Legend has it that the story began a long, long time ago where an alluring woman named Molokini found herself on the opposite and unfortunate end of a love triangle adjacent the Volcanic Fire Goddess, Pele and her handsome chief, Lohiau. Molokini, in trying to escape Pele’s wrath, shape shifted as a large mo’o or lizard. The finishing blow, struck down by the vengeful hand of Pele. Molokini was cut in two and transformed into volcanic rock. It is said that the islet itself is the tail end of Molokini’s body, head made to be the crater called Pu’u Olai. The cinder cone of Molokini sits now placed at the top of Makena Beach state park. For the rest of time, Molokini is meant to overlook the tail end of her body in full view to never forget what happens when one wrongfully crosses a fierce Hawaiian Fire Goddess.
The caldera that is Molokini, very much resembles the back end of a gargantuan lizard when viewed from above although all it is, is a portion of a volcanic crater that is half submerged underwater. It is the most popular snorkel excursion destination in all of Hawaii. The inner crater makes one feel that they are at their own private island and its crescent shape shields against the pull and disturbance of strong channels and waves. The visibility is spectacular in that when underwater one is able to see clearly a hundred feet in all directions indicative for the most optimal snorkeling and diving adventures to be had.
There are over 250 species of fish that inhabit this underwater reef and fish sanctuary. On a good day one may see a puhi, or Moray eel stretching out of its hole, curiously gapping its large mouth and teeth. Or one may see a mano, a docile white tipped reef shark swimming along the ocean floor, but don’t head back to your boat in a flailing panic. These types of sharks are known not to bother you unless provoked. The coral is protected and therefore growing everyday and home to some of the most vibrantly colored fish in the world. Play an underwater game of ‘name that fish’ and see if you can identify some such as the brilliant blue Uhu, or parrot fish, the black and white striped Kihikihi, or Moorish Idol fish or the famous state fish named the Picasso trigger fish or Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Up for a challenge…say that tongue twister three times really fast and score high points with any native speaker.
Geologists say that Molokini erupted about 230,000 years ago and was later used by the ancient Hawaiians as an ideal fishing location. The islet was used for harvesting seabirds and their eggs and feathers for royal cape and helmet ornate. Today, it is strictly forbidden to lay foot on the sacred island as it is now federally owned as a Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary making it a peaceful home for the two species of birds named the Wedge-tailed Shearwater, and the Bulwer’s Petrel.
Much to the people of Hawai’i’s dismay, Molokini islet was once used as a location for missile target practice by the United States Navy; stated that the small island greatly resembled the shape of an enemy ship. In 1977, the end of the destruction of Molokini resulted in a public outcry insisting cease bombing as unexploded ammunition was found and safely pulled out of the underwater sand and reef by volunteer divers. Since then, the half moon shaped rock formation along with the 77 acres of reef surrounding it is left alone to thrive and replenish as Hawai’i’s precious Molokini has since then been protected as a Marine Life Conservation district.