Only 100 people a day, age 16 and older, may visit this isolated peninsula below the North Shore’s soaring sea cliffs, and then only by reservation with Damien Tours (see “Organized Tours”). Visitors must arrive on foot, by mule, or by plane—there’s no road, and access by water is not allowed—but the trek is well worth the effort. The area formally known as the Makanalua Peninsula was once home to the Native Hawaiian villages of Kalawao and Kalaupapa, on either side of 443-foot Kauhako Crater. Residents were evicted and the naturally isolated peninsula turned into a place of exile. In 1865 King Kamehameha V signed the Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy, which ultimately sent some 8,000 people with the dreaded disease to live in Kalawao and Kalaupapa. The exiles’ suffering was particularly acute before the arrival in 1873 of now-canonized Father Damien (see “The Saints of Molokai”), who worked tirelessly on their behalf until his death from the disease in 1889. Only a handful of elderly patients, free to come and go since the 1960s, still live on site, but many buildings and ruins remain from more populous times; the park service is kept busy restoring many of them. Intrepid visitors can take the Kalaupapa Guided Mule Tour ★★★, a once-in-a-lifetime ride down and around the 26 switchbacks on the narrow, 2.9-mile Kalaupapa Trail ★★★. By the time the mules get to switchback No. 4, riders may start to enjoy the views. Hikers (Damien Tours reservations required) must watch their footing on the knee-pounding descent, which takes 60 to 90 minutes; it’s 90 to 120 minutes back up. The Damien Tours bus picks up passengers from arriving prop planes at the tiny airstrip, near the Pacific’s tallest lighthouse, before retrieving riders and hikers near the beach at the trail’s end.
Kalaupapa National Historical Park
Our Rating Neighborhood Central Uplands & North Shore Hours Kalaupapa. Access restricted to ages 16 and older on guided tours only, Mon–Sat. Kalaupapa Guided Mule Tour (www.muleride.com; 800/567-7550 or 808/567-6088) 8am Mon–Sat, returning 3pm. Phone 808/567-6802 Prices $209, includes lunch, tour, and certificate. Mule Tours hiking package with permit and tour, $60 from Damien Tours (www.damientoursllc.com; 808/567-6171)). Makani Kai (www.makanikaiair.com; 808/834-1111) offers air/tour/lunch packages from Hoolehua, $249 fly in/fly out, $149 hike in/fly out; from Honolulu, $315 and $249, respectively; from Kahului, Maui, $349 and $249, respectively. Web site Kalaupapa National Historical Park Other Riders must weigh under 250 pounds with “good height to weight distribution.” Reservations required; accepted up to 4 months in advance (a year for groups of 6 or more)
MapKalae HI Molokai
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.