Shaped like a comfortable, beat up loafer, Molokai is the most Hawaiian of the Hawaiian Islands and the least developed. The hula was invented here. More than half of the residents claim native blood.
Visitors will definitely need a car to explore its 38 mile length and ten-mile width, but they can see every attraction on half a tank of gas.
The western half of Molokai looks like central Wyoming but kind of scuffed from the many enterprises that have been tried but failed here–cattle, honey, pineapples.
Three volcanos, all now extinct, shaped Molokai. Along the Island’s north shore are the tallest sea cliffs in the world caused by upthrust and volcanic activity. One volcano spilled lava into the ocean and made the loafer’s tongue stick out. The result is a round, isolated peninsula. The Kingdom of Hawaii created a leper colony here in 1865. People diagnosed with what is now called Hansen’s Disease were taken to Molokai by boat and literally dropped overboard. Father Damien, born Joseph De Veuster, worked here until he died of the now treatable disease after 16 years of making life better for the inhabitants.
The colony can be visited today. There are only 3 ways to access it–fly in, hike down a rough trail, or ride a mule down that same trail with 26 switchbacks and many breathtaking views. Ruth and I did the last one and it was truly one of those 0nce-in-a-lifetime great experiences.
Kaunakakai, the only real town, resembles the set of a 1920s silent, western movie. Like everything on Molokai, it’s humble and understated. While here, drive out onto Molokai’s tiny wharf, which just happens to be the longest in Hawaii, and you’ll find only a few modest boats at its end.
King Kamehameha V, the last of his royal lineage, loved Molokai and vacationed here where he had a showy ten-acre coconut palm grove planted. The trees survive and you will too if you don’t stand under them.
The drive to Molokai’s east end passes native fish ponds, a 28 mile barrier reef, the only one in Hawaii, and a few tiny villages with very old missionary churches. But suddenly the road narrows to one lane and shoots upward with many switchbacks ending with a lovely overlook.
If you ‘d like to learn more about Molokai, please let me know and I’ll write more about this overlooked place where you can have an authentic Hawaiian experience, eat Macadamia nuts just pulled from the tree, and ride a mule.