Kalawao County, Hawaii

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Kalawao County, Hawaii
Map of Hawaii highlighting Kalawao County
Location in the U.S. state of Hawaii
Map of the United States highlighting Hawaii
Hawaii's location in the U.S.
Founded 1905
Seat none (administered by Hawaii Dept. of Health)
Largest community Kalaupapa
 • Total 53 sq mi (137 km2)
 • Land 12 sq mi (31 km2)
 • Water 41 sq mi (106 km2), 77.3%
Population (est.)
 • (2015) 89
 • Density 7.5/sq mi (3/km²)
Congressional district 2nd
Time zone Hawaii-Aleutian: UTC-10

Kalawao County is a county located in the U.S. state of Hawaii.[1] The county encompasses the Kalaupapa or Makanalua Peninsula, on the north coast of the island of Molokaʻi. The small peninsula of Kalaupapa is isolated from the rest of Molokaʻi by sea cliffs over a quarter-mile high—the only land access is a mule trail. As of the 2010 census, the population was 90,[2] making it the least-populous county in Hawaii and the second least populous county in the United States.

Because of the small population, Kalawao County does not have the functions of other Hawaii counties. It is a judicial district of Maui County, which includes the rest of the island of Molokaʻi. The county has no elected government. Developed and used from 1866 to 1969 for settlements for treatment of quarantined persons with leprosy, it is administered by the Hawaii Department of Health. The only county statutes that apply to Kalawao County directly are those on matters of health.[3]

Kalawao County is included in the Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI Metropolitan Statistical Area.


Kalawao County is independent of the rest of Molokaʻi, which is included as part of Maui County.

The county encompasses the Kalaupapa Settlement where the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, the Republic of Hawaiʻi, the territory, and the state once exiled persons suffering from leprosy (Hansen's disease) from 1866 to 1969. The quarantine policy was lifted after effective antibiotic treatments were developed that could be administered on an outpatient basis and patients could be rendered non-contagious. However, many of the resident patients chose to remain, as they believed their disfigurements from the illness would make reintegration into society impossible, and the state promised that they could live there for the rest of their lives. No new patients, or other permanent residents, are admitted. Visitors are permitted only as part of officially sanctioned tours. State law prohibits anyone under the age of 16 from visiting or living there, although exceptions have been made for children seeing their relatives. The Kalaupapa National Historical Park has been established to preserve the history and environment of the county. It is coterminous with the boundaries of Kalawao County.

At the time of the 2010 census, Kalawao County had a population of 90, making its population the second smallest of any county in the United States. Only Loving County, Texas had a smaller population. According to a 2015 census esimate, Kalawao County is now the least-populated county in the United States.[4]

Kalawao is part of the First Judicial Circuit, which includes the entire island of Oahu. For the purpose of notarization, the designated venue for the First Judicial Circuit is "State of Hawaii, City and County of Honolulu."


Kalawao County lacks a local, county government. Instead, Kalawao County is administered by the Hawaii Department of Health because of the history of the settlement and current patients living there. Under Hawaiian state law, the Director of the Hawaii Department of Health, who is appointed by the Governor, also serves as the Mayor of Kalawao County.[5][6][7][8] The Mayor holds executive powers within the county; the mayor also appoints a county sheriff, who is selected from local residents.[9]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 53 square miles (140 km2), of which 12 square miles (31 km2) is land and 41 square miles (110 km2) (77.3%) is water.[10] By land area, it is the smallest county in the United States.[citation needed]

Kalaupapa Peninsula[edit]

Kalaupapa Peninsula contains the county's only settlement, Kalaupapa. The Kalaupapa Peninsula developed from lava that erupted from the ocean floor near Kauhako Crater and spread outward, forming a low shield volcano. This was the most recent volcanic episode on the island and of the larger East Molokaʻi shield volcano, occurring after the formation of the cliffs by erosion. Today, the dormant crater contains a small lake more than 800 feet (240 m) deep.


