State officials today announced the immediate closure of Puu Olai Beach, also known as Little Beach, at Makena State Park on Maui due to beach parties with blatant nudity, illegal alcohol and hundreds of maskless people in close contact with one another.
The gatherings have been taking place on Sunday afternoons and nights at Puu Olai, the smaller of two beaches at Makena State Park, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Officials said that social media posts from last Sunday show an estimated 400 people on the beach, dancing and participating in drum circles without masks.
It is one of just numerous instances of continued disregard for state mask mandates and social distancing guidelines observed by Divisions of State Parks and Conservation and Resources Enforcement personnel.
DOCARE officers have made several trips to Little Beach and issued citations for alcohol violations, but the division does not have the manpower to deal with several hundred people on a weekly basis, Chief Jason Redulla said.
A participant at one of the Sunday parties is also believed to be responsible for spreading the coronavirus to others, officials said.
“For everyone’s health and safety we cannot continue to tolerate the lack of personal responsibility hundreds of people are demonstrating every Sunday at Puu Olai,” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case in a news release. “The parties have the possibility of becoming so-called super spreader events.”
The parties include drum circles, nudity, illegal alcohol and other illicit substances, officials said, and draw hundreds of maskless people who are not maintaining physical distancing. Alcoholic beverages, smoking and nudity are prohibited at Hawaii state parks.
“Out of an abundance of caution we are forced to take the extraordinary action of closing off Puu Olai due to the egregious behaviors of a segment of Maui residents and visitors,” said State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell in a statement.
Officials have put up closed signs and installed fencing at the path leading to the beach, and said anyone caught at Puu Olai could be cited for entering a closed area.
The park’s closure is temporary, but officials did not say when it would reopen. Officials said they would monitor compliance, and consider more permanent solutions to stop the reckless behavior in public.
Big Beach at Makena State Park will remain open.