A March 2003 trip
to Molokai by lcampbell
Quote: At a size of only 38 miles by 10 miles, and a population of just 7000, Molokai is a warm and cozy rural island. This is true Hawaii, with over half the people of native Hawaiian descent, and low-key tourism. You will breath a sigh of relief soon after arriving.
Molokai is a place of true beauty – it is undeveloped and unspoiled. No highrises, no stoplights (none!), and no catering to tourists. This is vacation destination for those who want to avoid prepackaged Hawaiiana, fake luaus, and the pressure sales tactics of activity booths and timeshares. A sign you will see around town is: "Slow Down! This is Molokai!"
My three favorite things to do on Molokai were:
1. A tour of the Kalaupapa National Historic Park with Damien Tours.
2. My day volunteering with The Nature Conservancy at their Kamakou Preserve.
3. Papohaku Beach was amazing!
If I were to go back, the things I feel I missed are:
1. Hiking into Halawa Valley or Wailau Valley.
2. Visiting the non-profit Nene O Molokai (captive propagation site of the endangered Nene goose, endemic to Hawaii). They will give tours by appointment by calling (808)553-5992.
3. Kayaking the north shore (summer activity I would guess – I’m not even sure if there is a tour company that offers this…it might just be wishful thinking!)
But I have to leave some things to do so I have an excuse to come back to this great place!
I also ate at Hotel Molokai, which I found had the best atmosphere, but the food was average. Zack’s, a newly opened establishment, had super yummy kalbi ribs, a favorite of mine! Finger lickin’ good! The Molokai Drive Inn was a fast food counter with cheap breakfast, bad coffee, and hamburger lunches. The best place for ice cream was Kamoi Snack-N-Go in the Molokai Professional Plaza.
Contact the Molokai Visitor Association at (800)800-6367 for information on lodging and activities. Here’s another Molokai website.
Also, see my second Molokai journal called "Friendly Molokai" for more information.
(But the brochure is dated August, 2001, so I’m not sure how accurate this information is).
I took the Molokai Princess boat ferry from Lahaina, Maui (see my "Friendly Molokai" journal).
A rental car is the best way to have freedom of movement on Molokai. There is no such thing as public transportation, and hitchhiking will be hit or miss. If you are an outdoor enthusiast, you will definitely want a four-wheel drive vehicle to explore the mountain areas. A regular car will do for beach visits and the other activities covered in my two Molokai journals.
The rental car companies listed for Molokai are:
Island Kine Auto Rental (866)527-7368
I rented from a new company called Molokai RentACar (866)239-3929, which had great prices, but they forgot to leave my rental car at the ferry dock like they were supposed to, so I was stranded. They made it right, and I had an adventure until I finally got a car, but it is just something to keep in mind.
Attraction | "Kalaupapa National Historic Park"
The way the tour guide Kathy describes it, the island of Molokai was once a large shield volcano. About one million years ago, half the island fell off into the sea, leaving the dramatic vertical cliffs that we see today. After this, a bubble of lava came up from the sea forming the flat piece of land (Kalaupapa means "flat leaf") now connected to the steep north shore. There are no roads reaching Kalaupapa-–the only access is by trail, boat, or airplane. A major supply barge comes just once a year to the peninsula (big party!), and perishable goods are flown in weekly. Bring your own lunch, you are not allowed to purchase these precious supplies!
Because of this geographic separation, Kalaupapa became the site of some human injustices lasting 100 years. During the 1860s, there was an outbreak of leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) in Hawaii. King Kamehameha V signed an act authorizing the isolation of people with the disease. Families were separated, often without a chance to say goodbye, as people were quarantined to various areas around the Hawaiian Islands, including about 8000 people to Kalaupapa. There were hundreds of "orphan" children and many people too sick to care for themselves. Over time, some very important and caring people came to Kalaupapa to care for the sick, and provide compassion and dignity. Father Damien, Brother Dutton, and Mother Marianne are remembered on Kalaupapa and are discussed on the tour. Tour guide Richard Marks describes Father Damien as "the right man and the right place at the right time."
Although Hansen’s Disease was cured in 1949, the isolation of patients continued until 1969. At this time, former patients were allowed to leave the peninsula. Many did leave, but many stayed on Kalaupapa. Today, 40 former patients live on Kalaupapa plus 60 Department of Health and National Park Service employees who administer the area.
A visit to Kalaupapa will take some advance planning. The only way to visit it is to know someone who lives there, or to take a guided tour. The only guided tour is Damien Tours (808)567-6171, call 4pm-8pm. Tours are once daily Monday to Saturday, and last 3-4 hours, cost $30pp. The tour guides are Richard Marks (former patient, current Kalaupapa resident, and current sheriff), and Kathy (current resident, former park ranger).
