PRINCEVILLE — The waves are getting bigger and legal access to Queen’s Bath has been closed via a gate that has been up across the trailhead for a year.
Queen’s Bath is known for its beauty and is somewhat of a social media darling, but isn’t safe for much of the year because of the big waves that wash into the natural pool and can pull swimmers out to sea.
People have also been swept off the rocks on the way to Queen’s Bath. Several were taking photos when they disappeared. The majority of the incidents at Queen’s Bath involve visitors.
It’s been a point of concern for local residents as well as entities like Kauai Visitors Bureau, Princeville at Hanalei Community Association, and County of Kauai. In October 2018 a chain-link fence was put across the trailhead, with a gate that the county directs to be closed when conditions are deemed unsafe.
However, even with the PHCA extending the chain-link fence in December, people ignore the “no trespassing” signs and safety warnings and pick their way around the gate when it’s closed.
In fact, according to area residents, the gate hasn’t worked since the day it was erected.
Ian Nelson lives across the road from the Queen’s Bath trailhead and said he thinks the parking lot should be gated off to further drive home the point that the trailhead is closed when conditions are deemed unsafe.
“Open parking lots and empty threats like the ones at Queen’s Bath do only one thing: they condition our tourists to ignore warnings and give them a false sense of security in obviously dangerous situations,” Nelson wrote in an email. “The county is encouraging negligent and dangerous behavior in our visitors who in turn share their experience online for the next person, passing on a false sense of security.”
Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami acknowledged people are bypassing the gate system and the warnings, and said people should pay attention to those warnings.
“We have put out extensive messages to strongly discourage all people, visitors and residents, from visiting this dangerous site,” Kawakami said. “To put yourself in harm’s way despite these consistent warnings is foolish and selfish because you are not only putting your life at risk, you are putting the lives of our first responders at risk as well.”
Brainstorming is ongoing about what to do regarding Queen’s Bath, and Kawakami said his office is working with groups to gather more input.
One of those ideas is along the same lines as Nelson’s suggestion: Closing the parking lots.
“We believe this could help deter those from visiting Queen’s Bath during unsafe conditions,” Kawakami said.
Rory Enright, of the PHCA, confirmed he’s been seeing big waves and said it’s important for people to remember Queen’s Bath “is not a place to visit during the winter, or any high-surf period.”
“There are other wonderful alternative places to visit on the island that don’t represent a risk to life,” Enright said.
He also pointed to the county’s parking-lot plan, saying securing the lot when needed will “help substantially.”
Meanwhile, the illegal parking that was rampant in Princeville, particularly near Queen’s Bath, has been becoming less frequent. That’s because of a new fine system implemented in April that involves a gadget called the barnacle.
It suctions to the entire windshield of a vehicle and can be removed with a swipe of a credit or debit card and the subsequent payment of parking fines.
“Illegal parking in the surrounding area has almost been eliminated by the use of the barnacle parking-enforcement system,” Enright said.
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.