Your first full day on Molokai and so we'll get right to the number one attraction here.
General: DIY / How-To
|Guide Series: Molokai Vacation Itinerary
If you're looking for the number one thing to do on Molokai then look no further than Kalaupapa National Historical Park. Doesn't ring a bell yet? The town of Kalaupapa is a peninsula that is located on the northern side of Molokai. The name Kalaupapa means "flat leaf" in Hawaiian and this was not a place you wanted to end up years ago.
Back in the late 1800's, King Kamehameha V used this section of Molokai as a place for people with Hansen's Disease, also known as leprosy, to spend out their remaining years. Being exiled to this town full of lepers was not an ideal ending to your life.
A leper colony wasn't the best place to get treatment or care (the disease was thought to be untreatable back then) since most people would not want to come near this place, fearing that they too would contract the deadly disease. But one notable figure would dedicate his life to helping the lepers here, and that was Father Damien. That's probably a name you've heard of as even on Oahu there is a Saint Father Damien of Molokai Sculpture.
Originally born as Joseph DeVeuster and becoming a Belgian Priest, he was later ordained Father Damien in 1864. After hearing of the leprosy issues on Molokai, Father Damien headed to help in 1873. Knowing he could contract the disease, he put the care and comfort of those at the leper colony before his own health. In his time there he helped established several churches and spreading religion around the area.
Father Damien later caught the disease himself and died in 1889. It wasn't until 2009 that he was given the title of Saint, or more specifically Saint Damien of Molokai. You might think it's sad that he never knew of his induction into Sainthood, but people like that aren't in it for the glory.
So, ready to visit Kalaupapa National Historical Park? Well, it's not as easy as hopping in the car and driving in. This place was perfect for a leper colony because it's so remote and otherwise not connect to the rest of the island with large cliffs and mounts separating it from the rest of the island.
Your new best friend
There are only a few ways to get here. First up is the most common and that's via a mule ride and that goes through The Kalaupapa Guided Mule Tour which is the best option since it's a complete tour package and adventure all in one. It's not for everyone though! You must be in good health as the trail down is difficult and even being on a mule requires a certain fitness ability. Those with back problems, hip problems, and other issues can't go. Younger kids and the elderly can't do this.
Next up is hiking in which uses the same trail that the mules take. It's rated as a difficult trail and if you can't handle the mule ride there is no way you can handle the hike. You can also sometimes arrange a boat ride from one of the Molokai harbors to get here. The final option is via a plane ride, which is probably the easiest way to get in. Yes, this tiny town has the equally tiny Kalaupapa Airport (LUP) which will make Molokai Airport (MKK) look like an international travel hub.
No matter what method you choose, you'll need to have a permit to get in (secured days before entering), be at least 15 years of age, and have proper identification (passport, drivers license, etc).
Arranging everything through a tour company is your best bet as they'll handle all of the permits, transportation, and provided guided tours of the town, churches, and so on. Assuming you take The Kalaupapa Guided Mule Tour, we'll block out almost an entire day for this tour. The tour will start early and you likely won't be back and done until around 4:00 PM or so. Molokai isn't exactly filled with nightlife so once evening comes around there isn't much to do. Still, this is an incredible journey to go on if you can.
One last note on getting down to Kalaupapa National Historical Park. The tours fill up so don't expect to arrive on Molokai and then book a tour. You will want to book your tour as far in advance as possible.
If there is time left in the day, or if you simply can't make it down there, you will want to check out the Kalaupapa Lookout. This is a scenic viewing point that looks over the Kalaupapa area. Also near that lookout is Phallic Rock / Ka Ule o Nanahoa which, as you might be guessing, is a rock that is very much shaped like large male genitalia. The kids will have a field day with the jokes when you see that one!
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