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“Land for those who love it”

Photo by Phil Spalding III
View from Kawela Plantation homesite.

Thirty years have passed since the first house was built at Molokai’s Kawela Plantation – one of the State’s largest and most innovative residential subdivisions.

Located in central Molokai, the 6,000-acre development consists of 210 two-acre fee simple lots, whose owners hold a common interest in the remaining 5,500 acres of undeveloped land. The project was the concept of former State Senator Wadsworth Yee who headed up the partnership that developed Kawela Plantation on lands previously owned by Molokai Ranch.

The property was subdivided in three increments with an infrastructure that consists of paved roads, a private water system, and all public utilities. The three units extend from the south coast to approximately 3,500 feet where they border the Nature Conservancy’s Kamakou Preserve, a 2,774-acre protected habitat of rare birds and plants. It would be unlike any other Neighbor Island residential development offering owners access to the pristine countryside for hiking, horseback riding, exploring, hunting, and camping.

Along approximately a mile of Kawela coastline are four beach parks, one maintained by the Kawela Plantation Owners Association.

The residential subdivisions are accessed by roads that wind upward from the highway, following the contours of the land and maximizing views for all homesites, which overlook the ocean and the islands of Lanai, Maui, and Kahoolawe.

Despite its many appealing features, Kawela Plantation was anything but an overnight success. The first house, a spec house that became a project sales office, was eventually joined by a few homes built by buyers of the two-acre lots, but progress was slow.

Originally priced in the $90,000 range, properties that remained unsold were auctioned in 1987 by Kennedy-Wilson with prices ranging from $36,000 to $63,000. Today all are sold and 105 have been built out.

Tropical Island Properties Principal Broker Diane Swenson CCIM, CRB, CRS has been active in Molokai real estate since the early 1980s, when she and her husband, Larry Swenson CIPS, a Certified General Appraiser, moved to Molokai. They now have two offices on the island. Over the years she has been involved in more than 100 transactions, both new homes and resales, in Kawela Plantation.

“Currently we are listing three vacant lots with the best prices in the subdivision,” Swenson said. “Two are foreclosures in Kawela 3 offered at $99,000 and $110,000…the other, in Kawela 2, is offered by the owner at $98,900…all have great views and are, of course, two acres.

“Residents are a mix of Molokai families, people who have moved here from other Hawaii islands, and out-of-state buyers from predominately the Mainland U.S. and Canada. Many are telecommuting professionals and some are retirees. There are a number of second home owners who spend the winter months here. What they all have in common is a love for open space and the unspoiled natural environment…they are the market segment targeted by the original developers with their campaign slogan, ‘Land for those who love it.’ The homes they’ve built are generally in the 2,000 to 3,000 square foot range and designed to blend with the natural landscape of the Kawela countryside.”

Swenson noted that Kawela Plantation is 15 minutes from Molokai’s main commercial center and harbor in Kaunakakai and half an hour from the airport.

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