In 1897, a group of prominent businessmen formed what is now Molokai Ranch, Ltd. They purchased 70,000 acres of land, mostly on the western half of Molokai, leased another 30,000 acres of government land and began raising cattle and other livestock. Today Molokai Ranch encompasses about 53,000 acres which is roughly one third of the island.
From the beginning, the rich paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) heritage has been an integral part of the ranch. This is a working cattle ranch with real life cowboys doing real life cowboy chores on a daily basis.
For over 100 years, the ranch has played a major role in the evolution of the island’s agriculture-based economy and in the development of the necessary water resources.
In the early days the focus was on raising beef cattle for market, plus horses and mules for use here and for sales elsewhere. Over time, other ventures were tried with varying degrees of success. Some of these included raising sheep for market, honey production, a small dairy, and various grains and row crops.
Between 1923 and 1985 several thousand acres were leased to Libby and to Del Monte for pineapple cultivation. During those years, pineapple was an economic mainstay for Molokai.
More recently, activities were introduced that allowed Molokai visitors the opportunity to experience authentic ranch life first-hand and to stay at the Lodge or the Beach village at Kaupoa Beach. However, in May 2008, the Ranch ceased all its operations on the island.
The Ranch’s parent company, Molokai Properties Limited, wanted to develop a section of the Ranch’s land at La’au Point on the southwest corner of Molokai. Their stated plan would have created a small sub-division of about 200 multi-million dollar homes.
Opposition from the community arose to the plan. After many heated and sometimes bitter public planning and environmental impact meetings, Molokai Properties decided to abandon the plan. Within a few days, they announced that the Ranch would be ceasing all its operations on Molokai including the Lodge, movie theater, and Kaluakoi Golf Course. They then laid off almost their entire Molokai work force of about 120 employees.