The Islands of Hawaii
For Immediate ReleaseJune 21, 2010
DOWN-HOME MOLOKAI IS FREE OF RESORTS. SO HOW CAN A VISITOR KNOW WHERE TO STAY?
It’s dusk on the island of Molokai. You pull your car out onto the main highway, heading to a restaurant for dinner. This is the busy part of the island, near the main town of Kaunakakai. Then you notice something strange and marvelous – nothing.
The two-lane highway is straight as a stick, and you can’t see a single car all the way down the road. No headlights at all in your rear-view mirror. No tall buildings or crowded luxury homes separate you from the lake-like sea, which is shining with the last colors of the sunset. The emerging stars look close enough to touch, and the sky is full of silence. You pass a huge plumeria tree loaded with flowers and, even with the windows rolled up; the sweet perfume fills the car and becomes a topic of conversation.
Yes, it’s true there’s “nothing” on Molokai, lots of it – an abundance of the delicious “nothing” that busy people crave when their jobs and lives crowd them. No red lights, ever.
On a drive like this, you feel muscles unclench.
But only if you have a place to lay your head at the end of the day.
Molokai has no chain motels with flashing “vacancy” signs, nor does it have a single lush resort with parking attendants poised at the porte-cochere. Instead when you visit this island you should plan to discover an out-of-the-ordinary guest accommodation.
Most of these places assume that you’ll be setting up a home-away-from-home where you can do your own thing. Such an attitude certainly fits the spirit of this island – independent, noncommercial, and content with natural spectacles such as moonlight and sunsets.
Aqua Hotel Molokai is the island’s one accommodation that functions like a traditional hotel. Located central, just two miles east of Kaunakakai town, Aqua Hotel Molokai consists of a cluster of two-story structures gathered around an open-air seaside restaurant and bar. The buildings are modeled after Polynesian “long houses,” with roofs that sweep almost to the ground (although shingled, not thatched in the antique style). Starting in ’08 the hotel has been on a remodeling campaign, freshening every aspect of the place from new furnishings to a resurfaced pool deck to high-speed Internet connections in each room. The restaurant/bar have become a center of island social life – a tradition the hotel encourages by offering live performances with local Hawaiian bands seven nights a week. (On Friday afternoons, don’t miss the weekly jam session by the Molokai kupuna, or old-timers.) Aqua Hotel Molokai also offers a massage and spa center, manicures/pedicures, plus a list of tours, activities, and culture classes (think lei-making and poi-pounding).
Traveling east from Kaunakakai, you find two seaside condominiums that offer fully furnished units with kitchens – self-contained homes with ocean-view lanais. Wavecrest and Molokai Shores are similar in that they consist of three-story apartment-style buildings around central lawns with swimming pool, tennis courts, and barbecues. There is a small beach along this shore. The sea here is placid because it is protected by the South Shore reef system. This is one of the few places in Hawaii where you can watch the sun rise and set from the same seaside park bench.
Heading farther east you’ll spot the two Dunbar Beachfront Cottages. Located beyond the reef system, each on its own private-feeling cove, these are stand-alone homes. Built in the classic “cane house style” (set on posts with single-wall rough-wood construction, air-conditioned by sea breezes), these are as close to the “little grass shack” fantasy as you’ll ever get. And yet the furnishings are excellent and the cottages meticulously kept. Each cottage sleeps four and has a three-night minimum. It would be silly to come this far and not spend at least three nights in the sensory immersion of starlight, wave-crash, and wind-rattled coconut fronds.
Puu o Hoku Ranch, a certified organic ranch on 14,000 acres located at the extreme eastern point of the island – 25 miles from Kaunakakai—includes three rentals of a very peculiar and beautiful nature. There are two large handcrafted cottages—Sunrise Cottage has two bedrooms; Grove Cottage has four. Then there is The Lodge, with 11 guest rooms and spacious main hall, massive lava-rock fireplace, and huge kitchen supplied with the finest culinary gear. Surrounded by green pastoral beauty and the rich blue Pacific, this place altogether makes one of the greatest retreat sites in the world, excellent for family reunions or any focused gathering for up to 34 people. The cottages themselves, however, are available for smaller groups—as few as two.
Molokai’s other accommodation choices lie at the extreme opposite location, the West End, along the sunset shore that looks across the channel to Oahu. Here next to the old Kaluakoi Resort (now closed) there are three different condominiums designed in the best contemporary fashion to take advantage of a varied coastal topography and a remote seaside location. Paniolo Hale, perched on a natural ledge, consists of deluxe townhouse condos of one and two bedrooms located close to Kepuhi Beach. Ke Nani Kai includes 120 low-rise units with two tennis courts as well as swimming pool/Jacuzzi. Kaluakoi Villas, spread over 26 acres, invites extensive rambling over the beautiful beaches of this coastline.
To match yourself with the right Molokai lodging, you would be smart to contact island residents who are first-hand familiar with the options. Get in touch with the property managers at Molokai Vacation Rental (www. molokai-vacation-rental.com). As with everything on this island, this interaction with be forthright and friendly.
With this as with all your interests on Molokai, please get in touch with the Molokai Visitors Association. It’s the job of the folks at MVA to help you find what you’re looking for on an island whose attraction is that is has no commercialized “attractions.” It is authentically itself. Visit molokai-hawaii.com.
Long and narrow, Molokai looks insignificant next to its neighbors. If someone asked you to compare the Hawaiian Islands to a paragraph, you’d have to say that Molokai is a quiet dash between two boisterous sentences, Oahu and Maui. In other words, Molokai provides what its neighbors can’t – a rich, simple “nothing.”
Keli‘i Brown Julie Bicoy
Maui Visitors Bureau Molokai Visitors Assn.
808-244-3530, Ext. 716 808-553-3876