Located on the remote northern peninsula of Molokai, in the Hawaiian Islands, this isolated spot was selected by King Kamehameha V in 1865 as a quarantine area for those suffering from Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy). It is fairly noncontagious and successful treatments were developed, meaning patients have not been forced to live here since 1949. There are still no roads to the settlement, so you will have to get the necessary permits through Father Damien Tours to fly, hike, or ride mules into the restricted-access park. Nobody under age 16 is allowed.
Kalaupapa Trail, St. Philomena Church, Kalawao Settlement
“Must do” in this case means you are only allowed to enter this park on the 4-hour bus tours led by Hansen’s disease patients who choose to remain living here, which truly enhances your experience. From them you will hear the amazing stories of the exiles and those who helped them, including two saints: Father Damien and Mother Marianne Cope.
Hiking down the 1,600-foot high cliffs is an exciting introduction to the land, or you can ride a mule on the same trail. Permits required.
The tour stops for lunch at the long-abandoned Kalawao Settlement at the end of the road, which offers stunning views of the 1,600-foot cliffs that plunge into the Pacific Ocean.
The weather is nice year round in the tropics, but always be prepared for rain.
Permits are required to enter this park and the only concessionaire is Father Damien Tours. A day trip including flights from Honolulu cost $249 per person in 2016, but cheaper options are available if you are already staying on Molokai Island.
The dirt roads are bumpy, especially in a bus, but you won’t be driving so just enjoy the scenery.
Explore More – Since 1865, how many Hansen’s disease patients were buried in Kalaupapa?