R. Alex Anderson wrote “Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakakai” in 1934, when Paul Fagan, the owner of Puuhoku Ranch on Molokai, requested a song for his special guest, film star Warner Baxter. You won’t find this whimsical ditty on any Top 40 lists, and we’re pretty sure you won’t hear Norah Jones’ or Harry Connick, Junior’s version on their next albums. Nonetheless, the song is an amusing characterization of this small “Friendly Isle” town: simple, laid-back and positively delightful.
Things to Do
As Molokai’s “capital,” Kaunakakai sits in the center of the island. Its long wharf forms the island’s main harbor, where you’ll find charter boats for fishing, snorkeling, whale watching and touring the precipitous cliffs and canyons of the island’s “backside.” The town’s commercial strip consists of a single block of tin-roofed buildings knocked together during the 1930s. They are so unassuming that first-time visitors keep driving around the block looking for the real stores.
Yet, Kaunakakai has everything you’ll need, including groceries, hardware, a pharmacy, a gourmet wine, and spirits shop, an art gallery, a gift shop, and the Kanemitsu Bakery, whose bread is world-famous.
The road uphill from Kaunakakai passes farms and eventually, the dark-green orchards of Coffees of Hawaii, which welcomes visitors with a tour, a gift shop and snack bar. You can also visit the Molokai Museum’s R.W. Meyer Sugar Mill, an 1878 structure restored to operating condition. Nearby, Purdy’s Macadamia Farm offers tours of its 80-year-old orchard and the chance to crack and eat a few of the steely-shelled nuts. The road ends at Palaau State Park and a cliff-top lookout with heart-pounding views of Molokai’s North Coast.