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“Gorgeous trails in Kalaupapa” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Kalaupapa National Historical Park

Kalaupapa National Historical Park
Kalaupapa Peninsula, Kalaupapa, Molokai, HI 96742
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Ranked #2 of 4 Attractions in Kalaupapa
Type: Historic Sites, National Parks, Adventure
Activities: Hiking
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Attraction details
Owner description: This historical park was a former leper colony run by Father Damien in the 1930s.
Top Contributor
50 reviews 50 reviews
16 attraction reviews
Reviews in 24 cities Reviews in 24 cities
67 helpful votes 67 helpful votes
“Gorgeous trails in Kalaupapa”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 10, 2012

Lush rain forest, tropical birds, plants, stunning views. We had a terrific guide who told us lots of local stories about the Island as well as showing us highlights along the trail.

Visited May 2012
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54 reviews from our community

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English first
Whidbey Island, WA
Top Contributor
53 reviews 53 reviews
29 attraction reviews
Reviews in 25 cities Reviews in 25 cities
95 helpful votes 95 helpful votes
“Great beauty with so much sadness in the past”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 3, 2012

You can get to the Kalaupapa National Historic Park 3 ways: hike, mule ride, or fly. We chose the mule ride, reviewed separately. After about 1.5 hours of riding, we reached the corral on the peninsula. There was time for restroom use. We met Ian, our guide for the tour. We also met people who had hiked down, and people who had flown down. Ian handed out tickets for the tour, and where relevant, tickets which would be exchanged for sack lunches and water. Once all three groups were on the bus, he repeated the rules of no photography of residents (in fact we did not see any as they tend to stay inside during touring hours), and no wandering off on our own. He gave a lot of history of the settlement, about the illness itself, and he also gave a lot of information about modern day life down there. He was an excellent speaker and a great guide. We had several stops in the town such as down at the pier where a barge comes in once a year, one of the churches in the village, a shop with refreshments, old photos, and possible things to buy; a social hall that has some old photographs, by the monument for Mother Marianne Moore, the memorial for Father Damien, by the old hospital site, by the former orphanage site, etc. The bookstore was closed. Then it was time to drive in the school bus to the other side of the peninsula where we saw the remnants of the original settlement, another of the churches Father Damien built, a graveyard, and a distance view of some islands and some of the coastlines.

It was so beautiful down in that area! I recognized the especially striking scene I recognized from pictures where we would have our picnic lunches. This is an area of the peninsula you cannot see from on top at the overlook.

You might want to consider doing some reading before the tour, though it is not essential. My husband had not read anything, but after the tour he read in several books, such as "The Separating Sickness."

Visited April 2012
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Top Contributor
96 reviews 96 reviews
14 attraction reviews
Reviews in 42 cities Reviews in 42 cities
32 helpful votes 32 helpful votes
“Viewing history from on high”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 20, 2012

The look out to Father Damian's historic leper colony brings back early childhood reading of his amazing work. The leper colony exists and is run by by the health authorities and a religious order of nuns. The look out has a history of the colony and Father Damian. An easy walk into a very windy location solidfies the reality of history, progress and dedication. The day we were on Molokai, the pope was acknowledging Father Damian..........over 110 years later.

Visited April 2012
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Fort Smith, Arkansas
Senior Contributor
26 reviews 26 reviews
11 attraction reviews
Reviews in 12 cities Reviews in 12 cities
29 helpful votes 29 helpful votes
“Kalaupapa Hike”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 27, 2012

This was a very beautiful hike. It is 3.2 miles one way down. Lots of steps. If you have bad knees, do not attempt. It was absolutely gorgeous. You have to get a permit to hike down. You have to do a bus tour in order to get the history and see anything. There are still living patients there and you are not allowed to wander around without a guide. A very protected area and well worth the hike.