You can reach the peninsula for the tour by foot, by mule, or by airplane. The hike is 3 miles each way with 1600 feet elevation loss/gain. Damien Tours can provide directions to the trailhead. Leave by 8:15am to get ahead of the mules. To ride a mule, contact Molokai Mule Ride at (800)670-6503 -- price is $150pp including lunch and land tour. To fly, contact Pacific Wings.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 6, 2003
Kalaupapa National Historical Park
Molokai, Hawaii 96742
+1 808 567 6802; +1
Kamakou is a 2774-acre preserve in central Molokai on the side of Kamakou Peak, Molokai’s highest at 4961 feet. Kamakou is full of native Hawaiian plants. About 250 different species of plants are found here, 219 of which can be found nowhere else. The preserve starts at Waikolu Lookout (an awesome view of Waikolu Valley, 3600 feet) on the state forest and goes to Pepeopae Bog, where there is a one-mile boardwalk trail. I visited Kamakou Preserve but I did not see the boardwalk trail. It is supposed to be spectacular, going through some amazing forest.
I had tried to reserve myself a spot on a guided hike to the Kamakou Preserve (including the boardwalk trail), and was sad to find the trip was full and I was 5th on the waiting list. Fortunately I was able to convince (it wasn’t too hard) a woman named Stephanie to let me spend a day volunteering with them to do some field work while I was on Molokai. I don’t know their policy on volunteers, but my guess is that it would depend on what they are working on, when you are coming, and what you are willing to do. Just call up and ask!
Anyway, I worked a long day (7:30am-5pm) using a hand-saw to cut down small pine trees (a non-native plant) that are invading an area that is completely native vegetation. I especially loved the ohi'a, with it’s beautiful flowers of many colors, and the pukeawe, a plant traditionally used to make leis. It was hard work, and it was super hot and sunny out, but I had a great time! I wouldn’t have been able to visit Kamakou Preserve otherwise because a four-wheel drive vehicle is needed to reach it.
Mo’omomi Preserve is 921 acres on the northwest coast of Molokai. A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended to go to Mo’omomi, but I was able to make it in my rental car (most rental companies will not allow you to try…. I didn’t ask...). Anyway, the preserve is made up of two scenic bays and an area of sand dunes. The area doesn’t seem terribly significant, until you find out that it has 22 native plants, 4 of which are rare or endangered. One plant, the Tetramolopium Rockii, is found only on Molokai. There is also a protected bird population, fertile fishing ground, a breeding ground for green sea turtles, and significant archeologic and paleontological finds. Because the area is so sensitive, make sure to stay on the beach or on trails only.
The Nature Conservancy on Molokai
P.O. Box 220
The park is most well know for it’s overlook of the Kalaupapa Peninsula. From the parking area, it is just a 1- or 2-minute walk to the overlook. If the weather is good, you will get a perfect view of the entire peninsula. You can see its flat shape. Kalaupapa means "flat leaf" and from here you can see why. You will get a glimpse of some of the north shore cliffs, but not an extensive view. The trail to Kalaupapa starts just before the entrance sign for Pala’au State Park. But remember, you are not allowed to hike down to the peninsula unless you are a guest of a resident or have reservation on a guided tour (see my separate entry for Kalaupapa).
Also from the parking area, there is a short 5-minute hike to Kauleonanahoa, or phallic rock. The interpretive sign at Kauleonanahoa says the following:
"Many years ago the man Nanahoa and his wife Kawahuna lived on this green hill of Puu Lua. One day a beautiful young girl appeared and began to admire herself in a pool of water. Nanahoa watched admiringly and the girl returned a smile to his reflection in the pool. Growing jealous, the wife grabbed the young girl by the hair. Nanahoa hit his wife in quick-tempered anger and sent her tumbling down a nearby cliff where she turned to stone.
Nanahoa also turned to stone but his power remains in this male rock. It is said if a woman goes to Kauleonanahoa with offerings and spends the night she will return home pregnant. Phallic or fertility rocks are found on all these islands, but this is the finest example. The rocks present form is a natural configuration which has been carved to some extent."
That said (or read, as the case may be), I made sure to keep my distance from this rock. Also, I think these woman wanting to get pregnant could improve their chances is they brought their husbands with them to camp, eh? Also, if these rocks are all over the islands, I better pay closer attention to where I camp or eat lunch while hiking!
