Mule Tour to Kalaupapa National Historical Park
Rated by TripAdvisor as the number one adventure on Molokai, the mule tour to Kalaupapa is highly recommended for any visitor to Hawaii’s most Hawaiian island.
A little online research revealed these descriptions - “scariest tour ever”, “hair raising experience”, and “I didn’t tell my significant other what we were about to do until it was too late”.
Needless to say, we were intrigued. Who knew riding a mule could be so exciting?
We arrived at the mule barn 30 minutes early, surprised by the cool morning temperature. We don’t often associate Hawaii with warm sweaters, but the mule barn is located high above sea level, where temperatures and climate can be unpredictable. We were thankful we grabbed our sweaters and rain jackets before leaving the hotel.
Nicole was excited about the day’s activity, really excited. She’s been horseback riding since she was a little girl and feels right at home on the back of a horse.
Cameron on the hand, not so much. He’s not a fan of big animals and usually needs some convincing before agreeing to a day of horseback riding (here’s a video from our horseback riding adventures in Belize).
Then we met Buzzy Sproat.
Buzzy is a legend on the island of Molokai. The grey-bearded cowboy is one of Hawaii’s top mule trainers, taking adventure seekers down the steep sea cliffs for over 40 years.
He’s also quite the entertainer. I’m willing to bet that anyone who has taken this tour remembers Buzzy just as much as the breathing-taking views and haunting tales of Kalaupapa.
“You know how we find the right mule for you?” Buzzy asked our group of ten.
“By weight?” replied Sam from Seattle.
“No. By your looks. I’m going to match you with the mule that looks the most like you!”
That joke landed big time with our tour group. He was clearly working his A-material that morning.
Buzzy prepped the group and paired everyone with their mule. “Don’t worry, they know where to go. Some like to hug the cliff’s edge, but I’ve never seen a mule commit suicide, so don’t worry. They don’t know how to fly either!”
Oddly, his words were encouraging.
To reach the Kalaupapa Peninsula our group first had to travel 3 miles down the word’s tallest sea cliffs, passing 26 switchbacks and descending close to 1,700 feet.
The ride is slow and bumpy, passing steep sections with nothing more than a few shrubs separating the trail from the Pacific below.
We quickly understood why this unique excursion gets the variety of reviews that it does. It’s scary and thrilling, amusing and adventurous.
It’s unlike any other tour we’ve experienced in our travels.
The mules occasionally stop to eat grass and leaves, allowing us time to breathe the fresh ocean air and absorb our incredible surroundings.
The trip down the tall sea cliffs took about an hour, passing through dense forest and rocky trails before arriving at an eerily secluded beach.
The above photo shows you the lush sea cliffs that we tackled that morning. If you look closely, you can actually see the zigzag trail on the far right (use your imagination).
We dismounted the mules at a stable and boarded a yellow school bus that was waiting for us. Buzzy tied up his mule and jumped behind the wheel of the rusty old bus, serving as both mule master and bus driver. He’s a man of many talents!
Kalaupapa has a very dark past.
It was the isolated location of a leprosy settlement that housed thousands of men, women and children that were exiled to the island and cut off from society. Buzzy shared his personal experiences and stories about the peninsula’s haunting past, but we’ll save those tales for a future post.
Things to know before you go:
- Make reservations ahead of time. This tour is the hottest ticket on Molokai!
- Bring warm clothes and a jacket, the weather is unpredictable
- Bring some snacks. Lunch is provided but it’s very basic
- You do not need any experience, the mules are trained by Buzzy and need very little instruction
- The ride is quite bumpy, so if you want to take photos bring one of these
- It’s a full day tour, starting at 8:00 AM and finishing around 3:30, plan accordingly
The Guided Mule Ride & Historical Park Tour costs $199 per person and includes entry permits, light picnic lunch, NPS trail maintenance fee and a souvenir certificate. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth the price. You will not find a tour like this anywhere else in the world.
To learn more or to book your reservation, click here.
Read more from our trip to Molokai:
- Unspoiled coastlines. Untamed wilderness. Our upcoming trip to Molokai
- Our First Impressions of Molokai
- Aloha from the laidback Hawaiian Island of Moloka’i!
- VIDEO: Hiking the lush Halawa Valley to giant waterfalls
- The Natural Beauty of Kalaupapa
- Colourful Hawaiian Sunset on Molokai
- VIDEO: The Scenic (and dizzying) Drive to Halawa Valley
Have you visited the Hawaiian Island of Molokai? What did you think?
Share your experience in the comments section below, we’d love to read about it!
Thanks to Buzzy and the good people at the Molokai Visitors Bureau for the complimentary Molokai Mule Tour. As always, opinions shared are entirely our own. We think every visitor to Molokai should take a trip to the Kalaupapa Peninsula and learn about its history. You don’t have to ride the mule, you can also hike the trail or take a short flight.