Visitors turned away at Ha‘ena

  • Contributed

    Shown is the Kuhio Highway access schedule to and from Hanalei due to the March landslide.

  • Courtesy of state Department of Land and Natural Resources

    The boardwalk leading to Ke‘e Beach at Ha‘ena State Park traverses taro fields.

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

“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

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

  1. randy kansas May 4, 2021 2:41 am Reply

    master plan…hahahaha

    1. Obama May 30, 2021 4:18 am Reply

      I suspect this is part of a master plan to turn away non residents. My family and I have been looking on the reservation website for months and there is never any availability. We are spending a lot of money to come there with our two kids prior to our oldest graduation from high school. This is the last time we will have this opportunity. It really sucks that locals cannot find a way to embrace tourists while maintaining control of the parks.

      1. Trish Dill August 14, 2021 8:59 pm Reply

        Sorry but there is no master plan. Residents have watched for years how the north shore has been trampled and dumped on by thousands of tourists. Most locals wouldn’t even go neat there because of the madness. Not to mention all of the tax dollars spent rescuing people from their own ignorance of what a terrifically wild place this is. Now finally there is some order and sanity. But more needs to be done to let visitors know ahead of time regarding the restrictions. I hear of people upset and threatening to never come back. But for every disgruntled tourist there are 50 more waiting to take their place. Sorry to say but its just the way it is. More people on the globe now.

  2. Da Shadow May 4, 2021 3:07 am Reply

    the need for entry permits is understandable, but the people manning the checkpoint should try courtesy when dealing with people. my wife and i, residents of Wainiha, were turned away because my wife did not haver her ID with her (even tho i had mine and we were in our car which is an old Toyota truck, not a rental). We understand the rules, but the lady was highly inappropriate towards my wife, telling her “too many haoles coming here, not enough parking for locals.” (my wife is Caucasian).
    And considering the amount we pay in taxes for our three homes, the GET & TAT we collect for the State and County via a vacation rental, and the donations we have made for the maintenance of the Kalalau Trail, the encounter left a bitter taste in our mouths.

    I’m not whining, just appealing to the DLNR to show a little respect and Aloha to ALL people.

    1. Doug May 4, 2021 10:05 am Reply

      If that was the Aunty who usually works there she is not normally like that. She could be really stressed because of the entitled tourists screaming at her all day. My wife and I used Ke’e several times and every time she was a sweetheart. Of course, both of us had our ID each and every time. I know it’s not you guys that gave her a hard time, but considering what she has been dealing with, you might cut her a little slack. On another note, it is nice to see this state finally enforce a rule!!

  3. Kauai resident May 4, 2021 4:21 am Reply

    The managers of this park have failed. The park is underutilized. Why are we turning around cars when the parking lot is almost empty every day.

  4. Mike May 4, 2021 4:48 am Reply

    Kauai needs to do a better job of informing visitors that only they are being targeted for extra fees to enter state parks. Then the confusion and bad feelings of being refused access would be more understood.
    Las Vegas should also charge only Hawaii residents additional fees to visit. Fair is fair.

    1. jim May 4, 2021 9:09 am Reply

      Yes Mike, Nevada should charge visitors a fee to enter their state parks too. Our taxes pay for our parks whether or not we use them ourselves. Visitors are using the parks for free, unless the state charges them to use the parks. Parks are not profitable like casinos. No one goes to Nevada for the parks.

      1. nobody May 4, 2021 7:19 pm Reply

        Pretty sure the Federal government paid for Haena park.

    2. Doug May 4, 2021 10:12 am Reply

      It’s not Kauai County’s job to inform tourists of State rules. I have always been an advocate of the airlines and hotels handing out a brochure with all the rules (masks, Ke’e, etc) but they refuse to do that because they “do not want visitors to have a negative experience”. I think that visitors would appreciate knowing versus finding out upon arrival because the visitor did not do their due diligence.

  5. Palani May 4, 2021 6:23 am Reply

    Kauai continues to turn up the hostility to visitors. Why come to Kauai to be denied access, nickeled and dimed when they can be welcomed to any of the other islands?
    And then kama’aina wonder why there are homeless camping out on the beaches? There are no tourist jobs, that’s why.

    1. Doug May 4, 2021 10:16 am Reply

      It’s a State beach, Kauai County has nothing to do with running it other than they supply the life guards because the state is too cheap to pay for them. But I understand that will change come the end of the year, and at that time the county taxpayers will no longer fund lifeguards for that beach.

