Moloka‘i is Hawaii’s most low-key, laid-back place. No jets scream into the tiny airport. No There are no high rise hotels or resort golf courses. Outside the airport a sign reads, “Slow down, this is Molokai.” You’ll have a better time if you do.
Most visitors come here to be in a place where empty beaches are the norm and Kanaukakai, the largest town, doesn’t have a traffic light. Others take the mule ride down to Kalaupapa, one of travel’s most moving experiences. Now a National Historic Park, it’s where victims of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) were exiled from 1866 to 1969. A festival, Ka Hula Piko, brings in dancers from across the Pacific each May. Strong paddlers join the canoe races between Moloka‘i and O‘ahu in September and October. A stand-up paddle board race takes place in July.
It’s fun to explore the island from one end to the other along the 38-mile drive, stopping at Saint Damien churches and looking over ancient fishponds.
People who live here boast that it’s the state’s most Hawaiian island. And, it’s true. Hawaiians make up 38 percent of the population, more than any other island. Moloka‘i belongs to Maui County along with Lana‘i and Kaho‘olawe. Together these islands make up Maui Nui.
Most visitors, of course, stay on Maui, but to get a feeling for the “old Hawaii,” a day or two or more on Moloka‘i is worth the effort.