Kalaupapa National Historical Park was established by Congress in 1980 and is currently managed by the National Park Service and the Hawaii State Department of Health. The National Park, located on a remote peninsula on the island of Molokai, includes two historic Hansen's disease settlements at Kalaupapa and Kalawao.
There are only two saints in the world that are from the same location, and Kalaupapa is the backdrop of the heroic stories of Hawaii’s two Catholic saints. Kalaupapa is on the island of Molokai and is a small peninsula of land surrounded by sheer cliffs. It was the perfect location for the Hawaiian Kingdom to quarantine those unfortunate individuals who showed symptoms of Hansen's disease (leprosy) beginning in the 1860s.
Here you will learn how Father Damien De Veuster and Mother Marianne Cope sacrificed themselves and gave up everything when they both made their one-way trips to Kalaupapa. These selfless individuals provided comfort and medical assistance to thousands of Hawaii's people who suffered from this horrible disease.
Today leprosy is no longer contagious, and the National Park Service operates Kalaupapa National Historical Park. Most of the original buildings and churches have been restored to their original design, and the Damien Tour includes fascinating excursions to both historic sites of Kalaupapa.
The first stop is at the tiny Kalaupapa store, known as Fuesaina (Samoan for a medicinal plant). In addition to a limited supply of snack foods and beverages, there are a number of historical photos on display and, if proprietor Gloria Marks (Damien Tour owner) is on hand to talk story, an oral history may ensue.
Guests are then taken to St. Francis Church where they will hear commentary by Pastor Patrick or their guide. They also will be allowed to visit the pier area nearby to appreciate the natural beauty and to hear about the importance of Barge Day, the one day a year when Kalaupapa residents can receive large items and supplies too unwieldy for air transport.
Your third stop is at the old Kalaupapa Visitor Headquarters. Here visitors will hear the stories of how patients and their guests were allowed to meet without any physical contact.
Next the tour goes to Mother Marianne Cope’s monument. Although Saint Damien is widely credited with building and preserving a civil way of life for the community’s patients, the fact is that most of Damien’s work was on the east end of the Kalaupapa Peninsula in Kalawao. It was Mother Marianne who was instrumental in the building of the infrastructure of Kalaupapa itself.
The next stop is at the Kalaupapa gift store, operated by Pacific Historic Parks. Here, guests can browse an exclusive collection of Kalaupapa books and memorabilia. Proceeds from this retail store go back to the park and its educational programs.
The tour bus then heads east towards Kalawao, stopping so that guests may disembark at Makanalua, a high point and natural viewing spot ideal for taking in the sea cliffs and the gorgeous view along the north shore of Molokai.
On the road to the picnic area, guests will pass by Siloama, the first Christian church to be built at Kalaupapa, as well as St. Philomena, the church built by Saint Damien after his arrival here in 1866. This also is the original settlement on the peninsula for patients. Prior to Damien’s arrival, most patients lived in crude shelters in nearby Waipolu Valley.
One of the prettiest stops on the tour is at the easternmost point of the peninsula in Kalawao. Here, there is a pavilion under the ironwood trees where the group has time to take pictures and have lunch. Then it’s back on the bus for the short ride to St. Philomena to visit the church and Saint Damien’s grave site.
The Kalaupapa retail store is a partnership between the National Park Service and Pacific Historic Parks. This retail store (and the online store) is the only location in the world to purchase the official Kalaupapa logoed merchandise.
Please support our retail store, proceeds helps supports the interpretative and educational activities of the Kalaupapa National Historical Park.
Tours operate Monday – Saturday, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.
Approximately 11 patients have homes and still reside in the community on a part time or full time basis. Out of respect for these residents, the number of visitors allowed to tour Kalaupapa is limited to 100 people per day.
Visitors to Kalaupapa National Historical Park must be at least 16 years of age and booked with Damien Tours (808-567-6171) either directly or through a transportation company. All visitors must be part of a tour group in order to enter the park.
Please be informed that independent exploration is not allowed.
Download Kalaupapa information in PDF format.
To learn more about the Hansen's disease settlements at Kalaupapa and Kalawao, visit the National Park Service website.