Molokai: It’s All About the Love

Molokai Kalaupapa Lookout Hawaii

Most of us have grown up or lived in a place long enough to see it happen: we see a dense forest, a favorite restaurant, a cultural landmark, or a way of life vanish from existence due to progress.

I thought about this as we performed the cultural protocol of wrapping a gift of grapefruits surrounded by tea leaves for Anakala Pilipo. Our guide, Auntie Julie, picked these grapefruits from her yard because it was something that Anakala didn’t have and it was a gift she knew he would appreciate. It’s simple, but extremely thoughtful — something the people of Molokai are know for when giving gifts.

Why Molokai Should Be On Your Bucket List

Molokai Plane Aerial View
Aerial view of untouched beaches on Molokai

Anakala is the last living Native Hawaiian descendant who was born, raised, and still lives in Halawa Valley. The valley was once a thriving community, providing everything its inhabitants needed to live in harmony.

Anakala and his family allow groups to visit their Taro farm so that visitors can experience this way of life first hand, hear the stories of the original inhabitants, and even hike to a breathtaking waterfall in the valley. Being here, I truly had a sense that all the people who lived in the area shared a joy for the land and its rich cultural history.

Making Poi with Anakala and his family in Hawawa Valley
Making Poi with Anakala and his family

The next day we departed for Kalaupapa, an isolated peninsula, which was once a virtual prison for those afflicted with Hansen’s disease. Currently, the only way to get to Kalaupapa is either by plane or by traversing the harrowing cliffs that once held these inhabitants captive.

I am extremely nervous of heights, so guess which route we took. Yes, that’s right, we climbed on top of mules and took the slow ride down the steep sea cliffs to the village (more on that later!). Once we reached the bottom, we were greeted by our guide, Jon, who drove a miniature yellow school bus.

Kaluapapa Molokai Lookout
The lookout at the bottom of Kalaupapa

As he gave us the tour around the colony, I saw it again: Jon exuded that same joy when he spoke about the land and its history. Surrounded by natural beauty, he seemed protective, but open to share the vast brilliance that touched his heart each day. I too was touched by this place. I found myself drawn to the land and felt compelled to wander off and explore the natural wonders that surrounded me.

Papohaku Beach Park Molokai West End Beaches Big Wave
Papohaku Beach – Molokai

As our trip progressed, I kept thinking about the “it” factor that draws so many peaceful souls to this land. Sure, the island is stunning and it feels like home, but what is so special about this place? I felt like the answer was on the tip of my tongue, but I just couldn’t find the words.

I pondered this question as we set out to kayak downwind along the lush green mountains of the Molokai coast. Turtles were popping up everywhere as Claire, the owner of Molokai Outdoors, talked about her son who was training to SUP from Molokai to Oahu. As we paddled along with the current, she mentioned how expensive it is to live on Molokai, but that it’s more than worth it. She expressed how happy she is to live on the island.

Kayaking Molokai
Kayaking with Molokai Outdoors

As we experienced all of these activities — from seeing the restoration of an ingenious ancient Hawaiian fish pond to experiencing the mouthwatering taste of a fresh, out-of-the-oven Cinnamon Butter loaf from Kanemitsu’s Bakery — I began to look for a common thread.

Papohaku Beach West Molokai Hawaii
Papohaku Beach in West Molokai

As I looked back at the Aunties’ and Uncles’ Kanikapila (jam session) on our last evening in Molokai, I remember them singing the Star Spangled Banner with hands over their hearts, full of pride. Thinking back on this, I realized what made this island so special. It can be summed up in one word, “LOVE”.

It’s the love of the land, the love of each other as one big extended family, and the love for this life where they are able to keep their cultural traditions alive and share their passion with everyone who visits.

I think if we all loved the places we live half as much as these people love their home, then we would all live in paradise.


Plan Your Trip to Molokai


  • Going is the first place we check when searching for cheap flights. It searches hundreds of sites for the best fare and includes both standard and budget airlines.


  • We stayed at Hotel Molokai during our visit to the island and absolutely loved this hotel. The rooms, outdoor bar, and swimming pool sit right on the water so you won’t miss a single gorgeous Hawaiian sunset.


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  1. David Holms says:

    I started going to Molokai in the seventies to get away from the Pacific NW weather and traffic. Probably 2 dozen trips staying at Paniolo Hale when Kalua Koi Resort was still going. Also stayed at Ke Nani Kai. We got married on Papohauku Beach May 1, 1997 Lei Day. Molokai is the most perfect quiet relaxing place ever. Also I never believed in ghosts or spirts until I visited Kalaupapa in 1985, there was three of us that saw the same images.

  2. Mike Carlton says:

    Great article. We live on Oahu, but love it on Molokai. We go every chance we get. It is so quiet and peaceful (The opposite of Oahu). We loved it so much we bought a vacation home there that we use as much as we can and rent out when we can’t so others can enjoy this amazing place.

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      I can see why you would want to have a house there. I love the quiet!

    2. Kauhane Melekioe says:

      Go home Mike. We don’t want you or your guests on Molokai. We don’t want tourism. We certainly don’t want people from the mainland buying up houses and making money off our island who don’t even live here. That type of thing ruined Maui and destroys our island and culture. Why can’t you respect this?

      Please stop telling people to come here.

  3. Escape Hunter says:

    Lovely green island! Reminds me of my trip to Madeira. More specifically – the Porto Moniz town in northwestern Madeira.

  4. Jenna Francisco says:

    I love that ending about the word “love.” And what a beautiful place!

    1. Thanks Jenna!! It’s really inspiring how much the people that live there love their land.

  5. Fabulous article. Great insight, makes one want to get on the first plane there….

    1. Thanks!! It’s a truly magical place!