|Molokai is home to the world's highest sea cliffs and is aptly named with its west end, dry and barren or "molo" in Hawaiian, and its east end, with steep-walled valleys and lush green jungles, facing the sea or "kai".
The army of Kamehameha the Great conquered the island on the Pakuhiwa Battleground on the South Shore but, other than that, the history of Molokai is generally one of quiet solitude. Even when missionary families began arriving in the early 19th century, Molokai remained overlooked by most of the world. The Meyer and Cooke families, which came to control the island, continued to preserve the natural wonders that its isolation previously had protected.
In the 1850s, Kamehameha V formed Molokai Ranch, which encompassed nearly 40 percent of the island and was the second largest cattle ranch in the islands. The ranch was sold after his death and was later acquired by Honolulu businessmen in 1897. During the era when pineapple was the king of island exports, Del Monte leased fields from the company for pineapple cultivation. But it wasn't until the mid-1970s that the company initiated the island's first steps toward tourism by selling about 14,000 acres of west end beach and hill land for resort and residential development.
The island of Molokai is rarely mentioned without a reference to Father Damien, Joseph Damien de Veuster, a Belgian priest who arrived in 1873. Father Damien worked for 16 years among those who were sent by Kamehameha V to be isolated at the leper colony he established in Kalawao on the island's north peninsula. The disease, which was believed to have entered Hawaii with immigrants from China, claimed the life of Father Damien as well. During his last days, the colony was moved to the western side of the peninsula called Kalaupapa.