ALTHOUGH MOLOKAI IS ONE OF THE LESSER-VISITED HAWAIIAN ISLANDS, IT'S BIG ON AUTHENTIC traditions and has an ambiance that hearkens back to simpler times. It also has a mystique of sorts, complete with expansive cattle ranches and Hawaiian cowboys, and a past that includes a 19th-century island leper colony overseen by the benevolent Father Damien and Sister Marianne, who served the patients in the colony and are being considered for sainthood in the Catholic Church.
Molokai has only 7,000 residents and is often called "The Friendly Isle." A series of three volcanoes divide the island into three major areas, designated East Molokai, the Central Hoolehua plain and West Molokai. Scenic wonders include sea cliffs, waterfalls, rainforests and Papohaku, a white-sand beach stretching three miles along the western coast. Molokai's south shore has an extensive coastal reef system, with offshore reefs stretching over 14,000 acres. Here visitors can see numerous ancient stone-walled fishponds built within the protective reef barrier by native Hawaiians.
The pace is relaxed in Molokai. Visitors won't find strip malls, huge stores or wild nightlife. There are no traffic lights on the island and no buildings taller than a coconut tree. For a splash of local color, tell your clients to head down to the Farmer's Market, held every Saturday morning in Kaunakakai, the island's largest town.
Activities on the island include mountain biking, kayaking, horseback riding and watersports. There are no lifeguards on the island's beaches, so advise your clients accordingly. Molokai Charters offers sailing, snorkeling and whale watching aboard the Satan's Doll for two-hour, half-day or full-day excursions. Charters require a minimum of four persons. Call 808-553-5852.
Golfers can tee off at the oceanfront Kaluakoi Champion Course designed by Theodore Robinson. The par-72 course has island and ocean views, with five holes played along the coastline. Standard greens fees for 18 holes, including golf cart, are $70 per player. For more information call 808-552-0255 or e-mail [email protected].
A unique option for active travelers is taking the Molokai Mule Ride down the Kalaupapa Trail. The 3.2-mile mule ride culminates in a tour of the site of Father Damien's ministry. The trip costs $165 per person and includes a Historical Park Tour with Damien Tours, a light picnic lunch, National Park Service Trail Maintenance fees and a Completion Souvenir Certificate. The mule ride is offered daily except Sundays, departing at 8 a.m. and returning by 3 p.m. Reservations can be made by calling 800-567-7550 or visiting www.muleride.com.
The Lodge & Beach Village at Molokai Ranch (www.molokairanch.com) comprises 65,000 acres of pastureland and coastline and offers everything a visitor needs to experience the island to the fullest. The property gains even more "island cred" by remaining a working cattle ranch in the Hawaiian paniolo (cowboy) tradition.
Visitors have a choice of choosing accommodations in The Lodge at Molokai Ranch, a Small Luxury Hotel of the World with 22 guest rooms, or bedding down in one of the property's 40 Beach Front Tentalows in The Beach Village at Molokai. Some guests make the most of their visit by splitting their time between the Lodge and The Beach Village and in essence having two completely different vacation experiences.
The Lodge at Molokai Ranch is in the town of Maunaloa atop a 1,200-foot elevation presenting unobstructed Pacific views. The ranch ambiance is immediately evident upon entering the Lodge's main building, which features a living room with a huge two-story stone fireplace. Rooms are decorated in Hawaiian ranch-style design. Amenities include a wet bar, writing desk, high-speed data ports, private lanai with seating area and deluxe oversized bathrooms with a freestanding porcelain pedestal sink and claw-foot, high-back tubs.
Impress your clients by booking them into Room 105, where they'll find skylights and a king bed positioned in the middle of the room with a 180-degree view of the Pacific Ocean. The room also connects with the adjacent 104, a good choice for families. Getting There
The Lodge at Molokai Ranch has a heated outdoor infinity pool and a fitness center offering spa treatments (in-room services are also available). The traditional Hawaiian lomi lomi massage is the most popular treatment, and Heather James is the most popular masseuse. Treatments can be booked in advance by calling 888-627-8082.
