This summer I spent the night on the island of Molokai. Now one night and two half-days weren't nearly enough time to explore this marvelously peaceful island that is known as "authentic Hawaii" or "what Oahu and Maui used to be 50 years ago."
Indeed, the island's only town, Kaunakakai, looks like something from the 1950s, with its dated storefront signs, small grocery stores and rustic diners. But, digging a little deeper, I found true charm and the friendliest folks I met in all of my travels on Hawaii. There's good reason why this island is called "The Friendly Isle."
Plus, there is a surprising amount of things to do on the small island, such as:
-- Ride a mule down to Kaluapapa, where Father Damien tended to sufferers of Hansen's Disease (formerly known as leporosy.
-- Scuba dive, deep-sea fish, kayak, snorkel or go whale watching with the super-friendly guides at Molokai Fish & Dive.
-- Hike in the remote Halawa Valley with a descendant of the original Molokai inhabitants, Lawrence Aki (he can trace is lineage back to the 7th century). Book a two-hour cultural tour with Molokai Fish & Dive.
-- Stroll at sunset along the tranquil, deserted, three-mile Papohaku Beach on the West End.
While there are lots of condominiums and cottages to rent on Molokai, if you're looking for a resort stay (and I use the term "resort" loosely), your only option is Hotel Molokai (since the Molokai Ranch closed its doors this spring). On the ocean, just a couple miles from Kaunakakai town, Hotel Molokai is styled after a Polynesian village, with open-air rooms in two-story bungalows with trapezoid-shaped roofs.
The hotel was renovated in early 2008, with fresh Polynesian-style furnishings and decor, down comforters and updated fixtures and fabrics. Also new this year at the Hotel Molokai is the island's only day spa. My standard garden-view room was small, but cozy (the bathroom was decidedly small, but plenty fine for one person).
However, if you're checking into the Hotel Molokai for your honeymoon, book the oceanfront, second-floor Honeymoon Suite, with a king bed, color TV, overhead fans, coffeemaker, refrigerator and shower/tub. Rates start at $249/night.
While the hotel is oceanfront, there is no beach. You can swim in the on-site, freshwater pool, but it does close at 5 p.m., since the nightly entertainment is held on the stage adjacent to the pool. Local singers and bands entertain guests at the poolside Hula Shores restaurant, which is only one of two bars on the island where draft beer is sold! It's definitely the place to be in the evenings, with lots of bar seating, plenty of tables for dining, and a casual menu filled with Hawaiian pupus (appetizers), sandwiches, pastas, salads and entrees.
Sitting around the spacious bar, I needed less than five minutes to get to know the warm and open locals gathered there. I had a ball asking these folks why and how they ended up living on Molokai. Some moved from the busier islands for peace and quiet. Others had lived on Molokai all their lives, and couldn't imagine living anywhere else. They appreciated the laid-back vibe, no traffic (plus no traffic lights), open space and opportunities to get back to nature with various outdoor activity... all good reasons for newlywed couples to consider a honeymoon on Molokai.