Kee Beach, Haena State Park

Controversial Haena State Park Controls Topic of Peter Greenberg Show

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.

Haena State Park’s new visitor rules.

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.”

Parking or Shuttle Reservations are challenging to obtain.

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.

“The problem we have on a global scale is entitlement.” — Peter Greenberg.

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.”

Where do you stand on this issue?

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.

Watch The Travel Detective: Hidden Gems of Kaua’i with host Peter Greenberg:

79 thoughts on “Controversial Haena State Park Controls Topic of Peter Greenberg Show”

  1. Used to be my favorite place on the planet will never go back they have ruined Ke’e beach and the North shore in a very greedy and unhawaiian way. Such a shame! Such a change! There’s other tropical places with even clearer water That’s where I’m going for now on.

  2. Once again, it has turned into the playground of the wealthy. Thinly veiled in the article, but not outright stated, is that the permits “disappear” within minutes of becoming available. That’s because they are ending up in the hands of the weathiest, highest bidder. What’s wrong with allowing those who get there earlier get to stay? The fat cats in the expensive hotels would have to get up early. Follow the money and you’ll see who’s illegally hoarding passes!

  3. Hi David B, the simple Fact that I hear is that the bridges need replacing, The Engineers should have said their plans and when it became confrontational walked out. Build the bridges and have them Blessed, no need to give in to mob mentality.

    1. It’s hard to explain the dynamic that went on in our neighborhood for at least the first year of the road closure. Think Lord of the Flies; Not Robert’s Rules of Order. Keep in mind the background of identity/grievance politics, and Hawaii is a deep blue state. I don’t know what eventually got worked out, but those families wanted to get paid before those bridges could be touched. Buy the way, the bridges were all repaired/replaced in the exact dimensions and load carrying capacity as the old bridges.

  4. I am a 40 year Kaua’i resident and have spent 30 of those years on the North Shore. I have slowly watched the increase of tourism and what has come with it – the traffic, lack of parking and most importantly the erosion of the delicate infrastructure on our little island and realize that something had to happen especially for our precious and isolated North Shore. I absolutely support these changes and believe we need more of them around the island.

  5. Hi Marie, deciding to stop most of what you have enjoyed for 3 decades is aweful. To do so because you don’t want to upset, offend or enrage the “locals” shows that They are the true problem, not You. Aloha. Must truly be a lacking sentiment amongst that elitist crowd and shows how much distance has come between Them and Us. If Tourism disappeared from that Island imagine the displeasure that would turn against Them, an interesting and appealing thought. Enjoy the Island and don’t give up a thing.

  6. I’ve been visiting Kauai for almost 30 years. I no longer drive to Kee Beach, hike the Napali or even waste my gas money going to Hanalei. I don’t want to burden the locals or the environment. The charges for parking at the canyon make the hiking undesirable. I don’t even eat out so that the locals can feel safe from any virus or germs I may have. I still enjoy the island, especially since I don’t have to spend very much money there. Aloha to all!

    1. I’m a 36 year Kauai resident who lives the same way-I live in Lihue,walk and swim at Kalapaki,Kauai Lagoons and no longer drive to different areas—it seems like a hassle,,somehow not fun anymore-but maybe it’s not a bad way to live -pick an area and remain in that vicinity

      1. Maybe ten years ago, I was getting a haircut at Kawamoto’s on Rice street. The barber and I did the usual chit-chat. It came up that I was living in Wainiha (far north shore), about 35 miles from his shop. He stated he had not gone past Kapa’a in 25 years. Said that he’d gone to the north shore back then, didn’t like it, and had never gone back. But to be fair, we rarely have gone south/west past the Costco in the last several years. It’s a relatively small island, but with all the traffic, a 50 mile drive can take (at least) two hours.

        1. Hi David.

          Based on your locale and travel, and ours, we aren’t likely to run into one another, even on an island this small. Funny, we’re more likely to see you traveling to and from California.


  7. “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.” The part I have a problem with is “for visitors only”. If you are trying to control crowds then locals should have to follow the same rules. I imagine it would be extremely hard to gauge how many visitors you can allow if locals are not included in the numbers. It also creates another instance of us vs them.

  8. 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.

  9. The reservation system for Haena is a joke – impossible to get reservations for most island visitors. If you are able to get a shuttle reservation the cost is $35 per person ($140 for a family of 4) This is outrageous gouging by Kauai especially when one considers that the cost and access for residents who wish to park is free. This is out and out discrimination and should be declared illegal.

  10. In California, it’s often noted we live on stolen land. The same is true in Hawaii. I don’t have any problem paying fees or abiding by a reservation system that allows native cultures to recoup and maintain what was once theirs. Plus, the previous crowds made it in unenjoyable in just about every way.

