Aloha! For many who have never visited the Hawaiian Islands, it's hard to know which one to choose for your vacation. Each island is very diverse and the experience will be different on every island you visit. Many don't know that Maui Nui (the county of Maui) is made up of Maui and the islands of Molokai and Lanai. A trip to Maui is not complete without seeing both Molokai and Lanai while you're there! You'll be glad you did.
If you want to visit a place where time stands still, you must make the journey to Molokai. It is Hawaii's fifth largest island and is home to the highest sea cliffs in the world. Molokai has the highest percentage of native Hawaiians and they have preserved their culture and rural lifestyle. It is definitely a place where Hawaii's past comes alive. The central region of Molokai is the center of local life and the tallest part of the town is a church steeple. Here you will see macadamia nut and coffee farms and one of Hawaii's last royal coconut groves. North of central Molokai is where the victims of Hansen's disease (leprosy) were exiled in the 1800s. Father Damien came to the remote colony in 1873 to care for the residents, and after 16 years he contracted the disease himself. Today you can hike the cliffs and learn more about the colony and St. Damien. A fascinating thing to see along the south shore in Molokai is the ancient fishponds dating back to the early 13th century. Many are very well preserved and you can still see the semicircular walls of the ponds that were made from lava boulders. The fish ponds had wooden gates that would allow small fish to swim in to live and feed. As they grew, the fish became too big to get back out and Hawaiian Alii (royalty) would harvest fish from these ponds. Molokai's main town has remained virtually unchanged since the early 1900s. There are no traffic lights and the locals still fish on the pier for their dinner. For me, the best place to visit in town is Kanemitsu's Bakery. You can visit during the day, but it's more fun to go late at night because that's when the workers bake the bread. The locals line up in the alley and knock on the window to get fresh hot loaves of bread. They can be filled with cinnamon, cream cheese, jelly or butter and it is definitely a MUST visit! Outdoor activities are what you will want to experience when you visit Molokai. You will find some of the most beautiful deserted beaches here and this is where most visitors head. Don't be surprised if you see honu (green sea turtles) and Hawaiian monk seals swimming with you. Kayaking and paddle boarding are popular activities and you can also whale watch in the winter months. If you want to spend the night, Hotel Molokai is the only local hotel and it is charming!
Lanai is the smallest inhabited island in Hawaii and is almost the complete opposite of Molokai. It is full of luxurious resorts and championship level golf courses. Lanai City is the main town and was founded in the early 1900s as a pineapple plantation town. At one time, Lanai produced 75% of the world's pineapple production. Although the pineapple plantations no longer exist, you can see the history at the visitor's center in Dole Park. This area is also home to shops, restaurants, and businesses. You will find unique shopping and the work of many local artists, from ceramics to watercolors. Because Lanai City sits at an elevation of 1700 feet, it is noticeably cooler than the coastal areas. There is a rustic side to Lanai too. Munro Trail, just north of Lanai City, is a one lane dirt road that offers spectacular views and many Cook pines. The trail reaches 1600 feet in elevation and takes you through a rainforest, and to a scenic lookout where you can see all six Hawaiian islands at once. If you hike the entire trail, it will take you to the top of Lanaihale, Lanai's highest peak of 3370 feet. If you head south, you'll find Hulopoe Bay and Manele Bay which are beautiful marine life conservation areas and the home to dozens of spinner dolphins. Between the two bays is the famous landmark Puu Pehe, or Sweetheart Rock. You can also rent a 4 wheel drive in Kaunolu, which was King Kamehameha's summer fishing retreat on the southern cliffs. Stay until dusk and view the incredible Lanai sunsets. If you're looking for a true tropical escape, Lanai has 18 miles of coastline with remote white sand beaches. The most popular beach is at Hulopoe Beach Park. It's a crescent-shaped beach with white sand and crystal water which makes it great for snorkeling. And the best part is that it fronts the Four Seasons Resort Lanai. This exquisite luxurious resort features a full service spa, fine dining, and the Jack Nicklaus designed Manele Golf Course. You can't go wrong with a stay here!
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