KEE — Julia Lovett and David Werner thought they’d found the perfect spot for their rental car just across the street from the first parking lot on the way to Kee Beach early Thursday afternoon.
“It took us five minutes to find this spot,” Werner said, unloading his backpack from the car. “We got lucky.”
Well, they almost got lucky.
As Werner spoke the words, two cars from Kauai Police Department swept by and an officer warned them over a megaphone that they’d be ticketed if their vehicle was still parked there when the officers got back.
“We got bounced by the 5-0,” Werner announced to the second half of his eight-person party, which was jammed into another car searching for parking in the area. “We’ll get popped if we park here.”
As his friends pulled away from the illegal parking zone, which was marked with a sign directly overhead, he situated his backpack for the Kalalau Trail hike they had planned.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever see them again,” he said of his friends in the two cars. “God knows when they’ll be able to find parking.”
Thursday afternoon, cars were crammed into every available roadside crevice for miles — from before Tunnels Beach and the Haena parking lot, all the way to the last handicapped parking space at Kee.
Traffic flowed steadily between the rows of vehicles hodgepodged into spots along both sides of a cliffside road that provides little room for driving errors.
It took just under an hour to make my way from Tunnels to Kee, turn around at the end of the pavement, and secure a slice of shoulder just under a yield sign about a 15-minute walk from the beach.
Most of that time I was stuck in a backed-up line of cars, waiting for someone to wiggle into or out of a tight space.
Shelley and Paul Lawerence, who have been celebrating their 26th wedding anniversary for the past week throughout the Hawaiian Islands, said they took the turn-around approach as well, but they added a zen twist to their parking mission.
“We drove down to the end of the turn-around and then we flagged down a woman who was walking back and asked her where she was parked,” Paul said. “We were prepared to just wait.”
By the time they got to the pitted lot, however, the woman’s car was stuck in deep potholes and they had to wait until someone else was ready to leave.
“We’re from L.A. and over there I work with the same motto,” Shelley said. “Be patient, keep it zen, and stay relaxed.”
Paul said they refused to even consider parking illegally on the side of the road, although that practice was rampant throughout the several miles of janky parking.
What was on his mind were the major changes the area has gone through in the past two decades.
“We were here 26 years ago for our honeymoon and I don’t remember it being anywhere near this crowded,” Paul said. “This place could benefit from a shuttle. I’ll bet you could even charge $20 apiece, and the county would make some money.”
That cost is close to the penalties that were being handed out by officers Thursday afternoon: $35 for parking in a no-parking zone, and $50 for obstructing the roadway.
Officers also were handing out tickets for parking on the side of the road while facing the wrong direction, or into oncoming traffic.
Werner and Lovett said they’d probably only drop $5 each on a shuttle ride from Hanalei, but they were wishing it already existed.
Starting Friday, the Hawaii Tourism Authority is bringing back the North Shore Shuttle Service, which rolled out in November 2014 and ran for six months. This time around, it’ll run through September. Stops include the Princeville Airport and Kee Beach.
“It’s a great idea because, well, look at this parking mess,” Lovett said.