Hawaii Highways road photos -- Kalawao County

More than a dozen photos below, and links to still more photos and other sources, cover Kalawao County (the Kalaupapa Settlement) on Molokai. They aren't particularly road-oriented, but are included in the Hawaii Highways road photos collection anyway to provide complete coverage of all five of Hawaii's counties. Also, Kalawao County is an important part of Hawaiian history, as a former place of exile for those diagnosed with Hansen's Disease ("leprosy"). It also is the site of the legendary works caring for the exiles, of Father Damien de Vuester in the late 19th century and Mother Marianne Cope who carried on Damien's work after his death. Both were recently canonized as Catholic saints, Damien in 2009 and Marianne in 2012.

Except as otherwise noted, all the photos below are my own, from my October 1999 and June 2005 visits to Molokai.

Kalawao County is on the Kalaupapa Peninsula on the north shore of Molokai. It is a separate county from the rest of Molokai (which is part of Maui County, along with Lanai and uninhabited Kahoolawe), even though many maps don't show Kalawao as a separate county. (For those of you who've heard that Kalawao County isn't for real, the FAQs will set you straight on that point, as well as provide other interesting information about the county.) It is isolated from the rest of Molokai by sea cliffs over a quarter-mile high, with the only land access a tricky mule trail (you can hike it too, but watch out for all those "mule apples"!).

While Kalawao County has few roads and no state or other numbered highways, it has other unique features of interest to "road geeks" (particularly those whose "geekery" includes "county-counting," or trying to visit as many counties as possible -- and Kalawao is one of the harder ones to clinch). Kalawao County has the smallest land area and second-smallest population of any county in the U.S., and is also the only U.S. county where entry is prohibited by law except with state permission (which most tourists can easily obtain, but only through an authorized tour operator).

NOTE: In case you want more detail, clicking any photo below will call up an enlarged, higher-quality (less .jpg compression) version. Those alternate versions have larger file sizes, so please be patient while they download.

An overview of Kalaupapa village and the rest of Kalawao County, from an overlook at the end of state route 470 in Palaau State Park. (October 1999) Kaluapapa Peninsula overlook
Kalaupapa Peninsula, from trail as it begins its descent to the peninsula
A closer view of the Kalaupapa Peninsula, this one from the mule trail down to the peninsula, where it starts its descent down the cliff. (June 2005)
This very faded old sign was the first of the "unwelcome" signs I saw on the mule trail down to Kalawao County. As far as I know, it was a few hundred feet uphill from the county line. The sign set forth an older (and still largely accurate) version of the unique prohibition on visiting the county without prior state permission. Click here, or cursor over the photo, for what I could make out of the words on the sign. (June 2005)
Faded old warning sign on mule trail, shortly before crossing Kalawao County line: ____________________ WITHOUT | WRITTEN PERMISSION H.R.S. 326-26 | _____ ____ ____ ____ | AND $100.00 FINE. CONTACT 567-6613 | OR 567-6220 FOR INFORMATION. | FOR THOSE WITH PERMITS NO ONE | UNDER 16 YEARS OLD ALLOWED. | 16-18 YRS NEED SPECIAL PERMITS.
New warning sign on mule trail, shortly before crossing Kalawao County line: HAWAII LAW FORBIDS ANYONE | BEYOND THIS POINT WITHOUT | WRITTEN PERMIT - HRS 326-26 | VIOLATORS SUBJECT TO CITATION | AND $500.00 FINE. CONTACT 567-6924 | OR 567-6928 FOR INFORMATION | FOR THOSE WITH PERMISSION NO ONE | UNDER 16 YRS. OF AGE ALLOWED WITHOUT SPECIAL PERMIT. More recently, the faded old sign above was covered by a brand-new one, with an updated warning. The fine for getting caught crossing the county line without a permit is higher than shown on the old signs, but the former flat ban on entry by persons under 16 has been replaced by a "special permit" requirement. Those special permits may be issued only for young relatives of Kalaupapa Settlement patients to see them on family visits, and are not available to tourists. (February 2007, courtesy of Aaron Stene)
Closeup of sign at mule trail entrance to Kalawao County
This warning sign is a few hundred feet farther down the mule trail than the ones above, about two miles up from the bottom of the trail and about a half-mile down from state route 470, just before the trail takes a sharp right turn down the side of the cliff above the village. As far as I know, this sign is right at or close to the Kalawao County line. (Photo above left June 2005; photo above right March 2004, by B. Bessken, courtesy of V. Naylor who is standing next to the sign)
Warning at mule trail entrance to Kalawao County: Stop Warning | Go back unless you have | a written permit | to enter Kalawao County | Violators of HRS 326-26 | Subject to citation | and $100.00 fine
Sign at airport exit:  No entry beyond | this point | without a visitor | permit | Violators are | subject to arrest | HRS 326-39
A earlier version of the sign, this one at the airport exit. (November 1992, courtesy of David Flack)
The Kalaupapa Settlement, at the foot of the 1600'-high sea cliffs that block land access from the rest of Molokai, and surrounded by rough and shark-infested waters. Its isolation made Kalaupapa the perfect place for the Kingdom of Hawaii to exile Hawaiians diagnosed with Hansen's Disease, beginning in 1866 in the reign of King Kamehameha V. Hansen's Disease can now be treated and made noncontagious, and in 1969 patients were allowed to leave (and no new patients were admitted). However, many chose to stay, and about two dozen of them still remain. Sea cliffs above Kalaupapa village
Even though the quarantine has been lifted, and the Settlement is now a national historical park, state permission to visit is still required, to protect the privacy and dignity of the remaining patients. Tourists may visit only on escorted official tours (no tours on Sundays, and no children allowed). (October 1999)
St. Philomena Church in Kalawao Grave marker for St. Damien's tomb: V.C.J.S. | Sacred to the Memory | of the Revd. Father | Damien Deveuster | Died a Martyr to the Charity | to the afflicted Lepers | April 15, 1889 | R.I.P.
St. Philomena Church (above) in Kalawao, the original settlement for Hansen's Disease patients, east of Kalaupapa. This is where St. Damien held services, and was buried (right -- his body was later returned to his native Belgium, but his right hand was later re-buried here). Catholic services are now held in St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa (below). (All photos October 1999)
St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa


Portrait of Father Damien Banyan tree wrapped around palm tree
Saint Damien, just before his death in 1889 (of Hansen's Disease), depicted in a painting hung in St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa. He came to Kalaupapa in 1873 to care for the exiles, who until then had been largely left to fend for themselves with little aid and no treatment. His efforts made him legendary in the islands, and the Catholic Church formally declared him a saint in ceremonies in Rome on October 11, 2009. (October 1999)
In Kalaupapa, a "mixed marriage" of a banyan tree wrapped around a palm tree. (October 1999)
Kalawao Cove overview Kalawao Cove closeup
Overview of Kalawao Cove, where exiles were unceremoniously dumped onshore in the first years of the settlement. (October 1999)
A closer view of Kalawao Cove. (October 1999)
Okala Island east of Kalawao Cove Road from Kalawao Cove toward Kalaupapa
The shark's tooth-shaped Okala Island on the east side of Kalawao Cove. (October 1999) The dirt road from Kalawao Cove back to Kalaupapa. (October 1999)

Some other sites and sources:

Ham radio operator David Flack took some excellent pictures of Kalawao County on a 1992 group visit there with his fellow ham operators. These include some road photos I wish I'd taken, such as one of a sign prohibiting entry into the county without a state permit (shown above).

Ed Wilson also took some photos (including street scenes) of the Kalaupapa area on his visit the month after I went there.

The VisitMolokai site has many photos of the Kalaupapa area, as well as one of the mule trail down to the settlement, and a good brief summary of the area's history.

The Pixel Pot site includes some more photos of Kalawao County, including a dirt road between Kalaupapa and the old Kalawao village.

Molokai Mule Ride, Inc. ran the mule ride tour I took down the cliff to Kalaupapa, and its site is informative as well as promotional.

National Park Service - Kalaupapa National Historical Park also has useful information about the Kalaupapa Settlement's history, as well as visitor information.

J.D. Bisignani, Maui Handbook (5th edition 1999), is one of the Moon Travel Handbooks which were my main trip planning reference for my trips to Hawaii. Its eloquent summary of the Kalaupapa Settlement's history was what led me to add the settlement, and the associated mule ride, to my itinerary.

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© 1999-2007, 2009, 2012 Oscar Voss.