Halawa Valley, Molokai

On every 'must see' itinerary for exploring Molokai is the Halawa Valley, which was first settled in the 7th century by navigators who crossed the ocean in canoes from the Marqueses Islands. When we visited only about ten full-time residents live here, but for hundreds of years this valley housed a thriving community. The population decline was sealed in 1946 and again in 1957 when two 45-foot tidal waves, ravaged the buildings in the lower part of the valley floor. Today, a stone church still stands on well-tended grounds amongst the overgrown jungle, which I'm sure covers the leftovers of a once-thriving community.

Getting there: I visited in August of 2011 with a group of writers and this day long adventure was a highlight. Starting with the winding, scenic, coastal drive out from where we were staying on the east side, took about an hour and we passed ancient fish ponds and deep verdant valleys. I would have loved to stop at some of the beaches along the way. We did finally stop at a lookout to the valley, where Keli'i Brown, our trip leader, blew into a conch shell (pu in Hawaiian) to announce our arrival. If you look at the video take note of where the waterfalls are in relation to the ocean (start of the hike).

After parking and walking up a sorta-well marked path, we met valley resident, Anakala Pilipo Solatorio, who is the cultural practitioner or Kahuna for the area and his family has lived here for 25 generations. They now offer tours of the trails they know so well. For some tours Pilipo will welcome guests as the hiking trail passes by his home and ancient taro garden.

What to expect: Kawika Solatorio, Pilipo's son was our guide over rivers and through Jurrasic Park-like forests. One feature I loved was the rock wall that meandered along our route. According to Solatoria, this wall was easily 300 years old, and built by his ancestors. There are also stone ruins of homes and buildings along the way -which triggered our imagination of what this area must have been like a hundred years ago. Kawika offered a stories he has learned of the daily life of his ancestors. The hike is about two miles to the waterfalls. Warning to those expecting the Blue Lagoon, the water is coppery brown due to the sediment in the river bed. It's clean, and I was thinking the minerals had some type of positive health effects. Kawika also taught us the legend of a giant moody moo (lizard) that lives in these waters. In order to gauge this legendary monster's mood we floated a ti leaf on the water, if he was feeling hospitable, it would float, if not it would sink. Luckily, it floated, and we all took a dip in the refreshing pools.

If you go: Wear lightweight long sleeves and long pants as protection from the voracious mosquitos, as well as shoes with a good tread, our guide was wearing flip flops -but they were the off-roading type with a thick bottom. Ideally, I'd wear Tevas or any open shoe with a closed toe -because your shoes will get filthy; I was sad to ruin a nice pair of running shoes.

Plan it: The hike costs about $75 a person and takes about three hours including the pre-talk with one of the residents who will tell you about the history of the area and can be arranged through Molokai-Outdoors.com as well as Molokai Fish and Dive in Kaunakakai. We didn't go to the beach, but it's open to public -and looks beautiful.