Out-of-state visitors to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve will need to pay more for entry and parking under a bill moving through the Honolulu City Council.
Nonresidents 13 and older would pay $10 for entry, a 33% increase from the current $7.50. Parking for vehicles driven by non-residents would be $3 per vehicle, up 200% from the current $1.
Entry for Hawaii residents will remain free provided they can show proper identification at the ticket counter. The original version of Bill 44 would have upped the cost of parking for residents as well, but that language was removed in a new draft submitted by East Honolulu Councilman Tommy Waters.
“In my mind, the $3 parking fee (for non-residents) is very reasonable and modest for such a wonderful attraction,” Waters said.
Lisa Bishop, president of the preserve’s nonprofit support group Friends of Hanauma Bay, testified before the Council Budget Committee Wednesday in support of the bill. The organization in the past has voiced criticism when the city has used money from the annual collections to pay for improvements and services at other parks.
“Since the establishment of a dedicated Hanauma Bay Lifeguard District about a year and a half ago, this raise in fees would help to support the construction and maintenance of ocean safety facilities and equipment at Hanauma Bay,” Bishop said.
The additional money also could be used to fund necessary future carrying capacity studies, allow for upgrades to the visitor center and lead to establishment of a planned maintenance program for the bay, she said.
City Parks Director Michele Nekota said the break from most human contact the preserve has experienced since it was closed in mid-March has allowed the usually busy bay to regenerate. “We really want our locals to participate and to visit the bay,” Nekota said. “It looks so beautiful, and we’re excited to have everyone to come back, especially the residents because they haven’t been there for many year to visit, a lot of them.”
City Emergency Services Director Jim Howe said a steering committee made up of agency and private stakeholders has been meeting for more than a year.
The group is focused on the mission of “reimagining” the bay as a nature preserve, “not just a regular beach park,” he said. “And we want to be able to highlight for people visiting there an experience, not just snorkeling, but an experience of culture and understanding the value of this gem of a place to our community.”