The Maunaloa Room is The Lodge's main restaurant. Here guests can dine on traditional ranch-style Hawaiian cuisine. The Lodge's Paniolo Lounge offers light fare.
The Beach Village at Molokai Ranch is about a half-hour ride from The Lodge down an unpaved road ending in Kaupoa Beach. Regular shuttle service links both resorts, and guests have privileges at both properties. The Beach Village at Molokai Ranch comprises 40 Beach Front Tentalows on raised platforms.
These ecologically designed and solar-powered accommodations come with lounge chairs, deck seating, a covered picnic table and a private open-air bathroom furnished with full bath amenities.
All of the Beach Village Tentalows have two sleeping rooms with a shared bathroom, which accommodates families well. Family-style buffets are served in the Beach Village's oceanfront community pavilion. Guests also have the option of ?a carte breakfast and dinner entrees cooked to order.
Destination wedding parties can reserve all 22 rooms at The Lodge and the 40 tentalows at The Beach Village, an option which has led to the resort's wedding business tripling in 2007. Wailani Tanaka is the resort's event coordinator; she can handle all of the needs of your altar-bound clients. Reach Tanaka at 808-660-2868.
June, July, August and the end of December are the busiest times, so make reservations for your clients at least four months in advance.
John Pele is the general manager at Molokai Ranch. He can be contacted directly at 808-660-2823 or [email protected], although it's preferable that agents first reach out to the sales manager, Marlo Nishimoto, at 808-534-9561 or [email protected]. "We are a small operation, so it's our belief that we are all agent liaisons," says Nishimoto.
The Lodge & Beach Village at Molokai Ranch offers travel agent rates that start at $100 at The Beach Village and $130 at The Lodge. Rates are per night, subject to 11.41 percent tax and to a nightly resort charge of $15. Reservations can be made by speaking to any staff member at 888-627-8082.
The oceanfront Hotel Molokai ( www.hotelmolokai.com) recently completed a major renovation. Improvements include upgraded bathrooms and kitchenettes and new floors and lighting. Clients will enjoy the resort's new interior spaces, which were brightened up with lighter colors, new fabrics and a fresh selection of contemporary art.
Hula Shores, the hotel's poolside, open-air restaurant also was also upgraded and expanded.
Hotel Molokai is located at Kamiloloa Beach, 1.5 miles from the town of Kaunakakai. The hotel is styled after a Polynesian village with 37 open-air, oceanfront bungalows positioned east to west, to capture prevailing trade winds and the sound of the surf. Accommodations feature Polynesian decor, private lanais and mini-refrigerators. Many rooms have kitchens. High-speed Internet and cable TV are available in each room.
Accommodations include Standard or Garden View, Deluxe Garden View with Kitchenette and Oceanfront. Honeymoon packages are also available. Rates for a Standard or Garden View Room start at $159 per night double; rates for the Honeymoon Suite start at $249 per night.
The most requested accommodations are the Oceanfront Rooms (#135, 136, 220 and 221) and the Honeymoon Suite (205), because of their superior ocean views. Steer families toward one of the hotel's Deluxe Rooms, which have kitchenettes.
Among the appealing activities at Hotel Molokai is its Aloha Fridays, an evening of music and socializing that's also a big hit with the locals. It's a great opportunity for guests to make new friends and meet Molokai residents.
The hotel's Bamboo Room is available for private parties and weddings. Hotel Molokai can accommodate parties of up to 250 people and catering is available through the hotel's Hula Shores restaurant.
Hotel Molokai's general manager is Michael Drew. He's open to agents contacting him directly at 808-553-5347, ext. 610 or [email protected]. For reservations, call 800-535-0085 or e-mail [email protected].