When people visit Hawaii, they usually go to Oahu, Maui, or, for adventure, the Big Island. Every so often, those who can afford the Four Seasons will stop off at Lanai, the island where Bill Gates got married … but very rarely do you hear people say, “I’m off on holiday to Molokai.”
And the locals are just fine with that.
“We don’t want the cruise ships here,” local musician and ukulele god Lono said. “It would ruin our culture like it has with the other islands.”
Despite the economic relief that tourism might bring, people on the island point to places like Oahu and Maui, claiming the local culture has been lost — and vowing not to let that happen on Molokai.
“We are welcoming, we are full of the aloha spirit,” Lono said. “But we want to keep our culture intact. Of course, people are welcome to visit — but come, stay, talk. Don’t just go on and off a ship and stare.”
With no stoplights, one hotel, limited Wi-Fi, a handful of restaurants, and a still semi-functional leper colony (there are nine patients left), the island is a time warp to a calmer time.
Surfers pull up at a local surf spot with hunting dogs in the back of their truck — so after catching some waves, they can go bag a deer or a boar for the week. Hiking trails are peppered with “Warning: Hunting Area” signs, and while there is a grocery store, many people still rely on subsistence hunting.
Molokai is where you come if you are looking for the actual, authentic Hawaii, to experience the pure, undiluted Hawaiian culture, where every Friday evening a group of elders gathers at the Hotel Molokai to play music and dance the hula — and where, if you close your eyes and listen to the ocean, you can almost lose track of time.
See Paula Froelich in Molokai, part of her video series, A Broad Abroad.