Traditionally, the area of Kalawao County has been composed of four ahupuaʻa. The ahupuaʻa are listed below, from west to east:[11][12]

Nr. Ahupuaʻa Area
1 Kalaupapa 2.079 5.385 122
2 Makanalua 3.229 8.363 8
3 Kalawao 3.294 8.531 9
4 Waikolu 5.544 14.359 0
  Kalawao County 14.146 36.638 139

Kalaupapa ahupuaʻa is located on the west side of Kalaupapa peninsula, and includes a section of Molokaʻi's coast further west. Makanalua ahupuaʻa is a strip of land in the center of the peninsula that runs to its northern tip. Kalaupapa Airport is located in the north of Makanalua ahupuaʻa. Kalawao ahupuaʻa includes the eastern coast of Kalaupapa peninsula and Waialeia Valley to the southeast. Further southeast is virtually uninhabited Waikolu ahupuaʻa in the namesake valley.[13]

Adjacent county[edit]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 1,177
1910 785 −33.3%
1920 667 −15.0%
1930 605 −9.3%
1940 446 −26.3%
1950 340 −23.8%
1960 279 −17.9%
1970 172 −38.4%
1980 144 −16.3%
1990 130 −9.7%
2000 147 13.1%
2010 90 −38.8%
Est. 2015 89 [14] −1.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[15]
1790-1960[16] 1900-1990[17]
1990-2000[18] 2010-2015[2]

As of the census of 2000,[19] there were 147 people, 115 households, and 21 families residing in the county. The population density was 11 people per square mile (4/km²). There were 172 housing units at an average density of 13 per square mile (5/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 25.85% White, 17.01% Asian, 48.30% Pacific Islander, 2.72% from other races, and 6.12% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.08% of the population.

There were 115 households out of which 1.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 16.50% were married couples living together, 2.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 80.90% were non-families. 79.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 31.30% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.28 and the average family size was 2.27.

In the county, the population was spread out with 2.00% under the age of 18, 1.40% from 18 to 24, 18.40% from 25 to 44, 46.30% from 45 to 64, and 32.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 59 years. For every 100 females there were 98.60 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.80 males.

The results of the censuses of population since 1900 shows the decline of population:[20]

The annual population estimates since the last census of population 2000 (as of July 1 of each year) show a further decline in population:[21]

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
145 138 133 127 117 114 109 105 99 93 90


The only access to Kalawao County is by air, or by a steep mule trail which descends 1,600 feet from topside Molokaʻi. Kalaupapa Airport, which is located within the county, has scheduled air service to Molokaʻi Airport and to Honolulu Airport.

Freight is delivered to the county once a year, usually in July, by barge to the jetty at Kalaupapa.[22]


  1. ^ Voss, Oscar (2012). "Is Kalawao County, on the north shore of Molokai, really a separate county?". Retrieved 25 January 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 28, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Hawaii's 4 (or 5) Counties". Retrieved 2014-01-22. 
  4. ^ https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=PEP_2015_PEPANNRES&src=pt.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Dingeman, Robbie (2002-10-31). "Smallest county to ban smoking". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  6. ^ Rawlings, Nate (2013-12-12). "Hawaii Official Killed in Plane Crash". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  7. ^ Uyeno, Kristine (2013-12-12). "Hawaii Official Killed in Plane Crash". KHON. Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  8. ^ Kakesako, Gregg K. (2013-12-12). "Pilot described 'catastrophic engine failure' in Molokai crash". Honolulu Star Advertiser. Archived from the original on 2014-01-02. Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  9. ^ "Department of Health Administrative Offices". State of Hawaiʻi. Retrieved 2010-09-28. 
  10. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  11. ^ city-data.com: Kalaupa Ahupuaʻa, etc.
  12. ^ city-data.com: Waikolu Ahupuaʻa
  13. ^ Mark D. McCoy: The Lands of the Hina: An Archeological Overview and Assessment of Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Molokaʻi, Chapter 8: Assessment, Seite 33
  14. ^ "County Totals Dataset: Population, Population Change and Estimated Components of Population Change: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  15. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 28, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved June 28, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 28, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 28, 2014. 
  19. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  20. ^ Bureau of the Census: HAWAII. Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990
  21. ^ Intercensal Estimates of the Resident Population for Counties: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2010: Hawaii. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 17, 2014.
  22. ^ "Life Today in Kalaupapa". National Park Service. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 21°11′49″N 156°58′02″W / 21.19694°N 156.96722°W / 21.19694; -156.96722