Kalaupapa National Historical Park
Whether by land, air or sea, there are a number of ways to explore the Hawaiian islands. Few modes of transportation, however, are as memorable—not to mention downright fun—as a Molokai mule ride down to historic Kalaupapa.
It was 1835 when the first case of leprosy, now called Hansen’s Disease, was documented in Hawaii. In time, Islanders stricken with the disease were quarantined at Kalaupapa, located on the central northern coast of Molokai. They were pushed off a boat into the waters off the peninsula, leaving the outcasts to swim to shore. Sorrowfully, the Hawaiians referred to leprosy as “Mai hookaawale,” or “the separating disease.”
Joseph de Veuster arrived at Kalaupapa in 1873 to care for the patients. “The sick are arriving by the boatloads,” he lamented to his superiors. “They die in droves.” Sixteen years later, at the age of 49, de Veuster, now known as Father Damien, himself succumbed to the disease.
Today, Hansen’s Disease is controlled by modern medicine and is no longer considered a public threat. Established in 1980, Kalaupapa National Historical Park is dedicated to preserving the memories and experiences of the past in hopes that valuable lessons may be learned from them. A visit to the park is regarded as one of Hawaii’s more moving experiences.
Molokai Mule Tour
The journey down to Kalaupapa begins with a briefing and “get acquainted” session with your mule. The mules are trained by Molokai Mule Ride owner Buzzy Sproat, a well-known figure in the state’s rodeo circuit.
You’ll ride down the world’s highest sea cliff’s—1,700 feet—taking in sweeping vistas of raw, rugged beauty. The 2.9-mile trail, with 26 switchbacks, will simply take your breath away. (And don’t worry about taking a sudden wrong turn; the mules know exactly where they are going!)
Available Monday through Saturday, the guided tour includes all entry permits, a light picnic lunch, and a completion souvenir certificate. From start to finish, the experience takes about seven hours. All participants must be at least 16 years of age.