You might need to pay for beach parking in Kauai soon. Here’s why

Jun 29, 2021

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Even with the cumbersome entry restrictions Hawaii has had in place during the pandemic, tourists have been rushing back there since the spring.

Once a less-traveled, aspirational bucket list location, Hawaii has seen problems with overtourism for years. Beaches are once again packed with visitors, and Kauai is considering charging them to park there as a way to ensure that there’s still room for locals.

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Sunset at Tunnels Beach on the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii. (Photo by wingmar/Getty Images)

According to the Associated Press, Kauai has earmarked $30,000 in county coronavirus relief funds to conduct parking studies at three of the island’s popular beaches: Poipu, Lydgate and Hanalei’s Black Pot.

The AP also reports that the studies would determine an appropriate amount to charge, but the Kauai County Council would then have to vote on whether to impose the fees.

Plumeria flowers in Kauai, Hawaii. (Photo by shorrocks/Getty Images)

“We all know the impacts our parks are facing with the surge of tourism,” Kauai Managing Director Michael Dahilig said. “This study will look at ways to better manage the parking situation of tourist vehicles while making it easier for residents to find parking at more-popular destinations.”

Each year, the Hawaii Tourism Authority conducts a Resident Sentiment Survey. Per the destination management action plan released by the HTA earlier this year, “The 2019 RSS report showed that resident sentiment had generally weakened compared to the previous year.”

Sunset in Hanalei, Hawaii. (Photo by M Swiet Productions/Getty Images)

The total number of people who traveled to the Hawaiian Islands reached 32,000 in a single day last week, the AP said. Although that might seem like a lot, the HTA said Kauai saw 1,370,029 visitors in 2019 (a daily average of about 3,750), meaning it’s not back to pre-pandemic levels just yet.

“Hawaii saw a record number of visitors in 2019, prior to the pandemic,” Caroline Anderson, director of community enrichment for the HTA, told The Points Guy. “…these [destination management action] plans are meant to rebuild tourism for the islands, including mitigating the impact.”

One of the goals of instituting parking fees that are separate from resort fees is to entice visitors to consider alternate forms of transportation, Anderson said. “This is in an effort to improve the visitor experience and reduce island traffic.”

However, given this summer’s car rental shortage, it might not take much convincing.

The HTA’s report also states, “In the first 10 months of 2020, visitor arrivals dropped 73.8 percent to 298,708 visitors. The average daily census was 8,367 visitors, a decline of 69.7 percent over the same period (in 2019). There were (also) significantly fewer air seats in the market year-over-year.”

Sunset over Kauai, Hawaii. (Photo by YinYang/Getty Images)

That changed this year when major airlines like United and Southwest increased the number of routes to the Aloha State.

The problems with over-tourism pre-date the pandemic with many locals unhappy with the number of tourists that can sometimes crowd the islands.

View from an excursion boat of Na Pali coast on the western side of the Hawaiian Island of Kauai, Hawaii. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)


Featured photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.

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