FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
GETTING AROUND ON MOLOKAI: OPTIONS ARE MORE VARIED THAN YOU MIGHT SUPPOSE
The island of Molokai is less than forty miles long. And it’s only ten miles wide. That means, if you got everybody off the island and started at the west end, driving your car as fast as possible, you could burn up every paved road in about an hour.
If you’re in the mood to do something like that, Molokai’s probably not the island for you.
But if you’re in the mood for tooling around where people interpret the posted speed limit as a sign of maximum recklessness – in a place without traffic lights and almost literally without traffic – this is the one.
This is the one because it rewards the slow driver and the frequent stopper. If you drove like mad, the place would seem to be just a long hilltop of red dirt and short grass – not to mention its incredible coastline, with the beautiful islands Maui and Lanai in the offing. But the curious traveler, even the one who explores no farther than the paved roadways, will discover many subtle surprises on Molokai.
By contrast to the other Hawaiian Islands, this one has very little finesse for attraction-making and self-promotion. Its chief strength is its genuine and distinctive personality. It’s an off-beat personality, certainly. For the right traveler, though, Molokai is extremely endearing.
There are two principal ways to get to the island of Molokai. Most visitors fly into Hoolehua Airport, located in the central part of the island. Two airlines handle most of the traffic—Island Air, which flies 37-passenger Dash 8 turboprop planes, and Go! Mokulele Air, flying 9-passenger 208B Grand Caravan Cessnas and 70-passenger Embrear 170 Jets. These airlines provide service from both Honolulu and Kahului (Maui).
The alternative to flying is ride the ferry over from Lahaina in West Maui. The Molokai Ferry crosses the channel twice a day, a 90-minute voyage that docks at Kaunakakai Harbor.
Once you are on island, the most convenient way to get around (just as on any Hawaiian Island) is to rent a car. Molokai has two rental agencies –Molokai Rental Car and Island Kine. Island Kine is a locally owned and operates out of a house in Kaunakakai, the island’s only town. They’ll send somebody, usually a family member, out to fetch you in a passenger car.
The Molokai airport is so small that you can ‘almost’ claim your suitcase with one hand while you sign your car rental contract with the other. Both agencies will also shuttle customers from the ferry landing.
You can rent trucks and four-wheel-drive vehicles when you visit the island. But it is important, if you plan to drive somewhere that’s off the paved roadway, that you get permission and let people know where you intend to go. Molokai Visitors Association can help with that. Two off-road areas that visitors sometimes like to explore are natural preserves – Kamakou in the high mountains, and Moomomi, a coastal dunes area in the northwest part of the island. ln this case, it is imperative that you check with the organization that owns these ecologically fragile regions. The Nature Conservancy has its headquarters in central Molokai just west of Kaunakakai.
Maybe you’d rather take a vacation from the whole automobile thing altogether. After all, Moloka‘i’s roads are in good shape, the traffic is light to nonexistent, and the weather conditions are almost always ideal. Consider letting the wind blow through your hair.
Molokai Scooter Rentals has daily rates for its 50cc Honda Ruckus scooters. Top speed is 40 miles per hour (that’s plenty fast for Molokai), you get about 100 miles to a gallon of gas.
If a scooter’s too racy for you, how about renting a bicycle? Phillip Kikukawa’s shop Molokai Bicycles, located on Mohala Street in Kaunakakai, has good rates on several types of bikes, including front-suspension types. Rentals include helmet, lock, maps, and water bottle. In addition to bicycles, these folks rent car racks, child carriers, trailers, and jogging strollers. They also provide drop-off and pick-up service to any island location.
Finally, what about a bus? You wouldn’t expect bus service in such a remote, unsophisticated location. But in fact there is a bus service that visitors can get wise to, and it is free. The source of this little-publicized form of public transportation is a county program called MEO, short for Maui Economic Opportunity. (Molokai is one of the four islands that constitute the County of Maui.) MEO offers a “rural shuttle service” as an assistance to island residents. But it would be a violation of Molokai’s aloha spirit to exclude visitors. If you’re on Molokai, you are a guest, and guests are part of the family.
The MEO bus has two routes that originate in Kaunakakai. One goes east and one goes west. (The routing is made simple by the fact that the island has mainly just one two-lane road.) The western route runs six times a day and goes all the way out to the old Kaluakoi Resort and to Maunaloa town. The eastern route has seven stops and gets as far as Pukoo Fire Station near Manae Goods and Grinds. No reservations are required. Just get to the stop by the scheduled time.
One word of caution to visitors who are traveling around the island. On Molokai, people wave. When they see that you’ve got a rental car, they’re likely to slow down and make sure you get through the intersection okay. Experiences like these are liable to change the way you feel about life back home.
Your helper in all aspects of your trip to this island is the Molokai Visitors Association. Be sure to check with them before you arrive or as soon afterwards as you can. They
know the inside scoops. Call or visit molokai-hawaii.com.
Keli‘i Brown Julie Bicoy
Maui Visitors Bureau Molokai Visitors Assn.
808-244-3530, Ext. 716 808-553-3876