July 14, 2022 by Beat of Hawaii 46 Comments
What’s happening at Haena State Park on Kauai is an excellent example of regenerative travel, albeit not without controversy. Travel writer Peter Greenberg came here to report on his recent PBS Series, Travel Detective: Hidden Gems, which features Kauai. You can watch his show in today’s post below. This type of travel paradigm is new and surprises and upsets some return visitors. A case in point is what Bruce wrote in a comment:
“We looked forward to returning to Kauai after 6 years. The biggest shock were the fees being charged by state parks ($10 per vehicle and $5 per person) and the need to reserve a spot at Kee Beach just so you can walk along the Na Pali coast. It turns out the reserved spots had been taken within minutes of their being made available! So how are you supposed to get to enjoy that area?? Besides, the whole reservation system seems ridiculous. It was never needed before the pandemic. So much for welcoming tourists back to Hawaii.”
On the other side of the issue, we, too, remember what it was like before. Almost 3,000 cars a day visited the area, so many people were vying for a spot on the beach. It was simply out of control. We’d given up on going there. Fast forward to what it would look like today in 2022, with our increased number of visitors. Something seemed to be needed, which led to changes that reduced cars to 900 daily.
It was reported that the Kauai Visitor Bureau, part of the recently fired HVCB, paid for travel writers including Greenberg, USAToday, and others to participate in what is colloquially called a “Fam” trip. These familiarization trips are helpful when it comes to sharing new travel trends such as this with writers. The objective is for visitors to feel more trust in the information disseminated by a writer following the trip.
A New Day at Haena is the phrase that was used after the park underwent significant improvements after historic flooding in 2019 and led to the creation of the reservation and shuttle system, parking controls, and limitations. The re-imagining of tourism also underwent tweaks and further consideration during and after park closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
These changes include mandatory visitor reservations for access to the park by car or shuttle and include Kee Beach and the famous Kalalau Trail. There are currently three parks in Hawaii that all have similar systems in place, the others being Diamond Head on Oahu and Waianapanapa State Park on Maui. All require an advance reservation for visitors only.
Governor Ige’s announcement said, “Last summer, national television travel host Peter Greenberg spent several days on Kauai producing an episode of The Travel Detective: Hidden Gems, which airs on public television stations around the country. The program has begun airing and is the latest to focus national attention on what’s called regenerative tourism.”
The state said its State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell met with Greenberg at Haena State Park and explained how they “re-imagined visitation to this popular park.” Cottrell said, “Public land managers are looking at solutions to curbing what has been called over-tourism. We are grateful for and need the national media to help tell the global visitor industry there’s a new normal. Make your preparations before you come to Hawaii.”
This is part of the problem for visitors who may not know of the rule changes and those who do not plan ahead. Reservations open online 30 days in advance and go quickly, sometimes within minutes. The first to sell out is parking, and the second is the shuttle. If you don’t have a reservation, you’ll simply be turned away.
Greenberg said, “People think they’re entitled to visit a place and do whatever they want. They’re entitled to be responsible. And once that happens, then they can be entitled to have a great experience. Community management has come into play, not necessarily as a matter of regulating but as a matter of educating. Once you do that, the regulation takes care of itself.
Just last week, the Board of Land and Natural Resources approved a second, one-year-long revocable permit for Hui Makaainana o Makana to manage visitors at the park. The community group helped lead the new management paradigm at the Haena and Napali parks.
Chipper Wichman, one of the group’s original founders, said, “We created the hui back in 1999 to create a mechanism for us to be able to take care of this sacred landscape. We had the vision to empower the community to help take care of this area, as it was crying out for care. We wanted to restore the integrity of the land and build a relationship with the DLNR so our community view would be recognized and allowed to co-manage the area with the Division of State Parks. That is one component of regenerative tourism.”
Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell concluded, “There is no one recipe on how to manage sensitive cultural and natural resources and fluctuating visitor industry. However, we have shown that being innovative and trying to reduce the impacts to park neighbors and rural communities empowers them to help us manage these once hidden but now highly sought-after gems. There are a lot of moving parts to work with, and that’s the adaptation part.”
Greenberg added that what happened at Haena is essential and can be modeled worldwide at other natural, scenic, and cultural sites that have or are experiencing over-visitation.
