The Best Ghost Towns to Visit in Hawaii

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While you’re in Hawaii, take the time to visit some of the islands’ most intriguing ghost towns, including Kalaupapa, Keomoku, and Halawa. These sites have fascinating histories, and you'll drive through some of the most beautiful regions of Hawaii along the route.
Hawaii has some of the richest culture and most beautiful vistas in the nation, and this makes for ghost towns unlike any other. Tucked away amongst lush greenery, Hawaii’s ghost towns are a sight definitely worth seeing, even if they aren’t as lively now as they once were.
But these sites are considered ghost towns for a reason—their remote locations and run-down conditions can make it difficult to visit. Having a great car insurance policy will help you be prepared for those conditions. 
Keep your car protected with the car insurance super app Jerry, and get ready to tour some of the best Hawaii ghost towns without stressing.

Kalaupapa 

What is the story of Kalaupapa?

A foggy view looking down at water and tree-lined hills at Kalaupapa.
Kalaupapa, Molokai, Hawaii
Founded in 1866, Kalaupapa was established as a colony for those who had leprosy—very little was known about the disease at the time other than the belief that it was highly contagious and incurable.
Kalaupapa is on the island of Molokai in an area that’s not easily accessible. This made it ideal for a quarantined village, allowing the sick to remain isolated while preventing the healthy from visiting and spreading the disease further.
At the colony’s peak, roughly 1,200 men, women, and children were sent to the settlement to quarantine. In 1969, 103 years after first being established, the colony’s quarantine restrictions were lifted. Residents of the area were allowed to leave, but some chose to remain in the settlement that had become their home.
The Kalaupapa National Historical Park, which encompasses the colony site and surrounding area, was established on December 22, 1980.

What makes Kalaupapa special?

Kalaupapa is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Here are a few highlights and things to keep in mind:
  • The sea cliffs are some of the highest in the world, at 2,000 feet above ocean level.
  • The Kalaupapa Trail, while offering beautiful sights, is extremely dangerous due to its steep cliffs, uneven surfaces, and varied trail conditions.
  • Visitors must be over the age of 16. 
  • Visitors can either pay a fee for a guided tour or be invited by a resident—guests of residents are the only ones allowed to stay overnight and must bring their own food, clothes, and personal necessities, as well as take their trash when they leave.
Pro Tip Those wanting to visit by boat must obtain a special permit. Also, it is prohibited to take photos of residents and their property without written permission.
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How to Visit Kalaupapa 

Kalaupapa is found on the island of Molokai, accessible by flying to the Kalaupapa Airport, by boat (permit needed), by hiking the strenuous Kalaupapa Trail, or by mule!
With its remote location and lack of medical facilities, dining, and shopping facilities, you should definitely be well-prepared before visiting Kalaupapa. In the case of inclement weather, you might not be able to get out of Kalaupapa, so preparation will be your best friend.
There are no campsites or places to stay on Kalaupapa, and only guests of residents are permitted to stay overnight.
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Keomoku

What is the story of Keomoku 

Located on the island of Lanai, Keomoku was a peaceful fishing village until the Maunalei Sugar Company arrived in town in the late 1800s, transforming it into a thriving sugar plantation. The village had about 2,000 residents at its peak, and it was the first non-Hawaiian settlement on the island.
Due to a plague that reached the village in 1900, the success of Keomoku didn’t endure. Many Maunalei Sugar Company employees died, and the plantation was forced to close its doors in 1901 after the freshwater supplies used to irrigate the crops became brackish.
But according to local legend, when the Maunalei Sugar Company built its railroad, the workers broke the sacred stones of a neighboring heiau (Hawaiian temple), angering the gods and causing the water problems and illness that wiped out the people of Keomoku.
Laborers left the village in droves, and at one point, the island’s population dwindled to approximately 125 residents. By the 1930s, Keomoku was largely forgotten.

What makes Keomoku special? 

