Peaceful Haven in Molokai
@ Ann F. Purcell
You can always tell which tourists took the Molokai Mule ride to Kalaupapa by the way they walk. Their legs slightly bowed, they carefully keep their sore thighs from brushing each other.
Molokai is one of the least spoiled Hawaiian islands. With a population of 6,000 and a main downtown street of (if you stretch it) two and a half blocks long, it is one of the most relaxed places in the U.S. today. Within 24 hours of your arrival, everyone will know you and why you are there. If you visit the Kanemitsu Bakery in Kaunakakai or the JoJo's Cafe in Maunaloa Town to eat, don't be surprised to see friendly faces greeting you by name.
Hula dancer holding the sun
I found myself in a Molokai rush hour bottleneck traffic jam. It consisted of five cars (I was the third) going 35 miles an hour, with no other cars in sight for a half-mile stretch.
One of the nicest aspects of Molokai is that it is surrounded by water. If you want to be on the leeward (South) side, where the ocean is calm and unruffled, you can stay at the Molokai Hotel & the Wavecrest, or the Molokai Villas. More exciting is the west end of Molokai. Here, you can stay at the Colony's Kaluakoi Hotel and Golf Club. In the morning, you wake up to the pounding of the surf and drink your coffee watching white spumes from the waves, lit by the sunrise, furling back on themselves in frothy rainbows. Bring your camera to breakfast because this is surfboard heaven and you can often catch exhilarating moments with your telephoto lens.
For visitors who like a resort retreat, the Colony's Kaluakoi Hotel and Golf Club is probably ideal. Some excellent shopping is available at the hotel, as well as the Ted Robinson-designed golf course and the separately-owned Fun Hogs Hawaii who can outfit you for kayaking, mountain biking, catamaran sailing, surfing and snorkeling.
The Molokai Mule Ride is one of three ways you can visit the old leper colony of Kalaupapa. (There is a small aircraft landing strip on the tip of Kalaupapa Peninsula or you can hike in, using the mule trail.) Access to Kalaupapa is limited to 50 visitors a day. The north cliffs of Molokai are listed in Ripley's Believe It or Not as the tallest sea cliffs in the world. It takes one and one-half hours for the mules to pick their way down the twenty-six switch backs to the beach, 1686 feet below.
View of old drop-off point for lepers
In Kalaupapa, we were met by Richard Marks, a highly intelligent guide who himself suffers from Hanson's Disease (leprosy) but whose illness has been put into remission by a new miracle drug. The only permanent residents in Kalaupapa are patients, all now in remission thanks to the new technology, and, as they die, their houses are bulldozed away. There are 62 patients remaining. For their lifetime, they will be provided free housing, medical care, electricity and water. The tour of Kalaupapa and Kalaowe (Father Damien's original leper colony site) is historically interesting, tragic, and yet manages to be somehow uplifting.
At the Molokai Ranch in Maunaloa Town, you have the choice of the Malahini Rodeo where you can learn how to rope, herd cattle and how to run barrel races. If you prefer a more sedate activity, you can participate in a Van Safari in their Wildlife Park, having the chance to see and photograph non-predatory exotic animals who were brought here to reproduce in a non-threatening environment. When an actual competitive rodeo is taking place, there is a stew cook-off, a military chopper exhibition, archery competitions, a line dance, horseshoe pitching, kiddy rides, remote control model airplanes exhibits and sporting clay pigeon shoot-offs.
Cowboy on Molokai Ranch
If you have time, the island of Molokai has lots more to offer. On the southern coast of Molokai (around Mile Marker 15), is an enormous shady mango grove called Mapulehu. From this, horse-drawn wagons leave each morning (except Sunday) for a journey back in time to visit Illi'li'opa'e, an ancient heiau, or Hawaiian temple. Or you can go to the Molokai Museum and Cultural Center which is on the grounds of the restored R.W. Meyer Sugar Mill. Traveling beyond the Sugar Mill, you will come to the Kalaupapa Lookout, perched on the top of the North cliffs and from which you can look down on Father Damien's leper colony. Also at the Kalaupapa Lookout is the Phallic Rock which was traditionally the place for an infertile woman to sleep if she wanted to become pregnant.
There is an inter island ferry between Molokai and Oahu or Maui, as well as five airlines who have daily flights to Molokai from the other Hawaiian islands. Once on the island, you should probably rent a car to take advantage of all the sights, but if you are a strong biker, there are bike rentals and tours available.
Molokai is definitely not the place for you if you like bright lights and fierce activity. Molokai is the place for haven if you crave peace, a laid-back atmosphere and solitude. Yours may be the only footprints on the beach. Yours may be the only car within two miles. Enjoy!
Copyright: Ann F. Purcell
5913 Skyline Heights Court
Alexandria, VA, 22311