The Simple Life

Molokai and Lanai, Maui's charming sister islands, recall classic Hawaii

By: By Marty Wentzel

The Detail

Lanai Visitors Bureau

Molokai Visitors Association

Where to Stay On Lanai

Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay
Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele


Hotel Lanai

Where to Stay on Molokai

Aqua Hotel Molokai


Web Exclusive

Click here to read about the recently opened Paia Inn on Maui's North shore.

It’s ironic that Molokai and Lanai are overshadowed by their sister island of Maui, because the two less-
traveled destinations boast some superlative visitor draws. For starters, Molokai plays home to Hawaii’s largest white-sand beach (the three-mile Papohaku beach), the world’s highest sea cliffs (3,600 feet) and the largest reef system in the islands. Lanai’s distinctions include lunar-like landscapes, a beach with a shipwreck off shore and two of Hawaii’s finest hotels. Still, the more cosmopolitan Maui gets the lion’s share of visitors, and that’s good news for clients seeking uncrowded getaways. To them, Molokai and Lanai promise many good things.

Julie Bicoy, Molokai Visitors Association director, said her island has always appealed to visitors yearning for the Hawaii of yesteryear.

“Our island is a throwback in time,” said Bicoy. “It calls to those who seek a simple getaway from the chaos and challenges of everyday life. Outdoor explorers, eco-seekers and ocean adventurers all thrive on Molokai.”

As clients drive around the island, they see unpainted houses, boats in yards, fishnets hanging from trees and chickens running loose. Elsewhere, people might interpret this as poverty. On Molokai, it symbolizes the simple, cherished beauty of local lifestyle.

Molokai’s visitor pastimes reflect the same philosophy. The most popular attraction places clients on mules and carries them along the 2.9-mile trail to the isolated town of Kalaupapa, where Father Damien treated Hansen disease victims beginning in 1873. Father Damien will be canonized in Rome in October.

While Molokai Ranch closed in April 2008 — resulting in a loss of 62 visitor units — Molokai’s overall occupancy rates have always been modest.

“We have easily accommodated the 70,000 or so annual visitors to our shores,” Bicoy said. “We have had various accommodation options besides Molokai Ranch, including five condos [250 rooms in total] and the Hotel Molokai [58 rooms].”

The Molokai Visitors Association’s major goal over the next year is educating travel agents and visitors,
according to Bicoy.

“Much like other ‘small towns’ across the U.S., Molokai celebrates — and remains fiercely proud of — our sense of community, culture and island history,” said Bicoy. “When we are out in the marketplace, we are continually meeting with our valued agents to share our story. And our new Web site, launching in August, is providing a fresh look at all that Molokai has to offer.”



Clients can take in the views on the 140-square-mile island of Lanai. // © 2009 Lanai Visitors Bureau

Remarkably, there’s something for just about every traveler on Lanai, an island measuring just 140 square miles. Clients can immerse themselves in history, culture, art, health, wellness and fine cuisine. They can go skeet shooting, four-wheel-driving, mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking or play golf on two championship courses. They can stay in modest lodgings, such as the restored 1923 Hotel Lanai, or high-end digs at two Four Seasons Resorts.

All of which means Lanai appeals to everyone from couples, families and adventurers to the world’s wealthiest travelers.

With just 3,200 people on the island, Lanai still operates in the quiet, unhurried plantation town mode of the 1920s. People look out for one another and leave their doors unlocked. That sense of safety is one of the destination’s biggest selling points, said Lanai Visitors Bureau director Waynette Kwon.

“Our guests step into a simpler time,” said Kwon. “Here, they can truly enjoy the serenity, nature and magic of Hawaii.”

During the economic downturn, Lanai has had to change its marketing approach, Kwon added.

“We understand that everyone is being affected in this frugal market, and we need to come up with tactics that can stretch our marketing dollars,” Kwon said. “We have been analyzing and re-evaluating opportunities available, including online and print efforts, one-on-one training, Webinars and co-operative programs.”

To spread the word about the destination, the Lanai Visitors Bureau is launching a series of agent breakfast training seminars called Holoholo Lanai. The first seminar will be held in New York City in October.

“I will be re-familiarizing top-producing agents with our overall island experience,” said Kwon. “As we continue to spread the Lanai Aloha, we will share news of all our current deals and value-added programs.”