Hawaii Visitors Not Welcome Without Advance Planning

Hawaii Visitors Not Welcome Without Advance Planning

There are certain places in Hawaii where visitors are no longer welcome without significant advance planning. That is due to the need to protect these areas following years of over-tourism. The issue returned to the news recently because Kauai visitors are simply unaware of or are not heeding Haena State Park rules. Here are tips on planning ahead and being greeted with Aloha at three of our most popular parks.

1. Diamond Head State Park, Oahu.

Tips: Reserve up to 30 days in advance at https://gostateparks.hawaii.gov/diamondhead. The earlier, the better. Hikers arriving on foot must also have reservations. If you are willing to hike at times other than the most popular morning times, like afternoons (bring sunscreen), those reservation times may be somewhat easier to come by. Commercial tour and trolley patrons also need reservations.

Reservations are required for all visitors from out-of-state at Diamond Head State Park. This went into effect in May 2022 at what is one of Hawaii’s most famous landmarks. It is the third Hawaii state park that requires reservations. Hawaii residents can access the park at any time without reservations on a space-available basis.

State DLNR said, “the new reservation system is intended to reduce hiker congestion along the narrow and winding trail to the summit, reduce the load on the comfort station and reduce vehicle congestion entering and exiting the sole access tunnel at Diamond Head.” Parking became a bad problem, as did trail crowding and damage. So reservations became necessary.

2. Haena State Park, Kauai.

Tips: Reservations open 30 days in advance and go quickly. Go to https://gohaena.com. If parking is not available, you may be able to score a shuttle reservation. Residents with Hawaii state ID can access the park for day use without reservations. If residents bring out-of-state guests, they will need to have reservations for the park.

The Kauai Visitor Bureau said this week that hundreds of cars arrive at the park daily, only to be turned away for lack of reservations. It has been three years since the requirement was added, largely due to damage to the environment and the lack of parking.

3. Waianapanapa State Park, Maui.

Tips: Reservations may be made up to 30 days in advance and no later than the day before your visit. Getting to the park found along the Hana Highway is a multi-hour adventure. Reserve at https://www.gowaianapanapa.com/.

Advance reservations have been required since 2021. That is true for both vehicles as well as walk-in entry. Reservations may be made up to 30 days in advance and no later than the day before your visit. Hawaii residents are exempt from both the fee and reservation requirements with proof of residency. When residents bring visitors, those visitors are still required to pay. The state DLNR said the systems “improved the quality of visitor experiences and have reduced impacts on adjacent communities and resources.”

Hawaii state park reservations and fees are coming to more parks.

The Hawaii state parks administrator said earlier this year that “We envision being able to modify this system for additional parks. The key element to crafting a reservation system, based on optimal capacity management, and improving the quality of experience, is to work closely with our parking vendors at park units where fee collection is already happening.”

Governor Ige confirmed that “the reservation system is an important part of the destination management action plan. We want to reduce the impact of visitors and really ensure that our residents have access to these desirable places. We can control the numbers of people who visit a particular place so they can more easily be spread out across the day.”

 

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85 thoughts on “Hawaii Visitors Not Welcome Without Advance Planning”

  1. Residents of Hawaii are Unites States Citizens and are required to give the same significant advance notice exactly the same as any United States citizen mainland states. While I agree that steps need to be taken to protect certain environments, these rules apply to every visitor not matter their place of residence. I have long known the dark side of Hawaii and how mainlanders are not welcome by any means. It saddens me that these attitudes are overtaking the Aloha spirit that many Hawaiians have shown toward guests to the islands. I had always dreamed of visiting, but will no longer hold any illusion that I would never truly feel the ohana spirit of Hawaii. Sad, sad, sad that Hawaii infrastructure will collapse and no longer thrive.

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    1. The residents of Hawaii feel like second class citizens. The infrastructure of all the islands are in disrepair, neighborhoods are inundated with tourists at all hours, trails, viewpoints, beaches and other attractions are being destroyed due to the general lack of care from the visitors. These problems are due to the internet, and people not doing proper research about the history of Hawaii before they arrive. You might try talking to people in the industry and asking them questions about the place you just spent thousands of dollars to get to. These problems are not new but it took a pandemic for Hawaii residents to open their eyes to reality. Be kind with an open mind when you visit. Enjoy the Pacific Paradise by being curious.

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      1. You say infrastructure is in disrepair. Ok, well, where has the Hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars gone that Hawaii has made from the tourists over the decades??
        The island still looks like it is living in the 1940s.

        I will tell you why. Utter and total mismangement by all the leadership you have elected decade after decade.

        Why would anyone believe anything would change after all these new fees and taxes are added to tourists.

