There are no ‘high rises’, just a few condos on the west coast.
There are some lovely beaches, but swimming and snorkelling are generally not good.
The walk in the scenic Halawa valley is unfortunately closed at the moment.
There is only one small town on the island.
Molokai is the site of a former leper colony on the inaccessible north coast, where the cliffs are amongst the highest in the world.
Sunday 22nd January Off to Molokai 73 miles
We were up at 6 o’clock, and left at 6.30 for Kahalui airport for our 7.45 flight to Molokai. There was a beautiful view as we walked across the tarmac to the little plane.
There were only a handful of passengers on the flight. We were all ready to take off, when the humming engines were turned off. It appeared that a storm was brewing over Oahu, where this plane was flying on to, so they wanted to load on more fuel, in case the landing at Honolulu was delayed. The genial pilot walked through the plane, offering ‘candies and snacks’ while we waited! In fact we were only 15 minutes late taking off for our short flight to Molokai. No sooner were we airborne, than we were descending again!
By 8.15 we had landed, and were sorting out our hire car - just feet away from the noisy aeroplane, which was getting ready to take off again. Hearing conversation was very difficult! By the time we had finished, we picked up our bags from the ‘baggage claim’ - just our 2 bags on a counter behind us! Our rental car was in the car park outside, so by 8.45 we were on our way.
We drove through the flat central area of the island, formed like others from former volcanic activity, heading for the west coast of the island on the only east-west road. We reached the small town of Maunaloa, and located the ‘General Store’, where we purchased a loaf of Molokai bread for $4.17!
As we drove along, an axis deer ran across in front of us. Apparently 8 deer had been given as a gift from India in the 1800s, and had multiplied!
We headed for Make (pronounced mahkey) Horse Beach, the most northerly beach of this western ‘resort’ coast. In fact there are just a few condos, and Molokai would appear to be winning in the battle to ‘Keep Molokai Molokai’ - i.e. no development.
Make Horse Beach
We parked the car in a red sandy track and made our way to the beautiful sandy beach. Unfortunately, despite the lovely beaches, it is too rough to swim at most of them.
We drove south to another beautiful beach - Kepuhi, by Kaiaka Rock, which we climbed up afterwards. This gave us wonderful views of the coast north and south, and we also saw whale activity out to sea. South of us was 2½ mile long Papohaku Beach. We drove on down to it, and at 11 o’clock on a Sunday, there were no people on it at all! The huge waves were crashing onto the sand.
We drove right down to the southern end of the beach, pulling in to Dixie Maru beach. This was set in a little cove, so was ok for swimming, although no good for snorkelling. After a refreshing swim, we drove back up the coast a bit, pulling in to Papohaku Beach Park to have lunch. We sat at a picnic table in a little low key campsite. The red sand made us think of our camp in the Flinders Ranges in Australia. The beach here had flat but jagged rocks by the water’s edge, and there were a lot of water birds, which is something we haven’t seen elsewhere in Hawaii.
We now had to return eastwards. We wanted to call in at the airport, as we had noticed that the front of the car, under the bonnet, was scratched, and we wanted to report it. All was well, as the chaps said that most of the cars got scratched there as they were low and pulled in over kerbs.
We now headed for Kalae, where we had booked into a guesthouse for our 2 days on Molokai. We were greeted by Ilima, a lady born in Northern Germany, who had lived in Victoria, Vancouver Island for many years, but now lives here. Her husband Richard soon arrived, and they were a very unlikely couple! Richard ran ATV trips up into the mountains, and had several ‘mucky’ vehicles outside. He was dapper and sprightly, and seemed younger than Ilima, who, despite all her years away from there, had the essence of a ‘dour’ Northern German. Her first husband had died when she lived in Victoria. She was not the sort of lady we expected to find living on Molokai! She said that she did paintings, and exhibited them at the local market - we could not imagine that either! She gave us a cup of tea out of beautiful china cups, before we took our leave, and set off to investigate Palaau State park, a few miles north. There were 2 short walks from here. One led to the so-called ‘phallic rock’ - no further description needed. The other led to a lookout over the Kalaupapa peninsula.
This flat piece of land jutting out to the north of the island is separated from the rest of the island by 2,000ft high cliffs - apparently the highest sea cliffs in the world. The Kalaupapa peninsula had the infamy of being used as a leper colony in the 1800s. Conditions there were really bad, until a young Belgian catholic priest, known as Father Damien, arrived in 1873 and improved the conditions. He gave his life to helping the lepers, and died of the disease himself in 1889.
