When my husband and I talked about where we wanted to honeymoon, it only took a second before we simultaneously blurted out, “Hawaii!” Since the very moment we started dating (a mere five years ago), we’ve been travelers at heart. We’d spent a lot of our vacation time off work visiting family & friends wherever they may have lived. If we weren’t able to leave our hometown, then we made sure our gas tank was full so we could discover what was in our own backyard.
I’d heard about Traveler’s Joy from a co-worker and as soon as I saw the website, it was extremely apparent that this was the right type of registry for us. While there isn’t too much about Molokai on the internet (and we’d not known but one couple that has ever been there), we added different jaunts here and there that we thought we’d enjoy while in an island setting. Immediately upon seeing that we registered for our honeymoon, our friends and family couldn’t wait to start contributing to our celebratory retreat. We had a lot of out-of-town guests that were unable to make it to the wedding and many mentioned the registry was a perfect way for them to offer their well wishes from far away. It was definitely a hit!
So Hawaii it was, but which island would we visit? We’d been to Oahu for a family member’s wedding and while we loved our visit, we needed something more laid back and open to our unplanned exploring. One day a good friend emailed me about a vacation package that she and her husband were unable to use and wanted to offer it as a wedding gift (Amazing friend, right?!). As I looked at the website’s list of destinations, one place in particular called out…Molokai, Hawaii. Molokai, one of the smallest Hawaiian Islands (also known as “The Friendly Isle”) seemed to be the ticket.
We decided to wait two weeks after the wedding to head out. While this seemed like a grand idea in my head, in all reality, two weeks was just too long! So on October 27, 2012, we officially started our honeymoon. When it came down to it, we were responsible for our plane tickets, some of the hotel costs, and our food and “fun” while on the island. Overall we spent a total of about $3,000 (which seemed to be average when comparing our vacation with those that are all-inclusive). We had FOUR different connections before we finally made it to Molokai, but didn’t seem the least bit concerned with that as we boarded our final plane from Honolulu to the tiny airport. The entire island of Molokai (only 38 miles long by 10 miles wide) was wholly visible from our seats in the small eight-seater Cessna that flew us in. The weather was perfect for taking photos and we definitely took advantage. When landing on the runway of the smallest airport either of us had ever seen, it was then we realized we were, in fact, going to have that easygoing honeymoon that we so longed for.
We arrived at Hotel Molokai, located on the shores of the Kamiloloa beach on the south side of the island, early that evening and were instantly pleased with our choice. The hotel staff was amazing and offered to give us any information we’d need to make our stay more comfortable. Located a measly three feet from the Pacific Ocean’s tide, the view was spectacular. The sky was painted with sparse clouds, the ocean gleamed a blue-teal color, and the large silhouette of Kauai reminded us we were in paradise. After having grabbed a few of the groceries we needed from the town market, we decided to stay in for the evening and start our adventure the next day. Perhaps it was a good thing we didn’t continue our gallivanting because just a few hours later, we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a tsunami warning! No kidding…a tsunami warning on the first night of our honeymoon. My grandma always said a rainy wedding day was lucky. Perhaps this much rain on our honeymoon meant even more luck was headed our way? Needless to say, we were the only guests (out of the 15 that that booked the hotel for that week) that stuck it out and listened to our local islander front desk representative, who assured us he’d let us know if we needed to evacuate. So amidst the bull-horn warnings from a few men in pick-up trucks circling the island and sirens blaring over the airwaves, we slipped into an astonishingly peaceful slumber. The whole day of traveling had worn us out and we were content knowing our hotel staff would save us, if need be.
After having lived through a tsunami warning, we considered ourselves to be real Molokaian’s and decided that this experience was definitely one for the record books. Being the newly confident couple that we’d become after surviving something like that, we figured we’d take that Sunday to really see the island. While we’d requested a jeep rental for the week, none were available and we quickly discovered the Dodge Charger we received instead worked just as well. After a quick breakfast of fresh locally-grown papaya & muffins supplied by the hotel, we took off toward the east side of the island toward the Halawa Valley, which encompasses two of Molokai’s infamous waterfalls.
Upon our arrival to the island, I was informed that much of it is that of private land owners and many points of interests may require permission to visit. We were sure to stay on the main drag (there is really only one main road on the island and no stoplights, for that matter) and follow it wherever it may go. This particular drive had become quite an adventure and not one we’d planned, mind you! As we ascended higher above sea level toward the falls, we noticed the two-lane road we were traveling was getting particularly smaller and eventually turned into one. The road literally followed the mountain-side so closely that it was virtually impossible to see if any cars were coming down. The 5 MPH speed limit was not just a suggestion and was fully enforced by the 50+ foot drop into the ocean should you take a turn too quickly. About halfway up the side of the mountain with limited visibility and local drivers comfortably navigating the roads, a tad too quickly in our opinion, I suggested we turn around and try again another time. After all, we were going to be visiting for a week and a heart attack was not the way I wanted our honeymoon to begin! Fortunately, my husband agreed and was secretly relieved as the color returned to his knuckles that had severely paled while gripping the steering wheel. Instead of pressing our luck, we went into the largest town on Molokai, Kaunakakai, and grabbed a tasty burger and fries at Molokai Burger.
Just to give you an idea just how remote this island truly is, it was estimated that about 3,400 people live in Kaunakakai and it is considered the largest town. There aren’t any chain restaurants and it is definitely the epitome of an episode of Cheers where “everybody knows your name.” It was just our style, though, and we immediately befriended some of the locals, who later on throughout the week called us by name and invited us out to a Halloween party.
