Molokai: The Pacific's Island in the Sun

Physician's Money Digest, February29 2004, Volume 11, Issue 4

Quiet, little Molokai is the fifth largestHawaiian Island and the closest island tobustling Oahu. A 10-minute flight fromHonolulu transports you to this laid-back andfascinating island. There's no better place than Molokaito watch the sun sink in the evening sky and feel thewarm breeze tickle your bare feet. But if you want toraise your heart rate, start your island adventures at theedge of the highest sea cliffs in world, 3000 feet abovethe churning blue waters that surround KalaupapaNational Historical Park. Kalaupapa is best known forFather Damien and the leper colony he cared for in thelate 1800s. The village is still active today, but residentsare no longer a danger to outsiders.

The best way to visit this historic site is by mule.Molokai Mule Ride (www.muleride.com) will saddleyou up for the ride of a lifetime. Starting at 1700 feetabove the ocean, muleskinners lead riders down a vertigo-inducing, 3-mile trail that has 26 switchbacks. At thebottom, a guide from Damien Tours meets riders for afascinating look at the village of Kalaupapa. After lunch,which is included, it's time to head back up the trail. Ifyou want to kick-start the old ticker and a slow muleride down a tall cliff isn't your thing, Molokai has someof the best trails for mountain biking and hiking.

Island Accommodations

Combine your love of adventure with your love ofbeauty when you stay at the Sheraton Molokai Lodgeand Ranch (808-552-2741; www.sheraton.com/hawaii).The Lodge and Ranch features a soaring stone fireplace,billiards room, cozy library, heated swimming pool, andfitness center. The rooms have claw-foot tubs, balconies,and cable television. Besides panoramic views of the iron-rich,rust-colored, rolling hills, the Lodge and Ranchoffers guests activities. Biking and sports enthusiasts willenjoy the adventure sports and bike rental shop. Guidesare available to show guests the 125 miles of trails.

However, if you prefer simple living arrangements,consider the Lodge and Ranch's sister property, theKaupoa Beach Village. The Beach Village is simplicityat its best. Inside each bungalow is a canvas-coveredbedroom. The bungalows, which have solar-poweredlights, hot water showers, and ceiling fans, are juststeps away from the ocean.

Kapunas

Another lodging option is Hotel Molokai (808-553-5347; www.hotelmolokai.com). Located on the waternear the large town of Kaunakakai, Hotel Molokaioffers guests Polynesian-style accommodations. Its mainattraction is "Aloha Friday," which takes place everyFriday afternoon. , the wise women ofMolokai, strum their ukuleles and sway in traditionalhulas as they sing classic Hawaiian tunes. Accompanyingthese women are folks of all ages who playan array of percussion and stringed instruments.

Tastes of Hawaii

Molokai is not a big shopping island. It is, however,a good place to sample Hawaii's agricultural past.A number of farms on the island offer tours, which letvisitors taste their products. The Molokai CoffeePlantation (www.molokaicoffee.com) is a 500-acreestate at the edge of a rainforest, where wild coffeegrows on what was once King Kamehameha's royalplantation. The gift shop has a variety of whole beanand ground coffees, as well as a café that serves hotand cold coffee drinks Seattle style.

Down the road and up a gravel driveway, you'll findPurdy's Natural Macadamia Nut Farm (808-567-6601).Purdy's offers island guests a hands-on nut farm experience.Visitors can harvest their own macadamia nuts orbuy their nuts by the bag.

paniolos

Back at the Lodge and Ranch after a long day ofexploring, you can watch the (ie, Hawaiiancowboys) rope cattle or sit back and listen to storytellersweave tales of old Hawaii. Late-night stargazingsessions reveal the legends and myths sprinkledacross the sky. This is how Hawaii was meant to be:pure, raw, and natural.