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.... (continued) MOLOKAI DIVING & ECO-VACATIONS -- PART 3.

Refreshing ALOHA SPIRIT on Molokai:
warm hospitality + savvy service --

By Susan & John Hessburg
U.S. Dive Travel owners

Molokai vacations, Sheraton Molokai Lodge, Molokai vacation, Molokai snorkeling, Molokai diving
Warm & witty, the staff at Kaupoa Beach Camp on SW Molokai.
© Copyright John Hessburg, U.S. Dive Travel.

Molokai vacations, Sheraton Molokai Lodge, Molokai vacation, Molokai snorkeling, Molokai diving
"Uncle" Donald Dudoit  is manager of Sheraton's unique deluxe
campgrounds at Kaupoa Beach on SW Molokai. His easygoing
grin is emblematic of what we love about the hospitable people
& carefree culture of Molokai,   where "hurry" is a dirty word.

© Copyright John Hessburg, U.S. Dive Travel.

Susan & I have kept a keen eye on this island since our first trip in the fall of 1993, waiting for the right moment to invite our preferred clients to Molokai. Now the time seems about ready. Let me put this simply, the way an ancient Hawaiian would have done, just before letting 'er rip with a trumpet tone from an old conch shell.

"Molokai no ka oi!" (Translation: Molokai is the finest.)

We are convinced after all these years that this slogan is fact. Molokai island is so tranquil & gracious in its ethos, that reverence for elders & gentleness toward "keiki" (kids) are a way of life here. For decades the tradition on Molokai has been for all residents to address any older local woman as "Auntie" & any older local man as "Uncle." Now, how would that fly in South Beach, Orange County or Manhattan? No matter how deeply the hip-hopped hot-lipped MTV-fueled culture erodes goodwill between teens & parents on the mainland, Molokai will always abound in Aunties, Uncles & coddled kids. The virtues of respect, workaday civility & good humor are alive & thriving here.

There's something in the collective unconscious of Molokai that inspires emotional flexibility & humility, that prompts locals to "adjust" any visitor who arrives putting on airs. It's kind of a tribal instinct, unwritten, a gentle social pressure to get real, get down with the neighborhood. A hauty attitude is just not cricket on Molokai. The locals will condition that out of a visitor -- but quick. It's a hoot to see how discerning islanders are to nuances of speech & gesture, & how subtle they can be when they nudge some visitors to mellow out & live a little.

Here's one example we enjoyed on our latest trip. As they drape the traditional flowered lei over your shoulders when you first arrive, a centuries-old greeting of Hawaiian island affection, many local folks will watch carefully how your eyes engage the moment -- if at all -- & whether your smile is stilted or delighted. Your expression as you receive this act of Aloha reveals a lot about you. A blush or averted gaze, in a humble way, will light them up like a lamp of hospitality. Vulnerable eyes spark friendship & trust; stiffness brings a wary response from the local folks.

"When they get their leis, if that makes them twitch, then we're OK," says the lovely Krisha Sahagun, 25, assistant front desk manager at the Sheraton Molokai Lodge, an exceptional luxury resort in the Molokai highlands overlooking the Pacific, where most of our guests will be staying. We call Krisha the "Go-to Gal" of the Sheraton Molokai Lodge, as her alacrity & good cheer are amazing. Pretty much the same thing with all the staff we met at this classic big-wooden-beamed Molokai Ranch hotel. The wide open landscape everywhere -- Big Sky Country in Hawaii, with ranch hills rolling 10 miles gently down to the sea -- this everpresent vista seems to have opened the hearts & minds of nearly everyone we met at the Molokai Ranch hotel.

Another warm memory of the Aloha Spirit we have seen on Molokai. One afternoon we were driving back from the island's remote east end, maybe 25 miles east of the main town a couple hours before sundown, & two high school kids were jogging down the middle of the gravel road, training for their cross-country team it seems. Their Mom followed in her car, maybe 60 feet behind, running interference on that one-lane road so nobody would mow down her young'uns on a blind curve. We found ourselves in a short queue of cars trundling down that road, westward toward Kaunakakai village, barely 10 mph for 15 minutes, waiting for a wide spot in the road to pass. We turned on the radio, chilled back with some slack key guitar, munched on trail mix -- & who cares? The imminent sunset promised to be vivid, the air was warm & redolent of salt spray, the ocean less than 100 meters to the left, shushing endlessly, "take it easy, take it easy." Nobody honked, nobody worried. What the hey. We could have driven a hour that way in an evening reverie. If you can appreciate that scenario, then Molokai is the place for you. If not, no worries, there are other isles, & miles to go before you sleep....

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Lovely Krisha Sahagun, the go-to gal at Sheraton Molokai Lodge,
keeps the hotel running like a Swiss watch -- on island time!

© Copyright John Hessburg, U.S. Dive Travel.

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Krisha Sahagun poses with a WWII-era poster that
seems to be her long-lost Hawaiian Hula auntie.

© Copyright Susan Hessburg, U.S. Dive Travel.