You could take trips down into the colony on mule back. Trips had to be booked, and took all day, so we weren’t able to go. I wouldn’t have liked the steep long descent anyway. The colony still has many ‘inmates’ there who do not want to return home, although they are all now cured.
We walked on a bit through the evocative ironwood trees before making our way to the only ‘town’ on the island, Kaunakakai.
The main street in Kaunakakai
We needed some food for tonight, and this was the only place to get some. We headed for the wharf first, where a few boats were moored, and where pineapples were sent from in the past, when the industry was thriving here. We then made our way to the ‘wild west’ looking main street, hoping to find something open on this Sunday evening.
Luckily for us the bottle shop was open, so we bought some wine and beer. Food places were less forthcoming, and having done a tour of the town, we ended up in the only place which seemed to be open - a pizza café. We ordered a pizza to take away, but it was so long in coming that we imagined that they must have started by making the dough! I had wanted to get to the nearby coconut grove, which I had read was lovely at sunset. Sunset had come and gone by the time we got our pizza, so we dashed off to the park, only to find it closed. A notice said that they had closed this favourite park to make it even better!
We sat in the car, looking through the palms, and ate our supper. Afterwards we walked through the palm trees to the water’s edge. It was as calm as calm. The stars were out, and it was absolutely beautiful!
We finally dragged ourselves away, and made our way back to our accommodation.
Monday 23rd January The road to Halawa 73 miles
We left at 9 o’clock to explore the eastern side of the island. It felt cooler up in the hills, but was warm when we reached Kaunakakai. We returned to the bakery, and bought bread and cakes. The lady remembered us from yesterday.
The road along the southern coast runs beside the sea for 28 miles, to the valley at Halawa. We were looking out for various ‘sights’, but missed most of them on the way, and again on the way back!
We did stop by St Joseph’s church, a simple little white church, built by Father Damien in 1876.
At the 20 mile mark, we stopped by a sandy beach and ate our pastry from the bakery. This was supposed to be the first place where you could swim or snorkel, as the water was shallow on this side of the island. The tide seemed quite low, so we decided to wait for our swim until our return journey. Unfortunately, by then, the tide had gone out even further, so our snorkel wasn’t much cop!
We could look across to Maui from here, and to a little rock of an island which was apparently a bird sanctuary.
The road now became narrow and winding, as we neared the Halawa valley.
We stopped to look down to it, with its tall waterfall cascading down the steep forested sides, and heard birds sounding like Australian whipbirds.
There was a walk from here, up to the waterfall, but as we had feared, it had been closed for some time, as locals said that it went through private land.
We were able to drive right down to this idyllic looking valley, and to walk right around the bay. A few locals were out surfing, but it was much too rough for us, and the calm bit was really shallow. We thought how Marquesan much of this island felt, including the small village where we are staying.
We had lunch at a little park near the bay, the idyll being spoilt by the presence of a few mosquitoes!
We now drove back towards Kaunakakai, having one or two rain showers, but it was always warm, and the sun soon came out again. At the 20 mile spot, we had our short swim, and then a little laze on the sand. I tried another swim a bit further on, but the water was really too shallow.
As we were driving back, we had had an email message come through on the phone from Alice, which was really nice.
We stopped at Kaunakakai, and headed for the ice cream shop - the only one on Molokai. The ice cream was of the homemade type, all different flavours, and on Mondays it was 2 scoops for the price of one, so we had chosen well!
We stopped off at the coconut grove to take some photos, and arrived back at Kalae at 6 o’clock to sort our bags once again, this time for or flight to Kauai tomorrow.
We ate our meal on the lanai, and chatted to Ilima and Richard as they looked at the photos we had taken of the island.
Ilima was an intriguing person. She said that she was a pacifist, and she was certainly a deep thinker. Her first husband had been difficult to live with, she said. Needing to escape, she had travelled to Hawaii for two months, leaving her teenage children, and she still felt guilty about it. She looked such a dowdy little lady, but said that she was an artist, and she also made jewellery. She had a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude, but also said that she would try anything once, particularly food. She was up early in the morning, straight on to the computer, which she had only learnt to use a couple of years ago. I think that she liked the ‘chat pages’, and used it for company.
The house was in an untidy mess, and the red dust didn’t help to make things look welcoming. She and her husband Richard seemed to live together happily, although he had his separate flat, with his own fridge and kitchen.
Despite all this, she was a warm person, who seemed to us to be craving affection.