A while back, my husband told me a story about how, as a kid, he hiked through a swamp on the top of a mountain on Moloka‘i and lost his slipper.
I don’t know why that story stuck with me — maybe I empathized, having lost a fair number of slippers in similar ways — but it did.
So when his birthday came around, I thought it might be fun to go back to that bog — called Pēpēʻōpae — and bring hiking shoes instead.
Called the Friendly Isle, Moloka‘i is just 38 miles long and 10 miles across at its widest point. It’s home to the highest sea cliffs in the world — at 3,900 feet — along its northwest coast. And off its southern coast runs the state’s longest continuous fringing reef at 28 miles.
It’s really the perfect island for my husband, a true adventurer, who loves anything to do with the outdoors. And Moloka‘i has a lot of that.
But before we got to any adventuring, we needed to eat. So we headed to Kanemitsu Bakery in Kaunakakai for breakfast.
This bakery and coffee shop has been in business for more than 80 years and it’s a must-stop for anyone visiting Moloka‘i.
It’s best known for serving piping-hot, freshly baked bread in the middle of the night. I remember walking down the dark corridor in the late evening with my family 30 years ago, knocking on the kitchen door and ordering loaves of hot bread filled with butter and strawberry jam. That hasn’t changed — except now you can start ordering bread at 7:30 p.m.
But we were here for breakfast.
On our agenda: hiking the two preserves managed by The Nature Conservancy. So we stopped by the nonprofit’s Moloka‘i office to pick up brochures and talk to the staff about the trails through Mo‘omomi and Kamakou preserves.
For both preserves, you’ll need a four-wheel drive to access the trails. While the nonprofit offers monthly educational tours of both preserves, you can walk through them on your own.
Mo‘omomi Preserve spans 921 acres on the northwestern coastline of the island. It’s the last stronghold of this kind of Hawaiian coastal ecosystem, with wind-shaped dunes and more rare coastal plant species that in any other single place in the main Hawaiian Islands. (Another blog about this preserve coming soon!)
After spending a couple of hours at Mo‘omomi, we stopped at Friendly Market, a family-run grocery store in Kaunakakai, for snacks and cold drinks, then picked up a pizza from Moloka‘i Pizza Cafe. (To be honest, we ordered two slices of pepperoni pizza to eat while we wanted for a medium Big Island pizza, which came loaded with meat, veggies and cheese.)
We ended the night near our condo, watching the sun set at Kepuhi Beach with a glass of prosecco. It was the perfect end to a perfect first full day on Moloka‘i.
On Saturday morning, we woke up early and hit the road by 5 a.m., on our way to Kamakou Preserve, a lush, 2,774-acre area located high in the mountains of East Moloka‘i. The drive to the preserve, alone, would take us almost two hours, so we wanted to get an early start.
We parked our rental Jeep at the Waikolu (“three waters”) Overlook and made the 2.2-mile trek to the start of the Pēpēʻōpae Bog and boardwalk trail. (Another blog on this coming soon, too!)
The jewel of the Kamakou Preserve is the Pēpēʻōpae Bog, with organic deposits dating back 10,000 years. You can walk along a man-made boardwalk — to protect this native rainforest — through native plants like the ‘alani (related to common citrus fruits), the hapu‘u (Hawaiian tree fern) and ʻōhiʻa lehua (one of Hawaiʻi’s signature forest trees).
After that half-day adventure through the Kamakou Preserve — and no, we didn’t find his lost slipper — we cooled off at Papohaku Beach, which, at three miles long, is one of the biggest beaches in Hawai‘i.
And it was empty. On a Saturday. Amazing.
We couldn’t leave Moloka‘i without the aforementioned hot bread from Kanemitsu Bakery.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to make the journey to Kaunakakai in the middle of the night for a loaf, either.
We got there just as the bakery was offering hot bread — at 7:30 p.m. — and ordered two loaves, one filled with butter and cinnamon. Loaves are $7 with two fillings, $1 more for each additional filling. Or you can get everything — called The Works — for $9. It was the perfect post-hike, post-swim snack.
We spent the evening relaxing at Kepuhi Beach, just steps away from the condo we booked for the weekend. We frolicked in the ocean for a bit, my husband fished a little, and I lounged on an empty beach feeling very appreciative for the experiences we’ve had.
I’ve always believed in the phrase, “Lucky We Live Hawai‘i,” but I think that was really meant to describe Moloka‘i.
Stay tuned for more blogs on my hikes through the Mo‘omomi and Kamakou preserves. And for more photos, follow me on Instagram @catherinetoth.