    2. kym May 4, 2021 6:38 pm Reply

      Agree, No reason to visit here anymore. So many other places to visit and spend you hard earned money. If only we could ban Kauai residents from visiting other places and of course charging them 4x the cost of locals. The island has lost it’s way.

    3. Chris G May 6, 2021 8:29 am Reply

      Things aren’t that much better on other islands of Hawaii, there are silly reservation systems due to undeveloped infrastructure all over Hawaii. The real difference comes when you compare to *any* other tropical island vacation destination around the world. Look at how visitors are viewed and treated in the Caribbean, look at how much it costs for a 1-week vacation… it’s a little shocking to me that people still come here, to be honest.

  6. JoeMaka May 4, 2021 7:17 am Reply

    Fix it DLNR. Most of those people turning around had no idea of the regulations. Fix your websites. Educate visitors. Work with rental cars. Put signage at key spots long before the park. We had a year of almost no visitors and nothing was done to prep. Is anyone surprised?

    1. Doug May 4, 2021 10:19 am Reply

      This beach was set up like this before the pandemic. You must be a first time visitor. Always educate yourself before visiting when you go anywhere.

    2. nobody May 4, 2021 7:21 pm Reply

      How about use the available parking lot paid for by the visitors.

  7. Freedom May 4, 2021 7:42 am Reply

    This is terrible, they are trying to take control of everything, you now need a reservation to hike a trail? They are treating Kauai like a theme park,
    This isn’t the kauai I know and love

    1. Mona May 5, 2021 7:36 am Reply

      When we went to Kee beach -the lady at check in was so very kind to us- we are residents and did have our ID- so thankful to have the plan and monitoring – we had a wonderful day. Amazing how the new plan has created order ( verses the past of chaos)

  8. o'o May 4, 2021 8:39 am Reply

    Proof read your article…so many typos…same goes for the state and county and their “master plans”…obviously not thorough or thought out…the other master plan disaster is at blackpot…and now they’re prepping up to destroy it even more…why don’t we get a master plan on tourism? That seems to be the biggest issue creating all our other problems. The past year was the best year ever!!! The beaches, sea and wildlife finally had a chance to recover, heal and just be; the way life on the islands is meant to be. MONEY, INSTAGRAM (ie Zuckerberg) and the Tourism Industry have just about destroyed this beautiful place.

    1. Chris June 1, 2021 7:27 pm Reply

      Yes, I’m a tourist, I plan, and I’m perfectly fine waking up at odd hours to get a parking spot. Now I know when I arrive I’ll have a pleasant day with the family with that many fewer entitled tourists on the trail. Would think those that want to access great places would do the research. That applies to anywhere.

  9. North Shore May 4, 2021 9:00 am Reply

    All of these comments are negative regards the current plan and so is mine. I am a Hawaii resident who lives on the NShore and hasn’t been to my favorite beach, Kee, for several years.
    Handicapped policy is not clear and I can’t walk the distance from Haena.
    There should be some way to prove residency bedsides Hawaii drivers license. California issued a free renewal during the pandemic while Kauai wanted me to come in with multiple documents for a long in person appointment before I was vaccinated. I can show a resident tax return and a Federal return with my primary address on Kauai but this is not currently acceptable.
    Prepandemic when I had visitors I let them know to make a reservation to pay for all of us to go to Kee or Napali. Although they started early reservations were not available during their visit.
    We are losing all the treasures that make Kauai special.

  10. Kauaidoug May 4, 2021 9:19 am Reply

    1. The new rules and regulations are as clear as mud not to mention confusing AND no one really seems to know what is going on concerning fees etc except a very few. I spent two days trying to get some pretty simple rates concerning commercial tours. NO ONE KNEW except one person who was kind enough to return my phone calls. I had state officials on Kauai send me conflicting amounts and information.

    Useless, confusing , waste of time and I LIVE HERE! How can we expect tourists to understand when the people who are supposed to know do not?. And as some have pointed out THEY HAD A YEAR TO FIGURE THIS OUT! What were these people doing? This is the job.

    Why weren’t they busy planning videos that played on Lihue bound planes?!

    There should be brochures and flyers at every hotel front desk or concierge helping to explain these rules? What does that cost to do? printing and then someone needs to distribute them.

