Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Molokai
Name: Kalaupapa National Historical Park
What: Historic site accessible by scenic mule ride
- Where: On the northern tip of Molokai
It's quiet as you ride on your mule along the 2.9-mile trail to Kalaupapa Peninsula. You would be speechless too riding along sheer cliffs overlooking the Pacific, descending from 1,700 feet and with Molokai’s North Shore Pali just to the east - the tallest sea cliffs in the world as recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records, measuring 3,600 to 3,900 feet.
Three miles, 26 switchbacks and 90 minutes of magnificent views later and you're back to sea level in the historic town of Kalaupapa, one of the most remote settlements in Hawaii. It's scenic, isolated and peaceful here, but the story of Kalaupapa National Historical Park is even more compelling.
This special community was once home to Belgian missionary Saint Damien. Beginning in 1873, this selfless priest giving hope to Hansen’s disease victims who were exiled to this isolated peninsula. He tragically succumbed to the disease he spent years of his life helping to treat. Today, you can visit Saint Damien's grave here at historic St. Philomena Roman Catholic Church. In October of 2009, Father Damien was canonized as a saint during a ceremony in Rome.
You can also view Kalaupapa Peninsula from the 1,000-foot elevation of Palaau State Park. This 34-acre recreation area offers winding trails among eucalyptus and ironwood trees as well as breathtaking views of Molokai’s north coast.
This serene National Park is a place of preservation and education and is only accessible by mule ride, hiking tour or airplane from the small commuter Kalaupapa Airport (LUP). Kalaupapa cannot be reached by car. To take a Kalaupapa tour, make a reservation in advance with Damien Tours, (808) 567-6171. For mule ride information, call Kalaupapa Mule Tour at (800) 567-7550, (808) 567-6088.