Today, Keomoku lies abandoned and is often referred to as one of Hawaii’s only true ghost towns. 
  • Visitors can see the few remaining structures, including wooden houses and the original site of the Ka Lanakila o Ka Malamalama Church.
  • You can also find an old locomotive and some dilapidated train tracks.
  • The town is surrounded by sweeping panoramic views and nearby beaches that are ideal for a picnic.
  • Tourists rarely visit Keomoku due to its remote location and rundown status, but it makes for a truly interesting look into the past.

How to visit Keomoku 

Keomoku is located on the eastern shore of the island of Lanai. It’s only accessible if using a 4WD vehicle via a long dirt road—either Keomoku Road or Route 430.
Keep the weather in mind when you decide to visit Keomoku because there are no real campsites or hotels to stay in if you get stranded.

Halawa

A low-angle view of rocks on a beach in front of a partially cloudy Halawa sky.
Halawa Valley, East Molokai, Hawaii

What is the story of Halawa?

Halawa is one of Hawaii's oldest settlements, with archaeological evidence dating the area back over 1,000 years. The village had a population of several thousand, 17 temples, irrigation channels for taro production, ancient walls, and terraces.
Tsunamis flooded the village in 1946 and again in 1957, destroying the taro crops and prompting a large-scale evacuation of the town.
Today, only a small number of residents still live in the valley, with most of the land privately owned.

What makes Halawa special? 

Halawa is thought to represent the longest period of continuous Hawaiian cultural development, and it contains some spectacular sights:
  • Halawa’s valley is home to two waterfalls at its head—the Mo’aula Falls is 250 feet high, while the Hipuapua Falls reaches 500 feet tall.
  • Check out the ruins of the Halawa Congregational Church, the first built on the island in 1852.
  • Guided tours to the waterfalls are available for tourists, adventure seekers, and those interested in learning about the history of the valley.

How to visit Halawa

Halawa is located on the eastern tip of Molokai island. It lies at the eastern end of HI-450, around 28 miles east of Kaunakakai.
There is a public beach in Halawa, but keep in mind that most of the valley is privately owned land. The roads to the village aren’t too run-down, so you should be able to make it using most rental cars.

Waialua Sugar Mill

Waialua Sugar Mill building at sunset.
Waialua Sugar Mill

What is the story of Waialua Sugar Mill? 

While the town of Waialua itself isn’t a ghost town, the Waialua Sugar Mill—formally known as the Chamberlain Plantation—is an abandoned site worth seeing!
This sugar plantation was in business from 1865 until 1996, and the acreage was expanded over the years to include a railway, additional water collection systems, and the largest water storage system in Hawaii. Because of this, sugar production increased from less than 5,000 tons in 1900 to 20,000 tons in 1905.
Later on, the Waialua plantation also co-generated electricity and sold it to local towns.
The Waialua Sugar Mill was the last sugarcane plantation on Oahu, closing in October 1996 because of profit issues. The location is now an industrial park that was put up for sale in 2020.

What makes Waialua Sugar Mill special?

Though it doesn’t have the prosperity it once had, the sugar mill still makes for an interesting historic site worth touring: 
  • Waialua Sugar Mill sits on over 25 acres of land.
  • There are guided tours available that provide an in-depth look at the history of the sugar plantation.
  • It has a gift shop with unique souvenirs, delicious chocolate and sweets, and even free coffee tastings!
  • On Saturdays, there is a small farmers market selling everything from papayas to soap

How to visit Waialua Sugar Mill 

The Waialua Sugar Mill is the historic center of the town of Waialua, which can be reached from Honolulu by taking I-H-1 west to I-H-2 north. Continue on HI-803 into Waialua on Goodale Ave, then turn left on Kealohanui Street.
There are a number of inns and beachfront properties that can be rented if you choose to stay the night, so be sure to book ahead if you decide to do so!

Why you need good car insurance

While visiting ghost towns can be scary, getting there shouldn't be. Because ghost towns are generally located in rural places, you are more likely to be involved in an accident or collide with wildlife. 
It's critical that you have the proper car insurance coverage, especially if you might be renting a car to tour Hawaii’s ghost towns.
If you want to save money on car insurance, the Jerry app is the best place to start. After providing you with the cheapest quotes from the best providers, Jerry will handle the phone calls, paperwork, and renewals for your top pick so that you don’t have to. They even help cancel your old policy!
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