The trail to Kalaupapa on Molokai is expected to reopen in October // © 2010 Molokai Visitors Bureau
While Maui County is comprised of three islands, Maui generally gets the most attention. All the more reason, then, that travel agents should not overlook its sister isles of Molokai and Lanai, which offer charms unlike any other in the 50th state.
Constantly fine-tuning their visitor offerings, Molokai and Lanai are inviting newcomers as well as returning visitors to take advantage of their latest innovations, from unique activities and accommodations to creative twists on dining and entertainment. Clients who heed the call are bound to agree that these distinctive destinations deserve their time in the sun.
In Step With Molokai
Molokai may be mellow, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t changes afoot. Consider the big culinary news from May 2010, when Aunty Ruby’s Cafe opened its doors in Kaunakakai, the island’s quaint central town. A family labor of love, Ruby’s specializes in home-cooked comfort food in an ambiance perfect for the Friendly Isle. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily except Sundays, the menu features local favorites like saimin, hamburger steak and the beloved loco moco.
As for the island’s hotels, Aqua Hotel Molokai has always been known as a headquarters for da kine (authentic) Hawaiian music. Now, it is featuring hula shows every other Wednesday from 7-8:30 p.m., during which clients can witness Hawaii’s famous dance performed by an award-winning hula troupe. Aqua Hotel Molokai has made additional news by becoming pet-friendly. It now accepts dogs, cats and caged birds up to 15 pounds each, with a maximum of two pets per room. To keep the hotel safe and clean, pet owners pay a nominal nightly fee and refundable deposit.
Equally newsworthy has been the temporary closing of the trail to Kalaupapa, one of the most popular visitor draws on the island. Expected to reopen in October, the trail leads down a steep, picturesque cliff to the isolated colony where sufferer’s of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) were banished beginning in the 1860s. Father Damien — canonized as St. Damien in October 2009 — shared the last 16 years of his life with the people of Kalaupapa, which is now a National Historical Park.
Amid these adjustments, Molokai Visitors Association director Julie Bicoy was happy to report that the mood of her island home remains laid-back, rural and Hawaiian to the max.
“Truly a throwback in time, Molokai is where you go to take a vacation from your vacation,” said Bicoy. “We encourage our visitors to do things randomly, at their own pace, in their own time.”
Lanai Makes Refinements
Don’t let Lanai’s size fool you. Hawaii’s smallest island destination exudes plenty of allure for its visitors.
“Today’s traveler is often looking for a place of retreat complemented by opportunities to continue the active lifestyle they lead back home,” said Maui Visitors Bureau executive director Terryl Vencl. “Offering the ultimate combination of luxury and tranquility, Lanai is a place where clients can totally engage and invigorate or disengage and unwind.”
The news from Lanai plays to a range of client types. Start with the Stables at Koele, which features such enhancements as a new retail shop and arena. Guests can enjoy roping demonstrations and lessons, rodeos and private functions with paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) overtones. Meanwhile, trail and pony rides will soon originate from the Outpost, a facility opening in mid-October in the Palawai Basin, south of Koele. Future plans call for the addition of heritage wagon rides and cowboy cookout dinners by early 2011.
From one of the island’s high-end accommodations — Four Seasons Resort Hawaii, Lanai at Manele Bay — comes a poolside service called TLC for PDA, introduced in May 2010. Clients and their favorite personal digital assistants can recharge and disconnect al fresco. While the devices are cleaned, polished and enjoying a battery boost, their owners can request a hand massage to revive overworked and text-weary fingers, all for free. Technology-inspired libations like blackberry mojitos and iPoms cost extra.
At the other end of the lodging spectrum awaits Hotel Lanai, the charming 11-room inn built in 1923 for Dole Plantation executives. Now, it is making headlines by hosting a series of ladies’ golf clinics run by Beverly Fergusen and Sherri Hayes of Insight Golf Schools. The instruction caters to women who want to hit the long ball as well as those looking to hone their short game skills. All three 2010 sessions sold out; two sessions are planned for February 2011.