Molokai: The Hawaiian Island with gentle charm

Camille Bounds

When we think of Hawaii, Maui, Waikiki, Kauai and the Big Island come to mind: Stunning high rise buildings, dozens of outdoor activities – from surfing to sailing – with spectacular indoor entertainment in sophisticated night clubs that bring on visions of Las Vegas. Then there is Molokai: an idyllic 38 by 10 miles, a paradise with a little more than 7,000 laid back folks, of which about half are native Hawaiians. It is the least hyped of all the islands, with a small friendly population that makes a visitor feel like part of a special family.
Gentle charm
Molokai is not for everyone. There isn’t the tempo of the other islands, but there is a romantic rhythm that comes from the Pacific gently beating on the island’s shores. A peaceful, gentle charm permeates this second smallest island of the original island chain. It feels like an exclusive, serene aura hovers over this volcanic speck floating in the Pacific. On clear nights, from the beaches on the western shore, the twinkling lights of Oahu 25 miles across the channel can be seen. This gives a fairytale feeling that asks what might be if I go through the looking glass, but do I want to?
Itinerary flexibility
Molokai can be included in Hawaii itineraries with flexibility. Day flights are available from Oahu or Maui, or nestle in on the island with great hotel rates, comfortable condos or bed and breakfasts, and visit the sister islands as your whim directs. It depends on how much lack of stress and relaxation you can handle.
The Friendly Island
Molokai has many labels. It is presently called the “Friendly Island,” but it has gone through many metamorphosis. It was known as the “Lonely Island” in the 16th and 17th centuries due to superstition and fear of the powerful and feared Kahunas (priests) that were suppose to inhabit the island.
The Forbidden Island
In the mid-1800s, leprosy crept in and Molokai became the “Forbidden Island.” Lepers were cast off to an inaccessible cove on the Kapapapa Peninsula. It was a death sentence for anyone sent here until 1873 when a Belgian priest, Father Damien de Veuster, came to Molokai and dedicated his life to caring for the lepers. After years of easing the plight of the exiles, he died from the disease. Eventually a Norwegian scientist, Armauer Hansen, isolated the virus, eased the ravages of those infected and stopped the disease from spreading. The disorder became known as Hansen’s disease.
The Molokai Mule Ride
The colony can be reached by the “Molokai Mule Ride” that includes a 1,700-foot decent with 26 switchbacks. Upon arrival into the valley, you will be greeted by a resident and a four hour tour is available. It’s safe and very interesting. You can also hike or fly in and be met by representative from the Kalaupapa National Historical Park who can accommodate your tour needs.  
A stunning view
Drive to Palaau State Park for breathtaking views at Kalaaupapa Lookout, a panoramic view of the leper colony, its airport and the 2,000 foot sea cliffs. Another path will take you to Phallic Rock; the ancient Hawaiians recognized this as a fertility symbol. It is said that infertile woman need only touch it for results. Watch out!
Simple and uncluttered
With waterfalls, beautiful scenery and the tallest sea cliffs in the world, Molokai lets the visitor take a few steps back to the past when everything moved much slower and everyone had time to, as they say, “smell the flowers.” Everything is simple and uncluttered. When was the last time you were the only car on the road going 20 miles an hour? Kites and hand-dyed shirts are the exciting things to purchase here.
Getting around
Molokai airport is about eight miles northwest of Kaunakakai. Rental cars are available and reservations (especially on weekends) are a good idea. There is no public transportation, but there is a 24-hour taxi service, a helpful touring office and a limousine company available. There is a ferry from Maui (Lahina) to Molokai.
Getting there
Hawaiian Airlines serves Molokai with a 26-minute flight from Honolulu. Molokai Air Shuttle also offers flights. If you plan to fly to the leprosy settlement, you can fly to a simple landing strip at Kalaupapa Airport. Molokai Airport serves passengers for all other parts of Molokai. A reliable travel agent is your best bet for the best deals.
For brochures and information call the Molokai Visitors Association at 800-800-6367 or visit www.gohawaii.com/molokai.

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