Молокаи, Гавайи

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Iyna Bort Caruso

There’s no mistaking Molokai for Oahu, Hawaii’s most populated and developed island. On Molokai, located about 25 miles southeast of Oahu in the center of the island chain, there are no traffic lights, and high rise buildings just don’t exist. The lifestyle is rural, uncrowded and unhurried.

Molokai been called the most Hawaiian island because it has the largest percentage of native residents in the state. Not surprisingly, locals have a strong spiritual and cultural attraction to their land. Molokai is the birthplace of hula. As the legend goes, a goddess named Laka spread the art form throughout the islands, and now every May the dance is celebrated in a festival known as Ka Hula Piko.

Plantation-style homes, town homes and beachfront residences are found throughout the 38-mile-long island. The biggest town--and the only one with a main street--is Kaunakakai on the south shore and about 15 minutes from the airport. Of Molokai’s roughly 8,000 residents, half live in or near here. 

The little town has the distinction of having the longest pier in the state. It also boasts a pair of historical attractions. The Hawaiian Fishponds are an engineering innovation first built in the 13th century out of lava rock and coral as a way to sustainably harvest fish. Another landmark is the Kapaiuwa Coconut Grove, one of the last royal groves in Hawaii with hundreds of palm trees planted in the 1860s by King Kamehameha V. The king originally planted 1,000 coconut palms, one for each warrior in his army.

The west end of the island is the place for solitude. Its beaches are the least crowded, and the biggest settlement is the small hilltop plantation town of Maunaloa. At night, the lights of Honolulu can be seen in the distance. 

The highest sea cliffs, not only on the island but in the world, are along the remote northern coast. Some soar to almost 4,000 feet. The cliffs are part of Kalaupapa National Park, where those suffering from Hansen’s disease, or leprosy, were once isolated.  

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