Hawaii Notebook 1: Be aware of new tourist restrictions

First in a series of blog posts about Hawaii.

Hawaii has joined the list of places around the world restricting travel due to overtourism.

Such restrictions are becoming more common in areas of high historical or natural significance, including Angkor Wat (Cambodia), Machu Picchu (Peru) and Santorini (Greece), which are inundated with visitors, especially at peaks times like summer. Such places are limiting the number of visitors, regulating short-term housing rentals and increasing fees to preserve the very Instagramable features and ambience tourists flock to see.

What does that mean for you if you plan to visit Hawaii? Travel restrictions may require you to make some changes, including planning farther ahead, making reservations and paying new fees.

To explain such actions to visitors, Hawaii has implemented various educational campaigns. The Hawaii Tourism Authority recently rolled out the “Kuleana (responsibility) Campaign” for all eight islands. Short educational videos feature Hawaii residents talking about cultural etiquette, highlighting topics such as land and water safety, conservation and “pono (righteous) tourism.” Some airlines will show the videos on arriving flights.

Here are some island-specific highlights of restrictions:

Maui

Earlier this month, Hawaii closed a cliff face in the Lihau section of the West Maui Natural Area Reserve for up to two years to protect native plants. Rock climbers had installed hardware and footholds into cliffs, affecting threatened and endangered plants, according to the Maui News. Climbers who hiked through the area to reach the cliff trampled West Maui’s only known population of yellow hibiscus.

Visitors to Maui can pledge to behave responsibly by taking the Road to Hana Code of Conduct. The 64-mile Road to Hana has 620 curves and 59 bridges that meander through beaches, dramatic cliffs, lush rainforests and waterfalls on the eastern side of the island.

Road to Hana
Visitors can stop for a swim at this black-sand beach or take a stroll at Wai’anapanapa State Park along Maui’s Road to Hana. (Sheryl Jean)

Oahu

Earlier this year, Oahu passed a law restricting the number of short-term rentals outside of the resort areas of Waikiki, Ko Olina and Turtle Bay.

Kauai

On the island of Kauai, the number of visitors to its North Shore are limited to 900 a day and visitors must make reservations to go to Hā’ena State Park and Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park. A new reservation and shuttle system began in June, when both parks reopened after severe flooding closed them for 14 months. It’s part of the Hā’ena Master Plan to reduce overcrowding and better protect resources. Hā’ena State Park is home to the trailhead for Kalalau Trail, Kē’ē Beach and Hanakāpī’ai beach and waterfalls.

View from the Kalalua Trail
The Kalalua Trail on Kauai provides incredible views like this one. (Pixabay)

You can book park entry, parking and the shuttle on the Ha’ena State Park Reservation website. The current fee for bicycle or walk-in entry is $1 per person. The current entry/parking fee for a non-Hawaii resident is $5 per vehicle. The North Shore Shuttle offers park-and-ride service, including park entry and a “Hop On Pass” to stop at sites along the way, from Princeville or Hanalei for $11 per person.

Island of Hawaii

The Hawaii Visitors Bureau encourages visitors to take the nine-part Pono Pledge to treat the island with respect and not endanger yourself or others.

Lush plant on Road to Hana (Sheryl Jean)
All of the Hawaiian Islands boast many exotic plants and flowers. (Sheryl Jean)

Over the next few weeks, I’ll blog about Maui’s Road to Hana scenic drive and Maui’s best snorkeling beaches.

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