Hale'o'Lono - Molokai's Nearest Point of Refuge

Tucked into the lee of the bluffs and only three and a half miles from the Laau Point Lighthouse on the friendly island of Molokai lies a fully break-watered harbor, a small airstrip, and million miles of beach where seclusion is the rule rather than the exception. It is here at Hale’o’Lono that most Oahu boaters looking for a getaway end up spending the night, either as a part of the weekend adventure, or on the way to or from another Hawaiian destination.

The terrain is rugged and outbackish, with a small beach to the West side of the harbor and open space all around. The airstrip is capable of landing smaller Cessnas, but it doesn’t get used for that purpose too often. More often it’s a place to stand and look out to the South where Lanai and the seas beyond enchant images of navigators and seamen from by-gone days. Translating from the native tongue, Hale’o’Lono is the house where prayers were offered to Lono, one of the four Gods that came from Kahiki (afar, or abroad, often Tahiti), usually in request of good rain and crops. A fitting name for a place that is dry but fertile and somewhat barren but beautiful.

Lono is the most logical choice to stay overnight on a two day trip when the Penguin Banks is the fishing area of choice. The underwater structures and FADS are all within a few miles of the harbor, so when the day’s fishing leads you to the banks, you can fish all the way into the harbor, spend the night in the solid anchorage, and get right back to the fishing grounds the following morning.

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Yacht Club boats ready for the evening party at Lono


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Hale'o'Lono Harbor looking to the west

Entry into the harbor is easy when there is no South swell, but it requires a little timing if the surf is of any substance. There’s three sets of range markers marking the way in, and since the harbor itself is not much bigger than a few football fields, once inside it has a warm cozy feel about it. The best place to tie to the wharf is at the far end towards Maui, where the surge is not as prevalent. Better still, once there is no further need to go ashore, is to set the hook in the middle of the basin and let the boat gently swing back and forth in its cocoon.

On shore is an adventurer’s dream come true. Most overnight trips to this refuge end up with a walk along the beach to the West, one to the East, or both, if time permits. What’s especially fascinating about these beaches apart from their soft sand and God-created beauty is that many times the urge to shed oneself of clothing arises, thus adding to the majesty of the scenery. If this urge does hit, you have nothing to worry about, because there’s a better than 90% chance you will be alone with your thoughts. Besides, even if someone does happen to see you, chances are they’ll be outfitted in the same.

While the beaches run for miles, back at the harbor, a full clad short hike to the top of the hill behind the harbor basin is a great opportunity for exploration and photographic work. Try timing it when the sun is rising or setting, as the colors of the sea, the surrounding area, the foliage, and the famous Hawaiian Red Dirt all change every minute during these periods.
If you keep walking up the hill you’ll end up at the road and some fenced off areas. The majority of this area is owned by the Molokai Ranch, an outfit that specializes in ranch style vacations for people looking to do something different here in Hawaii. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his entourage are said to frequent the camps of the Molokai Ranch, but I wouldn’t spend too much time trying to make way to seeing them. The ranch is huge, and when Arnold comes to town, the group usually books the whole thing. Besides, the beauty of Hale’o’Lono is too special to spend time looking for celebrities when the sea beckons. If it’s stars you want to see, just wait until nightfall.

Lono is a peaceful place to barbecue and feast on part of the day’s harvest while the sun sets, and make sure you stay awake long enough to spend part of the evening gazing at the sky. The Southern Cross can be seen in the summertime out towards Lanai, and the darkness of the surroundings make for the illumination of stars you never even knew existed.


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Friends rafted together preparing for the evening BBQ


During the winter months, Lono is a good place to launch from to see the humpback whales. The relatively shallow water of the Penguin Banks and the South coast of Molokai is a favorite place where the whales frolic, and between January and March it is commonplace to see the whales breach in rapid succession, perform tail slaps for hours, wave their pectoral fins, and do other tricks in an environment so few have witnessed. Stories of these legendary creatures abound, and for every boater who has a tale about an incidental crossing leading to a show of power, another angler has a story about accidentally getting too close and having the spray of a mighty breach cover the boat.
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Race Committee prepares for the sailing race back to Oahu

Lono is also the starting point for a few canoe races held each year. Most of these races, well attended by paddlers, support boats and spectators alike, depart from Lono in the early morning and end up in the Ala Wai Canal on Oahu several hours later. The racers must challenge the mighty Molokai channel on a downwind surfing ride toward paddling nirvana, and these events have begun to achieve worldwide recognition.

Hale’o’Lono. Prayer to the God for good crops. How about an overnight harvest of fish? If you pray right, it just might be a dream come true.


Getting to Hale’o’Lono

Either Oahu boats or Maui boats can get to Lono comfortably in a day while still providing plenty of time for fishing. A Maui boat would fish the South coast of Lanai on it’s way to Lono, while the Oahu boats can give you a great piece of time along the fingers of the Eastern side of the Penguin Banks. There are hundreds if not thousands of stories about the giant Marlin that exist on either side of the South tips of the Banks, but because the vast majority of trips are a day in length, reaching the grounds and spending time there is tough.

Located about 44 miles from Honolulu, Lono is a straight shot entrance to the channel, and the only concern is to give some berth to the shoreline if following the coast. The harbor is safe most anytime of the year, but heavy Southerly weather makes the channel entrance difficult to navigate both in and out.

The outside of the breakwater and down a ways is full of lobster, Opihi and Limu (shelled sea cling-ons that resemble half-mussels and live in the splash zone) and other marine life. A mask and snorkel or a dive tank and a light is all that’s needed to catch a lobster, as the method is to simply grab them with your gloved hand and put them in the bag.

There are no facilities to speak of. There is a shower and restroom near the channel markers, but they are seldom open. Occasionally there are some folks living in tents nearby, and there is a catamaran that runs tours from the harbor on some days. Otherwise, the harbor is usually yours for the duration, and with no fees or permits required, simply go on in and enjoy!


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