I ran into a family on my return flight to the mainland who I had seen earlier that day at the Hotel Molokai’s restaurant, the Hula Shores. I struck up a conversation about both the hotel and the island. While I certainly had plenty to keep me busy during my stay, they had problems due to various required permits. And it was simply because they did not stay at the Hotel Molokai.
Hotel Molokai General Manager Michael Drew took our Molokai Visitors Association trip group on a tour of the property. He talked about how they renovated the rooms in 2008, although are still adding some things – like kitchenettes to some rooms – and are constantly trying to find ways to improve. I found this fascinating, too, since they are the only hotel on the island of 7,000 residents.
Talking one night with Michael over a beer at the Hula Shores, I asked him who he considered to be their main competition. I assumed he would point across the Pacific Ocean to neighboring Lanai or Maui, but he simply shrugged and shook his head. They have no competition. He doesn’t even consider the few vacation rentals on Molokai to be his competitors.
Regardless of what Michael thinks, the Hotel Molokai does have competitors. It may not come in the shape of the timeshares and condo rentals on the island, but it does come from the other islands. Molokai is the least visited of all of the Hawaiian Islands with approximately 80,000 tourists annually. This comes far short to the huge crowd on Oahu, which sees nearly 5 million visitors each year.
Despite such a small annual crowd, Michael says the Hotel Molokai is consistently full during the high season, which obviously enough is the northern hemisphere’s winter months. This allows them to offer great personal service and attention to make each guest happy. Hula Shores Kitchen Manager Gene Pike talked with me about this, explaining how they try to accommodate every guest.
“Yeah, I had this guy one time who was out fishing in the ocean and caught something. He was leaving later that night, so couldn’t do anything with what he caught. But he asked me, he asked if I’d cook it up for him. So sure, we took it in the back and cooked it just for him. We couldn’t serve it to other guests due to health regulations, but we had no problem doing it for him.”
And that’s how it was with every meal at the Hula Shores. Someone would ask if they can get this or that, and the answer would always be, “Whatever you want.” And they showed that to me first hand when they flew in a specially made birthday cake from Oahu to wish me a happy birthday. I was completely surprised, not having expected them to even know about it, but that’s not their style – they try to make everyone feel welcome and special as part of the Ohana, part of the family.
The Hotel Molokai is quiet; virtually no kids stay there since the beach is too rocky for swimming. The views are spectacular; nine miles away, Lanai can be seen from any one of the four ocean view rooms or the Hula Shores. And it is the place for locals, too; two restaurants on the island have liquor licenses, so Kaunakakai locals come down nightly to the Hula Shores for luau, hula, and song.
The one thing I really took away from Michael Drew’s hotel tour was not his boasts about the hotel or talk of what he means to do to make it better. After staying there for several nights, I could tell it was a nice place that has been treated with care. Instead I walked away impressed with the great personal service they offer for every guest. They want to make everyone feel welcomed. And had the other family stayed there, they also would have learned this and so much more; Molokai is a special island, so unlike the others, and it takes time and care to scratch beneath the surface of what’s there.