Tuesday (5/2) The flight to Moloka’I was uneventful. We were on one of the nice, new Dash-8 Q-400’s. A brief stop at Kahului, then to Honolulu with enough layover to grab lunch. Then a quick hop to Moloka’I on one of the older Dash-8 100’s. Picked up the car and headed for Kaunakakai for a few provisions at the Friendly Market. It’s a very small market, but we got the most important things – soda and beer. Then, on to Wavecrest. A-304 is really nice, beautifully furnished and provided with all kinds of things, even tennis rackets and snorkel gear. It’s direct oceanfront with views of West Maui and Lana’i. No beach here, but there’s a pool. The owner called us from Chicago that afternoon to make sure everything was OK.
Dinner at Paddler’s Inn, a nice little local kind of hangout. Good teri beef with rice and stir fry. Ray had mahi that he said was OK. Nothing fancy here, just good, plain, inexpensive food. Our dinners were about $10 each, plus a little for salads and beer.
Wednesday (5/3): Proem: We had a little excitement today – a tsunami warning. Even better, there was a screw-up; the government first reported the warning for 11:30 p.m. The tsunami would actually have arrived at 11:30 a.m.
And now, back to our previously-scheduled program. Mule Ride! down the cliff to Kalaupapa leper colony. I was on Laka; Ray rode Alika. The mules are very gentle and know exactly what they’re doing. A couple of them had a few tricks; Laka wanted to walk close to fences and poles where there wasn’t quite enough room for my leg. Not a problem, really; she just needed a reminder from Mr. Boot on occasion. The ride was fun; a little tough going down, pretty easy going up. (Be sure to take your windbreaker or rain gear; we ended up wearing trash bags.) The trail is 3 ½ miles down the cliff, which is well over 1600 feet. At the bottom you get on a school bus for a short tour of the colony, then over to Kalawao to see Father Damian’s grave site. Picnic lunch below the cliffs, then back on the bus and back to Kalaupapa for the mule ride back up to the top. Afterwards, we came back to the condo to shower and collapse. Dinner was at Hotel Molokai. The restaurant has a really nice setting right on the water. Dinners ran $19-20, including salad with specials up around $25. Ray’s fish with crab salad was good. I had coconut shrimp, which was well worth a miss. They were OK, but just OK. Dessert, on the other hand, was excellent – lilikoi and raspberry mousse. I’d go there just for the dessert. The entertainment was a guitarist and a woman with a lovely singing voice.
If you ever do the mule ride you absolutely should wear long pants, even though they allow longer shorts. The mule will bounce you around quite a bit, especially going down, and you’re almost guaranteed to rub your legs raw without long pants.
Thursday (5/4) we headed east to explore as planned. Mana’e Goodz & Grindz does breakfast, but they don’t open until 10 a.m. on weekdays. Oops. We bought a loaf of Molokai Sweet Bread and scarfed it down plain. Good stuff.
We found the beaches generally unimpressive. Twenty-mile (Murphy) Beach was the nicest; nice sand and a little shade. The water looked potentially deep enough to snorkel, but we were there at low tide and didn’t try. We walked down the beach a bit then moved on to explore the next few beaches. They were nice if you just wanted to lie on the beach, but the water looked pretty shallow. (Again, it was low tide and might have been better on a higher tide.)
We continued east all the way out to Halawa Bay. It’s a beautiful setting with a great view up the valley, and as a bonus, two nice waterfalls. The western end was plenty calm for swimming, but the water was rather murky. We had intended to try snorkeling, but a couple of snorkelers who were just leaving said not to bother, the water was way too murky to see. Ray didn’t want to swim, and there was no shade, so we didn’t stay. (We both burn pretty easily.)
Shortly after leaving Halawa we ran into a bit of rain. No big deal; we came back to Wavecrest, threw our mule-y clothes in the wash, and proceeded to hang out on the lanai. Nice and breezy and very pleasant. Nice, too, just to hang out and read with no thought of having to do anything else.
Dinner at Kualapu’u Cookhouse. The prime rib special was good; cooked perfectly. Ray had opakapaka, which he said was OK, a little overdone. (But he likes his tuna seared and raw inside. Go figure.) Dinners came with a salad, fresh stir-fried veggies and rice or baked potato. The chocolate mac nut pie was excellent. Dinner came to about $26 per person; not bad. I’d recommend the place as a good value for good food, and if you’re lucky, Uncle Bennie will show up with his ukulele and entertain.
Friday (5/5) we started out with breakfast at the Hotel Molokai – very good and cheap. Then we headed for the west end to explore some beaches. First, down to Hale O Lono Harbor and Sandy Cove beach. It was way too rough to even think about swimming, but we did some productive beachcombing. If you go, be warned: it’s a LOOOOONNNNGGGG drive on a dirt road that can be pretty rough. It took us about 25-30 minutes to go about 6 miles. You get nice views of the coastline once you get down there, but unless it’s very calm and you can swim I’m not sure the drive is worth it.
We then headed back to Maunaloa Town to check out the Big Wind Kite Factory and the Plantation Gallery, both owned by the same couple. We were disappointed. 97% of their wares were imports from Bali selling at extremely inflated prices. They had a couple of spectacular huge kites that were made for them in Bali priced at $199. The kites they make are nice but nothing special. We didn’t even bother to check prices.
Next we headed out towards Kaluakoi Resort. We stopped to look at Papohaku Park. The beach is beautiful, wide and very long. No shade. The surf was very rough and the water’s edge was huge rock ledges, but Ray thought it might be swimmable on a calm day, but who knows what currents are there. It was incredibly windy, blowing the sand hard enough to scour off any tan you had. We gave up walking the beach pretty quickly and headed for the next stop.
