlines Hawaii Interisland Review: OGG-HNL

9: Review: Holiday Inn Express Kailua-Kona

10: Hawaiian Airlines Interisland: Boeing 717 First Class Review

11: Delta A330-900neo First Class (Delta One Suites) HNL-SEA Review

12: Flight Review: Delta 767-300 First Class (Delta One) SEA-ATL

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