    Why weren’t they up in Kokee fixing the roads? Why isn’t the county and state making sure that these parks and various Lookouts like the Opeakaa falls are providing a view that people have spent their money on to see? The t The weeds are now bushes at Opeakaa and the bushes are trees! Come on!

    I see the issue of not being ready for tourists similar to when you have guests coming and you need to clean house! What do we have to welcome our guests? Charging for entry fees at the Wailua Canyon Lookout and you can’t use 2/3 of it for access due to erosion, erosion that was obvious 2 years ago! There are potholes at the Kalalau Lookout that will swallow your car! And now we’re charging?

    Give me a break, Give the people who are yearning for what our beautiful island has to offer after this horrible year a break.

    Let’s get our house in order so we can shine!

    1. jmy May 4, 2021 6:21 pm Reply

      a flat fee for anyone, local vs tourist who visits . us against them is going to ruin Kauai even further. Nothing but trash will soon be visiting the island. shame on the local government.

      1. JRB May 4, 2021 6:40 pm Reply

        agree!. I live in Arizona, and everyone who visits the Grand Canyon pays the same amount. the tourist vs local mentality will kill Kauai.

  11. Kalalau Guest May 4, 2021 9:21 am Reply

    Local cars carrying visitors should be able to pay an entry fee at the gate for each visitor. Otherwise the local parking is not useful really. Locals have to make reservations and fight with tourists just to bring visiting friends and family. Considering that the local admittance is for the parking rather than the park, it does not matter how many are in the vehicle.

  12. Marie May 4, 2021 10:27 am Reply

    Yep, Kauai is hostile towards tourists. We had too many tourists for our island to handle. The government might have decided it wants tourists but a majority of Kauai residents doesn’t. We are now back to too much traffic and crowded beaches. Ha’ena was overrun with people and being destroyed. It has to have controls in place to keep protecting it. It’s up to you as a tourist to find out the rules of where you are deciding to travel, it’s not up to us to educate you. Have you tried to go to Yosemite lately? You have to have reservations there too and many other spots in the US. And for the local that his wife couldn’t get in.We checked early on what was required and found out everyone has to have a local ID to get in without a reservation. Otherwise locals could be carting in people that are not locals.

  13. Kukane May 4, 2021 10:50 am Reply

    The resident exemption “privilege” to avoid making reservations is nearly worthless.
    9 times out of 10 I relive the beauty and majesty of our god given Aina “state parks” through the eyes of loved ones and friends that come visit me and bring me great joy.
    With the parking lot half full at Ke’e last week… I was turned away by this ridiculous loss of privileges do to having a visiting family member in my car. We had no problem with paying the fee for her but were not welcome and turned away without reservations.
    Residents should not need a reservation because of the company we keep… how VERY THOUGHTLESS and unfair this policy is to the kammaina.💔

  14. commonsense May 4, 2021 11:28 am Reply

    There are plenty of visitor industry jobs available, one just has to look. I have a couple positions I have needed to fill for over a month and only two applicants. Neither of which showed up for their interviews. People are getting lazier and don’t want to work. Especially since they are making more on unemployment. One of my positions makes more than unemployment provides, but still no takers.

    I agree with Da Shadow. People need to show some respect when dealing with other people (local or not). Being ‘local’ does not entitle any of us to better treatment.

  15. Lawaibob May 4, 2021 1:05 pm Reply

    The plan is working!

  16. ManalowaBob May 4, 2021 5:56 pm Reply

    I’ve been visiting my island of Kauai since before most of you were born. It is true that my island has reached its capacity of people. I remember what a peaceful drive it was through Kapaa, or to any place on the my island for that matter. Talk of increasing capacity of the roads was very depressing to me as it’s the wrong solution and will destroy what makes my island of Kauai unique. Another bad approach is this new theme to make tourists the source of the problem and to have a second set of rules/fees, etc for visitors who currently reside on my island versus visitors who reside on the mainland. While there is an occasional tourist that shows no respect to my island, don’t pretend the visitors who reside on my island aren’t the vast majority of the problem. Is it rental vehicles tearing up the beaches, littering the parks, etc? Set a limit on the number of flights to the island and stop over building my island. There were 39000 people living on my island in 1980, now there are over 73000. Respect my island and respect each other and bring the Aloha back.

  17. jsw May 4, 2021 6:17 pm Reply

    Yep, done with the crap on this island. over entitled California folks have moved here and ruined the island. I use to love to live here, now it is ruined, the “us” against the “tourist” is so sad. Happily sold my home of 25 years here and will now visit other islands without this craziness. Poor Kauai, it has shot itself in the foot.

