A Day at the Beach

Molokai’s Beach Village appeals to outdoorsy clients

By: Marty Wentzel

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The Beach Village is eco-friendly and
attracts families, groups and the
environmentally conscious.
During my 20-minute drivefrom Maun-aloa town down to theBeach Village at Molokai Ranch, I watched the approaching solitary shoreline and wondered how anyone had the foresight to build a resort there. When I reached my destination and surveyed the scene, however, I understood in a heartbeat.

At one end of the property rose a cluster of palms and a handful of tan and green umbrellas shading a central pavilion, which overlooked a crescent beach and dazzling sea. Tidy platform tents were tucked away in groves of palms. Hammocks swayed in the gentle tradewinds as if they were part of the scenery, and wild turkeys and axis deer strolled the grounds like they owned the place. While previously this remote locale seemed an unlikely place to put a Hawaiian vacation getaway, now I was utterly convinced that it worked.

With an intelligent design honoring the rich environment and culture of the area, the Beach Village is a one-of-a-kind Hawaii visitor accommodation. Unabashedly eco-friendly, it’s not for everyone, appealing primarily to families, groups, environmentally conscious clients and couples who love the great outdoors.

At the Beach Village, everyone stays in bungalow-like tents called tentalows with wooden floors, canvas walls and zippered screen windows. Each tentalow features queen-size or twin beds, solar-powered lights and ceiling fans and night tables with flashlights and candles. Clients store their clothes not in dressers but in handsome wooden footlockers, and guest bathrobes hang on wall pegs. Forget about the standard hotel refrigerator; here, each unit comes with an in-room cooler stocked and replenished daily with ice and soft beverages. Most tentalows are getting new canvas in the next several months to keep accommodations fresh in the face of the elements.

Each private bathroom is an innovation. Open to the skies, it features a sink, self-composting flush toilet operated by a foot pedal and shower with a pull handle that monitors the flow of water, as hot or cold as your clients like. Like any hotel, the housekeeping staff lays in a supply of shampoo and other bath needs and makes the beds each day.

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Platform “tentalows” feature canvas walls
and zippered screen windows.
Beach Village meals take place buffet-style in the open-air pavilion, with many items made-to-order by on-site chefs. One day, they custom-cooked omelettes and pancakes for breakfast, with grilled fish and steaks for dinner. While no midday meal is served at the pavilion, clients can order a box lunch with chips, cookies, fruit and a choice of sandwiches.

Throughout the day, the pavilion doubles as a gathering place for guests with its selection of games, reading material, day-long supply of juice and coffee, and the only television and telephone in the village.

On one day alone, I met visitors from Montana, Las Vegas, Colorado and the Pacific Northwest, all of whom said they were drawn to the Beach Village because they were looking for something different in a Hawaii vacation.

What I didn’t expect beforehand was the special spark of the staff. While most all islanders pride themselves on their aloha spirit, Molokai Ranch employees take it one step further with their unpretentious charm and uninhibited humor, or as one employee told me, “We are who we are.” Their spirit is contagious, and once clients catch it, they care less about their appearance and the time of day, and more about kicking back.

For a treat, clients should introduce themselves to Pilipo Solatorio, affectionately known as Anakala (Uncle) Pilipo, who spends Tuesdays through Saturdays at the Beach Village. Raised in historic Halawa Valley on Molokai’s rural east side, this wealth of island history readily recounts tales told to him by his grandfather and other kupuna (elders). A past winner of the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s annual Keep It Hawaii awards, he’s clearly committed to perpetuating the Hawaiian culture and sharing it with guests.

Since Molokai prides itself on its natural beauty, advise clients to book at least one add-on activity, like snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking, horseback rides, mountain biking, ocean kayaking and sailing. While the village’s sandy cove looks like a slice of heaven, weaker swimmers should stay out of its strong waves and cool off in the protected tidepools instead. For guests requiring a change of scene, a drive back up the dirt road leads to the Beach Village’s sister property, the Lodge at Molokai Ranch, home to a day spa, swimming pool, restaurant and cross-signing privileges.

On the eve of my departure from the Beach Village, I sat on my private deck as the sky came alive with billions of stars and stellar constellations. Across the channel I could see the steady glow of cosmopolitan Oahu, only 27 miles away but a world apart from mellow Molokai. Once again, it hit me: they got it right when they created this place.


The Beach Village at Molokai Ranch
100 Maunaloa Hwy.
Maunaloa, HI 96770

Rates: From $294-$386 per night.
Pavilion meals and activities cost extra. Nightly travel agent rates start at $100.

Commission: 10 percent