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.
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.