Formed by thee volcanic "events", Molokai is a long, narrow island only 38 miles long and 10 miles wide that has been called "the most Hawaiian island." Kumu hula (hula teacher) John Kaimikaua says, "Molokai is a sacred land...a spiritual island where the land is meant for a sacred purpose." Molokai is the cradle of Hawaiian dance and Hawaiian aquaculture.
In ancient times, Molokai was a rich land, blessed by the bountiful sea. There were fishponds along the southern coastlines of both the east and west mountains and much of the land was planted in sweet potato. On the wetter eastern side, taro was grown in large quantities. The people were farmers, fishermen and craftspeople, and the island was home to the most knowledgeable and spiritually powerful master craftsmen, kahuna.
Such a rich place was a prize that was coveted by neighboring ali'i, chiefs, and at least one of them led a conquering force to take the island. The people called on their kahuna, who prayed to their deities and especially to the goddess Hina, who is also goddess of the moon and mother of Molokai. The kahuna asked for protection for the land and for the people's safety.
When the large force landed, every man who raised his hand to attack dropped dead. The only one left standing was the chief, who was allowed to leave the island so he could spread the story of the power of effective prayer.
The people who live on Molokai are very much aware of this idea and ideal. They keep to the old ways and resist what they consider to be too much deviation from the traditions that preserved the island for centuries.
The island has one of the largest heiau, temple platforms, in the Pacific, a four-tiered stack of sacred stone where novices were trained and human sacrifice was practiced. This heiau, known as li'ili'opae, dates from between 1100 to 1300. It is up to 22 feet high, 87 feet wide and 286 feet long. Legend says it was built in a single night by menehune, who carried stones in the dark from a valley across the island.
Molokai is the fifth-largest island in the Hawaiian chain, with a total land area of 261 square miles.
One woman, who married a Molokai man and lived on the island for a number of years before moving away to better job opportunities, says, "Everybody Molokai accepts is Hawaiian. It does not matter what their birth certificate says." The key phrase in that is, "Molokai accepts." Not everyone who comes to this island is accepted, but those who are enfolded in the warmth of the people and the sanctuary and refuge offered by this place never forget the beauty of Molokai.
The people and the island are unpretentious. Aloha hasn't gone plastic. There is an innate warmth and integrity in the people and their simple lifestyle. Molokai is just what it is: a place where the old ways are remembered and still followed, and a place of incredible beauty.
The little island has Hawaii's largest waterfall, the greatest collection of fishponds in the state, and the world's tallest sea cliffs as well as the historic Hansen's Disease (leprosy) colony at Kalaupapa, a wildlife preserve and lots of wilderness with enough wild pigs, Axis deer and wild birds to tempt any hunter.
Molokai, like all of the islands receives more rain on the East and North facing areas. East facing Kalaupapa receives almost 62 inches of rainfall annually, while Molokai airport only receives about 21 inches of rain.