Filed Under: Hawaii Travel News
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All in all, the Haena situation has improved mostly, but now that people without reservations get turned back they all pretty much end up in Hanalei. So now Hanalei is very congested. There are not enough restaurants, beach parking and infrastructure to allow all of these people in this small town at one time. Hangry tourists and residents trying to carry on with their daily life tasks etc is kind of a hot mess.
Kauai is definitely not a place to spend your money. I am tired of hearing how tourist “trash” the islands.
I see plenty of REALLY trashy, ghetto looking houses with junk cars all along the Honoapiilani highway in Lahania. I have also seen many drunk locals at some beaches leaving trash on the beaches. I think the tourist are being used as scapegoats for the locals who have no regard for their on island.
Just visited Kauai and Ke’e beach. My MIL was able to get us reservations 30 days in advance for shuttle tickets. I thought it worked out great! Shuttle parking was easy and the ride was scenic back and forth. I think this system is great and helps maintain the integrity of those parts of the island. Even with the reservation system there were still a lot of people on the beach. I couldn’t imagine how it would look without the regulation system. I’m all for it if it helps the land and the people who live there.
Unfortunately, this is a sign of more changes for Hawaii tourism. Kauai has always been my favorite island. Simply because it has remained mainly “untouched” through the decades. I remember back when Princeville was built, realizing this was the start of development of condos, time shares, etc. Also, realizing that local people would never be able to afford these very pricey enclaves. What else is there to do? Park fees, etc are necessary to keep the aina that makes Hawaii so special. Kauai residents realized that something needed to be done to protect the beautiful island of Kauai. As a former kamaaina, I will also have to pay usage fees to visit Hawaii’s attractions when I’m lucky enough to return and visit. No gripes.
Hi Dave B, Thank You for your insight and knowledge of the process. Too many times there isn’t verification to prevent things from happening. Ernie
Kama’aina now living in Oregon and they have just done this same shuttle/ reservation system for the Columbia Historic Highway and waterfalls in the gorge. Locals hate it because now we have to contend with tourists- However, it’s a necessary evil. Too many people were trashing the trails. As for the commenter who mentioned tourists as the cash crop, kudos to Hawai’i for moving away from tourism and finding ways to be more economically independent. That’s the one thing locals seemed to agree on after the pandemic – Hawai’i first. It’s been too long coming.
Aloha, the situation out at Haena state park before the flooding of 4 years ago(?) was not sustainable. It was a hot mess and getting worse each year. Thank goodness the state and locals saw an opportunity with catastrophic floods to remake the area into a true wonder to behold. The walkway out to Kee beach along the community tended taro fields and the walk through the jungle is precious. I’ve seen complaints here of state fees imposed and permits required. If you didn’t pay to go to see the Waimea canyon then you got a free ride. Now when you pay( and who likes that) you are assuring the infrastructure will be there for you and the next generation. One other point about Haena is the shuttle takes so may cars off that tiny windy road!
I visit Kauai and Haena at least twice a year. They should follow a similar reservation system as our national parks, specifically Yosemite. Everyone needs a reservation even if you are a local. 80% of the reservations are made 30 days out, the other 20% are made 7 days out. Also, charge per car and not per person. Please get 24 hour security in the parking lot! People have been getting their fuel tanks drilled and drained. The current park/parking staff has been friendly but I would like to see the state manage the park. It think its a big conflict of interest to have the local community managing a state park. It doesn’t take a lot of research to see how much they Hate tourists. These new state park rules have created a Us vs. Them.
I am a resident of Kauai and was not born here nor am I Hawaiian. I lived in a tourist city on the mainland in California my whole life and know the impact that over tourism has. The trails get trashed. It’s not a city with concrete, it’s a trail. Over tourism is horrible it’s not Disneyland, it’s a small trail. The trail needs maintenance and upkeep from to many people on them and paying a fee is very reasonable. And people that choose not to go won’t go. Go somewhere else. Hawaii is finally making a difference for the people that live here. Think about 1000 people a day parking in your neighborhood to go see something. You wouldn’t like it either.
Sorry Rudolph but that is the price you pay for having Tourism as your main source of income! Tourists = People!
Tourists and people don’t have to trash where they visit. It doesn’t entitle them to disrespect and disregard the beauty of the land their “touring or visiting.” Sounds like you might be part of the problem.
And it’s also the price one pays for being a tourist, Ed. Don’t like it? Don’t come.
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