Kalalau crackdown: One arrested, 70 cited, tons of trash removed

Law enforcement and cleanup operations at Kalalau Beach over the past month resulted in dozens of citations, an arrest, and the airlifting of tons of trash from the area. 

During four separate enforcement visits in January and February, Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources officers issued nearly 70 citations to hikers and backpackers who did not have state-issued camping permits. 

Francis “Alekai” Kinimaka of Hanalei was arrested by officers after he landed a Jet Ski on Kalalau Beach, a closed area in the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, without a permit on Jan. 4. He was cited with four petty misdemeanors. 

“We want people to know that we have a zero tolerance attitude toward any type of unlawful activities along the Napali Coast,” said Francis “Bully” Mission, DOCARE Kauai branch chief. 

During this week’s cleanup operation, a dozen unpermitted camps and abandoned property were removed. These camps were posted with “notices to vacate” several weeks ago. Items taken from the camps will be stored for 30 days and unless rightful owners reclaim their items, they will be discarded. 

The largest camp dismantled this week is believed to be Kinimaka’s base camp. 

Campers report men coming through the designated campground early each day asking if anyone wants a ride out. One camper told DLNR that she accepted the offer and paid $125 for a Jet Ski lift, because she was tired after the 11-mile one way hike into the valley. 

The Jet Ski Kinimaka was operating was taken into evidence. Kinimaka’s passenger was also cited for not having a permit to be in the area. 

“We are serious about shutting down the illegal commercial activity which is despoiling the landscape, impacting sensitive cultural sites, and often creating a very unpleasant experience for legal campers,” said DOCARE Chief Thomas Friel. “We’re putting the illegal operators on notice right now, that if you continue, you will be caught, cited, and could face criminal penalties.” 

Maintenance crews from the DLNR Division of State Parks fly into Kalalau at least once a month to maintain composting toilets, to perform trail maintenance and to fly out tons and tons of trash. 

Plastic lawn chairs, gallon glass bottles of alcohol, huge pop-up tents, full-sized air mattresses, and other non-backpacking materials have been found in unpermitted camps in some of the most prime designated camping spots along Kalalau Beach. 

“It is clear that most of the rubbish being flown out of Kalalau was not carried in on someone’s back,” said Curt Cottrell, DLNR State Parks administrator. 

He said Hawaii taxpayers are helping cover the costs of supporting these cleanups. 

“It is not fair to them or to the many legal campers,” Cottrell said. 

The first two miles of the Kalalau trail are open to anyone to hike; beyond that requires a state permit. 

These permits allow a maximum of 60 people to camp in designated areas fronting Kalalau Beach for five days at a time. 

The Napali Coast is perhaps the most photographed area in all of Hawaii, said Suzanne Case, DLNR chair. 

“The Kalalau region is remote, and that’s precisely what makes it a world-class destination for backpackers,” she said. “This remoteness gives it its wilderness character. My administration is committed to restoring the entire Napali Coast to the kind of condition all of Hawaii can be proud of.” 


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