Kalaupapa is a small peninsula of 4 1/2 square miles, jutting out from the high sea cliffs that dominate the windward coast of Molokai, Hawaii.
A small community of native Hawaiians populated a village on the western coastal area of Kalaupapa for hundreds of years before the days of leprosy. They raised sweet potatoes in the rocky soil throughout the peninsula.
In 1865 Kalaupapa was chosen by King Kamehameha V as an appropriately remote and inaccessible site for leprosy patients. The leprosy patients were literally dropped off in the rough ocean on the eastern coast and settled there.
Kalaupapa is perhaps best known for the work of “The Martyr of Molokai,” Father Damien DeVeuster. He volunteered in 1873 to serve the leper settlement on a rotating basis, but once there, he decided to remain. Father Damien brought law and order to the lives of the patients and the family members who accompanied them. He provided nursing help, spiritual care and consolation to the living, and he buried his parishioners when they died. Father Damien was a religious missionary, a skilled carpenter, and an able organizer who relieved many of the sufferings upon the residents there.
Father Damien contracted leprosy in 1884 and remained in Kalaupapa to continue his service to those who needed him. The Martyr died of leprosy at the age of 49, after devoting the last sixteen years of his life to the patients at Kalaupapa. He will never be forgotten. The Roman Catholic Church is thoroughly examining Damien’s personal life, his writings and his ministry. After these investigations, he will officially become the saint that many have already regarded him to be since he entered Kalaupapa.
Today, many visitors enter Kalaupapa by plane. For the patients’ use there is a store, a bar, a service station and a small post office, but very little else, other than their homes, the administration buildings and a hospital. Today, there is a new effort from the National Park Service to restore and preserve the old sites, preparing for the day when the State Department of Health will no longer have jurisdiction over the settlement.
The right of patients to remain there for their lifetime is protected by Federal law. Although a few older patients remain in Kalaupapa today, they are free to come and go as their health allows. Since 1946, sulfur drug treatment has controlled Hansen’s Disease and since 1969, the patients are no longer required to be confined to the settlement.
Now, Kalaupapa is free of the horrors and heartache once endured there, and its tranquil beauty dominates as before.
Along the North Shore you will see the soaring sea cliffs, the tallest in the world, which kept Father Damien’s famous Leper colony isolated. Today, because of the inaccessibility of the North Shore, the ocean abounds with countless denizens of the sea and air. The humpback whales’ famous yearly migration takes place in these waters. What vision and joy to see these whales teaching their newborn calves how to hunt and play! Many rare ocean birds also call these cliffs home. Imagine looking up and seeing these birds soaring high in the sky. Look down and you will see a pod of whales playing in the warm Pacific waters. This rugged northern coast of Molokai also is home to other wild animals including wild goats, deer, boars and tropical birds found nowhere else in the world.
Along these many miles of imposing cliffs, frequent rainfall high in the forest sends water cascading down the steep slopes. This creates breathtaking and countless numbers of waterfalls which plunge over the vertical cliffs and into the Pacific Ocean far below.The unbelievable beauty of our world seems to come together in Molokai. A truly flawless and pristine wilderness, Molokai is a once in the lifetime experience. Don’t miss out on this extraordinary adventure that will take you back to a lost paradise.