Molokai holds a special place in our hearts. We have been coming here since 2004, and when we tell people we are coming to Molokai, their jaws drop and they ask us, “Why?”…. No one visits Molokai!!! There is nothing there!!!!! Even our friends who live in Hawaii say they never venture to the “Friendly Isle” And the buzz about the island is the people are anything but friendly. There are no nightclubs, you can count the restaurants on your fingers, no zip lining, helicopter flights, luau extravaganzas, or ABC Stores. There isn’t even a stop light on the entire island or a building over three stories high. But we LOVE this island.
What draws us? Empty, pristine beaches. Privacy, peacefulness, spiritualness, wildness. The opportunity to just “escape” from it all. A place to just unplug and unwind.
We’ve brought friends and relatives here to Molokai. We’ve celebrated birthdays, and have experienced two marriage proposals. We regularly share “our” beaches with seals, amaze at the pods of spinner dolphins that cruise by, and now and then we catch glimpses of those elusive Axis deer.
THINGS TO DO
Contrary to popular belief, there are “things” to do on Molokai, and we’ve done just about all of them.
This place tugs on your heart…perhaps that is why we have visited five times. Kalaupapa is the location of the leper colony that was established in the 1860’s. This peninsula was the perfect location for the colony as escape was near impossible….rough seas on three sides backed up against some of the highest sea cliffs in the world. Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease)….so feared was this disease that bounty hunters were handsomely paid $10.00 for each suspected leprosy victim reported to the Board of Health. Young children were yanked from schools and sent directly to Kalaupapa, fearful and crying for their mothers. In the early days, the sea captains would often anchor offshore and force those inflicted to swim for shore. Kalaupapa was where Father Damien (recently sainted) did his selfless work and eventually succumbed to the disease. This is also where Mother Marianne Cope (also sainted) cared for the hundreds of patients and developed medical structures and hygienic procedures for those suffering.
To take the tour, you must first secure a permit, only 100 visitors are allowed per day, and you must find your way down. There used to be a mule company where you risked a sore butt and your wallet was lightened at the tune of $209.00 per person, but that company has closed shop. You can fly…but that is even more pricy. Or you can hike the rugged 3.5 mile trail….down 26 switchbacks, almost 2000 feet to sea level. We have always hiked. Some highlights of the tour is the small Philomena Church, Father Damien’s grave (only his right hand is buried here….he was with a Belgium order and they took his body back to Belgium to be buried but sent his right hand back to Kalaupapa…the right hand signifying the work he did), Mother Marianne’s Grave, and a trip to the location of original settlement. If your bus goes out to the airport to pick anyone up, you will see grave after grave of the 8000 people who perished here.
I hear there are only 5 residents left in the village. It is still unclear what will happen to the peninsula once the last resident passes. If you are on Molokai, it is definitely worth your while to visit this No. 1 tourist destination on the untouristy Hawaiian island of Molokai.
The east side of the island is lush and green and at the end of the road lies Halawa Valley. This valley is the oldest, continuously inhabited spot in all of Hawaii and holds great cultural significance. Here you can hike to several waterfalls. Because most of the valley is privately owned land, you no longer can hike to the falls on your own. There are several tours, all pretty good, and most take you to Moa’ula Falls. Name of falls – moa-ula – means: “red lizard”. This name originates from a popular legend telling that water spirit – mo’o – in a form of lizard still is living in the deep pool below the falls. He might attack people who swim here. Before swimming, the mood of mo’o should be tested with a ti leaf dropped in the water. If it floats – it is safe to swim. If not – better don’t, lizard is annoyed. The water is unbelievably cold and the closer you get to the falls you experience what water feels like when it has dropped 250 feet…kind of like a sand blasting.
In its heyday, this valley was home to over 5000 people. Rock walls, that terraced the valley and held over 1200 taro patches, can still be found in the valley. At the mouth of river is a gorgeous black sand beach and often surfers can be seen riding the breaks here.
Just east of Kaunakakai and near the summit of Molokai’s highest mountain, is the Kamakou Preserve. You will need a four-wheel drive vehicle to get here you better hope it doesn’t rain (gets a bit slippery, well, a lot slippery)
Kamakou Preserve is a place so hidden and pristine that it might feel like you’re the first to discover it. The nearly 2,774-acre preserve is Molokai the way Mother Nature intended.
Here you will see (if you know what you are looking for or you have a knowledgeable guide) 250 rare Hawaiian plants, 219 of which can be found nowhere else in the world. If you are lucky, you might hear the song of the olomao (Molokai thrush) and kawawahie (Molokai creeper), two birds nearing extinction. A short hike, 3-mile round-trip, most of it on a narrow boardwalk through unspoiled rain forest. This boardwalk is a mere 6 inches wide better pray you do not fall off for the bog it traverses is quite deep. The view at the end, down into the lush Waikolu Valley, is breathtaking.
Beautiful, unspoiled beaches populate Molokai. Beaches pretty much devoid of people, where you snag a spot of sand and call it your own for the day knowing you will not be interrupted or crowded out. I think the most beautiful beaches in the world are in Hawaii….and Molokai contains many of them.
Molokai is not for everyone. We love it the way it is and we know the people of Molokai will continue to fiercely protect this special isle. And whenever we need a break from this crazy world of ours, we will sneak away to Molokai, for indeed, it is Mo’bettah!!!!