Mail a coconut from the Molokai, Hawaii post office


I just returned from a trip to Hawaii with my family. We spent most of our time on Maui but we took a day trip (by ferry) to the island of Molokai, which is famous for its leper colony founded by a Roman Catholic priest named Father Damien in the 19th century.

Compared to Oahu, Maui, the Big Island, and Kauai, Molokai is very undeveloped, with a population of only 7,000 people. I took quite a few photographs during our brief visit to this beautiful and interesting island and I will post more about Molokai later this week, but I wanted to share one highlight: the Post-A-Nut service offered by the Hoolehua Post Office. Here, you can select a free coconut and mail it, unboxed, anywhere in the world simply by writing an address and sticking postage stamps on it.


post-a-nut-8.jpg The post office is situated in the middle of a farming area, and has two signs on the outside of the building advertising its Post-A-Nut service.


The postmaster, Gary Lam, greeted us warmly and apologized for not having enough coconuts to choose from, even though there were about a dozen available in plastic bins on the floor. (No other customers were in the post office.)

post-a-nut-4.jpg He went into the back and brought out a large mail sack and dumped another dozen coconuts into the bins.

post-a-nut-3.jpg My kids selected three coconuts and used markers from a box on the counter to decorate and address them to their friends and relatives. post-a-nut-5.jpg

Note that the coconuts are free, but only if you mail one from from the post office. Seems fair to me!


Postmaster Lam told us that the Post-A-Nut service was started about 20 years ago, and that over 50,000 coconuts had been mail from his post office. (It costs about $10 to ship a coconut in United States.)

Even though the ferry ride back to Maui was so rough that my 8-year-old vomited a geyser of electric blue popsicle juice, she said the Post-A-Nut experience was worth the discomfort. I agree!


  1. Interesting synchronicity: the provincial novel prize winner in (my home) Newfoundland’s Arts and Letters competition this year, currently on display in the province’s major gallery, is set in the Molokai leper colony. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s not something that happens every day. Sadly, no coconut mailing appears to take place in the book itself.

    (Full disclosure: I personally know the author of the book and helped proofread it.)

  2. The Pedantic Department of Pedantry feels it necessary to point out that Father Damien was not the founder of the colony at Kalaupapa; he was just the first good administrator the colony ever got.

    For further reading on the bleak, inhumane, and mostly pointless history of the leper colony, I would recommend John Tayman’s book The Colony (available from Amazon, et alia).

  3. What a wonderful way to drum up business! So who were the lucky recipients of the coconuts, and have they arrived yet? Love to see the look on the face of the mainland mailperson delivering it!

  4. THAT is awesome. I mean seriously. Your kid is pretty lucky- she’s going to remember that for a long time.

  5. I kind of want to see that electric blue vomit geyser. You wouldn’t happen to have any pictures of it?

    (Yes, I’d be a bad, bad parent.)

  6. “…to ship a coconut in United States.” your wording makes it sound like Hawaii isn’t part of the US. Net time, you can call the continental US the mainland, or, as I do, call it the “the BIG island.”

    1. in reply to “…to ship a coconut in United States.” your wording makes it sound like Hawaii isn’t part of the US. Net time, you can call the continental US the mainland, or, as I do, call it the “the BIG island.”
      – if you notice, there’s a picture of sign that shows shipping rates outside the united states as being about $12-20. i think that’s what the author is comparing the US shipping rates to

    2. I know Hawaii is part of the US — I lived in Hawaii for two years when I was very young (my father was in the Coast Guard and we lived in Hawi on the Big Island).

  7. What!!??! you were on Maui and didnt come to a Maui Maker Hackerspace meeting? bummer. We would have loved to have you as a guest speaker… and then you could call it a business trip.

    Molokai has a very impressive CAD and Robotics program for their middle/high school kids. All get exposed early and supported in FIRST/VEX competitions. I gave a presentation on 3d Printing, makerbots and other 21st century fab tech to a group of 40 highly interested middle school kids last winter. The girls were especially interested as we printed out a part they had designed. I was impressed that an island with under 7000 people could find 40 middle school kids with that much interest in robots, etc. The girls did very well the next day at the VEX competition.

  8. Here’s a follow-up you could try… after a couple of coconuts, a friend on vacation took one of her flip-flops, used paint-markers to sketch a seascape on the sole, and posted that to me.

