Kalaupapa Things to Do
Tour the island! When you go to Kalaupapa, make sure you get a guided tour of the settlement, and of Kalawao County if you can. The area is rich in history, as a former Hansen's disease settlement. You can visit a heiau (ancient Hawaiian temple of worship), see the Lions Cross (erected on the hilltop by the Kalaupapa Lions in 1956), visit St. Philomena's Church where Father Damien held services, and visit Father Damien's gravesite in the courtyard of the church. In addition, visit the craft store in Kalaupapa town where you can buy crafts fashioned by residents and local craftspeople.
Kalaupapa used to be a place of isolation, where people with Hansen's disease (leprosy) were sent to keep them away from the general population. The people were taken to this isolated area by boat, and literally tossed overboard and left to swim to shore or drown. They were separated from their families, sent to Kalaupapa, and left there to spend their remaining years and die.
Father Damien came to Hawaii to minister to the sick. He was sent to Kalaupapa, where he tended to the ill. He refused to leave, and he eventually contracted the disease and died from it. One miracle has been attributed to Father Damien, and he has been beatified by the Catholic Church.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
155 Star Rte, Kalaupapa, HI 96748
There are no restaurants in Kalaupapa. There is Elaine's bar, but no real commercial enterprises. You need to either bring your own food, or make other arrangements.
When we stayed there, we were hosted by the Kalaupapa Lions. We all brought food in for a Friday night pot luck dinner, and Saturday night's dinner consisted of food shipped in earlier in preparation for our visit.
If you're visiting for the day, you need to bring your own food or have your tour guide provide your food. You are not allowed to stay overnight unless you are sponsored by a resident.
Favorite Dish: The meals were all 'family style' where we put everything we had out on the table, and everyone shared their food. There was more than enough food for everyone.
You have two options. You can take a small commuter plane, or walk down the mule trail on the sheer cliff to the south of the peninsula. I suggest taking the plane.
You either have to be a part of a tour, or be sponsored by a resident. If you're on your own for some reason, your only choice is to walk. There are no rental cars.
A word of advice: if you're walking and a car is coming towards you, get off the road, since some of the patients can't see well but still drive.
Kalaupapa Local Customs
When we were in Kalaupapa, the people wanted to share some of their culture with us. They taught us how to make hinahina lei, and how to make baskets from coconut fronds. Even though I am part Hawaiian, I was brought up in Honolulu and am not as close to my culture as the residents are. It was interesting to get lessons in basic Hawaiian crafts.
The best way to learn something about the people's culture is to ask them to share it with you. The Hawaiian culture is there if you want it, the genuine old Hawaiian way, not the Waikiki tacky-tourist way.
Kalaupapa Off The Beaten Path
The entire experience of Kalaupapa is being off the beaten path. There is one main road that leads from the lighthouse to the airport to town. The other 'roads' are little more than wheel tracks in the pastures.
While there, relax, go fishing, get some sun. You can just sit there on the beach and listen to the waves and the sound of the wind in the trees.
At night it is pitch black except for the flash of light from the lighthouse.
During the day, if you pay attention, you can see deer just beyond your back fence, or endangered Hawaiian monk seals with their pups on the beach.
Most of all, get to know the people. They are genuine and friendly. They lead a simple and relatively care free life.
It was almost like stepping back in time. No TV, no radio, no telephone. You walk to where you're going, and there's no rush. It's a very relaxing way to spend the weekend.
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