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Hidden Hawaii

Molokai

I go to Molokai when I need solitude. I go to Molokai to hunt deer. And I go to Molokai (as I have for the past 40 years) when I long for the old ways. The island, once called the Forbidden Isle because of the leper colony of Kalaupapa on the north coast, is little visited to this day. With a population of 7,000 people, most of them native Hawaiian, the slender strip of land, running 40 miles from west to east, remains a secret place. There is one good hotel, the Lodge and Beach Village at Molokai Ranch [Editor's note: Molokai Ranch has closed since the publication of this article.], with 22 rooms in the lodge and 40 "tent­alows" on the broad flank of the hill overlooking the dry western half of the island. Local people and old-timers, or kamaainas, prefer the east end of Molokai with its valleys, waterfalls, and rain forests. Pretty cottages on the ocean may be rented from a kamaaina landowner, Kip Dunbar, at Dunbar Beachfront Cottages (Mile 19, Hwy. 450 E., Kaunakakai; 800/673-0520 or 808/558-8362; www.molokai-beachfront-cottages.com; cottages from $170, three-night minimum). There is a good natural-foods store, fittingly called the Outpost (70 Makaena Place; 808/553-3377), and a grocery in the town of Kaunakakai. The liquor store has guava chiffon cakes from Dee-Lite Bakery flown in several times a week.

One of the most beautiful beaches in all of Hawaii is at Halawa, at the far eastern end of the island. Drive past the fish ponds (designated national landmarks) that skirt the coast like a ruffled green velvet gown, past the deep mountain valleys, past the surfing spot called Rock Point, and through the verdant pastureland of Puu O Hoku Ranch to the valley of Halawa. Two high waterfalls mark the far end of the valley, flowing into a slender river that winds its way to the ocean. We used to ride our horses into the valley, and "swim" them in the cold river. You may hike through the valley to the falls, climbing past the temple platforms, called heiau, and ancient house sites and taro patches. During the summer months, my brothers and I would travel by outrigger canoe to the north coast of Molokai, inaccessible by land and inaccessible altogether in the high seas of winter, to camp on the beaches where in ancient times fishing villages once flourished. Sometimes we found artifacts—bone fishhooks and stone poi pounders—that we then hid, lest they be taken from us and given to the Bishop Museum. My brother once found a cache of small stone disks called ulumaika, used in a game similar to bowls, and secreted them so well that he could not remember their hiding place. He looked for them each summer, but never found them. You can arrange for a local boy named Junior Dudoit (808/558-8937) to take you to the isolated north coast. Perhaps you will find my brother's treasure.

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