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Find authentic Hawaii on Molokai

Travels with Deb

Debbie Stone | Jan 30, 2017, 6 a.m.
Elder Philipo Solatorio greets visitors at his home in the Halawa Valley. Photo by Debbie Stone

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Colorful sunsets are the norm on Molokai. Photo by Debbie Stone

Imagine a Hawaii with untouched beaches and an unspoiled countryside. No tall buildings, mega resorts, or malls. And nary a stoplight to be found. It’s hard to believe such a place exists, but it’s real and it’s Molokai, the “Friendly Isle.”

For many visitors to the islands, Molokai is off the beaten path and viewed with a bit of apprehension, mainly due to the fact they don’t know much about the place. They’ve heard it’s quiet and rural, and lacks the glitz and glamour of the other islands because residents frown upon major development. They’re right. But, that’s what makes Molokai so special. It’s authentic Hawaii – a place where the culture is thriving and where aloha is not just a word; it’s a way of life that speaks to the essence of the heart and passion of the people.

The residents of this small island work hard to protect and preserve their peaceful lifestyle because they love their land and their heritage. Visitors are always welcome, however, it helps to understand the power of these feelings and the need to respect them during your stay. Most who take the time to appreciate the indomitable spirit of the people will gain a deeper appreciation for the beauty and soul of the island. It also helps to have patience, as the pace moves slowly on Molokai, which is one of the reasons why folks come here. They want to escape their hectic urban existence and gladly welcome the opportunity to stop and smell the plumeria.

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The Halawa Valley is Molokai's oldest inhabited location. Photo by Debbie Stone

Molokai brings Hawaii’s history to life. Head to the sacred Halawa Valley for a trip back in time. This is one of the island’s most historic areas and its oldest inhabited location. It is believed ancient Polynesians settled here as early as 650 A.D. For many years, it was a center of taro patches and dozens of temples with a thriving populace. However, a pair of tsunamis in 1946 and 1957 swept up the valley and destroyed almost all of the homes, along with the fields.

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A statue of Father Damien at St. Joseph Church on the way to the Halawa Valley Photo by Debbie Stone

Just getting to the valley is an adventure in itself, as the road is narrow and winding with blind curves, but there’s nonstop, jaw-dropping scenery to be admired at every juncture. Points of interest along the route include the ancient Hawaiian Fishponds, Kumimi Beach (a popular snorkeling spot), St. Joseph’s Church and Our Lady of Seven Sorrows (both built by Father Damien), Kalua’aha Church (Molokai’s first Christian church constructed in 1835), Halawa Beach Park and spectacular Halawa Bay.

Most locals come to the valley to fish, surf and enjoy the beaches. Visitors, however, make the trip in order to hike to Moa’ula Falls, which is accessible only as part of a guided cultural tour. The journey will take you into a verdant, lush rainforest covered in colorful, tropical flora before arriving at the picturesque falls. You might want to cool off in the pool at the base of the falls, but your guide will tell you to beware of the lizard who supposedly inhabits this body of water. Legend has it that in order to go into the pool, you have to request permission of the creature. This is done by floating a ti leaf on the water. If the leaf floats, then the lizard will let you enter the pool, but if it sinks, the answer is no.

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