    1. I’m very interested in where you will go to not be on “stolen land”. I’d really like a reply

      1. Hi Franky, frankly Hawaii isn’t Stolen Land, California isn’t either. All 5o States are not Stolen Either! Work your way around the World and unless Illegal Elections Occur it’s not Stolen Land, I don’t know where you have been getting your misinformation from but you should really get a New, Better, and Legitimate One!

        1. Hi guys
          Frustrating you allow ernie to “correct” me and others, yet do not allow my comments about his opinions.
          Thanks for your posts, I usually like them

      2. Are you kidding? There are tons of beautiful places with better sand and better water for that matter all over the world I’m not going back to HI

    2. Hi Sherill C. The People who claim that the “Land is Stolen” whether in Hawaii or California pervert History, they have Zero Clue as to the Truth! Most people know that it’s a lie and leave it at that. Enjoy the State of Hawaii, plenty to see and do, Respect the Land and People only looking for the same from them. Rest Assured the Land was not stolen, the Historical Records are Proof of that!

      1. Ernie, apparently you do not feel that “stolen” is synonymous with “overthrown”, as in which The overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom was a coup d’état against Queen Liliʻuokalani, which took place on January 17, 1893…

  11. 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.

      1. My great grandfather(Moses M) and grandma (Nancy P) both born in Kalalau valley, Napali coast. My great grandfather was once the Konohiki of Kalalau, Nualolo and Miloli’i. (Get palapala)… I myself once worked for da DLNR along da Napali as multi-trail expert. I have witness da destructiveness from all walks of life(not just da tourist, though they play a big role)… I do believe dat, what Curt Cottrell, Chipper Whichman (and many others) did “is da best thing dat ever happen for da Haena and Napali coast state parks”… Mahalo nui

    1. True. I’m sorry, I am very conscious of the way I treat the area I visit as well as the area I live. My husband and I moved to the Big Island in October. We are not wealthy, we do not live in a mansion, we live in a small home in a subdivision. My neighbors do not care about their yard, they have not mowed until last week since March! If you drove down the road, there are homes that have abandoned vehicles, trashed window shades, crap everywhere, next door to homes that are well maintained. So, there is a mixture for sure. So, I’m not convinced it is the tourists fault that things turn into a mess.

    2. I can’t Vouch for all of the Islands but I can for some of the Beaches on Oahu, parking area’s and a few other places too. As you’ve noted, locals push the blame of littering on Tourists when they are the perpetrators, the same is True on Oahu. Some locals are very good people and some aren’t, that is found everywhere. Houses in various displays of decline can be found, typically in crime ridden area’s. Code Enforcement Actions could deal with it, declaring Unfit for Human Habitation, rip them down or sell them off, why don’t they? Clean up All of the Eyesores and Trash, Stop pushing Blame!

  12. 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.

    1. Well I’ve seen what it is without reservation system it was a much much better. And if you couldn’t fit us a little parking lot you can walk down the road and there was one there. You’re now constricted in your time your movements and everything else and it’s a huge huge rip off I mean are you kidding me? You don’t see that?

  13. 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.

  14. 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

  15. 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.

    1. Hawaii moving away from tourism? Only thing that can replace that is development and real estate sales. Only thing that can sell real estate is tourism.

    2. Hi Kapuuanani C, sorry if I didn’t spell correctly. Limitations on access and charging fees hopefully will benefit the ecological “damages” done. Other than these changes in a few areas there’s not a reason for celebration or congratulations. None of these Islands are moving away from Tourism and there’s not anything of substance being done to create New Industries that could make up the difference. You’re reading something into this that’s not there.

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

    1. Aloha and amen. Make everyone carry a reservation and pay a fee (per car or per person). Why not charge more for reservations less than 7 days out? Has the current system been audited to ensure that the fees are spent as intended? The us vs them mentality is poisonous and silly.

  18. 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.

    1. Sorry Rudolph but that is the price you pay for having Tourism as your main source of income! Tourists = People!

      1. 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.

        1. Hi Jen R, you’re quite right in most of what you’ve stated. If only Tourists could be vetted prior to stepping on the plane things might improve. On the mainland many of the same concerns can be found and probably some that you’d be surprised by. Unfortunately short of closing Trails and Sensitive Areas, Historical and Nature, it’s difficult to control. Closing doesn’t mean that people won’t come it’s more of a challenge to them! Sad but True!

      2. And it’s also the price one pays for being a tourist, Ed. Don’t like it? Don’t come.

        1. Hi Amy P, interesting attitude towards the people that keep Hawaii flush with Money, helping people be employed, businesses operating, your taxes down to where they currently are. If Tourism takes a dive Hawaii and its Residents suffer from the fallout! Keep that attitude up and out there and maybe people will tire of hearing that and go somewhere else.


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