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Hawaii “Does Not Encourage Visiting:” Waikiki, Diamond Head, Volcanoes, Poipu, Etc.

The state’s Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) announced that their latest publication, the Ma’ema’e Toolkit, has been released. So we dove into the 64-page document, which you can read below. “Ma’ema’e” means cleanliness and purity in the Hawaiian language. And it references that Hawaii should be portrayed as “clean, attractive, and pure.”

While that’s excellent in theory, some of the places they suggest not visiting or tagging in social media include most of Kauai, famous Waikiki Beach, Volcanoes National Park, and more. There are 67 places on the list below, many of which are fundamental to why people come to Hawaii. We wonder what the hotels along Waikiki Beach, for one, are thinking when they read this. Obviously, some of the places listed are mentioned due to safety (Haiku stairs, for example) or for reasons related to cultural sensitivity.

HTA says that the toolkit, available to everyone but essentially intended for those who will market Hawaii, is depicted as “your guide for basic knowledge about Hawaii.”

HTA says that “Our home has often been misrepresented or inaccurately portrayed through the use of incorrect information, spelling errors, and inappropriate imagery. Authentically representing Hawaii is deeply important to the residents who call these islands home. Accordingly, it is important that the visitor industry do so with great care.” And so Maemae begins.

The document appears to have been created under the auspices of the HTA by the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association. It comes in the midst of the tug a war between the Council For Native Hawaiian Advancement and the more than century-old Hawaii Visitor and Convention Bureau (HVCB) for the state’s hotly contested US marketing contracts. That award has been disputed and is now into its third and hopefully final RFP.

“HTA encourages everyone with an interest in the Hawaiian culture – be it learning more about the Hawaiian people, music, language, individual islands or history – to utilize the Maʻemaʻe Toolkit.”

BOH: We can’t say we weren’t surprised by some of the mentioned locations. There’s obviously well-meaning intention behind some parts of this, including cultural sensitivity, safety, environmental impact and overcrowding which gets obfuscated. This document also gets caught up in the vast Hawaii tourism marketing mess of the state legislature, HTA, HVCB and NHHA. We’re hopeful that some good can come out of it all.

Could state’s Hawaiian Tourism Authority soon see its own demise?

The Hawaii legislature has the long-troubled HTA in sight this year and hopes to remake or retake its authority. Some say that the HTA has successfully completed its mission to market Hawaii and that something entirely different is needed now.

We have a few too many tourists and that residents are being crowded out of public resources. — Rep Sean Quinlan.

Quinlan, who heads the House Tourism Committee, said of HTA, “They did so well that the public feels we have a few too many tourists and that residents are being crowded out of public resources.  It’s about putting the local community first, which we’ve not done for a long time.”

One measure seeks to refocus HTA, formed in 1998, as a tourism management organization instead of a tourism marketing agency. Changes may also include the HTA being governed by a 3-person governor-appointed group instead of the current 12-person board, which includes 5-tourism industry members.

HTA continues to suffer from internal dissatisfaction as well, and has seen an exodus of executives and staff. The most recent departure last week was of the executive responsible for handling of the botched US marketing contracts.

Hawaii “Does Not Encourage Visiting:” Waikiki, Diamond Head, Volcanoes, Poipu, Etc.

The state’s document says, “There are locations and activities throughout Hawai‘i that HTA does not market, will not photograph, does not encourage visiting, and should not be tagged in social media. These locations or activities are called “hot spots” and attract visitors due to their popularity, which may result in overcrowding, congestion, degradation of resources, safety hazards, and a negative experience for both residents and visitors. Some of the photos in their document included those locations in the do not market, do not photograph list.

“While HTA is not an enforcement agency, it can be a catalyst to bring together respective state and county agencies, the community, and the private sector to develop solutions that address hot spot sites, areas, and activities. Included in the DMAP (Destination Management Action Plan) for each island are listings of hot spots that were reviewed based on input from the community, surveys and meetings, feedback from each county, island chapters of the various Island Visitor Bureaus, and the respective island’s Steering Committee.”

“Each island’s DMAP identifies areas, sites, and activities of utmost concern—however, there are other areas, sites, and activities that may be also considered hot spots that are not listed here. HTA, together with the respective agencies, will monitor these as needed to help mitigate issues.”

17 Oahu Hotspots HTA does not encourage visiting or tagging.

  • Haiku Stairs
  • Halona Blowhole
  • Hanauma Bay
  • Kaena Point
  • Kaohao, Lanikai Pillbox Trail
  • Kailua Beach and Town
  • Kaniakapupu Ruins
  • Koko Crater Trail/Koko Head Stairs
  • Kukaniloko Birthstones State Historic Site
  • Laniakea/Turtle Beach
  • Leahi/Diamond Head
  • Lulumahu Falls
  • Maelieli Trail/Ahuimanu/Kahaluu
  • Makapuu hike
  • Maunawili Falls
  • North Shore/Haleiwa
  • Waikiki

11 Maui Hotspots HTA does not encourage visiting or tagging.

  • Awalua
  • Awehi Trail
  • Kanepuu Reserve
  • Kaunolu
  • Keomoku Village
  • Lapaiki
  • Lopa/Kikoa Beach
  • Manele: Hulopoe Marine Life Conservation District
  • Munro Trail
  • Naha Trail Overlook
  • Polihua

15 Kauai Hotspots HTA does not encourage visiting or tagging.

  • Polihale State Park
  • Kokee and Waimea Canyon
  • Napali and Kalalau Trail
  • Salt Pond Beach Park and the surrounding area
  • North Shore – From Hanalei Bridge to Kee Beach
  • Hanalei Bay
  • Kee Beach
  • Haena
  • Hanakapaai
  • Anini Beach
  • Poipu Beach
  • Queen’s Bath
  • Kapaa
  • Old Koloa town
  • Wailua River State Park

