The Moana Kea Hotel, built by Laurance Rockefeller, is a half-hour’s drive north along the coast and through extensive lava beds. Now operated by Westin Hotels, it has one of the few good beaches on the big island. Close by and closer to the airport are the Sheraton Waikoloa and Mauna Lani Bay Hotels, both with gorgeous golf courses and tennis courts hacked out of lava beds. The Mauna Lani Bay, Japanese owned, and the Mona Kea are the island’s two luxury hotels, quite properly located on the leeward side of the island where the rainfall is something under ten inches a year.
Hilo has a population of about forty-five thousand. Described as a daylight city, the place largely closes down at sunset. It is also the U.S. orchid and macadamia nut capital. United Airlines offers direct flights to Hilo International Airport from the Mainland.
Molokai, The Friendly Isle, fifth largest of the Hawaiian islands, along with the even smaller island of Lanai, is the most laid-back. Only forty-eight miles from Honolulu, it is a great deal farther away in lifestyle. Maui and Lanai can both be seen from Molokai on clear days. Thirty-seven percent of its six thousand residents claims native Hawaiian descent. The island is described as the most bucolic, poorest and funkiest. Its principal town, Kaunakakai (try saying that one), is hardly a town at all. Three hotels and several condo rentals complete the roster of room rentals. The friendly natives have a lingering resentment towards the Haoles (the Caucasians) that sometimes erupts into open hostility.
Molokai is known for its leper colony at Kalaupapa, still occupied by over a hundred persons whose disease is now arrested. One of the heroes of our age, Father Daimien, a Belgian priest, served the lepers and died himself horribly mutilated by the disease. No roads lead to the leper colony but it is reachable by mule. The trip lasts all day and involves fifteen switchbacks. The mule ride down the Grand Canyon in Arizona is somewhat similar.
For those who want total tranquility, there is Lanai, the little Pineapple Island. It has one hotel and gentle rolling hills. Lanai is the place for those who want the lovely sandy beach all to themselves.