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East Molokai…Still The Ultimate Getaway

Beach at Pukoo, East Molokai. Photo by Phil Spalding III

Visitor industry development got a late start on Molokai and was focused entirely on the western part of the island. The first and only resort, Kaluakoi, a joint venture of Molokai Ranch, Limited and Louisiana Land & Exploration Company, began receiving visitors in the late 1960s when resorts on Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island were already well established destinations.

The Ranch and its partners also created large residential subdivisions on portions of the Ranch’s 64,000 acres in west and central Molokai, Papohaku Ranchlands and Kawela Plantation, respectively.

However, East Molokai remained virtually untouched, with minimal changes to the rural landscape over the 50 years since Molokai was “discovered.” Visitors looking for an “off-the-beaten-track” experience favor Molokai, best known for Kalaupapa, site of Father Damien’s ministry. But East Molokai offers many attractions, including one of Hawaii’s largest, best preserved heiau and its largest mango grove at Mapulehu, ancient Hawaiian fishponds, two churches built by Father Damien, and picturesque Halawa Valley with, at its head, legendary Moaula Falls. Guided hikes and boat trips are offered by local residents. Accommodations are available at the Wavecrest Resort, Puu O Hoku Ranch, and various vacation rentals.

Tropical Island Properties owners Diane Swenson CCIM, CRB, CRS, Principal Broker, and Larry Swenson CIPS, a Certified General Appraiser and former president of the Hawaii Association of Realtors, moved to Hawaii from Southern California in 1982. They traveled around the islands looking for the perfect spot to build their dream home and found it at Pukoo in East Molokai.

“We literally fell in love with the area and were fortunate to find 3.9 acres of raw land fronting a sandy beach. The water is clean and crystal clear and there was a mature palm grove on the property. It was perfect in every way…we were able to anchor our boat off-shore and would have plenty of space for our animals. What a contrast to our previous home in Fullerton, California where you cope with freeways and heavy traffic daily. Here there is virtually no traffic on the two-lane highway that spans the island.

“For anyone who wants the quiet country life, it doesn’t get any better than East Molokai. There’s enough rain for gardening and to support patureland, in fact the countryside is lush and green most of the year. Fishing is good, too…both from the shore and in deep water. You can motor out to the reef in a flat bottom boat, and there are several channels that provide ocean access for large boats. Diving, kayaking, paddle boarding, kite and wind surfing are the best. You can keep your own horse on your property in many areas, or you can rent horses for trail riding at Puu O Hoku Ranch.”

In addition to their own home, Larry Swenson has built more than 100 homes throughout Molokai ranging from affordable to luxury, including an award-winning entry in the BIA Parade of Homes.

Their real estate brokerage, Tropical Island Properties LLC, dba Swenson Real Estate, operates out of two offices, one at the corner of Maunaloa and Kalae Highways and another at Kaluakoi.

Currently the firm is listing approximately 40 Molokai properties including condominiums ranging from $99,000 to $350,000, single family homes priced from $149,900 to $1,950,000, and raw land from $69,500 to $1,988,000.

“I believe Molokai offers buyers the best values in Hawaii,” Swenson said. “I recently checked oceanfront properties on Maui compared to Molokai and found that prices were 85 percent less per square foot here.”

She has listed what she considers a premier East Molokai property, a nearly two-acre vacant beachfront lot at Pukoo, for $495,000. “This will become the site of someone’s tropical island retreat…with a white sand beach and calm clear water at the front door and views across the channel to Maui and Lanai,” Swenson said.

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