Ever since Father Damien of Molokai was canonized to sainthood last year, visitor traffic to the formerly forbidden village of Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai has increased considerably.

Most of those visitors are uplifted by learning about the leper colony, its people, incredible tales of struggle and human suffering, and moving stories of courage and love.

If you’re considering such a visit on your Hawaii vacation, be advised that – beyond the colony’s historical significance — the trip down to it is an exciting and wonderful experience.

It’s best made by mule. Don’t worry, the adventure begins with a briefing by a mule guide. You’ll learn your mule’s name and the Mule guides will teach you how to ride and control the animals. The mules are personally trained by their owner, a well-known rider in the Hawaii Rodeo circuit who is considered to be one of Hawaii’s foremost experts on Mules.

The trip will take you down 1,700 feet of the most spectacular — as well as the highest — sea cliffs in the world. It takes an hour-and-a-half to ride – at a slow pace — down the trial and an hour and 15 minutes to get back up.

The beauty you’ll experience as you ride down the three-mile trail (with 26 switchbacks) leaves most visitors speechless. Once Upon arriving in Kalaupapa, you’ll be met by a guide and learn about the leper colony and its people. Often the information is provided by former patient. If you’re going to take the tour, consider requesting a former patient because he or she can lend a personal perspective on life in Kalaupapa.

The park is open Monday through Saturday, by invitation only. Visitors must be at least 16 years of age.

If such a tour appeals to you, pick an agent from the Hawaii Aloha Web site, or call 1-800-843-8771. We’ll make the arrangements for you.


  1. This is wrong. Father Damien has NOT been canonized. It won’t happen until Oct. 11, 2009. And visitor traffic has NOT increased, in fact it has gone down. Get your facts straight.

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