Here’s my recommendation: Skip everything else on the west end and head directly for Dixie Maru beach. It’s a nice little protected cove with shade at the edge of the beach. You take the road to Kalakoi Resort off Hwy. 460 to the end. Turn right and follow that road to the end. The public beach access is to your right and is marked. Take a picnic lunch and spend some time there.
Be sure to get back in time to go to the Aloha Friday jam session at Hotel Molokai. (You will, of course, have called them for a reservation as soon as you arrived on the island. Ask for a table near the musicians.) This is a not-to-be-missed event. Get there at 4:00 and stay for dinner. Then head over to Kamo’i Snak ‘n Go for Dave’s Ice Cream. We had Haupia (coconut) and Kulolo (taro and coconut), both excellent, and we immediately made plans to return on Saturday.
Interlude: We had made dinner reservations figuring to have a seat for the jam session. When Ray made the reservation there were only 2 others on the list. We got to the restaurant and were taken to a table WAAYYYY in the back away from the music. When I asked if we could possibly move closer I was told that those tables were taken by people who had reserved weeks in advance. This seemed patently BS to me, and that was later confirmed by another restaurant employee who said no, only a day or so early. To add insult to injury, a well-placed two-top remained empty from the time of our arrival around 4:30 to the time we left after dinner around 7:00. We were a little miffed. Still, the jam session was great. We met one of our mule skinners there, and he turned out to be part of the band that played later.
Postlude; We looked at a couple of rooms at Hotel Molokai. The rooms tend to be rather small and dark but perfectly fine if all you’re going to do there is sleep. We’ve determined that the best rooms in the house are in the Ni’ihau Building (oceanfront) rooms 135, 136 (downstairs) and 220, 221 (upstairs). Friday and Saturday nights are going to be noisy at the hotel, period. Deal with it.
Saturday (5/6) we packed up and headed to the hotel for breakfast. Their pancakes with bananas and mac nuts were good, but not as good as when the bananas are cooked into the pancakes. And they weren’t even apple bananas.
After breakfast we headed into town for the farmers’ market, which turned out to be a very few farmers and a bunch of other vendors. Halemalu was there selling her lovely beaded jewelry; I got a big hug from her. Hale, it was SO nice to put a face to your screen name. We looked at all the vendors, and I bought a nice T-shirt and a tank top as a gift for the daughter of my neighbor who keeps an eye on our condo when we’re away. I’m glad I got the ones I did; most others I saw we found available in the stores on Ala Malama for less money. We were looking for a Christmas tree ornament but had no luck. We checked out the Molokai Fine Arts Gallery. There were some nice items, but the prices were very high. They did have nice, Molokai-made spool dolls, but we were able to get the same thing for $2 less at the hotel. (Can you tell I’m a competitive shopper?)
We went to see Purdy’s Macadamia Nut Farm; no one was there. The sign said “I’m working out back; please call for me,” which I did, but no one came. I left the money for a small bag of roasted nuts and took some nice pix of mac nuts on the tree and mac nut flowers. Other than that it wasn’t worth the stop.
Since we had plenty of time we stopped to see the Moloka’I Museum and Cultural Center. They showed a video on the leper colony at Kalaupapa and had a number of pictures from there. Having been there on Wednesday we found it pretty interesting. You can also tour a restored sugar mill. They give you notes to read on a self-guided tour. It was neat to see the antique equipment. Afterwards, we picked up a guava and fed it to the horse there (with approval from the volunteer guide).
As we left the museum grounds the low-fuel light came on in the car. We didn’t want to chance running out so we headed to the airport. Not only did they let us check our bags 2 ½ hours early, but we left the car alone at the curb while we got tickets and dealt with the bags. Nowhere but on Moloka’i.
All in all we were a little disappointed in Moloka’i. Maybe it would have been better had we been able to swim/snorkel, but everywhere we went it was either too shallow, too rough or too murky. Moloka’i wasn’t as friendly as we expected; some other visitors we met commented that it wasn’t nearly as friendly as on their last visit three years before. Although everyone at visitor-oriented places was very nice, and it was nice not to have to worry overmuch about leaving our car unattended, many of the shop people in Kaunakakai would barely give us the time of day. People passing in the street looked down or away. We even got a little stink-eye from some of the younger residents. The only people who waved to us were the road repair guys. There was a lot of evidence of the “visitors go away” attitude. Sad and not at all what I had looked forward to. I found myself eager to hele on to Kaua’I; it feels friendlier.
While I can understand the desire of Moloka’i residents for everything to remain the same as it’s always been, I’m not sure I see how that could be possible unless the island was turned into “Colonial Williamsburg” for visitors to see the “old ways.” It seems that it would be better to work for controlled development. JMHO, folks; don’t hammer me.
Saturday night update: Plane from Moloka’I to HNL was 2 hours late. Plane from HNL was 2 hours late. WAY too much time spent in airports. We were just barely able to get dinner at HNL before the last place closed. We arrived at LIH around 11:00, headed for Kapa’a Sands and zonked out. The unit is nice, as all have been, but apparently the owner is a real tight okole. There are little notes everywhere: “Please use the cutting boards, not the counters.” “Please no pineapple in the disposal.” Feels like third grade. (Note: the disposal barely works and requires replacing, not notes.) Well, this owner blew it; we won’t accept this particular unit again. (Note: Kapa’a Sands management confirmed my impression of the owner of #13.)
More: See Trip Report 3