One of the best things we loved about Molokai, aside from the friendliness of the people, was the absolute remoteness of the beaches. Because we visited in October and because not many people consider Molokai a hot vacation spot, as they once did years ago, we literally had an entire three miles of sand and sea to ourselves. After striking up a conversation with a shop owner in town, we were told of a beach that was nearly unoccupied every time she had visited. Although the beach she recommended was rather treacherous to reach, in a sense, neither Chris nor I minded a small bit of rock-hiking to check it out. As soon as we thought we’d be hiking to this beach forever, we saw it. It was a sight like that in a movie and the best part was that no one else was around. We were able to have this sand & surf all to ourselves. While this beach quickly became our favorite spot, we made sure we toured the rest of the island in between our outings to this amazing location.
When planning our itinerary for the trip, we’d looked into stopping at the Coffees of Hawaii, visiting the local pineapple grove, and trying our hand in some deep-sea fishing. Upon our arrival, however; we were disappointed to find out that, due to lack of tourism, many of the tours and excursions were no longer in operation. We didn’t let this discourage us from having fun, so headed to Coffees of Hawaii, anyway, and grabbed a cup of Joe. While waiting for our tasty mochas to finish brewing, we browsed the Blue Monkey gift shop, which carries the infamous kites and wind socks from the local Big Wind Kite Factory on the other side of the island in Maunaloa. The gentleman that owns it was extremely down-to-earth and sociable, offering us all kinds of advice regarding what to do on the island. It was at that moment a plethora of charming melodies invaded our ears. Just outside the coffee shop, we saw them -- a group of about 15 island elders strumming their ukuleles and giving up a free “concert” of sorts to everyone around. Apparently we came for our morning pick-me-up just in time to listen to one of the two ukulele jam sessions on the island. This unofficial group of musicians carried on for nearly an hour plucking Hawaiian tunes as well as familiar Jimmy Buffet songs. As we sat back with Auntie Noya (everyone is either Auntie or Uncle on Molokai) and sipped our coffee, we couldn’t stop our toes from tappin’ or our heads from swayin’ to the culture of the island.
No matter where we went throughout our stay on Molokai, we were always passed with a smile, nod, or even a “Hi Cindy and Chris!” While some may find that a bit unappealing, being that we are what our parents call social butterflies, we found this recognition comforting and flattering. Many of them inquired why we chose Molokai as our honeymoon destination and we simply replied we just wanted a change of pace from the hustle and bustle of our normal lives. They reassured us we were in the right place and reminded us of something they like to call “Molokai time” which is whenever you feel like it. We liked the idea of no agendas or time tables and knew we’d fit right in. In fact, on Halloween night, two of the churches in Kaunakakai held a festival with music, costumes contests, and all the local food you could handle. Free of charge! Though we didn’t have any costumes, we went to the festival, mingled with the islanders, played some of the carnival games, and filled our bellies with some of the local fare.
Over the next few days on our honeymoon, we decided to visit some of the actual sights listed in all of the tourism books, instead of just wandering around. We made sure to visit the old plantation town of Maunaloa which houses the Big Wind Kite Factory & Plantation Gallery. It was fascinating to find out that many of the Maunaloan’s were once employed at the Molokai Ranch, which operated much of the town’s businesses. Now instead of a thriving movie theatre, cattle ranch, and hotel, we found somewhat of a ghost town with an incredible story. The next suggestion we took was the opportunity to send a coconut to our family and friends back home through the mail! Post-a-Nut is a fully operational post office in Hoolehua that offers tourists a chance to decorate a hollow coconut with an array of colorful Sharpie markers and post mark it to someone in your home state. We knew our parents would get a kick out of receiving a coconut in the mail, so we put our artistic skills to work. The postmaster at the site was a welcoming gentleman that adorned our finished masterpieces with the appropriate amount of postage and sent them on their way. We received a few text messages from our families a few days later, expressing their disbelief and excitement having had received a coconut in the U.S. mail.
Since we’d already immersed ourselves in the touristy part of the trip, we figured we were on a roll and had the pleasure of learning the “real” island of Molokai. Because I’d only scratched the surface when researching our trip, we were captivated to find just how thick the history enveloped the island. We learned that there is a peninsula called Kualapapa that is the location of the former leprosy settlement on the island. It’s said that any man, woman, or child that had contracted this Hansen’s disease between the years of 1866 and 1969 were exiled to this peninsula so they would not spread the disease. This peninsula is also where a priest by the name of St. Damien, in a sense, saved the community by helping to build churches, bring in supplies and food, and emit an overall sense of peace to the suffering. Today, Kualapapa is a National Historical Park and is a sort of memorial, honoring those that have passed and informing the world the good deeds of St. Damien. It was a solemn, but inspiring and spiritual trip. One that neither Chris nor I will soon forget.
The last few days of our honeymoon, we wanted to really turn up the romance so asked around for the best sunset spot on the island. We definitely found it and after trudging along one of Hawaii’s longest & widest beaches, natural called the 3-Mile beach or Papohaku beach. With the wind whipping through our hair, we finally rested at Dixie Maru beach. Though we didn’t see the “green flash” that everyone mentioned we did find a very peaceful, relaxing, and yes, romantic end to our honeymoon.
Molokai most definitely lived up to its name and was certainly the friendliest destination we’d ever visited. From lying on a secluded beach soaking in the sun to watching the bright orange sun dip into the ocean horizon with your sweetheart, Molokai has it all. Waking up every morning to the sounds of the island, enjoying a cup of coffee, locally grown papaya, and warm muffins all while sitting on a lanai overlooking the Pacific Ocean without a care in the world? Yes, we’d consider this a honeymoon fit for anyone with the desire to “get away.” It is certainly a vacation we’d take over and over again.