Diamond Head fees to drive away bus tours


HONOLULU -- Oahu's largest bus tour operators will discontinue visits inside Diamond Head State Monument after new admission fees take effect in September.

However, operators such as Roberts Hawaii, the state's largest, and Polynesian Adventure Tours will continue driving by the outside of Diamond Head on their programs.

Buses, cars, taxis, limousines and vans still will be able to go in and turn around before paying a fee at a toll booth, but they cannot proceed to the parking lot to let clients out, said Yara Lamadrid-Rose, Diamond Head Park coordinator.

E Noa Tours said it will discontinue going inside the crater for some of its tours; for others, it simply will go in and turn around after a quick look.

The state's Department of Land and Natural Resources will begin charging Diamond Head's 3,000 to 4,000 daily visitors the following fees: Walk-ins will be charged $1 each; automobiles, $5; buses holding up to 15 passengers, $10; buses with 16 to 25 seats, $20; and any bus with more than 26 seats, $40.

Although the state does not anticipate having a toll booth in place to collect the fees until September, it already started charging a $1 fee to hikers going to the top of the 720-foot crater and to anyone who got off tour buses that stopped in the parking lot for a moment, said Lamadrid-Rose.

The new fees are too much for Mike Carr, president of Polynesian Adventure Tours, which offers a glimpse of the inside of Diamond Head on some of its island itineraries.

"I don't believe that, at this time, I will pass the cost on to my customers, nor do I want to," said Carr.

"Everything on this island is just so unbelievably price sensitive -- people go to war over 50 cents. To add a cost to any tour is something we try to avoid."

Carr said his tours, like most other bus plans, simply drive into the crater, slow down for photo opportunities and leave.

A spokeswoman for Roberts Hawaii said the company stopped bringing visitors inside the crater in March because its clients were being charged $1 each by park employees just to get off the bus and smoke a cigarette.

The decision to stop going inside the crater also was based on the upcoming fee schedule for vehicles, she added.

About one-third of the visitors who go inside the crater use the trail to hike to the top of the summit, while the remainder just have a look, said Martha Yent, interpretive programs supervisor at the state's parks department.

Stopping on Diamond Head Road outside the crater for a view of the ocean is a better option, said Carr.

In the last two years, the state has renovated Diamond Head's summit viewing area and trail to the summit, opened a visitor information booth and exhibits in the crater floor, and installed a trailhead kiosk with information about the natural and historical features of the park, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

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