Visited February 2012
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Top Contributor
188 reviews 188 reviews
66 attraction reviews
Reviews in 92 cities Reviews in 92 cities
162 helpful votes 162 helpful votes
“Hiked the trail up and down”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 17, 2012

My husband and I spent 3 days on the island of Molokai. We had planned to hike the cliff trail down to the Kalaupapa Peninsula. I looked into all the options for getting there.
I had a bad experience with a horse as a child and am fearful of riding, so trusting my life to a mule was not something I was comfortable with. A person can fly round trip from Oahu, Maui or topside Molokai, but I wanted to experience the scenery of the hike.
If you've read any info on Kalaupapa, you know reservations must be made to enter the peninsula - they refer to this as having a "permit" but do not expect to receive a permit like a state park pass or camping permit - this permit is a reservation so they can approve you to enter the historical park. Arrangements can be made with several places. When we arrived on the island we simply contacted Molokai Outdoors and made arrangements to go down the next day. That night however it rained the entire night and into the morning. We did not want to hike the trail in the rain so called before 7:30am and left a message we would reschedule for the next day.

If hiking down, they/we recommend you leave the trail entrance at about 7:30am. That will give you time to get down to the bottom before the riders saddle up on the mules and head down the trail. Since it had rained for 24 hours the day before the trail was slick and muddy in spots. The terrain of the trail changes from top to bottom. The first part is through the woods and dirt ground; then some of the trail had grid like blocks put in place for steps; then after reaching the nice bridge that was constructed in 2010, the trail stairway is made mostly of large rocks set in the dirt (since the trail was slippery, we only tried to walk on the rocks to keep from sliding/falling down). Most of the switchbacks (zigzags) cut into the hill are steep. To help with balance, grab a large walking stick at the beginning of the trail - several branches are sitting there to be used. We stopped several times on the way down to take photos. The air up top is cool and damp in the morning, so a light rain jacket came in handle. Once you descend further down the trail, out of the trees it warms up. Dress in layers you can peel off for comfort. It took us 1.5 hours to hike the 3 miles down to where the tour bus sits by the bleachers.

If you hike down, the cost of the entrance fee/permit is $50 per person. After hiking down the trail we paid the tour guide and signed in on the tour bus before the tour began. The flyers, mule riders and hikers all ride the same bus to tour Kalaupapa and Kalawao, which is the original leper colony settlement about 5 miles west on the opposite side of the peninsula. The tour is very informational and several times you will have the opportunity to get off the bus. We were told 17 patients with Hansen's disease still live on the peninsula; the other 100 people who live down there work in the hospital, care center, stores, post office, or for park service. Do not expect to see or talk with any patients (the youngest we were told was 80.) or go into any homes. The tour will take you into a couple churches, a building used as a gift shop, and other pertinent sites, including a couple cemeteries. The bus stopped for lunch by Kalawao. If you hike down, carry lunch and plenty of water for the hike down and up in your backpack. (Those who booked mule or air transportation, a box lunch will be waiting on the bus.) The tour itself is about 2.5-3 hours. After the tour is completed, the bus will stop by a restroom near the stables. If you are hiking, be the first in the bathroom and hit the trail - the earlier start you get, the higher up the trail you will be before the mules pass you. (After that you will be dodging mule crap on the trail...)

The hike down was more strenuous for my husband - he is not use to balancing on his legs that way. The hike up was more strenuous for me - as the afternoon humidity really hit me hard. The walking stick will come in handy for climbing! In total, it took us about 3 hours to hike up - we took our time and stopped to rest and enjoy the view around switchbacks 17-14 (can't remember exactly). The mules eventually caught up with us around switchback 15. The trail is not wide, but we had to try and step aside to give them all room to pass.

I should note, we are not avid hikers - so those who are more experienced or more active may take less time to hike up than we did. I was orignially interested in hiking down and flying out - in order to see the seacliffs from the air - but could not find a company offering that; although a woman I talked to on the peninsula said that could be arranged. She did not mention how or with who. (For those interested in air or mule transportation, the cost is between $149-199 per person. There was a guy who hiked down but had concerns he could not hike back up; they were able to arrange a mule up for him. )

All considered, I thought the hike was one of those once in a lifetime experiences. I'm not a history buff but my husband and I (in our early 40's) both enjoyed the tour.

Visited February 2012
Was this review helpful? Yes 24
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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