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The Friendly Island

Molokai's slogan is "The Friendly Island". It is more than this; and could also be named "The Tranquil Island". What sets it apart from the other Hawaiian Islands is a lack of development. There are no stoplights and no sprawling mega resorts on the entire island. There is just one small luxury hotel which is located in the west highlands at Maunaloa. But for about $150 a night you could stay near Kaunakakai and have an oceanfront room with a patio. Settle into a hammock at the no frills Hotel Molokai and watch fabulous sunsets over Lanai in the distance.

Yet most tourists don't come to Molokai to lounge at the room. It is a place to explore. The most popular place is the Kalaupapa Peninsula - home to the leper colony that the late Belgium Missionary Father Damien cared for. Visitors can take the mule ride down a steep trail with many switchbacks to the peninsula. Pause for a dramatic views as you begin your descent. The flat peninusula is nearly isolated by the world's highest sea cliffs. These cliffs are hard to see unless you hire a local boat operator to take you when the ocean isn't too rough. Or you can spend a small fortune on a helicopter ride from Maui. Some organized tours go to the east side of Kaluapapa Peninsula where there is an outstanding view at Judd Park of lush, green small islands hugging the coastline. It is a place only a few people have seen since access to this part of the island is heavily restricted. You must go with an organized tour. Except for the wild goats and boars, you may feel very alone on the Kaluapapa Peninsula. The few people still living on the peninsula tend to stay indoors.

Molokai also is a place of extremes. Like most of the Hawaiian Islands there is rainforest on the windward side and desert on the leeward side. The northwest side of Molokai at Mo'omomi features some of the largest sand dunes in the United States. This sunny, dry area has beautiful rocky coastline with deep blue coves. In winter it is windy and the surf is rough. Swimming can be dangerous. But walk along the coastline and you may spot an endangered hawaiian monk seal. Few venture to this scenic area since it is slow drive west from Hoolehua on poorly maintained dirt roads. But if you go, you will likely have the place to yourself.

To reach a great beach that is easily accessable, go to the three-mile stretch at Kepuhi Bay by the Kaluako'i Resort on the west end of Molokai. There is a nice golf course there too.

Lastly, be sure to see the majestic Halawa Valley on the island's far east side. This valley with two large waterfalls is one of the most pristine in all of Hawai'i. Guides on the island lead organized trail hikes to the falls. Don't attempt this on your own as the trails are hard to find and traverse private property in places.

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