Kalaupapa Overlook

Top choice viewpoint in Palaʻau State Park

Image by Mark Harris Getty Images

The Kalaupapa Overlook provides a scenic overview of the Kalaupapa Peninsula from the edge of a 1600ft cliff. It's easy to get the lay of the land from up here and you'll get a good feel for just how far you'll travel if you descend the nearly 1700ft on the trail. Interpretive plaques identify significant landmarks below and explain Kalaupapa's history.

The village where all of Kalaupapa's residents live is visible, but Kalawao, the original settlement and site of Father Damien's church and grave, is not. Kalaupapa means 'flat leaf,' an accurate description of the lava-slab peninsula that was created when a low shield volcano poked up out of the sea, long after the rest of Molokaʻi had been formed.

The dormant Kauhako Crater, visible from the overlook, contains a little lake that's more than 800ft deep. At 400ft, the crater is the highest point on the Kalaupapa Peninsula. The best light for photography is usually from late morning to mid-afternoon.

There's a vague trail of sorts that continues directly beyond the last plaque at the overlook. The path, on a carpet of soft ironwood needles, passes through diagonal rows of trees planted during a Civil Conservation Corps (CCC) reforestation project in the 1930s. Simply follow this trail for 20 minutes or so until it peters out.