There's an added incentive to visit the Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Molokai. Sister Marianne Cope, a nun who made caring for Hawaii’s lepers her mission, was elevated to sainthood in October.
The leper colony at the village of Kalaupapa, accessible only by a steep, 3 1/2-mile trail, is among the most remote of the sites operated by the National Park Service. It is reached by an arduous hike – there are 28 switchbacks along the road – or by mule or by mini-bus. The van is provided by Father Damien Tours, which also offers a package including round-trip air from Honolulu to Kalaupapa.
The isolation was intentional as a means of preventing spread of the disfiguring disease, which nowadays is called Hansen's disease. In the 1880s, the disease reached crisis proportions in the then-independent island nation.
Sister Cope, commonly known as Mother Marianne, arrived in Hawaii in 1883 at the request of King David Kalakaua. She had been a hospital administrator in Syracuse, N.Y., and her response to the plea for help was simply, “I am not afraid of any disease.”