    I think after a dozen increasingly creative deliveries my letter carrier started getting a crush on her.

  9. I worked at a Post Office in SW Florida for ~8 months, as a temp back in 1976, right out of high school. I recall several instances of tourists trying to mail coconuts by sticking stamps on them & scrawling an address. If I recall, we used to let them go, as long as they had enough postage.

  10. Circa 1963, my late, ex-aunt Rosalie’s sister, Honey, went to Hawaii, bought one of those coconuts that’s painted to look like a head, flew it back to New York where she toured it around NYC, taking pictures of it posing as her fiancé at the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, etc., which she then made into a photo scrapbook for me.

    1. However, Disney coconuts are for personal use only, and unauthorized public exhibition is subject to prosecution and/or fines.

    2. I know I’ve seen these at Disney’s Polynesian resort, you can mail it to anywhere in the continental US for a fixed price. Unfortunately, this excludes Hawaii.

  11. I recall somebody in Alaska wanted to ship concrete blocks from Seattle for a project and shipping proved too expensive. He mailed each block individually through USPS.

  12. There is a whole slew of Permissible Objects of Post (Gotta love the acronym). I sent a 2′ diameter bouncy ball to my sister in college. She loved it.

  13. Surely Boing Boingers must be familiar with Wired’s monthly Return To Sender contest? Basically you have to see what the weirdest thing is that you can manage to get USPS to deliver, unpackaged, by scrawling Wired’s address on it and applying postage. My mind is regularly blown by what gets through.

  14. I grew up on Molokai in the ’70’s and people were already doing it then, but it sure is fun reading about it on Boingboing!

  15. So I did some archaeology on Kalaupapa, which is where the lepers on Molokai lived, and discovered that they basically reinvented lithic technology using bottle glass in place of knives. Here’s one post about doing archaeology on Molokai:

    And here’s the post about utilized glass/blades, lepers, and experimental archaeology in comic form:

  16. I used to work near a small post office with a totally mellow postal clerk who kept up a sort of running comedy commentary while he was working busy lunch hours, and it totally made me appreciate how somebody can take a job that other people might think is boring and totally make it their own.

    Knowing how mellow people in Hawaii are, I can only imagine how cool — in the most genuine sense of the word — this postal worker must be.

  17. Love the story. My family is from Molokai. Still have a large contingent that lives there. Love my memories of camping at Mo’omomi Beach.

  18. I grew up on Maui and when I came home for summers during college, I would collect coconuts from our yard and paint them and mail them to my friends on the mainland. It was a lot of fun to hear their stories of receiving it! Born and raised in Hawaii and Molokai is the only island I’ve never been to!

  19. In fact, you can mail free coconuts from any post office by just writing an address and paying the postage. You can mail most anything so long as it doesn’t hurt the letter carriers or the machinery.

  20. I always thought that as long as it had postage and an address, you could really send anything through the US mail. I know a friend who mailed a flip flop as a joke and it went through.

  21. My friend mailed me a coconut from Hawaii one year and since it wouldn’t fit through my mail slot, it was left next to my front door in the vestibule. When the robber showed up at my place to liberate me of my belongings and couldn’t find a rock to smash the window for entry, they found a handy substitute right there in front of them. Glad I can laugh about the whole ordeal now :)

  22. I’ll see your “electric blue popsicle juice” and raise you my son’s red slurpie and spam musubi in the back set of my car on the road back from Hana. Too bad it wasn’t a rental.

  23. i really liked your post. thanks for that. Moloka’i is a beautiful place. I hope it never gets developed. That being said, “leper” is currently a word that is taboo, especially within the still-existing colony. People are not allowed to come and go, and as you may know, has no roads leading into the settlement itself. With special permits, people can visit the home of the remaining people who still suffer from the effects of hansons disease.
    They are amazing people with even more amazing stories. Father damien was a good man, but he often gets credit for being founder of the place, but as Anon has already mentioned, he is not. Damien has even been annulled(?) as a saint. WOW! In my opinion, the thousands of people who lived their lives in the settlement, some of them without even truly having hansons disease, deserve recognition too.

  24. The post-a-nut service is one of the many charming and unique experiences the island has to offer. I think more people should take a brief trip to Molokai as a sort of vacation from their vacation. It’s the closest thing you’ll find to “Old Hawaii” anymore.

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