Located next to a four-lane highway, in a flood zone, across from a beach that may disappear, in a community that feels we already have more than enough visitors, Coco Palms makes no sense as a hotel site.
Visitors will not want to stay at a resort right next to a four-lane highway. Nor will they want to cross four-lanes of whizzing cars—40,000 per day—to get to the beach—even with a crosswalk. Without an overpass, access to Wailua Beach is already inconvenient and unpleasant; four lanes will make it even worse.
How long will the beach even be there? With global warming and sea level rise, who knows how much of a beach will be left in the years ahead?
The record-breaking flood on the North Shore of Kaua‘i in 2018 showed how extraordinary and more frequent flooding will be on Kaua‘i. Much of the Coco Palms property is in the flood zone. Visitors will not appreciate having to evacuate in the middle of the night because the waters are rising around them. Prospective owners would do well to think about income loss due to recovery and repairs after floods.
Most of all, there is a growing consensus on Kaua‘i that we do not need any more visitor units or any more visitors per day. The pandemic and the ongoing reopening have made it clear: Kaua‘i is out of balance—we have more visitors per day than the island can handle.
Even without a hotel at Coco Palms, our island is reeling from the negative impacts of too many visitors. Our roads are clogged with traffic once again. We are back to planning our lives around the traffic. Our beaches and surf sites, and our recreational, scenic and cultural areas are teeming with people. Kaua‘i residents miss the uncrowded beaches and roads, the slower pace, and the quiet peacefulness we experienced during the shutdown.
Make no mistake, hospitality and aloha are part of who we are, and welcoming visitors is an important part of our economy and destiny. But when the numbers overwhelm and adversely affect our community, it is time to draw the line.
Even the visitor industry recognizes that Kaua‘i has more visitors than it can handle. According to the Kaua‘i Tourism Strategic Plan, the pre-COVID average daily visitors level of 25,000-30,000 visitors exceeded Kaua‘i’s carrying capacity, both environmentally and socially. Astute industry leaders know that overtourism puts the visitor industry at risk as well as the community.
If proper limits are established, tourism can be a “win-win.” Without limits, everyone—the ‘aina, residents, visitors, visitor industry—loses.
It is the destiny of Coco Palms to be more than a hotel site. A group of far-sighted, heartfelt community leaders called I Ola Wailuanui has been working on an exciting new vision for Coco Palms-a vision that honors Coco Palms’ ancient past as part of a dynamic cultural, economic and political center on Kaua‘i that flourished along the life-giving Wailua River, and melds it together with the future we want to see on Kaua‘i.
In its new life in the 21st century, Coco Palms can be a park and cultural center that interprets and celebrates the history of the Wailua ahupua‘a (including its time as a beloved hotel) and serves as a venue for Native Hawaiian arts, crafts, dance, music, and education.
It will be something to be proud of. Something that enhances life and understanding on Kaua‘i.
I suspect that a large majority of Kaua‘i residents would prefer this kind of future for Coco Palms. If you agree, take a stand by signing the petition at bit.ly/wailuanui
Coco Palms is ruined as a hotel site. To invest in this site for a hotel would be unwise. Without community support, it cannot succeed.The people of Kaua‘i have shown again and again that they will not stand by and watch their island be harmed. There is too much good and beautiful about our island and our community that we must protect. It is our kuleana.
JoAnn Yukimura is a former mayor and councilmember who served in elected office on Kaua‘i for 28 years. She started the Kaua‘i Bus and helped to write and secure passage of the first vacation rental and shoreline setback laws. She was also part of the organizing committee that established KIUC. In her early days as a citizen activist, she led the effort to stop high rises on Kaua‘i.