By Diane Ako
Molokai’s East End provided the cultural lesson of the day for our Pacific Century Fellows group of friends for nearly a full day. We left the hotel at 8 am for a windy, beautiful one hour drive to the Halawa Valley.
There are several tour groups, and we were amused to later learn that there is no cell phone connection in the valley, so our guide has to drive six miles out from his house daily to check his messages and confirm his bookings. It should be said we didn't have a problem making the reservation or communicating with him.
Our hike started with a historical debrief, complete with a binder of photos passed around to illustrate his points. Then, we hiked three miles into this gorgeous, ancient valley to get a glimpse of Hawaii back in time. According to our guide, ancient Polynesians settled in this valley as early as 650 AD.
It's not hard to believe. We passed many hidden heiau on our way to the 250-foot Mo`oula Falls, before finally arriving and taking a dip into the refreshingly cool waters. There were a lot of locals enjoying same, but the area is large enough to accommodate many.
The hike is relatively flat and easy, though it does cross several streams, so I advise you wear Tevas, or wear sneakers and then switch to slippers for the crossing. I easily did the hike in slippers, but nearly lost a slipper in the stream because it had just rained and the water was a little forceful. The rocks are also slippery.
The mosquitos are relentless. We had repellent, but if I had to do it again, I would have worn pants and a long sleeved shirt. Mosquitos love me.
We stopped a few times along the way for the guide to point out native plants and landmarks. My favorite was about the kukui, which we know is the state tree, and whose nuts are used as candles. What I didn't know was that a lei of kukui nuts symbolically represents a reminder for the wearer to stay in the spiritual light. Beautiful!
If you go, the only way to explore the area is with a guide, since the trail crosses private property. You can check our Hawaii Tourism Authority's website for a list of guides, at http://www.gohawaii.com/molokai/regions-neighborhoods/east-end/halawa-valley.