        Those of us who have actually been paying attention, know it won’t. L

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      2. It’s unfair to blame tourists for all oh Hawaii’s problems. Drive through many working class neighborhoods and you’ll discover garbage and abandoned vehicles in numbers similar to any other US location. The poor condition of many beach parks is often a result of county workers who don’t put much effort or pride into their work. The number of times over the years that I have seen workers show up and get high (with no attempt to conceal their activities) is disturbing. We were just on Oahu and tried to enter Ka’ena Park to hike to the north point. The gate remain locked for hours after it was signed to be open. The guard at the Air Force base laughed—they open when they feel like it, he explained. That’s Hawaii.

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  2. It’s so hard to get a date, I live in Kauai but can’t bring my daughter with me. I just need a pass and never is available only with shuttle.35.00 dollars why can’t a resident have a guest? I’m driving up there already and we are on the same blanket.

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  3. Not everyone can or will plan 30 days in advance. In Washington, the San Juan Islands ferries have reservations released in batches something like 60, 14, and 2 days out. They also save limited space for walk-ups, and charge a penalty fee for reservations no shows without cancelling. That would be more fair and flexible while accomplishing the same goals than the current system.

    Also, in my one experience misunderstanding the rules at Haena (I tried to drop off family and park at Tunnels and walk back because I thought the reservations were only for _parking_ – my mistake) the parking lot attendants were rude and threatening. Hopefully that is not a common experience.

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    1. Seems like you could hand out any “walk up” day-of reservations at a visitor center in Hanalei or Princeville so as to avoid traffic driving out to the end of the road to chance it, or lining up on the road waiting for departures.

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  4. I fully support this. It’s just plain common sense and long overdue. Like any natural resource, the Hawaiian aina must be protected from overuse. Otherwise there will be nothing left for anyone to enjoy. A small minority will be angered and loudly proclaim their intentions to spend their holiday$ elsewhere. Fine, they will not be missed.

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  5. Aloha and thanks for your continued communication. Frankly, I’m tired of all this restricted, preplanning, and unwelcoming “stuff”. Hawaii is still a state within the union, like it or not. Perhaps, the rest of the continental US should impose these restrictions on those who live on the islands. How about a $150 visitors fee to Vegas? Give the real Hawaiians the islands back. Just do it. No subsidies, no anything. Let’s see what happens. The ugliness will destroy that island chain. It will. This hurts me to the bone. I’ve been travelling and supporting the islands since the mid 70’s. My $$ will not support them any longer.

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    1. With all due respect, your logic seems flawed and your comments are a bit misguided. Plenty of US mainland state parks require entry fees. Pretty much all of the national parks require them. Hawaii is just a little late to the game in doing the same.
      There is no free lunch, my friend.

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      1. Thanks, Eldo, for your opinion. It’s much appreciated. My logic is not flawed. And, I’ve commented here for a long time about fees being charged for entering parks and the like. I live in Ca. I’m very well aware of fees. Perhaps fees targeted at non mainland residents should be increases as they appear to be increasing for non islanders. Mahalo.

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      2. No, Eldo. It’s not just an entry fee. I’ve tried multiple days and times to make a reservation when I’ve been on Kauai, and it’s Impossible to get a reservation. It’s rigged. And I have family there, plus I’m a longtime timeshare owner, and I can’t get into Haena with reservations. Same with Hanauma Bay on Oahu.

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        1. I have lived on Kauai for over 40 years and I have seen the overuse of certain areas of Kauai for years. Yes, there is mismanagement of state funds and the maintenance of the parks could be much, much better. But many states and many other places in the world charge or have reservations for people to see/visit special sites and there is nothing wrong with Hawaii doing the same. When certain spots have been overused, the only way to thin out the crowd is to have a reservation system or a charge. There are many, many other beaches and sites on Kauai that tourists can go to that have no advance requirements and have plenty of room for everyone to enjoy themselves.

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    2. I think Hawaii is unlike any other state in the US. We are in the Pacific Ocean, which is why our cost of living is so high. Everything being barged to Oahu, then the other islands. I keep hearing how expensive it is for visitors, one comment was how “real” people like us work hard to come there. Real people!? Versus whom?? Our culture and beliefs are just that, ours. I believe that the realization of all these comments on not being able to get in, shows just how crowded it really was prior. I’m pretty sure hiking with a minimum of a few bus loads of people would not be enjoyable in comparison. As far as Kamaaina not paying (to an offensive Las Vegas fee comment,) Kamaaina discounts and free access is part of our culture.

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  6. Are you still able to travel up through Hanalei and around taro patch overlook? Not quite sure where exactly they start restricting travel. Mahalo in advance.

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    1. Good point. At the time these fees were implemented some pointed out that Haena State Park was developed with 100% Federal funds and it was illegal to shut people out. Kind of like our highways. (Some “locals” would close the roads too if they could.)

