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Friday, December 27, 2013

Kaunakakai Harbor, Molokai

Tuesday, December 24

We had a second enjoyable stay in Kaunakakai, though not as much fun as our first visit because we didn't have the loan of a friend's car this time. Exploring the island end to end was the highlight of our last visit. We were happy to be able to get back and forth to town on our bicycles but our days were mostly routine.

John began the chore of spiffing up the doors and brightwork outside the companionway, getting a few coats of varnish on everything while we had a little down time. I stuffed my backpack full of laundry and rode to the nearby Friendly Isle laundromat for a quick wash, bringing it all back to the boat for line drying. Splitting it up over a couple of days made it feel like less of a chore.

I hung out at the charming little library where the only drawback is the lack of electrical outlets for charging. A friendly librarian let me plug my computer into one of their power strips, but they have a posted policy of "no charging" and I didn't want to impose after the first time. Hilo is still my idea of the perfect library with an outlet at almost every table in the open air courtyard.

We thought we'd combine a night out with some "free" Wifi by going to Paddler's restaurant for their Thursday local music night. Our server bent over backward to get us seated where I could plug in (I swear I'm buying a new battery when we get to Honolulu!), and then it turned out that local music night had died over the slow summer and wouldn't start up again until after the holidays. But we ate a huge meal of shrimp and mahi mahi fettucine (complete with bread and a generous salad) for me and a hearty burger and fries for John.

After spending $4 on two soft serve ice cream cones from the pizza place we smartened up and bought pints of Dave's Hawaiian ice cream for $5 instead. The pre-packed pints were frozen solid and the clerk even wrapped it in newspaper for us so we could ride back and eat it on the boat. The Molokai Mud Pie was good and the chocolate Macadamia nut was a rich dark chocolate. Ono!

Our most ambitious outing was a bike ride on Saturday out to the Mile 16 marker at the east end of the island. The ride is mostly flat with several short uphill slopes and I only had to walk my bike one or two times. I love my rusty road bike from craigslist but it's an old 5-speed and I'm permanently stuck in second gear. This is great for getting me around on the flat parts of town, but is useless on hills that would normally be no problem for me. After Mile 16 we decided we'd had enough and turned around in front of a house with a beautiful shiny blue tile roof. We stopped in at Mana'e Goodz 'n' Grindz for drinks and took a beach break at Puko'o Harbor back at about Mile 13. The return ride was an easy downhill run with the breeze at our backs, which was a good thing because I was definitely done when we rolled into the Molokai Drive-In.

This is a great little local hangout with free Wifi in their air conditioned dining room. They also have covered outdoor seating at picnic tables and clean bathrooms. This place is so much better than any McDonald's or Burger King. We were also happy to notice that Subway is no longer in business in Kaunakakai. Molokai has done an excellent job of keeping out the generic chain stores you find everywhere else.

But one thing we don't really get is their opposition to small cruise ships like the Safari Explorer which docked at the pier while we were there. We saw many signs outside homes saying things along the line of "no cruise ships," and at one point a year or two ago the SE actually had to stop coming to Molokai for a time. I can understand wanting to keep out the mega ships - which wouldn't want to visit sleepy Molokai anyway. But with only 36 eco-minded passengers, the SE seems like the perfect fit for Molokai. People who take small ships are generally interested in more remote locations and are more sensitive to leaving small footprints in the first place. So where's the harm to the locals if these people spend a day touring Molokai? The Molokai Princess ferry can carry four times as many day-tripping tourists from Maui six days a week. What's the diff?!

The other thing that became a perplexing downer for us were all the No Trespassing, Keep Out, and Private Property signs seen posted everywhere. We not only saw these on the larger properties spread out along the highway (where it might be possible for a tourist to get confused looking for beach access or a hiking opportunity - maybe), but also in a densely populated local neighborhood where no tourist would normally venture. What's going on here? Do neighbors not know to stay out of each other's yards? It leads a visitor to think there's a significant petty theft problem on this island...

We attempted another bike ride out the west end of town but gave it up after only three miles. The hills were too steep and numerous for me, and the "ride" became a hot walk in the sun. Instead we explored some more neighborhoods, admired the very brand new looking fire station, and headed to the Drive-In for refueling.

After putting it off all week, I finally walked into the Kanemitsu Bakery the day before we left to ask about "night bread." But of course Monday is the only night they don't sell hot gooey sweet breads in the alley after 8 PM because the bakery is closed on Tuesdays. Look it up on yelp if you're curious - I can't write about it until we've done it. Next visit for sure!

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