  18. myu May 4, 2021 6:28 pm Reply

    Perhaps every state in the United States should start banning anyone from Kauai. Charge them 3 times the amount for visiting anything outside of Kauai. Because they are so special. Arrgh, What a bunch of self entitled Morons. Kauai use to be such a lovely place. No more. the people who have moved to Kauai have really ruined it. Kauai has lost it’s way.

  19. malihini May 4, 2021 7:28 pm Reply

    Why is the parking lot almost empty all day? Anyone?

  20. Maria S. May 10, 2021 7:42 pm Reply

    Perhaps it’s about time to start checking out French Polynesia…

  21. Aiki May 25, 2021 5:43 am Reply

    I have to agree that Kauai is a mess right now.

    After visiting many times over the past two decades and falling in love with Hawaiian culture, even attending UH at Manoa for a semester, I find myself now wishing I had chosen elsewhere to visit for my first time out since the lockdown. The problem is I first booked my vacation there in March 2020; I’ve rebooked twice to get to my June 2021 date for travel.

    I was up every night at 3 am for over a week trying to get permits for Haena State Park thirty days in advance of my trip, only to have the permits “sell out” in seconds after becoming available at midnight Hawaiian time each night. Even when I was able to select available slots, the park website would stall due to the insane web traffic in those thirty seconds, and pull the tickets I selected out from my cart before I could pay for them when the website unfroze. They were completely gone afterwards, even walk-in entries, just minutes after midnight. For Kauai officials, this seemed like a good time to also suspend the shuttle service into Haena!

    Hawaiian Airlines’ website crashed right after they changed one inter island flight on my itinerary and unseated me from all legs of my trip. I had to pay twice for the extra leg room seats I had initially purchased (no credit after erasing or rebooking me to middle seats) and the airline, after a month, still hasn’t responded to my e-mails to repair the damage to reservations made six months in advance. There is a two hour wait time to speak to an agent, but I spoke via text to an agent who argued that my itinerary hadn’t been altered, even though I had the screenshots to show the changes and fees paid.

    I reserved an SUV in January for this June itinerary but, as the rental companies have overbooked reservations and sold off their fleet without planning ahead (or, planning to gouge people with the resulting shortage for maximum profit), I may have to accept a 2-door compact car after waiting hours or days for the first available rental.

    And, still needing to pay for a pre-travel Covid test from a limited choice of labs (many who can’t guarantee results in time for travel, requiring a 10 day quarantine if you take off before results are available, even if negative results before landing), and all even if you can prove you are fully vaccinated… and still have to mask up while both in and outdoors once arrived. This, despite vaccinations being widely available to all who want them on Kauai, and despite CDC science saying much of Kauai’s mandates are superfluous, except for those who chose not to get a shot.

    Many of the waterfalls I loved to visit are no longer open to visitors; private, wealthy land owners have cut off access either due to fear of lawsuits or purely selfish “my property, mine alone,” rules.

    So, I may never come back to Hawaii. I know many islanders would say, “Good! One less haole ruining our paradise!” Other awesome places that are less expensive, more welcoming and in need of a recovering tourism economy will be opening soon. They won’t have the beauty of Ke’e Beach, but they will have other adventures nearly as worthy of the time, money and effort to find them.

  22. Misy August 18, 2021 8:17 pm Reply

    This is all heartbreaking, and I’m currently leaning toward canceling our trip. We live in California…We understand what it’s like to be overrun with tourists everywhere we go in our own “backyard”, to the point of circling for parking for two hours with three kids while buses full of overseas tourists walk in. I get it. We had trip after trip canceled for the last two years, and decided to put that money towards a “bucket list” trip to Kauai due to some of our other bucket list locations being closed. We have never been to any Hawaiian island and were so excited for this trip, meticulously planning for three months. However, most recent news articles and messages on these posts have made it clear that now is not the time. The level of anger and hostility, in addition to all the new rules and regulations, have filled me with dread and anxiety instead of excitement, worried about how we will be received and how difficult it will be to do the things we’ve been planning for months. At this point, we’ll be losing over $1,000 of our investment if we cancel (partially refundable), but it feels like the only option. The island is clearly going through growing pains and everyone sounds fed up. It’s a no-win situation for everyone.

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