A Pair of Hawaiian Leper Colonies




Gary B. Speck




Kalaupapa and Kalawao are not everyday names in most American’s lives, but these two locations on Hawaii’s Molokai Island are extremely unique ghost towns.  Both were established in the 1860s on the north shore of the island, away from the other towns to “protect” people from contact with those who had leprosy, now known as Hansen’s Disease.


Both locations are now National Historic Parks and explain the importance of the locations to Hawaiian and American history.


KALAUPAPA is located on the north shore of the island at the base of the Makanalua Peninsula.  It was founded in 1866 as a dumping place for those who ended up with leprosy.  It wasn't until 1873 when Belgian priest Father Damien (Rev. Joseph Damien de Veuster) arrived, that the members of the colony received compassionate care.  He almost single handedly served these people until he died of the disease in 1889.


Hansen's Disease is now controllable with drugs, so the colony has faded.  Many of the longtime residents don't want to leave, even though in 1969 the quarantine restrictions placed on them were lifted.  In 1991, the average age of the remaining 89 people was 68.


Also located on Molokai, KALAWAO, is on the east side of the Makanalua Peninsula on Molokai Island's north shore, this was another 1866 leper colony, but it was established in a less protected location.  By the early 1900s, most of the members had moved to Kalaupapa.


This was our Ghost Town of the Month for January 2005


These are two of the towns featured in my newest book, GHOST TOWNS: Yesterday & TodayTM.





·        Latitude: 21.1925000 / 21° 11' 33" N

·        Longitude: -156.9861111 / 156° 59' 10" W 



·        Latitude: 21.1802778 / 21° 10' 49" N

·        Longitude: -156.9511111 / 156° 57' 04" W 



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FIRST POSTED:  January 03, 2005

LAST UPDATED: July 31, 2011




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