Kalawao County, Hawaii

Coordinates: 21°11′49″N 156°58′02″W / 21.19694°N 156.96722°W / 21.19694; -156.96722
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kalawao County
Kalaupapa peninsula
Kalaupapa peninsula
Map of Hawaii highlighting Kalawao County
Location within the U.S. state of Hawaii
Map of the United States highlighting Hawaii
Hawaii's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 21°11′49″N 156°58′02″W / 21.196944444444°N 156.96722222222°W / 21.196944444444; -156.96722222222
Country United States
State Hawaii
Named forKalawao
Seatnone (administered by Hawaii Dept. of Health)
Largest communityKalaupapa
 • Total53 sq mi (140 km2)
 • Land12 sq mi (30 km2)
 • Water41 sq mi (110 km2)  77.3%
 • Total82
 • Density1.5/sq mi (0.60/km2)
Time zoneUTC−10 (Hawaii–Aleutian)
 • Summer (DST)HADT
Congressional district2nd
Interactive map of Kalawao County, Hawaii

Kalawao County (Hawaiian: Kalana o Kalawao) is a county in the U.S. state of Hawaii.[1] It is the smallest county in the 50 states by land area and the second-smallest county by population, after Loving County, Texas.[2] The county encompasses the Kalaupapa or Makanalua Peninsula, on the north coast of the island of Molokaʻi. The small peninsula is isolated from the rest of Molokaʻi by cliffs over a quarter-mile high; the only land access is a mule trail.[3]

Because of the small population (82 as of the 2020 United States Census[4]), Kalawao County does not have the same functions as other Hawaii counties. Instead, it is a judicial district of Maui County, which includes the rest of the island of Molokaʻi. The county has no elected government.[5]

It was developed and used from 1866 to 1969 for settlements for treatment of quarantined persons with Hansen's disease (leprosy).[6]


The Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, the Republic of Hawaiʻi, the Territory of Hawaii, and the state of Hawaii all exiled persons suffering from Hansen's disease (leprosy) to the peninsula, from 1866 to 1969. The quarantine policy was only lifted after effective antibiotic treatments were developed that could be administered on an outpatient basis and patients could be rendered non-contagious.[7]

Many of the residents nonetheless chose to remain on the peninsula, as they believed their disfigurements from the illness would make reintegration into society impossible. The state promised that they could live there for the rest of their lives. No new patients, or other permanent residents, were later admitted. Visitors are permitted only as part of official tours. State law prohibits anyone under the age of 16 from visiting or living there, although exceptions have been made for children visiting their relatives.[citation needed]

In 1980, the Kalaupapa National Historical Park was established to preserve the county's history and environment. It is coterminous with the boundaries of Kalawao County.


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.[8][9][10][11] The Mayor holds executive powers within the county; the mayor also appoints a county sheriff, who is selected from local residents.[12] The only county statutes that apply to Kalawao County directly are those on matters of health.[13]

Kalawao is part of the First Judicial Circuit, which includes the entire island of Oahu.[14] For the purpose of notarization, the designated venue for the First Judicial Circuit is "State of Hawaii, City and County of Honolulu."


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.[15] By land area, it is the smallest true county in the United States; some independent cities in Virginia are smaller and are sometimes considered to be “county equivalents” for statistical purposes such as with the US Census Bureau.

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 Kauhakō 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.


Kalawao County is composed of four ahupuaʻa. From west to east:[16][17]

Ahupuaʻa Area
Population Description
Kalaupapa 2.079 5.385 65 West side of Kalaupapa peninsula. Includes a section of Molokaʻi's coast further west
Makanalua 3.229 8.363 8 Strip of land in the center of the peninsula that runs to its northern tip. Includes Kalaupapa Airport.
Kalawao 3.294 8.531 9 Eastern coast of Kalaupapa peninsula and Waialeia Valley to the southeast
Waikolu 5.544 14.359 0 Includes namesake valley. Uninhabited.[18]
Kalawao County 14.146 36.638 82


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[19]
1790-1960[20] 1900–1990[21]
1990–2000[22] 2010–2018[23]

As of the census of 2000,[24] 147 people, 115 households, and 21 families resided in the county, declining to 90 inhabitants in 2010. The population density was 11 people per square mile (4.2 people/km2). The 172 housing units produced an average density of 13 per square mile (5.0/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 48% Pacific Islander, 26% White, 17% Asian, 3% from other races, and 6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race made up 4%. Kalawao County has the highest Pacific Islander population percentage of any U.S. county, and is the only county where they make up a plurality.

2% of households housed children under the age of 18. 17% were married couples living together. 3% had a female householder with no husband present. 81% were non-families. 79% of all households were made up of individuals, and 31% 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.