24 Big Island Hotspots HTA does not encourage visiting or tagging.

  • Waipio Valley
  • Kau – Papakolea/Green Sands Beach
  • South Kona – Hookena, Milolii
  • Kahaluu Bay
  • Kumukahi
  • Keaukaha
  • Maunakea
  • Punaluu
  • Alii Drive
  • Pololu Valley
  • Mahukona
  • Kalae (South Point)
  • Kailua Pier
  • Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park
  • Hookena Beach
  • Laaloa Beach (Magic Sands Beach)
  • Akaka Falls State Park
  • Keauhou Bay
  • Banyan Drive
  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
  • Honaunau Bay, Captain Cook Monument
  • Wailuku River State Park
  • Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area
  • Kiholo State Park Reserve

We welcome your input!


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380 thoughts on “Hawaii “Does Not Encourage Visiting:” Waikiki, Diamond Head, Volcanoes, Poipu, Etc.”

  1. Loco. Loco. Loco. The list is comprehensive and eliminates what visitors want to see. Seriously? This is out of touch with reality. Just one example: How do you get to Princeville without driving through Kapa’a? All tourists take the bypass? Ridiculous. What about the local businesses? Driving Kuhio highway used to be part of the charm. Now there are so many vacant and run-down places representing all the small businesses that have gone bust. The best bakery on the island is in Old Koloa. I went to Guangzhou province. The tour operator told us he hated American’s, he hated freedom, and creepy people “secretly” followed us at each stop. In Hawai’i that’s done via phones. It’s more than the environment that is deteriorating.

  2. I had never heard of the Ma’ema’e Toolkit until I saw this article, and I’m glad I took the step of seeking it out for myself. I think your representation is potentially misleading – and it seems clear from the angry comments below that people thing they are being ‘forbidden’ from going to these sites. Unless the document has changed (in which case, you should update this article) – the sites are not listed in the Toolkit, which looks to me like a useful resource document.

    1. The list of sites is from a strategic planning document, which names sites *most identified by residents* as presenting a concern, and gives the reason(s). Having read it, I agree. For example, safety. Three places immediately pop to mind where visitors have died. Locals know the dangers; Instagrammers don’t and promote a site without accountability.
      The document says they will ‘monitor’ these situations, not forbid them. This seems a sensible minimum, since there is serious environmental or community impact and it ruins places for everyone, including visitors. There are many other beautiful places that have better infrastructure, like parking lots (instead of residential streets) that can handle crowds. Promote these on social media!

  3. This confirms the message and vibe I got: Our money is welcome, but we are not. Very well then; we will not visit.

  4. Since Hawaii so desperately wants less tourism, why don’t they restrict all tourism from outside the United States, and outlaw foreign investment? It’s a state, yet all I hear is placing restriction on tourists from other states. If Americans were the only tourists permitted, there would be a lot less total tourism! And there would be no need for the HTA at all; we’re all Americans, we learn about all 50 states in school – think of the savings in visitor marketing (oh sorry, it’s visitor Management in Hawaii) if only Americans were allowed to cross Hawaii’s borders. Funny how I now feel welcome in every state in America except Hawaii, although I’ve been traveling to Hawaii since the early ’90’s and our daughter and son-in-law live there!

  5. As a resident of Waikiki (of only 9 years I married into a family here) we love when the area is packed, it means more $ for our friends and loved ones in service industries.I would think they would want more of the tourists diverted to Waikiki than roaming around others parts of the island.

  6. I just took a photo of the discouraged sites on Kauai, to be sure and fit them in on my next trip. They’re obvious must-see locations and I’m grateful to the HTA for compiling the list in a convenient fashion for me.

  7. It’s amazing how those of us who have banked more time there via schooling, living there and visiting, than many who post anti-tourist comments and are simply ignoring how much land China, Oprah, Zuckerberg, Ellison and Gates are gobbling up almost daily.

    1. Don’t forget Bezos – although he isn’t the greedy landowner Ellison, Zuckerberg, and Oprah are in terms of acreage, he’s sliding in the back door through his large stake in Arrived Homes. This is potentially a bigger threat not just to Hawaii but to the entire United States (and the world?) via its purchase of single family homes to turn into fractional ownership investment shares. It has the potential to decimate affordable housing stock and turn the lower and middle class into renters for life. This is already happening in Hawaii through investors purchasing available housing and driving up prices beyond what island residents can afford; turning houses into fractional investments has the potential to be the death of the American dream.

  8. This is incredibly shortsighted. There would be an enormous amount of unemployment if tourists didn’t visit many of these locations.

    1. Chris I do agree that people would likely lose their employment, their livelihood. My “guess” would be that they are counting on the places that might benefit from this shift would need to hire a similar amount of people. However they are “Assuming” that things will occur there is still a plaguing question and accompanied complication, these “no tourism allowed” areas won’t be totally closed. Residents of Hawaii will be allowed to use the areas, why? We’ve been told that the areas are Environmentally Endangered, Etc. so why can Anyone be allowed to use them? Discrimination is Alive, Aloha is Dead and Buried in Hawaii.

    1. Hi Pamela.

      We are not “promoting” where visitors should go. We are merely reporting what state tourism is saying. You can enjoy your visit and go wherever you choose. We wish you a good trip.


      1. Keep allowing the richest cultures/people/countries in the world to buy up islands and huge parcels of land, I.e. Oprah, Ellison, Gates, Zuckerberg, China, and your problems w/tourism will be solved!! It will all be privately owned and inaccessible to all!!


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