Mele Kalikimaka. Merry Christmas from Hawaii. As we get closer to our goal of all 417 National Park Units, they are getting a bit farther away and more logistically difficult to reach. It takes some planning to get to places like Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Molokai but it sure is a nice place to unwind.
Getting ThereFirst you have to get to Molokai. It’s the 5th largest of the Hawaiian islands and one of the least visited. Don’t expect to see any national hotel chains or restaurants – it’s local Hawaiian. There are private condos for rent and a hotel. But if you like a nice slow pace and authenticity, it is a lovely place to visit. You should plan to rent a car. You will need it to get around and see the island.
Hint: look up all the information before you come. There is no visitor kiosk at the airport and the visitor center in town is only open Monday to Friday from 9 to 3.Getting to Kalaupapa National Historical Park is another challenge. There really are only three options for getting there…
- take a mule
Hint: you have to call and pre-register. Space is limited. They told us to hike down and meet them at the bottom. There wasn’t any paperwork, so don’t get put off the the sign at the top of the trail that warns you there is a $500 fine if you proceed without a written permit. Hike down, meet the mini bus at 10 and they’ll have you on the list. The first stop on the tour is to pay Auntie Gloria.The trail going to the bottom was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). It’s in pretty good shape although the daily mule trains do mess it up a bit. Best to hike down before the mules. The tours meet at the bottom at 10 am and the mules leave “topside” at 8:30 am. Get on the trail by 7:30 so you can beat the mules. The hike is strenuous – you drop 1700 feet in 2 1/2 miles, traversing the side of the cliff with 26 switchbacks. As you can well imagine, the views are spectacular! You need to be in good shape. Going down is as hard as going up… if it has been raining the trail is slippery adding another element to the experience.
Hint: Take walking sticks - you will be glad you did. Also be sure to take lots of water, energy snacks and something for lunch during the tour. They stop at noon for a lunch break, but there isn’t a restaurant or anything for sale. You can refill your water at the bottom before your trip back up to the top.