      The real problem is Ke’e beach is now underutilized. Lifeguards and bathrooms are no longer available. Tourists end up dying at Lumahai and other unguarded beaches. They now have to relieve themselves in the bushes.

      Meanwhile our citizens and politicians are patting each other on the back for “solving over-tourism”. Go figure.

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      1. I was just up to Ke’e a few weeks ago (I live on Kauai)and they have both bathrooms and lifeguards. Stop making up a bunch of nonsense. And BTW – many states already charge fees for parking and admission to stte parks and beaches. The only difference here is that they give residents a break.

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    2. There is nothing illegal for charging to get into a state park. Many state parks on the mainland and all federal parks have a charge to get in. And some state and federal parks have special programs for certain people to get in free, such as the elderly or indigenous people. Citizens of Hawaii already pay state taxes, road taxes, property taxes, and the list goes on. I think it’s great that the citizens of Hawaii can get into their own sites without having to pay a fee. I’m perfectly happy to pay a fee when I travel to other states or countries and there are reservations or charges to get into special sites. It’s just part of being a tourist.

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      1. But on the mainland, the state parks charge everyone..so there is not the them vs us attitude that is felt between the visitors and the very few truly native Hawaiins.

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      2. Yvonne-I’ve been to lots of state parks outside of HI, and don’t ever recall out of state visitors being charged,but instate visitors having access for free. All national parks charge but the charge typically covers access for a week and a yearly fee that covers all national parks (and a lifetime fee for seniors that is under $100). Many visitors might prefer an affordable similar scheme rather than daily access rates to beaches and up to $30/day on top of that for parking as suggested.

        I fully appreciate how locals feel “blocked” from their own resources, but the issue then becomes a state management issue. Thought high occupancy taxes and extreme property taxes on non residents might provide enough money to cover access/maintenance.

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  7. “The Kauai Visitor Bureau said this week that hundreds of cars arrive at the park daily, only to be turned away for lack of reservations”

    I live in the neighborhood. The traffic has reduced since the flood, but is still heavy. Lots of turn arounds. People either don’t know about the new rules, or they think somehow it won’t be enforced.

    Walk-in (or ride-in) passes sell out almost immediately after they become available. It’s impossible to know the weather or trail conditions 30 days in advance. People (including me) tend to buy 3 or 4 days in a row, when we will likely only go one of those days, no doubt one of the reasons they sell out so fast.

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    1. That was exactly my thought…making and paying for a reservation and the weather doesn’t cooperate, or if someone doesn’t feel well. Plans change.

  8. A fix for the crowding problem is to not allow any personal vehicles in the parking area, and for the State of Hawaii to put in place a tram system, much like what you see at Disneyland. Multiple trams so that the wait isn’t very long. Everyone can park at an offsite location. This reduces traffic in the local area, and the single-lane road that you have to drive on to get to the park isn’t crowded for the locals.

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    1. Kaua’i is a sacred island. All of Hawaii began here, our Aina should never ever be violated by any type of theme park, trams or any other ideas as such. I feel that those who come here regularly, return because it is somewhere that will never be like any other vacation destination. Kaua’i truly encompasses the true Aloha spirit, and is and has to remain protected. For visitors who are unfamiliar of the history, and are not truly local need to respect and learn before disrespecting this sacred ground. I believe regulating access is vital to protect and ensure people are not destroying, leaving their opala (trash) on trails or anywhere. As far as fees for access to park at Ke’e I feel that is fine. Koke’e State Park and beaches I disagree on

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  9. I think you should have ended the title after only the first four words. It’s sad that visitors are no longer wanted or appreciated.

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      1. I think many of us long time (and generally respectful) HI visitors feel that many of the recent articles on this site leave us feeling unwanted and unappreciated, except for being potential cash cows. Totally separate from pretty hefty airfare and accommodation costs, many of us have spent 10’s of thousands of dollars per visit on locally owned businesses, restaurants and artists. Those of us who own any property on Maui are also subject to incredibly onerous property taxes (don’t know anywhere else in the US where similar discriminatory property taxes are charged to HI residents for mainland timeshares, condos etc). More recent changes likely have many of us reconsidering our support of HI tourism and the HI economy.

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      2. But that’s what people are being told, or what they are hearing, and that’s the problem. There’s a handful of loud voices braying, “Get out!” but almost everyone else is saying, “We need to dial it back, the impacts definitely, and the numbers maybe, or there won’t be any reason to come here.” The people that are complaining about reservations and fees without understanding the rationale are the same ones that don’t understand why they can’t chip off a piece of a moai for a souvenir. Apparently the execution of the reservation system has been typical of Hawaii, inept, but hopefully they will get their act together. I’m sure they’ll address it right after the light rail is done, so any day now.

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