Update 2020: Key provisions of this plan have been implemented. See our Kauai North Shore Visitors Information page for details.
A 32-member committee has crafted a controversial “master plan” for the Ke’e Beach area and entry to the Kalalau Trail that would charge fees and restrict access to the area. The plan, if implemented, would restrict the number of visitors to the area to 900 per day, about half the estimated number of 2,000 who currently visit daily (though some say the estimate of 2,000 is on the higher end). Educating visitors about the area’s unique resources and cultural significance, and not recreation, seem to be the focus of the plan. Kauai Travel Blog is against this outrageous proposal.
Ke’e Beach is the quaint and idyllic beach at the end of the road and is the gateway to the Na Pali Coast and the Kalalau Trail, one of the world’s greatest and most scenic hikes. People from all over the world visit the area for recreational activities such as hiking, snorkeling and hanging out at the beach.
As it stands now, Ke’e Beach’s main problem is parking. There is some parking near the beach and a dirt parking lot within walking distance. The dirt parking lot is often muddy and is riddled with potholes and an irregular surface. Small cars often have a difficult time in the parking lot and will sometimes get stuck in the mud. People who park on the side of the road are often ticketed.
However, the master plan paints a picture of a deluge of visitors who degrade the area and do not respect the area’s cultural heritage. They need to be educated, the plan stresses.
The near-term plan includes a welcome pavilion where the main entry to the park can be managed prior to the construction of an educational and cultural center. An educational “interpretive” path (a raised walkway) would channel visitors from the pavilion to the beach, a feature justified in the plan because of the potential for falling rocks. A paved parking lot is planned that could accommodate 100 cars, but there is wording in the plan to reduce that number even further to encourage the use of a shuttle or transit system. Once the highway is closed to traffic, a vehicle turnaround will be provided at the entry as well as gated access to the parking lot.
The long-term plan includes a 2,000 s.f. education and research center “envisioned as the main gathering place for all who visit the park.” The plan recommends that all visitors attend an educational session upon entering the park. Here’s an excerpt that shows the tone of the report:
It is recommended that all visitors attend an educational session upon entering the park similar to the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve on O’ahu. The sessions would be held at the Welcome Pavilion in the near term and at the ECC once built. These sessions would provide a brief overview of the park’s extensive but sensitive natural and cultural resources and instruct visitors of the appropriate activities and behaviors allowed at the park. General safety concerns such as ocean safety and rockfall hazards can also be included as well as up-to-the-minute ocean and weather conditions and instructions on what to do in the case of an emergency. Additional detail on the orientation sessions is provided in the following management sections. Once visitors attend the orientation session, they will be able to enter the park directly via the Interpretive Path.
While Kauai Travel Blog welcomes efforts that preserve the natural attributes of Kauai, this proposal is totally out of proportion to the primary problems of parking and traffic. The proposal, likely influenced by property owners near Ke’e Beach, would hinder access to the recreational beach for both Kauai residents and tourists alike. Ke’e beach is enjoyed by both parties for its recreational attributes, not educational opportunities. And we dispute the notion the beach is overcrowded. We visit the beach regularly and although it is a popular beach there is always plenty of room for everyone. Moreover we are concerned that local property owners would purchase permits to further reduce the number of people at the beach, and also concerned that hotels and other travel organizations would purchase permits in bulk for their guests that would ultimately never be used. But most importantly the proposal would hinder access to what should always be a public beach for the residents and tourists of Kauai. And the fee is an insult, especially to the many local residents who visit Ke’e on a regular basis.
Above: Ke’e Beach as seen on Saturday, September 2nd, 2017 in the afternoon. The photo shows a typical amount of people who are at the beach. The beach is not overcrowded as alleged in the proposal.
The main problem for Ke’e Beach, as noted above, is the parking. Local property owners are probably concerned that more or improved parking will result in even more people visiting the beach. However, we believe that people on the island are visiting Ke’e Beach no matter the parking situation. There are only so many people on the isolated island of Kauai at any one time. Kauai Travel Blog believes the parking situation can be improved by expanding parking near the beach and by providing a “fun bus” shuttle from the town of Hanalei. The bus could charge a small fee and the town of Hanalei would see increased foot traffic to its shops and restaurants as passengers would depart and arrive. On the issue of overcrowding at Ke’e and on the entire island of Kauai, we believe the travel industry of the island should work together to find a sustainable balance between the number of flights, hotel rooms and rental cars.
See the master plan at http://oeqc.doh.hawaii.gov/Shared%20Documents/EA_and_EIS_Online_Library/Kauai/2010s/2015-07-23-KA-5B-DEIS-Haena-State-Park_Master-Plan.pdf (The large file takes time to load. The master plan outline begins on page 741.)
Selected Illustrations from the Master Plan
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