Donning a baseball cap and blue jeans, Gov. David Ige hiked a portion of the popular Kalalau Trail at Ha‘ena State Park in anticipation of its reopening along with the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park on Kauai.
The trail and park are reopening Monday to coincide with the reopening of Kuhio Highway, which has been closed to non-local traffic for more than a year.
Ige and Hawaii first lady Dawn Amano-Ige hiked a short section of the Kalalau Trail earlier this month following a community blessing at Haʻena State Park. The blessing, held June 5, was called “Dawning of a New Day for Ha‘ena,” and celebrated the work done to restore the area following the historic flood last April, as well as a new approach.
Visitors to the park will now be limited to 900 a day, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, down from what was previously estimated at 3,000 a day. The Kalalau Trail, considered one of the most beautiful hikes in the world, attracts thousands of visitors from around the world seeking to view and photograph the spectacular Napali Coast.
The hike can also be dangerous in some areas and has been notorious for rescues, particularly among inexperienced hikers, due to sheer cliffs and narrow pathways, along with streams that can swell up with short notice.
Park users must make online reservations prior to arrival for walk-in and bike-in entry as well as parking for private vehicles. Parking at Haena State Park will be limited to 100 stalls, so taking the shuttle is recommended. Reservations for the shuttle are also required in advance.
Entry fees are $1 a person, and parking fees are $5 a vehicle. Reservations may be made up to 14 days in advance, but no later than the day before visiting.
Hawaii residents, however, are not subject to the new park fees or the reservation system.
Hawaii residents and visitors with park entrance permits may hike to Hanakapiai Stream, a 4-mile round trip, or the 8-mile round trip hike up the valley to Hanakapiai Falls.
An additional, overnight camping permit is required from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, however, to hike beyond the two-mile mark at the stream crossing.
A community group, Friends of the Kalalau Trail, helped cut back vegetation and clear out mud and debris from sections of the first two miles in preparation for the reopening.
It was the governor’s first time on the trail, and Mrs. Ige’s longtime return after hiking it as a teen. Both said they hoped to return with their three children, Amy, Lauren and Matthew, for a longer hike.
Ige called Kalalau Trail a “beautiful location” during the hike, and said he could see why so many visitors and residents want to hike it.
“I think everybody acknowledges that the visitor industry is our number one industry, and everybody wants to support that, but the question is how much is too much,” said Ige, reflecting on the changes. “We are seeing impacts in traffic…when you see these kinds of trails and Haʻena State Park, where everyone wants to visit it, but clearly too many people is just not a good experience for visitors or residents alike.”
More information on access to Ha‘ena State Park and required permits are available at DLNR’s website.