Join one family’s holiday voyage to Hawaii’s 5th largest island. This island is approximately 38 miles long and 10 miles wide, with the tallest sea cliffs in the world, zero traffic lights, rumored to be the birthplace of hula, and home of U.S.’s longest continuous fringing reef. Can you guess what tropical paradise this is? It is…Molokai!
Flying from Oahu to Molokai
Before dawn, my husband and I and our three sleepy daughters climbed aboard a small plane departing from an airport close to our home on Oahu. We were embarking on our first trip to Molokai! Our three day vacation would start on Thanksgiving Day and include a somewhat traditional holiday meal prepared by us in our rented vacation condo.
The small Mokulele Airlines plane felt disconcertedly like our mini-van, except that we were soon airborne, and there were a few strangers on board.
I tried to ignore my anxiety caused by flying in a very small plane, with a small engine! Not to mention that it was Thanksgiving morning and late night preparations had been done by me, alone, to make sure we would have a memorable Thanksgiving feast after arriving in Molokai. Based on internet research, there seemed to be a very good chance that all of the stores are closed on holiday. 24-hour grocery stores don’t exist in Molokai. Plus, our whole family is vegetarian, which makes it a little more challenging. Our meal would consist of tofu, plant-based gravy, and other vegetarian versions of the traditional dishes. My tension level was about an 8 on a scale of 10.
The quick 38 minute flight was a little bumpy but the kids thought it was thrilling; like a roller coaster ride in the sky. One benefit of taking a small plane is that every seat is essentially a window seat, so everyone can easily see out the windows on both sides. We all gazed out just as a perfect sunrise gave us our first glimpse of Molokai. It appeared like a rippled patchwork quilt of greens and browns, lined by only a few roads and dotted with occasional buildings, floating in a sparkling azure sea. It both took my breath away and simultaneously allowed me to breathe deeper. My tension level now – about a 4… and quickly descending.
Arriving to Molokai Airport
By 7:30 am we had disembarked at Molokai’s only public airport. There is no stuffy or sterile vibe at this airport. Most of it is open-air and there were lots of “alohas” and smiles, not to mention a noticeably slower pace from our fellow travelers and the staff alike. This is the mellowest airport in the world and so far, the people were living up to their “friendly” label. Try to imagine the extreme opposite of chaotic airports in Chicago or L.A. and you’ll be close to understanding the Molokai Airport.
We collected our luggage, which was packed mostly with food for our Thanksgiving meal. Tip: all you really need in Molokai: swim suits, shorts, t-shirts, rubbah slippahs…and plenty of aloha! Well, and some sunscreen too!
Stopping at Kaunakakai
We picked up our rental car, which was simply left in the airport parking lot with the key on top of the tire! We soon realized that stepping off the plane in Molokai is like stepping back in time to a small country town. We then headed into Kaunakakai, which is Molokai’s largest town, but is only 3 blocks long. Kaunakakai has the state’s longest pier and 3,425 residents according to the last census. In the mid-1800s, King Kamehameha V spent his summers in Kaunakakai in a primitive but impressive home with mat-covered floors and a circular lanai.
Our girls gazed out the window at the sights in awe, asking “Where are all the people?”. They have all grown up on Oahu, which is pretty far removed from a proper metropolis, but there is rarely a time when we aren’t confronted by lots of cars, people, and noise everywhere we go.
We were pleasantly surprised to find one small store in Kaunakakai open, C. Pascua Store. Known by locals as “The Junk Food Store”, C. Pascua’s is the definitive “Mom ‘n Pops” with locals lounging on the benches out front. We bought a few drinks and missing ingredients for our holiday meal and continued to our vacation rental, Molokai Shores.
Arriving to Molokai Shores
5 minutes later we were pulling into Molokai Shores, a pleasant condo complex with a pool, lots of open lawn for cartwheels, and a protected shoreline. The serenity and simplicity of this place makes it a priceless gem. My tension level after 15 minutes on our condo balcony: 2.
By this time, the relaxed Molokai atmosphere had completely permeated into my mind, body and soul. I’d almost forgotten that it was time to prepare our Thanksgiving dinner. With all 5 of us cutting, stirring, washing, and cooking, the meal came together remarkably fast – and the bonding was the best part. There’s nothing like bumping elbows as we hurried around the tiny kitchen, anxiously anticipating our delicious meal.
We had a true vegetarian feast: mock chicken, asparagus, rolls, gravy, mashed potatoes, and of course, pie! After cleaning up, we went outside to enjoy the beautiful sunset while splashing in the pool. What tension??
Next: Day 2 – Dixie Maru Beach, Papohaku Beach, Halawa Valley. Checking out those high sea cliffs (with my acrophobic husband!) and the unexpected fun of completely deserted beaches.