Krisha Sahagun, the go-to gal at Sheraton Molokai Lodge, is a spirited young mother with a steeltrap mind & the blood of the Neighbor Islands in her, who could charm a coconut tree to shed its fruit in one happy bump. I told her we expect she'll be running for Congress some day. She's the sort of admin professional who reminds you of Radar on the old MASH show, who seems to anticipate your thoughts or wishes before you even articulate them. Krisha was a joy to work with, as were her staffers from the domestics to the front desk. Molokai Lodge employees are proud of their hotel & it shows in a life-positive attitude. But that's about the only attitude you'll see around this place. Same goes for the easygoing & helpful staffers of the Kaupoa Beach Camp, down on the waterfront of Molokai's remote western shores. Uncle Donald Dudoit, the camp manager & hostess Auntie Mapuana made us feel as if we were relatives visiting from the mainland. Their hospitality was genial yet relaxed, intelligent, ready to help, not obtrusive in the manner of an imperious French waiter. More like soft-spoken guides in an art gallery. These island people carry a life-positive energy that's charming, refreshing & as much a part of the Molokai experience as the beautiful landscapes that surround them every day.

"We do not understand hai maka-maka haoles," Krisha Sahagun told me one afternoon, as we toured the grounds of the Sheraton Molokai Lodge. She spoke in a quiet tone. "We are all pretty laid-back here. Look, my car is parked outside with the door unlocked & the key in the ignition." Krisha wasn't kidding one bit, folks. We checked on the way back to our room. Her keys were in the ignition all right. How would that play in Peoria? Or LA, or NYC for that matter? We were impressed.

"Sven n' Ole, if only vee could live dat vay in fussy ol' Norsky Minneapolis, ya shure, ya betcha ...."

OK, westward we go, back across the Big Blue Pacific. Another peek at Molokai's special culture. It's time for Hawaiian Pidgin 101. Molokai has the smoothest Pidgin English dialect of all the Neighbor Islands in Hawaii -- almost a lilting rhythm to it. "Haoles" are white folks, usually from the mainland, though locals have longtime friends among the "kama'aina haoles" or Caucasians born & raised on the islands. "Kama'aina" translates literally to mean "born of the land." Then there's a phrase used, at times when needed, wherever Molokai Pidgin speakers congregate -- "hai maka-maka" -- which means class-conscious or snobbish. The ancient Hawaiian culture always encouraged a relaxed, unpuffy style of chitchat, so this is one delightful legacy of old Polynesia that remains in force on Molokai. Few hai maka makas ever come to Molokai, & those who do wander in, hey they get healed in a wink. Then they get the knack of mana ohana (the family spirit) & people everywhere will give them cheerful kokua (a helping hand). The two words you must take home with you above all are the classics of aloha (a feel-good hello or good-bye) & mahalo (thank you!). I love listening to those happy Hawaiian cadences, spawned in the sugar cane fields more than a century ago by haoles mixing with Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos & pureblood native Hawaiians. They fashioned a jerry-built dialect, borrowing phrases & accents from each of their homeland tongues, mainly built on the foundation of native Hawaiian, & the outcome was a delightful hodge-podge of cultures that proves the flexibility & resourcefulness of human beings in a pinch.

That's Molokai. Pure & simple. A meld of many good things, & many good people.

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Where's a huge semaphore when you need one?
© Copyright John Hessburg, U.S. Dive Travel.

Even after decades of cars & trucks tooling about, this island still has not a single traffic light. Not one! Many of the stop signs on Molokai simply recommend that you "Whoa." The local cops are friendly young gents who might give you a break if your attitude is clean. "Now please do NOT exceed the speed limit again, sir. We are counting on your cooperation." You see, nowhere on the island of Molokai is there a posted speed limit above 45 mph. Never has been. Not much for these gentleman gendarmes to do.

No international airport here on Molokai, no bumptious shopping malls, & no itchy Atlantic City moguls, poised like barbarians at the beachhead, begging to build some grand casino complex to soil the seascape. Nuts to that noise!

All you will find is miles of virgin windswept beaches, trackless as some uncharted Polynesian atoll, plus the most copious schools of fish per cove we have seen anywhere in the Mid-Pacific. Big pelagics, even 30-lb trevally & honking monster jacks, who for some goofy reason swim close to shore in certain seasons near the close of day, when normally in Hawaii you would find them in much cooler deeper waters. It's a mystery to us, this Molokai diving phenomenon, & we have free-dived or scuba dived every island in the Hawaiian chain, from Niihau to the Big Island (except the old ordnance target of Kaho'olawe) countless times since 1990. Never saw anything like this before. Might be the monk seals were spooking those huge pelagic fish to hug the shoreline near dusk? Might be a confluence of winds, currents & baitfish migrations? Maybe those large fish were hunting for something tasty in the shallows? Who knows? But they're not supposed to be that close to shore, normally. It's a fascinating quirk of Nature. That's Molokai diving for you. And Molokai snorkeling is just as riveting a watersport. Just learn to hold your breath a couple minutes. The lung burn is well worth it.

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Aerial view of historic Maunaloa Village, Molokai.
© Starwood / Sheraton Molokai Ranch.

... Click here for PART 4: MOLOKAI VACATIONS !

Molokai Intro (1)         Molokai Diving + Eco-Tours (2)         Molokai Aloha Spirit (3)        

Molokai Lodge + Beach Camp Photos (4)         Protect Molokai (5)         Molokai Lodge Prices (6)

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