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True Hawaiian Culture
Nowhere else in Hawai'i can you expose yourself to so much variety in landscape so quickly - so leisurely. Moloka'i is only 10 miles wide and 38 miles long. Carved sharply from the mountains to the sea, its northern sea cliffs are the highest in the world; its West End plains descend gently across ranchlands and deer hunting preserves to clear waters and the longest, least crowded of the accessible beaches in Hawai'i.
Moloka'i's shoreline road on the East End presents surprises around every bend, with ancient Hawaiian fishponds, taro farms, mango patches, and incredible inlets and bays with surf
Hawai`i's longest beaches
Moloka`i's West End
spots and fishing. At the end of the road, you reach Halawa with its valley walls, waterfalls, meandering stream and Hawaiian village.
In the center of the island on the southern coast, the longest pier in Hawai'i extends past reef to a dock where a ferry travels to and from Maui. The main town of Kaunakakai is nearby, with an historic church row and village life. Highway 470 ascends up the mountain for the spectacular lookout to Kalaupapa, a tongue of land extending into the Pacific below the sea cliffs. The isolated village welcomed Father Damien in the 1870s to help the residents, victims of what was then called leprosy.
When leaving Ho'olehua Airport, the a sign reminds you that Moloka'i roads, which have no stoplights, are a place to "Slow Down"- one of the reasons many people come to Moloka'i.
At Ho'olehua, visit the Purdy family of Hawaiian homesteaders who grow macadamia nuts, harvesting and cracking them for your enjoyment right before your eyes in the shade of mac trees. At Kualapu'u, see Coffees of Hawai'i, which grows Muleskinner and Malulani Estate Coffees and offers mule wagon rides through the plantation. The place to eat in the area is
Meyers Sugar Mill & Museum
the Kualapu'u Cookhouse, with its home-style cooking, catering and baking of pies and cakes. Continuing up 470, the Kalae Highway, the diversity of Moloka'i becomes apparent as the green hills turn into forests opening up to spectacular ocean views. The R. W. Meyer Sugar Mill (circa 1878) offers a look at an early pioneer who married into a Hawaiian family and developed agriculture. The old mill is on the National Register of Historic Sites. On the grounds is Moloka'i Museum & Cultural Center, which conducts tours and offers classes. Up Kalae Highway is the barn for Moloka'i Mule Ride, which carries visitors down the 1,700-foot Kalaupapa Trail. Kalaupapa can also be reached by small plane. Daily tours are led by Damien Tours.
To see Kalaupapa Peninsula from above, continue to the end of Kalae Highway and walk a short path through Pala'au State Park to Kalaupapa Lookout. Interpretive signs explain the history. Nearby, the Phallic Rock is the subject of many legends about fertility.
Halawa Valley on Moloka`i's East End
Heading back down Highway 470, visit the R.W. Meyer Ltd., which owns 1,800 acres with hiking, mountain biking, fishing and nature treks by 4-wheel drive. When traveling to Kalae, see the Meyer Gate, 610 mile past mile marker 7. Nearby is the 9-hole Ironwood Hills Golf Club.
Where Hwy. 470 makes a 'T' with Hwy 460, take a left and head east for a drive along Church Row as you enter Kaunakakai, the main town on the island. Kaunakakai offers shopping, a variety of dining, and the Kaunakakai Wharf, the major shipping center and transportation link, by ferry, on the Maui Princess. See the Giant Banyan Tree at Pau Hana Inn and drive along Kamehameha V (Hwy. 450) to view Keawanui and other ancient fishponds where Hawaiians practiced aquaculture.
Wagon ride to ancient heiau
Two churches were built by Father Damien on Moloka'i's East End. They are well marked, as St. Joseph Church and Our Lady of the Sorrows Church.
One of the largest heiau (Hawaiian temples) in the state, Ili'ili'opa'e, is located near Puko'o, and a Hawaiian family takes visitors by horse-drawn wagon on an interpretive tour, designed for individuals or groups. Moloka'i Horse & Wagon Ride also offers prearranged activities and an informal Hawaiian picnic on the beach next to the largest mango patch in Hawai'i.
At Moloka'i's far East End is the verdant Pu'u O Hoku Ranch, with charming ranch buildings. Known for their interest in preserving Hawaiian culture and endangered species, the ranch offers guest rooms to travelers with reservations.
Purdy's Hawaiian Homes
As you approach the end of Kamehameha V Highway, the scenic drive becomes more winding and the coast more rugged. The tiny, turtle-shaped isle of Mokuho'oniki is just offshore. As you descend into Halawa Valley there are beautiful lookouts and the mouth of the stream is a wonderful place to rest. The walking trail up the valley is closed to the public.
(Left) Father Damien's church at Kalaupapa,
(right) Touring coffee fields by mule wagon
The highway ends at Halawa, marking the beginning of the inaccessible North Shore and the world's highest sea cliffs. The deep valleys were agricultural centers of old Hawai'i with taro patches and many house sites. Today, the valleys are visited by hunters, fishermen and paddlers of kayak and canoe. It is best to find a guide, as the coast is very rugged. The return road trip from Halawa to the airport is 37 miles, and is most enjoyable driven leisurely, taking several hours for scenic stops.
(above) Moloka`i Made: Muleskinner
Coffee (right) The famous Moloka`i
Moloka'i's West End is a short drive along Hwy. 460. The road climbs the gentle slope of Maunaloa, birthplace of hula, and descends to the sunny side. Take the right fork onto Kaluakoi Road to beaches of Papohaku and Kepuhi. Kaluakoi Resort offers an 18-hole championship golf course, accommodations, tennis, and ocean activities. Adjacent Papohaku Ranchlands is a community of homes and ranches for people who enjoy sun, serenity, trails, wildlife and beaches. Papohaku Beach Park is excellent for strolling on the longest, widest sandy beaches in Hawai'i. At nearby Maunaloa Village, visit Moloka'i Ranch Outfitters Headquarters for a safari through Moloka'i Ranch Wildlife Conservation Park. The ranch offers trail rides for ranch guests and has the best rodeo arena in the state; you learn to be a wrangler. Ask about hiking through the rangelands and places to stay. Maunaloa Village has shops and places to buy snacks. It is a quaint town, with a history dating back to the early cattle industry in Hawai'i. It offers beautiful views of the coast and spectacular sunsets for the end of your day.