After a two-year hiatus, the Molokai mules are once again toting visitors down a 1,600-foot cliff to isolated Kalaupapa peninsula, where Father Damien once ministered to leprosy patients.
The ride, the island's best-known tourist activity, offers stunning views of the world's tallest sea cliffs and a tour of Kalaupapa settlement, now a national park. In business for 20 years, the ride shut down in January, 1993, because of insurance troubles, leaving visitors to hike or fly into Kalaupapa's tiny airport.
Since then, the National Park Service has spent $225,000 in renovations to stabilize the cliff trail. The mules resumed their daily trek in September, with new financial backing. The ride, which costs $120 per person, includes a picnic lunch at Kalaupapa and a walking tour of the settlement and Father Damien's grave site. No riding experience is necessary.
"You'd be surprised, people come from all over the world just to do this," said Marlene Sproat, secretary of the family business. "The view is so spectacular, and the area is so serene. Plus Father Damien makes it famous."