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Kalaupapa National Historical Park

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Kalaupapa National Historical Park

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Kalaupapa National Historical Park is on Molokai in Hawaii of the United States of America. Kalaupapa National Historical Park was established on December 22, 1980. Now more than twenty-five years old, the park is dedicated to preserving the memories and experiences of the past so valuable lessons may be learned. The park's mission is to provide a well-maintained community ensuring the present patient residents of the Kalaupapa Settlement may live out their lives there. The park also supports the education of present and future generations concerning Hansen's disease or leprosy, a disease shrouded in fear and ignorance for centuries.


The primary story being told at Kalaupapa National Historical Park is the forced isolation from 1866 until 1969 of people from Hawai'i afflicted with Hansen's disease (leprosy) to the remote northern Kalaupapa peninsula on the island of Molokai.


Few places in the world better illustrate the human capacity for endurance or for charity than the remote Kalaupapa Peninsula on the island of Moloka’i. The area achieved notoriety in 1865 when the Kingdom of Hawai`i instituted a century-long policy of forced segregation of persons afflicted with Hansen's disease, also known as leprosy. The Legislative Assembly had passed, and King Kamehameha V approved, "An Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy" to set apart land to seclude people believed capable of spreading the disease.

Once the decision was made, and the law passed, the government proceeded to purchase lands and move the Hawaiian residents to other homes. The village of Kalawao on the isolated Kalaupapa Peninsula thus became home to thousands of leprosy victims subsequently moved here from throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

Hawai`i’s actions brought attention to the mysterious and dreaded disease that reached epidemic proportions in the islands in the late 1800’s. With new cases threatening to eradicate the native population and no knowledge of what caused the disease, officials were desperate. At the time, there was no effective treatment and no cure. To government officials, isolation seemed the only answer.

The first group of Hansen's disease patients were sent to Kalawao on the eastern, or windward side of the Kalaupapa peninsula on January 6, 1866. The churches of Siloama, established in 1866 and St. Philomena, begun in 1872 and associated with the work of Father Damien (Joseph DeVeuster) are located at Kalawao. Father Damien's life and death among his people focused the attention of the world on the problem of this disease and the plight of its victims. After Damien's death in 1889, the people of England established a fund and a commission for the scientific investigation of the disease.

Situated on the leeward side of the peninsula, Kalaupapa Settlement is still home for several surviving Hansen's disease patients whose memories and experiences are cherished values. Once a community in isolation, Kalaupapa now serves as a place for education and contemplation. The site became a national park in 1980 dedicated to preserving the memories and lessons of the past.


Flora and fauna[edit]


Kalaupapa is a very warm and humid place!

Get in[edit]

Kalaupapa cannot be reached by automobile. No roads lead to the park because of the surrounding ocean and steep pali cliffs.

The park can be reached by air through commercial and charter flights from Honolulu, O`ahu, and from Hoolehua, Moloka`i. Flights to Kalaupapa Airport (IATA: LUP) can be arranged through Pacific Wings (#1.888.575.4546); Moloka'i Air Shuttle (#808.567.6847); Paragon Air (#1.800.4228.1231); and Makani Kai Air Charters (#877.255.8532).

Some visitors arrive by private boats and tie to buoys near the dock at Kalaupapa.

Visitors may also reach the Kalaupapa peninsula by hiking or riding mules down the steep Kalaupapa Trail from the topside trailhead located off Highway 470 near Pala'au State Park and the Kalaupapa overlook. The trail links topside Moloka'i to the Kalaupapa Settlement and has a 1700 foot elevation change, is three miles long and has twenty-six switchbacks. At the bottom of the trail, visitors must connect with the commercial tour.

Damien Tours, owned and operated by a Kalaupapa resident, offer commercial tours of Kalaupapa daily, except Sundays and holidays. Call #808.567.6171 for tour reservations and information.

Mule rides on the Kalaupapa Trail can be arranged through Moloka'i Mule Rides, Inc., a National Park Service concession. For reservations call #808.567.6088 or #1.800.567.7550


The park is open 365 days each year. There are no opening and closing hours due to the restricted visitation and active Kalaupapa community of people. Commercial tours operate Monday through Saturday, except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day.

There is no entrance fee for the park, nor are there fees for any park facilities. There are costs involved with the commercial tours, mule rides and air flights.

All visitors must obtain a permit from the Hawai'i State Department of Health to enter the Kalaupapa Settlement. The commercial tour company arranges the permit for their customers. Guests of residents have their permits arranged by their sponsor. No children under the age of 16 are allowed in the Kalaupapa Settlement. Reservations are required for commercial tours of the settlement, mule rides on the trail and air flights. Visitors are encouraged to make these reservations in advance.

Get around[edit]

See[edit][add listing]

  • Visitors must take the commercial tour offered by a Kalaupapa resident unless they are guests of a resident. The tour provides stops at all major points of interest at Kalaupapa, including lunch at Kalawao on the windward side of the peninsula with scenic views of the north shore cliffs and off-shore islands.

Do[edit][add listing]

Look around. Look at the landscape: three sides of ocean and one of high (very high) cliffs effectively imprisioning residents forced there. Look at the cemeteries: only some of the many people who lived and died here are in marked graves. Look at the churches, buildings and remnants of buildings. And think that people afflicted with a then-incurable disease were (usually) forced to live there. A few relatives chose to accompany their ill family members. This is a poignant and important place.

Buy[edit][add listing]

The concession mule ride operator offers box lunches to those who ride the trail to Kalaupapa. All other visitors must bring their own lunches. No other supplies are available in the park. Guests of residents need to bring their own food supplies. Snacks and beverages are available at a local bar.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Drink[edit][add listing]

Sleep[edit][add listing]


Overnight stays at Kalaupapa are limited to guests of residents. The nearest lodging outside the park is in Kaunakakai, topside Moloka'i.


No camping is allowed in the park.

The nearest camping facility is located at Pala'au State Park, topside Moloka'i.

Stay safe[edit]

Get out[edit]

How do you get out? Well, basicaly the same way you got in. If you came down the Kalaupapa Trail on a mule . . you went out the same way, over all those switch-backs [26 in all] and the only other way, besides by sea, would have been to fly in and out on a charter. Before the trip began, the guides gave us some instructions which included a day pass, issued by the State of Hawai’i, to enter the colony and to leave the colony. We were told that pictures of anything may be taken with one exception. We would not be allowed to photograph a resident. The fine for doing so is $500.00. Believe me that got everyone’s attention. Also, each mule has a name and you would be required to commit the mule’s name to memory. I began to get apprehensive at this instruction as many of the mules had long Hawaiian names . . . I lucked out! My mule’s name was Chevy. We were told, and this made good sense too, that it is easier for the guide to call out the mule’s name than to try to remember your name. I must admit I was quite taken with Chevy’s size. I don’t know why, but I thought a mule was just a overgrown donkey. He was big! and I mean big. Once we were all mounted and preparing to depart for the trail, we were given a final instruction and this was what it was: “The mules know exactly where they are going, just sit down and relax. Stay straight saddle and enjoy the views.” This is the way to go in and out. Be sure you make a reservation!

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