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“A must do to understand history”

Kalaupapa National Historical Park
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Kalaupapa and Molokai Day Trip from Oahu
Ranked #2 of 4 things to do in Kalaupapa
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Owner description: This historical park was a former leper colony run by Father Damien in the 1930s.
Arcadia, California
Level Contributor
13 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
“A must do to understand history”
Reviewed 4 October 2013

Read Molokai, by Alan Brennart. It is a touching story about a little girl, Rachel, who at age 7 or 8, gets taken away from her family because of her disease. That's how it started for me. I was hooked. Although it is a work of fiction, I needed to see where the author was inspired to write about this tragic time in Hawaiian history. At age 75 and 63, my husband and I chose the fly in and out option from Waikiki.(Great choice) Admittedly, there was down time, but the experience was outstanding although a little pricey. Kaulapapa is a mystical place. The sea cliffs are amazing and the beaches are absolutely beautiful, there is a feeling of peace. The town itself is small but full of history. Visiting St. Damiens and St. Marianne's graves just reminded us of the selfless lives led by people who help the patients. It was amazing to picture in ones mind how people who were just left to die in this beautiful open prison, were able to build productive and meaningful lives for themselves. Our guide was fine, could have been a little bit more detailed with his information. Perhaps relay how people lived their daily lives, married, what happened to the children they bore, etc. That's the true story. The down side, is that you are not allowed to wander by yourself, which is totally understandable, given there are still a few patients there by choice. The book store had several good reads and videos. This is not an excursion like tubing or snorkeling in the islands, it is an opportunity to witness first hand true occurences in history. It leaves you with a mark on your soul. I can only compare it to visiting Machu Pichu in Peru. I was so moved, I came home and read Molokai again. It was so satisfying reading and picturing the Kaulapapa streets, trail, and sites as described so vividly in the book.

Visited September 2013
5 Thank smontero
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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145 reviews from our community

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English first
Level Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“Hike to Kalaupapa”
Reviewed 3 September 2013

The hike down to Kalaupapa is relatively easy, we left at 7:15 in the morning and were the first ones to get to the majestic beach and jumped in the ocean to cool off. The sun is mild at this time and the views spectacular. We made it down in about 60 minutes at a very easy pace and taking time to soak in the views and take pictures.
We waited a while for the mules to arrive and then jumped in the school bus. The tour itself was not that amazing and we expected more insight and stories about Father Damien. The highlight was when the priest gave a little bit of a history story about the colony and the work of Father Damien and Sister Marianne. We brought our own lunch and water. It is safe to drink the water in Kalaupapa town so no need to bring too much water as you can refill before you head back up.
It is a little sad that they won't allow you to walk around by yourself but rather pay the $50 to jump on the bus and drive around. Overall it was worth it though.
On our way back we were on a mission and used the hike up as a heavy workout session. We made it back to the top in 45 minutes at a very fast pace! We camped the night before right there where the trail starts. Highly recommend that camping spot.

Visited September 2013
4 Thank HNL78
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
New York
Level Contributor
218 reviews
109 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 169 helpful votes
“Sacred, somber, and beautiful”
Reviewed 31 August 2013

Just to clarify, this is the entire historical park on the Kalaupapa (Moloka'i) Peninsula, beyond the trail (reviewed separately, along with the mule ride) or the individual attractions (the churches and cemeteries of Father Damien and Sister Marianne, and the tour itself, which is offered only through Father Damien Tours).

The park itself is amid incredible beauty, flanked by the world's tallest sea cliffs, with the trail down offering incredibly beautiful views. You'll need an invitation from a resident (there are 9 left, living voluntarily on the former 'leper colony', now preferring reference to 'Hansen's Disease' rather than 'leprosy' out of respect), OR you can arrange for a tour through Father Damien Tours, whether hiking or mule-riding the arduous Kalaupapa Trail.

Highlights of the tour include a visit to the welcome center/gift shop (where I picked up the DVD of the movie 'Molokai', which totally moved me after actually being there to witness some of the history and geography), a visit to Father Damien's church and Sister Marianne's, the cemeteries and tributes to the two saints, and vestiges of the old colony with its various men and women and children's areas. There is a dock (which gets supply visits once a year), incredible views of the pali (cliffs) and sea, with the iconic big rocks in the bay, where boats once threw people and supplies overboard, for fear of coming into contact. (Yes, it's safe now, it that's a concern!)

I'd suggest checking the reviews too of Kalaupapa Trail and the Kalaupapa Mule Ride (&/or Father Damien Tours), and St. Philomena' Church, as they all overlap and seem to refer to each other. The peninsula is the isolated spot where the colony is, and it is now all part of the Historical Park, including the trail, transportation, permits, and tour.

Visited July 2013
2 Thank drmikenyc
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level Contributor
306 reviews
96 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 172 helpful votes
“Beautiful and meaningful trail, worth the effort for a hike”
Reviewed 22 August 2013

This is a review of the Kalaupapa trail, which we hiked down and back, rather than a review of the Father Damien tour which one can take after reaching the bottom-- which is utterly amazing and is reviewed separately under Father Damien Tour. [However, there is not much point to hiking the trail unless one wants to take the tour of the old leper colony, so it's intertwined.]

We are reasonably fit people in our late 50's, and we found the trail a bit strenuous (especially on the way up at about 2 PM, and especially with the sun beating down on an August day) but very well worth the effort. It took us about 60 minutes down, and about 90 minutes up, but could have been longer had we taken additional breaks. The views are gorgeous all along the way, and the remoteness of the destination adds to the meaning of the whole adventure (see our review of the tour). Due to the unusual steepness of the trail, I was sore after the hike, to the point where I couldn't jog for 2 or 3 days. However, my husband felt only a mild calf soreness that didn't interfere with anything. I must say I was pleasantly surprised by how well maintained this trail was; it is basically a series of stone steps, so there is no scrambling. Also, if you have a fear of heights, have no fear on this trail, as there is plenty of brush screening your view of the "cliffside."

We have day-hiked in many countries and we both felt that this was one of the "best" we have ever done. Highly recommended for those who are at least moderately fit.

Visited August 2013
7 Thank Snarth
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Portland, Oregon
Level Contributor
79 reviews
27 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 31 helpful votes
“Interesting tour”
Reviewed 25 April 2013

I agree with AmyWren in that there is not a lot of history provided. I had done a lot of research, so knew quite a bit, but hoped I would learn more about this fascinating place--I didn't. However, it was still fascinating. My one real regret is that there seems to be so little of the original colony's building left. There are few homes; you can't visit Bishop House; you can't visit many of the buildings, as a matter of fact, though they still make sure you visit the one existing store so you can spend your dollars.
There are only three ways down the cliffs to the peninsula: first, you can walk down (and up the 1,600 feet); second, you can take a mule ride down (people who did said they liked it, but that they expected muscle aches the next day); and, third, you can fly down from "topside", which I did. I highly recommend that method of approach to this interesting park.

Visited April 2013
1 Thank keelx2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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