Kalaupapa: Colony Turned Community

KAPALUA, HI - OCTOBER 16: Morgan Pressel of th...
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Isolated from the rest of Molokai by towering sea cliffs on the topside of the island, the peninsula and community of Kalaupapa is a small village located on the northernmost point of Molokai. The 3,315-foot sea cliffs, the highest in the world, form a tremendous backdrop. Besides their natural beauty, the sea cliffs have managed to keep Kalaupapa separated from the rest of the world for centuries. The peninsula is so remote and inaccessible that it was used as a leprosy settlement in 1783. At that time, Father Damien started the community to separate the terminally-ill people from the rest of the population to avoid its spread throughout Hawaii. At its peak, Kalaupapa was home to more than 1,200 men, women, and children who were sent into exile. It wasn’t until 1969 that the practice of banishing affected patients was repealed. Today, only about twenty patients of the now-called Hansen’s Disease still live in Kalaupapa, amongst a diverse range of other residents and the peninsula is now called the Kalaupapa National Historical Park. While the peninsula may not be the most prime Molokai real estate, it certainly is one of the most unique. Hand-in-hand with the local culture and laid back attitude of people on the island, the community today works to be self sufficient and thrives on its own with only a weekly cargo plane delivering goods to supplement occasional product shipments by sea.

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Molokai is the fifth largest of the eight major Hawaiian Islands, which include: Ni’ihau, Kaua’i, O’ahu, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Kaho’olawe, Maui, and Hawaii, which is also referred to as the Big Island.Nicknamed the Friendly Isle, Molokai has a population of about 7,500 and is located across the 25 mile-wide Kaiwi Channel from Oahu.On a clear night the lights of Honolulu can be seen from the west coast of the island.Molokai is most known for its history as being the long time residence of Father Damien, a Belgian priest who cared for people affected by Hansen’s Disease, also known as leprosy.Kalaupapa, a small settlement on the north shore of Molokai was where sufferers of Hansen’s Disease took refuge.Although there are no active cases of the disease on the island today, most of the residents of Kalaupapa are descendants of previously afflicted patients.

Although Molokai is one of the least developed islands in Hawaii, the people living there, mostly of Hawaiian ancestry, have worked to preserve the Hawaiian culture.The island is home to many Hawaiian fish ponds, many of which have been preserved and restored in recent years.Molokai has been a island well suited for tourism, ranking as the tenth most popular island destination because of its pristine, tropical landscapes, environmental stewardship, rich cultures, and friendly nature.Molokai has several small hotels and resorts and is home to Papohaku Beach, located on the western facing shore of the island, which is one of the largest and most spectacular beaches in Hawaii.