Moloka’i Part II
(Continued from Part I)
Back in the car, we drive north. I take a quick nap and try to shake the feeling of being a tourist at home. I’m awakened by the smell of fresh pine and mountain air.
Above: Kamehameha V Highway
A short path leads to Kalaupapa Lookout and the highest sea cliffs in the world. Accessible by air, hike, or mule ride only, Kalaupapa National Historical Park can be visited only with a permit, proper planning, and more often than not, a pretty penny. Off the path you can find some heart stopping views down sheer cliffs, and if you’re having trouble conceiving, a short hike will take you to the sacred phallic rock.
Other local flavors include green tea, haupia, li hing pineapple, lilikoi, lychee, mango, poha berry, mac nut, and did I mention Ku-Lo-Lo?!
With a half day left we head East. Like the rest of Hawaii, it’s greener and more picturesque than the West side.
The scenic drive takes a couple hours with endless views.
The roads are narrow and end in Halawa valley. Man it can’t get better than this!
Unlike Waipio valley on Big Island, it doesn’t take a 4×4 to reach the beach.
And like everywhere else, you can count the number of people on one hand.
We didn’t stay long. We had plans for one last dinner with friends. As we left, the sun was setting, a family playing in the afternoon rays.
With Moloka’i being the supposed most Hawaiian of all the islands, it’s a charming yet sobering scene. Considered to be one of Hawaii’s first settlements, it’s now one of its last remaining sanctuaries.
On the drive back, more scenes from a storybook. Country roads, cows grazing on open pasture, and signs of Nene crossing.
Back in Kaunakakai we somehow miss a store, so we make the mandatory stop.
C. Pascua Store – a mom-n-pop convenience store in traditional plantation style.
Where they sell pickle mango next to the rubbah slippah aisle. Locals brand of course.
Last course. Pickled mango. Signaling an abundance of mango and the start of summer. Pickled at the perfect time, just underripe. Yellow, not fibrous. Soft enough to tear, but green enough to bite. Enough li hing to get your taste buds going, but not too much to overpower the mango. If not for TSA, this would be in the overhead bin.
The next morning we’re on the hunt for our last Moloka’i meal. Mrs. K’s plate lunch, just across the Moloka’i Public Library. As the yelp reviews suggest, not everything was five star. The saimin was mush and I’ve had a better chicken sandwich at Jack In The Box.
But like most places, you just have to know what to order. The honey dipped chicken was demolished without regret. Juicy with crispy skin. Brown, crumbly bits on every bite. Savory with a hint of honey and lots of black pepper. Perfect with rice, mac salad and fried saimin.
With only a few places open Sunday, we didn’t try everything. We missed the iconic late night Hot Bread and highly recommended Mana’e Goods & Grindz. But what I loved was the focus on keeping things simple. It’s not trendy or trying to be mainland. They’re just doing what Hawaii does best.
Still, to find the ultimate Moloka’i food experience you have to look in someone’s kitchen. Like most of Hawaii, the very best can’t be bought. With so many natural resources and so few restaurants, cooking is an obvious skill here. I’m not saying you can’t go without an invite, but you’ll have a better time if you do.
So friendly or unfriendly? Depends on who you’re asking. Ask someone there for a backyard wedding, they’ll probably say yes. Ask someone caught uninvited in prime fishing waters, they might say no. For me, I’m happy Moloka’i is the unfriendly Friendly Isle.
It’s not easy, holding back time. It means being picky about what kind of development and industries take root. It also means the highest unemployment rate in the State. And in turn living off the land, protecting natural resources, and appreciating how connected we are.
I’m glad picket signs are held in protest of cruise ships. I’m glad people get stinkeye. I’m glad someone thought I was a tourist. Some might be uncomfortable with the idea, but in reality most of us are. I’m thankful there’s a place still fighting for Hawaii’s past, and our future.
We board the plane and 20 min later we’re back on O’ahu. The crowd at Honolulu International Airport wakes you up like a punch in the face. You’re suddenly aware of just how much has changed and your heart aches for the old Hawaii.
“Take me back, take me back. Back to da kine
Take me back, take me back. Back to da kine
All over, mo` betta Moloka’i…” – Ehukai