Royal coconut groves... Plumeria decorated women... Artist’s Eden... Polynesian past is peeking though the present, at least in floral terms, available for all to see at most unexpected locations along the highway or on the official park grounds.
West-end beaches are either expansive or cosy. The grandest of them all has so much sand that Oahu’s Waikiki is heavily indebted to it for its existence. The sheer volume and openness invite great surf and render it dangerous for swimmers but the feeling of remoteness and might is inescapable. Other beaches are sheltered in coves of decent size with waters beckoning man and beast to cohabitate. Most of them are accessible by car and facilities are not rare. People do seem to frequent the sands but the numbers are negligible and at any given time one might end up alone as if being on a private beach!
There are two approaches to the spectacular North Coast of Molokai – Father Damien’s leper colony in the north-central or the Halawa valley in the east. All stuff in-between is inaccessible by road so it can only be viewed either from a plane or a boat. The leper colony is tightly controlled and dutifully ticketed whereas the Halawa stays in a no-go limbo unless of course you’ve got the right guy at your side who would accompany you for a fee. The access to the valley’s kidney shaped bay is free and fare but the seas tend to be rough and uninviting for swimmers. The surf folk might have completely opposite opinion though. Lingering around would give you opportunity to glimpse what locals do with their free time and possibility to hook up with a guide for a trip to the falls or beyond who’s services are advertised politely and unintrusively. If trekking in steamy-hot tropical valley for the prize of a waterfall dip at the end of the path is your piece of cake the gentle overtures of the local touts should be taken seriously. Otherwise, the reasons for sticking around seem to evaporate rather rapidly.
One of the rare experiences on the remote shores of Molokai is the salt gathering. To enjoy an activity like this one does not require any preparation but local knowledge is essential in order to end up in the right place. The western shores provide desolate beaches and rock formations with the right profile for the collection and consequent evaporation of salt water. The salt is easy to scoop out from the pools and after being hung up for a day or two in a porous bag it is ready to use or transport. Warning: the consistency of the salt may prompt airport security officials to take a close look. Inspection and tests are guaranteed.
The only real town to speak of is Kuanakakai, and if you spend any time on Molokai, you'll have to here. It's the only place on the island to buy gas for your car, for one. But it also has the only collection of stores, dive shops, tourist information and other facilities. You'll probably end up eating or drinking at Paddlers or Molokai Pizza Cafe. And you'll almost certainly go here if you're doing any guided water activities. Kaunakakai even has TWO grocery stores! But it's a very small, dead town and it's closed on Sundays! (Even the gas stations close after 6 p.m. on Sunday, so beware!!)
Hoping to have a baby? Well, if you're at the Kalaupapa Overlook and are looking to reproduce, take the side trail to Phallus Rock, a site venerated by the ancient Hawaiians for its powers to induce pregnancy. Not that you can actually try reproducing here, because the site is remarkedly crowded with visitors, many young couples with gleams of babies in their eyes. I actually saw a 20-something local embrace the phallic helmet while posing for a picture, then cross herself as she left -- an interesting juxtoposition of religions.
I wouldn't recommend Phallus Rock as a destination in and of itself, but it's definitely worth the hike if you're already at the overlook for Kalaupapa.
Possibly the only reason to go to Molokai is to visit the Kalaupapa Peninsula that was home to an active leper colony from 1866-1972. This place is likely to get more famous soon, as the most renowned person associated with the colony, Father Damien, is about to be canonized by the Catholic Church.
Unfortunately, you'll have to check other pages and the internet to get a first hand impression of the hike down the world's tallest seacliffs and the tour around the colony. Because there are still some Hansen's Disease patients there, it was closed for the entire 4th of July weekend. I never got further than the overlook, from which the photo is taken.
The Kapuâiwa Coconut Grove is just that - a coconut grove. It sits near Kaunakakai and was originally planted in the 1860's by Kamehameha V.
Take a stroll through, if you're brave. But consider yourself warned because these trees have NOT been sanitized of their fruit like so many others throughout these islands. The ocassional thud you will hear reminds you of the force with which they may impact your skull. Be careful enough that the thud you hear is NOT from a coconut striking your head. :() It gives the adage "keep looking up" a whole new importance.
The morning we were here was one of the few days on this trip where we had blue sky. It was a very welcomed change.
Do you know how many varieties of coconut there are? How many can you find at this park? Do you know the original size (acreage) of the grove?
This park is on the northwestern side of the island. Yes, this is the arid side and the vegetation does not appear all that tropical because of it.
It's just your typical beach park. Down towards the beach you'll find one hidden and unpleasant feature. Little twiggs hidden in the deep sand that have fallen from some of the smaller trees. Your bare feet will certainly feel the thorns on those twiggs. Be sure to wear some slippers.
