The evening I arrived in the tiny town of Kaunakakai on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai, there were few people on the streets and just a handful more in Friendly Market where I stopped to purchase a few essentials.
But it was a completely different scene just days later as residents of the island flocked to Kaunakakai to celebrate the annual Festivals of Aloha weekend with a market and colourful parade.
I joined the many locals and tourists checking out the open-air market prior to the start of the parade and I’m still kicking myself for not purchasing the vintage Hawaiian shirts I found at one stall.
But then it was show time and the crowds moved to line the streets as the parade got underway with colourful floats, excited children, dancers, musicians and the main event — the young “princesses” and “princes” chosen to represent each of the Hawaiian islands. The elaborately garbed youth rode sleek, muscular horses, so well-groomed the sun bounced off their flanks, each adorned with an oversized lei made up of taro leaves and colourful flowers.
Despite the fact I was on Molokai by myself, I never once felt alone in the crowd. My trip had been planned with a friend, but the night before we were to leave she discovered her passport had expired. Originally a bit apprehensive about vacationing in a strange place on my own, after the first day on Molokai any concerns I had were quickly dispelled.
I was also initially a little nervous upon landing and picking up my rental vehicle at about 5 p.m. I was headed to the Wavecrest resort townhouses and my directions were brief to say the least: “Head east on Highway 450 and look for Mile Marker 13 on the right.”
Anyone’s who’s ever been to Hawaii knows how quickly it gets dark, so after stopping in Kaunakakai I headed back onto the highway long after dusk. But, after a short drive, sure enough there was Mile Marker 13 and the Wavecrest. It wasn’t until the next morning when the sun came up that I could fully appreciate the view from my room as I woke up to a pounding ocean surf and a rainbow arched between coconut trees. The Wavecrest was centrally located between town and Halawa Valley where I spent a day exploring and Kakahaia Park where I was fortunate to go ocean kayaking with firefighter Dart Bicoy.
As our group paddled in the calm waters off the Molokai coast, Bicoy gave us this piece of advice, “If you fall in the water, stand up.”
Most Molokai beaches have soft sand and calm waters ideal for children of all ages to play due to the barrier reef surrounding much of the island. But that doesn’t mean there’s no surfing on the island. When I stayed at the Paniolo Hale vacation rentals on the northwest tip of Molokai, the waves were so high ocean swimming wasn’t recommended, which meant I got to check out the gorgeous pool.
One evening as I lay on my spacious lanai facing the beach, a herd of axis deer wandered by. This was a large herd lead by a buck crowned with an impressive rack of horns, which suddenly must have realized just how close I was. The buck stopped abruptly before turning towards me and signaling the alarm with a shrill whistle. It was then the entire herd turned and literally galloped off into the sunset, leaving me in their bright red dust. I was astounded because it was a sight I had never expected to see in Hawaii.
Speaking of that red dust, my number one tip for anyone considering a visit to Molokai is leave your white clothing at home. No matter how much you’ve fantasized about strolling the beach in that flowing, white dress, the red sand and dust penetrates everything. Secondly, leave your hair-styling tools at home. With the humidity nearly 90 per cent during my visit, my curly hair grew to volumes previously never seen before and an elastic hair band quickly became my new styling tool. (Typically, there’s a strong breeze blowing across the island so the humidity isn’t always so high.)
My first day on Molokai I also attempted some basic makeup, including eye shadow, mascara and a little lipstick, but it melted off within my first five minutes outside. But it didn’t take me long to realize no one on the island expected me to wear makeup or fix my hair and as a result it became one of my most liberating and relaxing vacations ever. Internet connections were also hit-and-miss so after going through a day’s withdrawal I embraced my newfound freedom from technology.
My advice for anyone considering a trip to Molokai is — just go. The residents are so friendly and laid-back it’s an ideal vacation destination for families, straight couples, same-sex couples, and, as I unintentionally discovered, women travelling on their own.
For more information visit visitmolokai.com.
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