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by Monica Karlstein, staff writer

Waikiki and its around-the-clock hustle-and-bustle of tourists can sometimes become too much for the residents, so a four-day trip to Molokai sounded like heaven to us, a group of five HPU students including Andreas Hedlund-Bratt, Anna Bandling, Karin Yttergren, and Philipp Merker. We decided to visit the island considered, we had been told, the “most Hawaiian island.”

The first night on Molokai, on One Ali’i Beach, we met Steve Jenkins and his son Brandon. Jenkins grew up on the island, moved to California, and recently moved back to Molokai to show his son where he grew up and to set up a hostel for visitors in his newly purchased house in the island’s main city, Kaunakakai.

Molokai is a beautiful island, but to get access to the best parts, one has to know the locals. Many of the best spots are accessible only by crossing private property.

Thanks to Jenkins, we got to see some parts of the island tourists don’t usually get to see.

We walked through private gardens and farms to do the 90-minute-long hike to the Moaeula Falls, the most easily accessible of the three waterfalls in remote Halawa Valley on the northeast side of the island.

In every direction, except where forest green met deep-blue ocean, we were surrounded by flourishing green mountains, gigantic wild mango trees, and thickets of banana.

We saw a few well-hidden cottages in the valley, but no cars and barely any living souls.

“ It was interesting,” said Hedlund-Bratt, “to walk across old taro fields and plantations that had been destroyed by tsunamis.”

At the foot of the waterfall was an inviting pool, surrounded by a lush rainforest. The water gushed from the top of the falls into the rapid-flowing channel and dropped into an incredibly beautiful pool. Even though no one was suffering from heat exhaustion, we had to swim.

The water was so cold, when we stepped into the pool, that Merker said it hurt: “It felt like 50 degrees Fahrenheit!”

“ The waterfalls were pretty and the swim in the pool was breathtaking,” Merker added.

On the way back to Kaunakakai, hungry from the hike, we found lunch in the rainforest.

We ate fruits that many of us had never seen before, and some that cannot easily be found in local grocery stores: passion fruit and guava, all ripe and sweet and warmed by the sun. When we sliced them, the scent of sweetness filled the air around us as if we had opened a bag of freshly baked goodies.

Kaunakakai, also called downtown, consists of one main street with a food store, a diving store, gas station, a liquor store, and a bakery. Not much more, and no buildings taller than a coconut tree, and no traffic lights.

“ The contrast between Kaunakakai and Waikiki was enormous,” said Hedlund-Bratt. “In Waikiki you can find almost every type of food 24/7. In Kaunakakai, you had to adjust to the small supply they had, but that was just charming.”

Molokai has no fast-food or chain restaurants except for one Subway. Even though there are a few small local restaurants, it seemed people didn’t came to the island for the cuisine. Instead, even visitors went to grocery stores for food and prepared meals of their own, preferably on one of the many beautiful beaches.

Other students had asked us why we were going to Molokai since the rumor was that the people there weren’t nice to tourists. We found no truth to it. “All the people I met were very friendly,” said Merker. After all, it is called the friendly isle.

Outside of the Friendly Market, the local food store in Kaunakakai, there was a sign with the text: “Aloha spirit required here. If you can’t share it today, please visit us some other time. Mahalo!”
That seemed to be the way people treated each other— with the aloha spirit— no matter whether a local or a visitor.

In the afternoon sun on the lanai of Coffees of Hawai’i, in Kualapuu, about 15 minutes from Kaunakakai, the aloha spirit was more clear than ever. A local woman played ukulele, and between songs talked to the guests. She asked us where we were from, and the conversion led to what a perfect place Molokai is to live out your life.

“ Not much happens here,” she said. “If you want anything to happen, you have to start it yourself.”
She had moved to the island 10 years ago and apparently this is what she does everyday. As the evening cooled, she went home to get a long-sleeved shirt and then returned to the lanai to enjoy the sunset.

It seemed she was right; there isn’t much to do on the island beyond enjoying beautiful nature and the peaceful atmosphere. That was why we had come, to see an island that the modern and hectic world had left behind.

Molokai refuses to be a tourist trap like many of the other islands, but that’s just attractive, according to the visiting students.

The next morning, after we had spent a night on the beach, Jenkins and Brandon wanted to show us the Pepeopae Bog, known by locals as “The Bog.” On a mountain top, it is one of the most beautiful places in all of the Hawaiian Islands.

On the way up the mountain, we were thankful we had rented a four-wheel drive car, since the road was very tough to handle. Even experienced drivers with four-wheel drive have rolled their cars at places where it is most steep, according to the Lonely Planets guidebook.

“ It was so cool to see such a different kind of forest and vegetation,” said Hedlund-Bratt. “The view from the scenic point over the world’s highest sea cliffs was marvelous, and it was fun to see the charter helicopters flying below us like tiny little birds,” he added.

The second night we stayed in tents, all alone at Papohaku Beach on the west side of the island. As far as one could see, there was nothing but sand and ocean.

“ To take a first step on a huge beach with no other footprints than my own gave such happiness,” said Hedlund-Bratt, and he began to run as fast as he could across the lonely beach.

“ It maybe the best beach I’ve seen so far,” said Yttergren. “Not a tourist in sight.”

After four days of peace and stillness, it was time to get back to reality, which meant Waikiki. Yttergren said that it was hard to describe Molokai or its spirit. People have to experience the island to understand.

“ I recommend everybody go there at least once,” Yttergren said. “It’s like a long warm bath for your soul.”

Four Moloka‘i musts:

1. Take a dip in the waterfalls in Halawa Valley.

2. Relax at the Papahaku Beach.

3. See the view over the world’s highest sea cliffs between Kalaupapa and Halawa.

4. Snorkel at Murphy’s Beach, located at mile marker no. 20.


Andreas Hedlund-Bratt and Monica Karlstein, enjoying breakfast at a quiet Molokai beach..

Photo by Anna Bandling

View of Kalaupapa, Molokai.

Photo by Monica Karlstein






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