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Molokai, Hawaii - Authentic, Uncomplicated, Aloha Spirit

I've been to Hawaii five times but never to Molokai. I wasn't sure what this adventure would reveal to me so I went without any expectations. As I flew into the small island (10 miles wide and 38 miles long), I didn't see much in the way of high rises, commercial space, or large towns. What I did see was lots of open space.

The cliffs of Kalaupapa
Sue Richter

Upon landing in the small commuter type airport, I exited the propelled aircraft. Almost immediately I could feel life slowing down. Cell phone reception is slow, at best. There are no chain restaurants or hotels. But what you will find is the authentic Aloha Spirit, friendly people, and an uncomplicated life.

Back in the 1800's this beautiful island was refuge to lepers. Kalaupapa was their home. The area is difficult to get to only accessible by air, boat or crossing shear cliffs that rise nearly 2,000 feet. Today, private small tours of Kalaupapa are given to educate the public of what is now known as Hanson's disease and the injustice that so many endured. Mule rides up and down the cliffs is a hair-raising experience that will be treasured for a lifetime.

Water sports are plentiful here and the longest Hawaiian reef lies just off the south shore of Molokai. One of the best ways to see Molokai is from a kayak or paddle boaring. It's best to go with a guide, as some of the currents are very strong.

Molokai is all about being outdoors and meeting the local people. A must see is Halawa Valley. This land has been in the Solatorio family for hundreds of generations. They experienced the great tsunami in 1946, invasions, transfer of power, and decades of peace. The land is serene, full of fragrance, beauty, waterfalls, mountains, creeks, medicinal herbs, it's a haven for regeneration and reflection. A guided tour includes an authentic ceremony, history of the land, a hike up 2 miles of rugged terrain to the waterfalls and over creeks. Plan a whole day for this, as you'll want to take your time driving to the valley. A great place to stop on the way in is Mana’e Goodz & Grindz for breakfast.

Downtown has several boutiques. Art, rare books, sea salts, clothing and more can be found along with good conversations. The locals are more than happy to share stories and offer advice for sight seeing. In the evening check out Kanemitsu Bakery. You will need to ask the locals about this. People line up to purchase their hot stuffed bread. Mine had cream cheese and I couldn't stop eating it!!!

Molokai is a small island and it seems everyone knows each other. There are no pretentious people only a warm, kind Aloha Spirit. Coming to Molokai is like going back to the 1950's where people spoke to one another on the corner and offered help to those that asked for it. There are no chain stores or high-rise hotels but there are gatherings for story telling and hula at the Hotel Molokai. Here you will find locals and hotel guests sitting around the bar in the early evening sharing the day’s highlights. The General Manager, Michael Drew, is personable, kind, and will make you feel that you are part of the Ohana (family).

I recommend spending three to four nights in Molokai. One day is spent at Halawa Valley, one day for Kalaupapa and one day for exploring. If you come over a Friday you should partake in Aloha Friday at the Hotel Molokai. Authentic hula and a live band will entertain you. Their restaurant is scheduled to open later this year.

Come to Molokai for the adventure and leave with a renewed spirit. Flying on Hawaiian Air will get you in the Aloha spirit even before you take off. Direct flights are offered from San Diego and many other cities throughout the U.S. For more information check out Molokai Visitors Association.