Molokai, Hawaii, is the fifth largest of the Hawaii Islands, with a population of roughly 7,000. It is most famous for housing a small colony of lepers, which operated until the late 1960s or early 1970s. (Currently, there are no known cases of leprosy on Molokai.) Nowadays, Molokai is a tourist destination – National Geographic Traveler recently placed it in its top 10 islands to visit.
But if you go, do not send a postcard. Send a coconut. An unboxed, unpackaged coconut. If you go to Molokai’s Hoolehua post office, you can do exactly that — for free. (You just pay for the shipping.)
It’s called a “Post-a-Nut” and the process is amazingly simple. Take a coconut from one of the plastic bins on the floor, as seen above (larger, original here). Grab a marker. Address and decorate your coconut. Then give it to this man – he’s the postmaster, Gary Lam. He’ll weigh it, look to see where it is going, and ask you for the appropriate amount in postage. (Domestically, mailing the coconut will cost about $10-12 and take as long as a week.) No envelope is needed nor, for that matter, recommended.
For more pictures — including a great shot of some decorated coconuts set aside as examples for would-be mailers — check out this article on BoingBoing. Want to try it yourself? The Hoolehua post office is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. local time, but closes each day from 11:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M. for lunch.
Bonus fact: Internet lore gives us two dubious claims about coconuts. First, there is a rumor that 150 people die each year from being struck on the head from coconuts falling from trees — about ten times the number of people who die, annually, from shark attacks. As per The Straight Dope, that’s untrue. (Sorry.) Second, legend has it that coconut water can be used in lieu of blood in cases requiring an emergency transfusion. The Straight Dope, again, gets to the bottom of it, and concludes that this is mostly incorrect, although “it works in a pinch.”
From the Archives: Hawaii Dollars: Special money made for Hawaii, in case of a Japanese takeover.
Related: “Moloka’i,” by Alan Brennert. A fictionalized historical novel of a Hawaiian woman who contracts leprosy and is segregated into Molokai’s leper colony. 4.5 stars on 210 reviews; 153 reviews are of the five-star variety. $8.81 in paperback, $9.95 on Kindle.