HA‘ENA — Employees have turned away over 700 cars the past two Sundays at Ha‘ena State Park.
Yet, state Department of Land and Natural Resources staff say it is not just because of the new fees being implemented.
Alan Carpenter, an assistant administrator for the DLNR Division of State Parks, said that the turnaround number is true, but it is not because of the fee, but rather because advance reservations and fees have been required since June 2019 to enter Ha‘ena State Park or to hike the Kalalau Trail.
“To clarify, it is generally our parking vendor employees who turn people away, not our staff, who are typically deployed within the park and along the trail to educate and monitor park visitors,” Carpenter said.
“The parking staff have the unenviable position of delivering bad news to disappointed, upset and often-entitled visitors who arrive at the park without the required advance reservations, which are always sold out in advance.”
Carpenter said fees and advance reservations were instituted for Ha‘ena nearly two years ago when the Ha‘ʻena State Park Master Plan was implemented in the wake of the 2018 floods. While the fee structure has changed recently, the advance-reservations requirement has not.
According to Carpenter, the suspension of the North Shore Shuttle service due to COVID is also exacerbating the problem, as roughly half of the park visitors accessed Ha‘ena by shuttle when the new access plan was implemented in 2019.
“Unfortunately, capacity will never equal demand for these highly-sought-after park experiences,” Carpenter said. “Sundays are the most difficult days, with the highest number of turnarounds, due to the open-road schedule.”
Carpenter said that, on most days, less than 100 vehicles are turned around.
“This has been happening more frequently since we have returned to Safe Travels on April 5th,” said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau. “The unusually-high number of cars (were) turned away on Sunday, April 25 and May 2.
“Specifically, Ha‘ena State Park implemented a master plan two years ago, and has a limit to the amount of people they can take into the park, and a limit on parking stalls,” Kanoho said.
Although advance reservations are now required for all vehicles, walk-ins and shuttle riders visiting Ha‘ena State Park, Kanoho said the North Shore Shuttle is not operating right now, and day hikers wishing to access the Kalalau Trail also need to make reservations in advance.
According to Kanoho, the first two miles of the Kalalau trail, a hiker will need valid entry into the park. Reservations may be made up to 30 days in advance, and no later than the day before your visit.
Hawai‘i residents are exempt from the fee/reservation requirement. Proof of residency is required at the time of entry. Proof of residency includes a Hawai‘i Driver’s license or state ID. Visitors accompanying state residents are not exempt from the entry fee.
Limited overnight parking is now available for campers, with Kalalau overnight permits offered for Napali Coast State Wilderness Park. Camping permits must be acquired from the DLNR Division of State Parks prior to purchasing overnight parking.
Kanoho said these spots are available for purchase up to 30 days in advance, and users are charged based on the number of days the vehicle occupies the lot. A one-night stay requires paying for two days, and a four-night stay requires paying for five days, for example.
During the pandemic, Kanoho said it is especially important that anyone hosting trans-Pacific visitors make them aware of the rules of virus pre-testing from the right place with the right test. The island is still having issues with people arriving with the wrong test and/or wrong provider and then having to choose between entering a resort bubble, full 10-day quarantine or going home, she said.
Trans-Pacific travelers must take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours with test results uploaded prior to departure or they will be subject to a full 10-day quarantine. For a list of all trusted travel partners, visit hawaiicovid19.com/travel-partners.
“And masks are still mandatory on Kaua‘i, and visitors should know that before arriving,” Kanoho said. “Additionally, letting those who are coming to Kaua‘i know about the Hanalei Hill road closure and convoy hours.”
At Ha‘ena State Park, Koke‘e State Park and Waimea Canyon State Park, visitors are required to pay a $5 per person entrance fee and a $10 per non-commercial vehicle parking fee.
Permits are non-transferable.
Details on Ha‘ena State Park rules can be found at gohaena.com.
This story has been edited on May 4 at 9:00 a.m. for accuracy.
Stephanie Shinno, education and business reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or email@example.com.