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"The Friendly Island"

Molokai is the most traditionally Hawaiian of all the islands, and it is often described as "A place where you won't find a single traffic light, and not a single building taller than a coconut tree." It is best suited to the independent traveler who doesn't want to be enveloped in the hustle and bustle and plastic pretension of your typical touristy area, but instead want to experience Hawaii more like it was in days long past. If your looking for a mega-resort, your on the wrong island.
As the other islands have moved steadily away from a dependence on the resources of the land and sea and now primarily cultivate tourism, Molokai has somehow stayed more in the past and has moved much more slowly towards new development. The banana shaped island is very rural, and has only about 6,000 residents, the majority Hawaiians. It is not known as the "friendly island" for no reason though, and it is true that here you will meet some of the friendliest islanders of all.
Molokai does have it's share of attractions to enjoy while "getting away from it all". It boasts the highest sea cliffs in the world, some of the highest waterfalls, and the longest beaches in Hawaii. You can spend your time relaxing, or exploring, or both.

In spite of Molokai's "friendliness", few visitors come this way. This is due in large part because you must make a bit of an extra effort to do so. You can fly inter-island with Island Air, or take the 90 minute ride on the Molokai Ferry from Maui for $42.40 each way. One idea is to split your vacation time between Maui and Molokai.

Getting around Molokai is no problem. You can easily rent a car, and once you get on the road, it is hard to get lost. There is only one main road that goes the length of the island, with numerous small roads branching off. Even though it's the same road, you'll find that it has two highway numbers, 450 and 460, with 460 heading off the the west end and 450 going easterly. You can also take 470 which splits off near the center of the island and heads upcountry to Pala'au State Park with some nice hikes and a grand view overlooking Kalaupapa, the former Leper Colony.

The main town of Kaunakakai consists of mostly Native Hawaiian residents who are proud of their culture and history. The people of this small town enjoy a quiet and simple life style. It has no luxurious hotels or restaurants but just a few country-style eateries and shops.
When you drive through Kaunakakai, you might notice there are no traffic lights. The main street, Ala Malama, is two blocks long, and you'll find a general store, post office, library, restaurants, courthouse and former church. The nightlife there consists mainly of lining up at the back door of Kanemitsu's Bakery at 10:00 p.m. for hot bread. Everyone there will ask you if you've tried Kanemitsu's sweet bread yet, so you'd better do that first thing. They also serve tasty meals.

Exploring Molokai:

Driving eastward along the long coastline on the south shore, the ocean is usually quite shallow for some ways out, and you will see the remains of numerous old Hawaiian fish ponds. There were more on Molokai than any other island. This is the dry and sunny side of the island and there are a few nice beaches along the way, but you'll find better ones on the western end of the island. Just before the road ends it turns inland toward the mountains, and you'll eventually get to a beautiful viewpoint with a spectacular vista over Halawa Bay and Halawa Valley. There are two large waterfalls off in the distance. The road ends at Halawa Bay, and you can stop there and explore the area. There are a couple of hiking trails, one of them going up the the waterfalls, but rather hard to follow.

Driving northward on 470 you will pass through rural areas and then the upcountry forests to where the road ends at Pala'au State Park. There are some great hiking trails here, and be sure and go to the Lookout where you get a grand view of the Kalaupapa Peninsula and the beginning of the world's highest sea cliffs. It is a really awesome sight. There is a trail which goes down to the peninsula, but you are required to take a guided tour by either foot or mule unless you are personally invited there by a resident.
This is the location of one of the more tragic stories of Hawaii. When Hawaii came in contact with the western world, many diseases were introduced by the foreigners, including leprosy. Beginning in the 1860's, in order to control it's spread, people with leprosy were banished to this peninsula because of it's unique layout ..... surrounded by the sea on three sides and by huge mountain cliffs on the other, there was no escape. Misery and chaos ruled until a few years later Father Damien, a missionary, arrived and started to make it a better place for the sick. He died a few years later with the disease. Leprosy is now called Hanson's disease, and it can now be controlled. There are still a few former patients who live there.

If you want to find some of the best beaches Molokai has to offer, you'll need to drive out to the western shores. Take Highway 460 west toward Maunaloa and turn right on Kaluakoi Road before reaching the town. Continue down and you will find Papohaku Beach two miles past Kaluakoi Resort. Papohaku Beach is long and wide, and there is a good chance you won't see anyone else on it (or very few anyway). There is good swimming here, but it can be dangerous during times of high surf and there are no lifeguards around, so take care. Along the road that follows the ocean here, you'll see many nice spots to stop and hang out, as well as a very nice Park with a camping/picnicing area with large shade trees and good facilities.
To find out about the other nice beaches you can go to, check out our Molokai Beaches section.

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