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Caldwell signs bill upping non-kamaaina admission, parking rates for Hanauma Bay visitors

                                Hanauma Bay has been closed to the public since March.
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Hanauma Bay has been closed to the public since March.

When Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve opens up again, out-of-town visitors will need to pay more to swim, snorkel and dive in the iconic marine sanctuary, under a bill signed by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell this week.

Nonresidents 13 and older will need to pay $12 to enter the lower preserve (beyond the scenic lookout), up from the existing $7.50. That’s a 60% increase, but it’s the first increase since 1996.

The initial bill called for the nonresident adult fee to be raised to $10 but in September, officials with the Department of Parks and Recreation, revised their proposal and asked for the higher $12 fee to help defray the cost for the continued operation of the tram service that takes visitors between the lookout and the lower bay.

The preserve closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because no reopening date has been scheduled, when the fee increase takes effect hasn’t been determined, city Parks and Recreation spokesman Nathan Serota said.

Parking for nonresidents is also going up — to $3 a vehicle from $1.

Residents will still not need to pay admission to the lower bay, and will continue to pay $1 for parking.

Nonresidents 12 and under will continue to enter for no charge.

The new rate structure also calls for new fees for tour vans and other licensed motor carriers. Those with vehicles carrying up to seven people will pay $10; between eight and 25 passengers, $20; and more than 25 passengers, $40.

Bill 44, now Ordinance 20-32, passed the Honolulu City Council 9-0 on Oct. 7.

“As we continue to better balance the conservation efforts with the eventual return of visitors to the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, it is important that we secure stronger financial support for the maintenance of this natural treasure,” Caldwell said in a message to City Clerk Glen Takahashi.

“This bill makes the bay more economically sustainable, by increasing fees for tourists and commercial operators, without increasing fees for local visitors to the nature preserve,.” Caldwell said. “That way we can focus on our continued partnerships towards the preservation of this unique environment.”

The bill was supported by the nonprofit Friends of Hanauma Bay and the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association.

The new fees dovetail with the passage earlier this month of Resolution 20-233, which urges the city administration to fund the restoration of the bay using the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve Fund.

All fees collected are required to go into the fund dedicated to maintenance, preservation and public education of the bay.

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