GUEST ARTICLE: Everyone goes to Oahu, Maui, The Big Island (Hawaii) and Kauai but not many people get across to Molokai. We decided to give it a go and we found a beautiful peaceful place in the Hawaiian Islands.
Molokai lies between Oahu and Maui. To get to there we took a short 20-minute inter-island flight. As we flew into Molokai the island looked like a stretch of dry barren, red earth. We really weren’t sure what to expect but we had heard that it was one of the most ‘laid back’ of the islands.
After collecting our bags from the little airport we picked up our rental from the one rental car company at the airport in Molokai – Alamo. Since there aren’t that many tourists, the one office seems to work just fine. Unfortunately, being the only choice in Molokai (and you do need a car) means that Alamo can pretty much charge whatever price they want. It was the most expensive car rental in our Hawaiian Islands adventure.
There aren’t many accommodation choices in Molokai either. However, with a bit of help from TripAdvisor we managed to find a gem – Wavecrest Condos. We contacted the owner of apartment A303 direct via his website (http://www.hawaiianoceanfrontcondo.com/) and booked 3 nights accommodation. Wavecrest Condos are about 13 miles east of the nearest town Kaunakakai and therefore pretty remote but in the best part of the island (we thought). The apartment was amazing with an incredible view of the ocean and the Island of Maui.
On our first full day we headed further east along the main road to the very picturesque Halawa Valley. The first thing that strikes you along this scenic road along the coast is that the island isn’t all barren, red earth. In fact the eastern part of the island is lush and mountainous like the other Hawaiian Islands.
Along the way were some great lookout spots and various surf spots that were unexpectedly uncrowded. The view of Halawa Valley was incredible, a giant lush valley surrounding a beautiful sandy beach with lava rocks and great surf. There was also a guided 5-hour cultural hiking tour through the valley to the Moaula and Hipuapua Falls. Regrettably we didn’t do this one but heard many great things about it.
On our second day we headed west back into the main town of Kaunakakai. Of course we could have done the whole island twice over in a full day but that’s not in the spirit of Molokai. You have to do things slowly in Molokai and savour the experience, Hawaiian Time! Although small, Kaunakakai has everything you need including two small supermarkets. There aren’t any big brand restaurants in town and we were happy to have lunch in one of the few local establishments – real food, real people – cool.
After lunch we headed north to Palauu National Park. The highlight of the park is the view down to the isolated Kalaupapa Peninsula. The world’s highest sea cliffs surround the peninsula and it is spectacular. Kalaupapa’s isolation made it the choice for a leprosy colony in the mid 1800’s. Although scientists found a cure for leprosy in the late 20th century, the town is still inhabited today. The only way to visit the town is by plane, boat or by hike or mule tour down a steep trail. After seeing two exhausted Canadians after their hike we decided to give it a miss and enjoy the views from above! Another popular attraction is the Phallic Rock. It does look somewhat like a penis and therefore provided a few good photo ops.
As we saw from the air, there isn’t much to see on the western half of Molokai. However, there are some very pretty beach parks that are worth a visit. Papahaku Beach is stunning and deserted.
The locals call Molokai the “the most Hawaiian island” or “the way that Hawaii used to be” and they’re trying to keep it that way. The biggest landowner in Molokai (Molokai Properties Limited) had several businesses on the island including a ranch, a lodge, movie theatre and golf course. In an effort to turn a profit the company proposed a development of over 200 million-dollar homes on the southwest corner of Molokai. After a fierce debate and protests from the locals the plans were abandoned. The company subsequently closed all its other businesses. 120 workers were laid off.
Molokai remains very undeveloped. Depending on your perspective that can be a good or a bad thing. On one hand the locals have preserved Molokai and not let it go the way of the other islands. You won’t find a WalMart, McDonalds or KFC in Molokai (excellent!). On the other hand, there aren’t too many jobs here either. From a tourists point of view it offers a rare place in the USA that hasn’t buckled under the pressure of extreme commercialism.
We visited Molokai in December before the Chrissy rush so it was low season. This made Molokai particularly quiet and particularly pleasant. If you’re going to one of the big islands and your life is hectic, do yourself a favour and spend a few nights on Molokai. It’s good therapy!
This travel diary has been written by Machalle Gower, a friend who enjoys taking the road less traveled!