DescriptionKaunakakai is the “metropolis” of Moloka‘i. Ala Malama, the 3-block-long commercial section, resembles an Old West movie set with its false-front buildings that house general stores, markets and restaurants. Boutiques feature local arts and crafts. The wharf, reaching a half-mile into the harbor, is the mooring for charter fishing, diving and cruise boats.
Just west of the wharf, Malama Cultural Park is the site of the summer home of Kamehameha V, who reigned 1863-72; he is the Hawaiian monarch most closely identified with Moloka‘i. One of the king's projects was the planting of 1,000 coconut palms. Several hundred remain at the Kapuāiwa grove, about 2 miles west where SR 460 curves northward away from the coast. Visitors should be wary of falling coconuts.
Maunahui Road (a jeep road), 3.7 miles north off SR 460, runs 9 miles east to the sandalwood measuring pit, dug to match a ship's hull in size and shape. In the early 19th century, Hawaiian chiefs and laborers measured cut wood in the pit before selling it by the shipload to foreign traders.
Note: Because Maunahui Road is rough, visitors using it should travel either by foot or by four-wheel-drive vehicle. Use caution, especially when it rains.
Two miles farther the road ends at Waikolu Valley Lookout. From this 3,600-foot vantage point a vista extends down the emerald cleft to the sea. Morning trips are best; clouds often obscure the view after late morning or early afternoon. From here you can hike into Kamakou Preserve, a 2,774-acre rain forest with numerous hiking trails. Insect repellent and rain gear are recommended.
To the east, Kamehameha V Highway (SR 450) runs along the reef-lined south coast. Moloka‘i's reef system is purported to be the largest in the United States. Along this coastline are the remnants of ancient Hawaiian fishponds, which once numbered almost 60. The semicircular ponds, enclosed by coral and basalt walls, were built between the 14th and 18th centuries to provide a supply of fresh mullet. Several have been restored and are being used for fish farming.
Two ponds have been made national historical landmarks: Keawanui covers almost 55 acres, and ‘Ualapu‘e covers 22 acres. An occasional patch of taro, the main ingredient of poi, a Hawaiian staple, clings to terraced hillsides. The road passes through several small towns en route to its terminus at Hālawa.
Visitor InfoMoloka‘i Visitors Bureau Address not available KAUNAKAKAI, HI . Phone:(808)553-3876 or (800)800-6367