Hawaii's government, residents and tourism industry have been coming to terms in the last few years with the increasing impacts of rising visitation (set to eclipse 10 million people in 2019), and how to best preserve the state's natural attractions.
Following other popular locations that have instituted new parking regulations and, in some cases, caps on daily visitors, the Hawaii Department of Natural Resources announced new rules for two of Kauai's state parks this summer.
"With Hawaii seeing record numbers of tourists ... we are simply at the point where we need visitors to share in the increased costs to maintain our parks," said DLNR chair Suzanne Case.
Little has changed for local residents, but out-of-state visitors and commercial tour buses must now pay to park at both Kokee and Waimea Canyon State Park. Earlier this year, a new reservation system and parking fees were set up for Haena State Park on Kauai's north shore.
"With Haena reopening, there is an increase in operating and maintenance costs," said Alan Carpenter, Division of State Parks assistant administrator. "As we now establish visitor limits, the parking and entrance fees generated at Haena will be modest, and this revenue is extra important."
Visitors to both Kokee and Waimea Canyon State parks will now pay $5 per vehicle for parking, while pedestrians and people on mopeds and motorcycles will pay $1. Commercial vehicles will be charged on an escalating scale depending on the size of the vehicle.
Waimea Canyon, accessed from the south side of the Garden Isle, offers gorgeous vistas of steep cliffs striped in green jungle vines and rust-colored rocks plunging into the valley below as well as ample hiking opportunities. The Kukui Trail drops 2,000 feet in elevation to the floor of the 14-mile gorge. If your calves burn at the mere thought of climbing back up the canyon, try out the Iliau Nature Loop Trail, which winds along the western rim. For Insta-worthy pictures of the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," head to one of the two main lookouts with parking lots, Puu ka Pele and Puu hinahina.
Kokee State Park, farther north along state Highway 550 from Waimea Canyon State Park, is adjacent to the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park and offer views of the Kalalau Valley from 4,000 feet above sea level. There are more than a half-dozen trails weaving through native forest with views of the Pacific, and some tent campsites available. The park also provides access to numerous trails in neighboring preserves.
In addition to the changes at a handful of state parks on Kauai, in recent years popular natural attractions such as Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve on Oahu and Haleakala National Park on Maui have instituted programs to either cap the total number of visitors or restrict traffic at particularly busy times of day.