The Kalaupapa peninsula is one of the most magnificent areas on Molokai in Hawaii, but it is famous for its historical significance of a difficult time period.
Imagine it’s the mid 1800’s and this calm scene is not so calm. The sea is rough and churning. What’s that coming round the bend .. ah yes .. the boat to drop off the latest infected persons from Oahu. Yes, anyone contaminated with Hansen’s Disease (then called leprosy), was brought by a weekly boat and exiled here. These unfortunate souls were dumped in the water – sink or swim – and left to survive (or not).
- The disease came to Hawaii in the mid-1800s from Asia
- It spread at an alarming rate with no cure in sight
- Kalaupapa landing is surrounded on 3 sides by mountain, and fronted by the ocean
- The area became home to over 8,000 people
Father Damien, a Belgian missionary, arrived at Molokai in 1873. His first task was to build a church which still stands. With time, living conditions improved under his guidance. He worked tirelessly and humbly for years, eventually succumbing to the disease himself. Father Damien passed away in 1889 and canonized in 2009.
Today, a dozen survivors have chosen to stay in the community.
The town is comprised of a post office, bookstore, fire station, hospital, admin building and a small jail. Every year, tourists come from all over the world to see this mystical place, now a national historical park.
The remote location of the Kalaupapa colony makes getting there part of the adventure. Travelers may only access the area by plane (a stunning way to see some of the cliffs of Molokai), hike in (2000 foot vertical descent over 3 miles with 26 switchbacks), or on the back of a mule that lead riders down the same precariously narrow hiking trail along steep cliffs.
The guided tour is well worth it, and a visit to Kalaupapa is one you will never forget!