On to Molokai

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April 6th 2010
Published: April 24th 2010
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Our flight in to Molokai showed us some spectacular scenery. Molokai has the tallest sea cliffs in the world, averaging around 2,000 feet, with the highest at 3,300 feet. The sheer drop into the ocean, with waterfalls cascading down the rock walls are really awe inspiring. We also flew over the famous Kalaupapa Peninsula, the most remote part of the most remote island, where leprosy patients were forced into isolation in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Before landing we got a good sight of red dirt farms that makes the red dirt on Maui seem pale in comparison.

Once we landed and began to look around, I must admit that at first we were a little disappointed with Molokai. We don’t often get to take vacations to the sea-side, but when we do, there are certain things that we love to do. We love to play in the water. We love to find a nice sandy beach, and alternate laying in the sun with floating in the shallow water by the shore. If the waves are rolling in high enough, but not too high, we love to take out boogie boards and ride the waves all the way into the sandy beach. We love to snorkel among the rocks and coral of shallow reefs. And we love to just sit and listen to the waves. So, reading about Molokai with the longest coral reef in the islands, the lack of tourism, and the friendly people, and seeing the pictures of pretty sandy beaches, dramatic sunsets, and swaying palm trees, I looked forward to long days on the beach, and lots of snorkeling in clear blue water among multi-hued and multi-shaped corals looking at colorful tropical fish. And an ocean view lanai - what I treat! I thought.

So the reality was disappointing. The view of the ocean from the lanai is actually a view of about 8 inches of muddy water, due to the half-mile wide shelf of rock and dead coral that is found all along this side of the island, and is covered with mud and silt washed down from farmlands. The crashing of the waves against the shore that is the song of the ocean, and which we looked forward to hearing in our ocean-front condo also only happens that same half-mile offshore. The “beach” that fronts the condo property is only paradise for the hundreds of crabs that live there.

The search for a nice beach has also been a frustration. We drove all along the south side of the island and stopped at every place that any map or previous guest made any suggestion of a beach, but they were all quite awful. Little or no sand. Shallow muddy water, or the alternative, huge crashing waves against rocks. The beach at the 20-mile marker, Murphy’s Beach, has nice enough sand, and is supposed to be good for snorkeling, but it has been much too shallow and murky whenever we visited. We went to talk to the fellow at Molokai fish and dive for advice, and he said that we have to wait for a time when the tide is high - at least .5 or more, and also when the winds are calm, usually in the early morning. Consulting a tide chart showed us that the whole time we are here has low tide in the morning. And each afternoon had gale force winds. So, no snorkeling for us here.

In fact, there are few nice beaches on Molokai that meet the criteria of nice sand and safe to swim, but we did find one eventually. More about that in the next entry.

So, because of all this, at first we were disappointed with Molokai. But then we relaxed and slowed our pace, and put our expectations away and let the island vibe take over. There is a sign as you first drive away from the airport that says “Slow down. You’re on Molokai”. And that is exactly what you have to do.

The view from our lanai really is lovely. We can see the waves breaking far offshore, and we can see the island of Lanai in the distance. Colorful birds wake us up every morning with their exuberant song. The drive east to the end of the island and to Hanawa Valley is lush and green and beautiful. Even the west side with its red dirt and windy grassy plains is pretty. But it was the people here that really won us over. Once we slowed down, lingering over a meal, or poking through little stores or at craft tables at the Saturday market, we found the most friendly and welcoming people. Conversations were easy. We ended up really enjoying our time here.

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