Polihale State Park open for responsible camping

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Kauai's Polihale State Park reopened for overnight camping for the first time in almost two years.
Kauai's Polihale State Park reopened for overnight camping for the first time in almost two years. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources
Christine Hitt
Christine Hitt

Earlier this month, Kauai's Polihale State Park reopened for overnight camping for the first time in almost two years. Known for its 300-foot-wide, miles-long beach, Polihale is the last accessible point by car before the cliffs of the Napali Coast begin on the west side of the island.

Though visiting by day has been allowed, "Covid concerns and overuse and abuse issues" resulted in the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources to restrict overnight access. Permits are required to camp overnight at the park. There was estimated to be 1,000 illegal campers in one weekend, which prompted the closure.

The department hopes that people visiting the park will consider the importance of the beach moving forward and choose to visit it responsibly. You can do this by following the park rules, adhering to posted signs, and getting a permit to prevent overuse.

Driving on the beach at Polihale State Park is not allowed as it can damage cultural sites and natural resources.
Driving on the beach at Polihale State Park is not allowed as it can damage cultural sites and natural resources. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

Driving on the beach is also illegal. It's dangerous because you might not see someone lying on the beach; and it has the potential to damage or destroy natural resources and cultural sites.

"Aside from its natural beauty, with spectacular cliffs and a stunning beach, the park is also a setting of cultural significance," the department said in a press release. "The sand dunes, with some reaching upwards of 100 feet high, contain Hawaiian burial sites and are key habitat for critically endangered plant species lauehu and ohai."

For visitors to the island interested in visiting Polihale, it's important to keep in mind that it's a rocky dirt road that can flood during rain. Four-wheel drive vehicles are highly recommended. The sand can get deep at some points in the park, and there is a chance of getting stuck. I've seen it happen to others, and it's happened to me. For this reason, I recommend not going alone and bringing ample supplies.

The department says it is still working on enhancing "protection of resources and quality of experience," but in the meantime, should abuse of the park happen again, camping could be restricted once more.

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