2% of residents were under the age of 18, 1% from 18 to 24, 18% from 25 to 44, 46% from 45 to 64, and 32% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 59 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.6 males. The population has declined since 1900:[25]

Current residents include 16 former patients,[26] 40 federal employees who work on preservation projects, and some state-employed health workers.[27]


The only access to Kalawao County is by air, or by a steep mule trail that descends 1,600 ft (490 m) from the rest of Molokaʻi. Kalaupapa Airport 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.[28]


United States presidential election results for Kalawao County, Hawaii[29]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 1 4.17% 23 95.83% 0 0.00%
2016 1 5.00% 14 70.00% 5 25.00%
2012 2 7.41% 25 92.59% 0 0.00%
2008 6 19.35% 24 77.42% 1 3.23%
2004 14 35.00% 26 65.00% 0 0.00%
2000 11 24.44% 30 66.67% 4 8.89%
1996 13 20.63% 46 73.02% 4 6.35%
1992 24 32.00% 48 64.00% 3 4.00%

Like the rest of the state, Kalawao County is a stronghold for the Democratic Party. It was the only county in the United States where the Republican candidate in the 2016 United States presidential election, Donald Trump, finished in third by only getting one vote; 70% of Kalawao's voters chose Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and 25% of Kalawao voters cast their ballots for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, making it Stein's strongest county nationwide in terms of vote percentage.[30] In 2020 Joe Biden improved on Clinton's 2016 performance by over 25% as the Greens declined to zero votes, giving Biden 96% of the vote, which was his strongest performance in any county in the United States.


The county is within the Hawaii Department of Education school district.[31]


  1. ^ Voss, Oscar (2012). "Is Kalawao County, on the north shore of Molokai, really a separate county?". Retrieved January 25, 2015.
  2. ^ "2020 Population and Housing State Data". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 12, 2021.
  3. ^ "Kalaupapa National Historical Park". National Park Service. Retrieved August 11, 2022.
  4. ^ https://public.tableau.com/shared/KZTXKDRPJ?:display_count=y&:origin=viz_share_link&:embed=y&:device=phone
  5. ^ "Kalawao County | Office of Hawaiian Affairs" (PDF). Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Archived (PDF) from the original on August 11, 2022. Retrieved August 11, 2022. Kalawao County has no county government; a sheriff is appointed by the Hawai'i Department of Health (DOH). The HRS Chapter 326, Sections 326-1-326-40 Hansen's Disease detail topics including patient treatment, care, services, expenses, and privacy; general excise, income, and real property tax exemptions; employment, compensation, and pensions; Kalaupapa store; fishing laws exemption; and Damien Memorial Chapel.
  6. ^ "When the Last Patient Dies". The Atlantic. May 27, 2015. Archived from the original on August 11, 2022. Retrieved August 11, 2022.
  7. ^ "Kalawao County | Office of Hawaiian Affairs" (PDF). Office of Hawaiian Affairs. p. 7. Retrieved August 11, 2022.
  8. ^ Dingeman, Robbie (October 31, 2002). "Smallest county to ban smoking". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  9. ^ Rawlings, Nate (December 12, 2013). "Hawaii Official Killed in Plane Crash". Time Magazine. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  10. ^ Uyeno, Kristine (December 12, 2013). "Hawaii Official Killed in Plane Crash". KHON. Archived from the original on January 4, 2014. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  11. ^ Kakesako, Gregg K. (December 12, 2013). "Pilot described 'catastrophic engine failure' in Molokai crash". Honolulu Star Advertiser. Archived from the original on December 21, 2013. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  12. ^ "Department of Health Administrative Offices". State of Hawaiʻi. Retrieved September 28, 2010.
  13. ^ "Hawaii's 4 (or 5) Counties". Archived from the original on August 5, 2007. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  14. ^ "The Judiciary – State of Hawaii – Annual Report – July 1, 1986 to June 30, 1987". pp. 16, 26.
  15. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  16. ^ "Kalaupapa Ahupua'a neighborhood in Kalaupapa, Hawaii (HI), 96742 subdivision profile – real estate, apartments, condos, homes, community, population, jobs, income, streets". www.city-data.com.
  17. ^ "Waikolu Ahupua'a neighborhood in Kaunakakai, Hawaii (HI), 96742 subdivision profile – real estate, apartments, condos, homes, community, population, jobs, income, streets". www.city-data.com.
  18. ^ Mark D. McCoy: The Lands of the Hina: An Archeological Overview and Assessment of Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Molokaʻi, Chapter 8: Assessment Archived 2011-09-01 at the Wayback Machine, Seite 33
  19. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 28, 2014.
  20. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved June 28, 2014.
  21. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 28, 2014.
  22. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 28, 2014.
  23. ^ "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved June 28, 2014.
  24. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  25. ^ "Bureau of the Census: HAWAII. Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990".
  26. ^ "Planning for Kalaupapa's future means remembering its past".
  27. ^ Wong, Alia (May 27, 2015). "People With Leprosy Were Exiled There—Should It Be a Tourist Destination?". The Atlantic.
  28. ^ "Life Today in Kalaupapa". National Park Service. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  29. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
  30. ^ "Statewide Precinct Detail" (PDF). State of Hawaii Office of Elections. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  31. ^ "2020 CENSUS - SCHOOL DISTRICT REFERENCE MAP: Kalawao County, HI" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved July 22, 2022. - Text list

External links[edit]

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