Moloka‘i: The Island Money Can’t BuyMaui
Twenty-five miles southeast of O‘ahu—and eight miles across the Pa‘ilolo Channel from Maui—lies an island like no other in the Hawaiian chain. Best described as 100-percent natural, Moloka‘i is a glimpse into a simpler time in Hawai‘i.
There are no traffic lights, no buildings taller than the palm trees, no shopping malls, no crowds, no rush. Moloka‘i, in fact, is the only major Hawaiian island without an 18-hole golf course. There is a laid-back, nine-hole course, which like everything else on the island, signals its low-key approach to tourism.
Folks who live there (nearly 40 percent claim native Hawaiian descent) describe it as a place where aloha is not just a word, but a way of life.
Arriving in 1977 with a small resort, tourism came late to this island that remains vigilant of its rural lifestyle. It is home to Hawai‘i’s longest beach, the world’s highest sea cliffs, the largest reef system found anywhere in the United States, and the state’s highest waterfall cascading over 1,750 feet.
The island claims the largest number of undisturbed ancient sites, among these a 700-year-old heiau (ancient Hawaiian temple). It is the legendary birthplace of the goddess of hula and the site of a former Hansen’s Disease (leprosy)colony, which for more than a century was home to people exiled with the disease. That colony, Kalaupapa settlement, is now part of the national park system, and Father Damien, the priest who died caring for its terminally ill residents, has been canonized, taking his place as Hawai‘i’s first saint.
If you’re drawn to simple pleasures, Moloka‘i is happy to oblige. Outdoor adventures include hiking, biking, camping, fishing, diving, sailing and stargazing. Nightlife may be slim to nonexistent, but the island’s unfiltered view of the stars more than compensates. Don’t expect to find lodging in a large hotel. Choose from condominiums, beach houses, vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts.
Or try camping under that magnificent starry sky. Upcountry camping is available at Pala‘au State Park and just outside Kamakou Preserve (for permits contact the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, (808) 567-6618). Oceanside camping can be found on the island’s west and south shores (contact the County of Maui, (808) 553-3204, for permits). The island can be reached by the Moloka‘i-Maui ferry, which departs twice daily from Lahaina Harbor on Maui and Kaunakakai Harbor on Moloka‘i. For more information about Moloka‘i, call (808) 553-3876 or Moloka‘i Outdoor Activities, (877) 553-4477.