There is also a small campground at Pala’au State Park. It is about ¼ mile back along Hwy 470 from the parking area. It is a flat grassy area surrounded by trees on three sides, and the highway on the 4th side. There are picnic tables and restrooms, but no showers or water. The camping fee is $5 per person per night, and a permit is required. I don’t believe that permits can be obtained at the park, so you will have to call ahead to Department of Land and Natural Resources office at (808)567-6923 for permit information.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 6, 2003
Pala'au State Park
Kualapu'u, Hawaii 96757
+1 808 567 6083; +1
Attraction | "Coffee and Nuts - Two Short Tours"
Coffees of Hawaii is a 500-acre coffee plantation on Molokai that offers two tours daily from Monday to Friday. Tours are $7 per person and last 45 minutes, starting at 9:30am and 11:30am. Call ahead for reservations at (808)567-9241 or (800)709-2326. The tour takes you on a mule-drawn wagon ride through the coffee fields, followed by a tour of the processing area. The tour shows all of the steps involved in growing, harvesting, and processing coffee. After the tour, you can try as many free samples as you can drink! You can try free samples even if you don’t make it to the tour! Make sure to visit the nice gift shop to buy some 100% Molokai coffee, sold in 2-ounce, 8-ounce, or 16-ounce packages. There is also an espresso bar and bagel shop if you need a super duper coffee or a snack. Coffees of Hawaii is located at the intersection of Hwy 470 and Hwy 480, about a 10-minute drive from Kaunakakai.
Just next to Coffees of Hawaii is my favorite place to eat on Molokai, Kamuela’s Cookhouse. It isn’t fancy, but what Ono Grinds (delicious food)! Kamuela’s is open 6:30am-2:30pm and 5:30pm-8:30pm Tuesday to Friday, and 8am-2pm on Saturday and Sunday. My favorite meal at Kamuela’s was the terriaki chicken plate. There were 3 generous sized pieces of hot, tasty, freshly prepared terriaki chicken, plus a choice of fries or rice (pick rice to be traditional) and choice of macaroni salad (yummy) or garden salad. Meat plus rice plus mac salad is a combination you will see all over Molokai (and Hawaii) and is what the local people eat. The prices are reasonable at $8 or less for almost everything on the menu.
About 1 mile from Coffees of Hawaii and Kamuela’s Cookhouse is Purdy’s Macadamia Nut Farm. Actually, it is more of a large family stand of nut trees than a nut farm, but it is interesting to visit in any case. The farm consists of 50 trees. It is a casual atmosphere (no reservation necessary) and Purdy will give tours as he sees fit depending on the number of people and how long you’ve been waiting and chatting. The FREE tour consists of a 10-minute talk about the growing and harvesting cycle of macadamia nuts, followed by free samples of salted nuts and fresh coconut dipped in macadamia blossom honey. Yummy! Purdy takes pride in that his products contain no additives (other than sea salt) or preservatives (like added by the big nut plantations on the Big Island). He says his will last on the countertop for about 1 month without preservatives. But of course they would never last that long at my house! Purdy can be contacted at (808)567-6601, or see the website. Hours are Monday-Friday 9:30am-3:30pm, Saturday 10am-2pm.
Coffees of Hawaii Mule Drawn Plantation Tour
160 Farrington Highway
Kualapu'u, Hawaii 96757
+1 808 567 9241; +1
Attraction | "R.W. Meyer Sugar Mill Museum"
When I arrived at the museum, I first visited the small cultural center where I paid the meager and worthwhile $2.50 "donation." There are a number of enlarged photos, photo albums, artworks, and newspaper clippings pertaining to Molokai and the Kalaupapa Peninsula. In addition, there are two videos shown. One is about the history and restoration of the sugar mill-–really interesting. The other video is a Park Service video about some restoration work of buildings on the Kalaupapa Peninsula, which was not as engaging. There is a small gift shop as well.
This mill was "rediscovered" in 1972 when some local folks became interested in restoring it. At the time, the mill was in ruins and overgrown with vegetation. Through grants and fundraising, enough money was raised to start the project. As much of the original structure was salvaged as possible--it was a delicate process to rebuild a structure held up only by the same plants that helped to ruin it. Equipment that could not be refurbished was duplicated, again using as many of the original parts as possible. The result of 16 years of hard work was a beautiful and educational museum that was dedicated on March 26, 1988.
After you see what you want to at the cultural center, the volunteer will give you a pamphlet for your self-guided tour of the mill which is located just out back. There are ten numbered posts which correspond to descriptions in the pamphlet. The first is outside and is the crusher. The crusher is in a hole in the ground outside the mill and is where the sugar cane was crushed to extract the juice. The crusher was powered by mules harnessed to a turnstile above the crusher walking around and around. The cane juice flowed into a catcher and through a pipe into the sugar mill. Inside, you will see the furnace, which supplied heat for the clarifier and evaporating pans. When the juice was clear and thick enough, it went to the cooling room. The cooling process turns the juice into sugar crystals and molasses. Centrifugals (powered by a steam engine and boiler) separate the crystals from molasses.
RW Meyer Sugar Mill
Highway 470, Mile Marker 4
Kualapu'u, Hawaii 96757
+1 808 567 6436 (Mus
Port Angeles, Washington