Driving past Hanalei into Wainiha and Haena was once an art form.
One’s knowledge of how to carefully cross single-lane bridges and driving etiquette to make it from point A to point B was key to getting to where you needed to go.
Also, not knowing when to cross the bridge could be a frustrating mistake that could potentially waste a lot of time. Crossing too soon, such as if there’s a blind spot obscuring oncoming cars, could result in being stuck on a bridge. After that, a driver would have to reverse back the way they came to get out of the way of a steady line of cars headed in their direction.
From bridge etiquette to unpredictable drivers on the road, there can be a lot of complicating factors when driving on Kauai.
Some visitors experience “Disneyland syndrome” which causes them to act and drive in a confused, indecisive manner because they’re overwhelmed by the beauty of the island and the fact they’re on vacation.
Parking in the middle of the road to get the perfect picture, and drivers spontaneously bolting in front of other vehicles from a parking spot on the shoulder of the highway, were just some of the risk factors associated with this.
“Overtourism” is one of the factors causing the roads to become more crowded, though it is definitely one of the most significant sources of congestion on island. At the end of the day, though, all kinds of people can be bad drivers who need to be avoided on the road, and so overall fewer cars means less drama on the roadway.
In Haena and Wainiha, traveling through the convoy simplifies this process of commuting to and from the rest of the island. Being reduced to residents driving single file in and out of the area through the convoy schedule is straight-forward. The system reduces the amount of cars in the area and gives locals a break from overtourism.
On the flip-side, there is a price to pay for cutting back on the amount of people able to easily access Haena and Wainiha.
While peaceful in between convoy schedule times and keiki and families are often seen walking or riding bikes together, when the convoy reopens the highway is very busy. It can be quite dangerous actually, especially due to people speeding so they don’t miss their time to get through. This is a major concern of residents and families here, and children at the satellite school in Haena even have painted and posted surfboards and signs reading, “Please slow down,” as a reminder.
Businesses and workers tell how they struggle from the road being closed to non-residents, and so do people impacted by April’s flooding, though it helps in other ways by reducing vehicle and foot traffic. Fewer people means fewer customers and for this reason most workers lost their jobs and clientele.
All businesses have been severely impacted. Some businesses that remain open have reduced hours and reduced staff. For every house or hotel room or rental shuttered, there is a housekeeper, landscaper, plumber, and other workers who lost income. Those still rebuilding following the flood often have a hard time scheduling and coordinating to getting people in the area to make repairs, bring supplies and more to get their house back on track.
Contractors and those trying to provide other services in the area talk about how difficult it can be to access Haena and Wainiha to do so. Every contractor or person providing services from construction to disaster relief all need work passes before they can get through.
Fortunately, there are ways for Haena and Wainiha folks to ease their worries for now.
Napali Art Gallery and Coffee House is a place to talk story and get their morning start-up with a tasty cup of coffee. In the evenings Opakapaka Grill and Bar is there for people to hang out and grab food, drink and shoot pool.
Not to mention, for right now at least, there are uncrowded beaches where people can relax and spend time with family and friends.
Monique Rowan is a writer, artist and mother and lives on the North Shore. Hanalei is her hometown. She also has a love for community radio, running and learning about language and culture. She can be reached at email@example.com.