The water is a little rough. It may be too rough for the little ones.
As you can see from my photos, it was cloudy. We had plenty of rain during this whole trip. :(
The Moloka‘i Museum is located in the upper reaches of the island at the old Meyer Sugar Mill. This museum is mostly dedicated to the sugarcane industry and, more appropriately, the work of R. W. Meyer's family from the late 1800's onward.
The building that houses the majority of the historic equipment was the original building used by the Meyer's for production. The restoration of it was an interesting story in that the building had been overgrown and impaled by trees. The original structure was so weakened from rot and weathering that the only thing holding it up were the trees growing inside of it. Therefore, before they could remove the trees, the structure had to be reinforced. It caused a long and labored process.
Another interesting item was that some of the mill equipment pieces had to be custom molded and machined because no others remained in the market.
Because they used as much of the original wood from the structure as possible, you can read much of the graffiti scribed by people many decades ago as they secretly entered the then-abandoned building. Remembering what I do of my youth, I have a good idea of why these messages of love were scribed here.
I found the whole place interesting. My wife did not find it as intriguing.
Be sure to check out their outhouse!
The 25 mile drive from Kaunakaki to the end of the road is very scenic and well worth it. The road can get pretty narrow and twisty in spots, but traffic is light and the slow speed limit take the pressure off. Kaunakaki is right on the dividing line between the wet and dry ends, so as you head east the land becomes more and more lush.
Along the way are numerous ancient fish ponds that belonged to the kings and several temples back in among the trees. There is also a beautiful little church. There is only one small grocery store at about mile 18.
Halawa has a great beach for walking where the river meets the sea. With the northern exposure the surf can get quite high and rough and I would not recommend swimming unless you are used to such conditions.
The Halawa Valley has a hiking trail back thru some ancient sites and ends at a great waterfall. But much of the trail is over private property. We haven't been in a few years, so I'm not sure where the private property access issue is. It seems to be on again / off again. Check at the shack at the end of the road before you start walking. Might be worthwhile hiring a local guide to get the full flavor of this very important ancient site.
At the end of the road north of Kaunaukakai, is the Kalaupapa Lookout and the Kaule o NanaHoe (phallic rock). The parking lot leads to both, just follow the signs. North of the parking lot is the short (100 yards) trail to the lookout. The view is fantastic, standing at the top of the highest seacliffs in Hawaii, looking down at the former leper's colony, Kalaupapa.
A little longer hike, (1/2 mile) thru thick bamboo, is the phallic rock. It is said that women who touch it are much more likely to conceive.
There are two golf courses on Molokai.
Kaluakoi Resort on the west end has a stunning 18 hole designed by someone famous (Robinson?) that just reopened. Green fees run $70 for 18 holes or $35 for nine, including cart. Club rental is $15 and a pro is available on site. The front nine is level and along the water with great vistas. Back nine goes up the hill and back down with some rugged terrain along the way. Hole #3 is often mentioned as one of the toughest in Hawaii. Watch the trades.
The other course is the little known 9 hole municipal course up in Kualapuu on Hwy 470, Ironwood Hills. My wife and I and three of our kids rented a cart, a bag of clubs and a 5 gallon bucket of balls for $20 and had a ball learning to play here. We finally had to call the game on the 5th hole due to lack of light. The rough is indeed the rough and it is best to forget about the ball if it leaves the fairway. If you're new to golf and want a great place to hack away - this is your spot.
An exciting ride not for the feint of heart! Starting at the top of the world's highest sea cliffs, seasoned guides lead you down a steep and at times very narrow trail to Kalaupapa National Historical Park. Kalaupapa is the site of the leper colony where Father Damian worked for many years. While there are no longer any active cases of leprosy in the Hawaiian Islands, there are still some residents in the colony that once had the desease. The community will remain open as long as these former patients wish to remain there. It is Kapu to take their pictures without permission.
The story of this colony is a fascinating glimpse into man's inhumanity. Anyone in the islands suspected of being infected was rounded up and dropped off just offshore with the clothes on their back and nothing else. For years the colony was a lawless place. Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote a fascinating log of his trip here.
Once your mule gets you to the bottom of the cliffs, you are met by a small bus that will take you around the former colony. Your guide will be a resident and former patient of the colony who has chosen to stay. This is an all day trip, so bring munchies and water along.
A fascinating journey!
Papohaku Beach is the longest white sand beach in Hawai'i. What always amazes me is that many times I'm the only person on the entire 3 mile stretch.
A great place for jogging or a quiet stroll. Swimming is usually safe in the summer, but strong winter swells create dangerous and dramatic surf conditions.
Best time to visit the beach is early in the day before the trades pick up. I think it is the blowing sand that keeps the crowds away - that, plus it's Molokai!