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Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, December 20, 1999

By Nancy Wilcox, Special to the Star-Bulletin
A view from the second story, where guest rooms are
located, into the Molokai Lodge Great Room.

Lodged between heaven and Honolulu

Check your worries
at the door and recharge at
Molokai Ranch's new lodge

By Tim Ryan


STRETCHED out on a punee in a corner of the Molokai Lodge's Great Room, my eyes closed and half asleep, I extend my arms and legs as far they reach, not feeling the end of the large Hawaiian day bed. So comforting.

A breeze caresses me. Outside, tradewinds whip through trees and dry grass. A whisper of Hawaiian music echoes from the second floor. When gusts subside, there are sounds of horses in surrounding pastures. I feel a ray of sunlight across my legs.

The Great Room at Molokai Ranch's new lodge -- at the entrance to Maunaloa town -- is magnificent for its simple elegance, comfortable human scale, from its lava rock fireplace to leather or upholstered couches, love seats, chairs and antique wooden tables.

By Nancy Wilcox, Special to the Star-Bulletin
The lodge is furnished with an eclectic mix,
giving it a homey, elegant presence.

After nearly an hour of napping, I open my eyes. Across the room is the centerpiece: a painting of Tootsie Notley, the famous Hawaiian dancer who became well known in the 1930s for her aloha spirit. Rich in character, the painting is also soothing in style. You stare into it, not at it.

Looking at the lodge's open-beam ceiling, rustic furnishings, subdued colors and Hawaiiana, it seems like I'm back in those magical Hawaii days of the 1920s and 30s.


After returning late this summer from a work trip to a very steamy Hong Kong, and now fighting off a cold, I headed with my wife and daughter to Molokai Lodge. I retreat to the ranch whenever I can to be alone to surf, read, recharge.

Molokai has a great spirit, energy, honesty and aloha. I'm a better person when I'm there.

After already having stayed in the ranch's three camps -- Paniolo, Kola and Kaupoa -- I wasn't thrilled staying in "a lodge." I wouldn't be within walking distance to the ocean; I wouldn't fall sleep hearing crashing waves; the opportunity to go beachcombing would be miles away.

By Nancy Wilcox, Special to the Star-Bulletin
A hallway window frames a postcard view.

I convince myself that this is a trip to reflect; to try again to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I feel so jet-lagged and ill that a few sedentary days would be better than my usual Molokai regimen of hiking and biking and horseback riding. I bring a book, some CDs.

I arrive a few hours ahead of my family. Our corner room -- one of 22 rooms -- is decorated in an eclectic combination of new and historic furniture. No two rooms are exactly alike.

The bed is tall and high-posted with rugged wooden head and foot boards; inviting. The large wrap-around deck faces east and south. A punee is set in a nook with windows on each side; it would be my daughter's bed.

The lodge combines simplicity in an elegant form, but the focus remains outdoors. I lie in bed, loosely holding my book about murder and mayhem in Los Angeles, gazing eastward where horses graze. A mare and foal trot through short grass, an elegant black stallion kicks high as he gallops through water shot out of a cannon-like sprinkler.

Higher on the ridge, silhouetted paniolo perform ranch tasks: fixing fences, removing saddles, brushing horses. A tiny red-dirt tornado whips across a field for a few seconds, then disappears.

The next thing I feel is my daughter poking me in the belly, ordering me to wake up so we can go swimming in the heated black-bottom pool.


Molokai Lodge is a departure in comfort and cost from the rest of the Molokai Ranch accommodations. It's a great place for less active folks or those who desire more comfort than the tentalows can provide.

The Great Room is the center of the lodge, overlooking wide open pastures extending to the Pacific. Guest rooms extend on either side, east and west. The main building has a day spa, game room and lounge, and unquestionably the best restaurant on the island, the Maunaloa Room. Wrap-around cedar verandas filled with tables and rattan chairs invite people to enjoy the view.

By Nancy Wilcox, Special to the Star-Bulletin
Black tiles line the bottom of the heated pool.

The swimming pool is built on the side of a bluff, giving the water the appearance of flowing to the sea. It's warm, countering the gusty winds and chilly late afternoons.

The main building is small enough to feel like a home. There are two public sitting rooms on the second floor to hide out, watch cable television, read, share moments with a lover. Historic plantation pieces are spread throughout the public areas, as are books and magazines.

Though it's only 30 minutes by air from Honolulu, you feel a world away.


My daughter and I slide into the 90-degree water with "ahs" being said. After a few games of hide and seek in which I nearly drown trying to hide my white body on the shallow bottom, we swim to the pool's makai edge gazing at a backlit Oahu.

"How was your day, Dad?" she asks.

"I'm glad I'm home from Hong Kong. I missed you, you know."

She's quiet, but smiles.

Where does the time go, I wonder; I let it slip away for silly stuff, I answer myself.

Tradewinds whip the ocean into a fury toward poor, overburdened Oahu. The sun sets over a very distinct Diamond Head; the lights of Waikiki slowly brighten the sky.

"I wonder if the people on Oahu can see where we're at?" she asks.

I put my arm around her shoulders, something rarely allowed in these days of teen-age angst.

"Well, we see Molokai from the freeway when we drive home from school. Remember I said one day, 'There's heaven.' "

She smiles again

In a distant pasture, a few hundred cows moo as they scramble for position at a sort of hay buffet. Nearby, the last few horses are led into their barn for the night. In the wind-whipped channel, a boat rises and falls.

"I hope who's ever on that is as warm as we are," my daughter says, suddenly asking, "Dad, where's your book?"

I have no interest in murder and mayhem in L.A. Or anywhere else.

Molokai Ranch Lodge

Bullet Year 2000 rates: $295 deluxe guest room, $350 luxury guest room based on single or double occupancy, with an additional person charge of $75 per person per night.
Bullet Call: Toll-free 1-(877)-PANIOLO (726-4656)
Bullet Web site:

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