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In quick turnaround, city reopens Hanauma Bay to walk-in visitors

                                Walk-in visitors left Hanauma Bay on Saturday.


    Walk-in visitors left Hanauma Bay on Saturday.

In a quick about-face after barring entry to pedestrians arriving without vehicles at Hanauma Bay on Saturday, the city reopened the nature preserve to walk-in visitors on Wednesday after the new rule had been in effect only two days (the bay is closed Mondays and Tuesdays).

In a press release late Tuesday, the Department of Parks and Recreation announced it acted quickly after observing that a new system providing first-come, first-serve tickets to arrivals and allowing them to park in the preserve’s lot until their reserved entry time, had alleviated safety concerns.

“The ticketing system and increased access to the preserve’s parking lot proved to be the solutions we needed to address the safety issues posed by limiting entry off of Kalanianaole Highway,” DPR Director-Designate Laura H. Thielen said in the announcement. “We appreciate the patience and flexibility of the public while we make these adjustments to our Hanauma Bay operations during this pilot reopening program period.”

Safety concerns arose from community complaints about people parking elsewhere after being turned away from the preserve’s gates because the 120-person per hour quota had been reached, and walking back along busy Kalanianaole Highway to try again.

Residents of the nearest neighborhood to the bay said Wednesday crowds of bay visitors and vehicles along Nawiliwili Street had diminished since the new policy went into effect Saturday, and that the restoration of walk-in entry had not yet resulted in an uptick.

Jennifer Taylor, president of the community association, credited the new reservation system.

“So far today we have not had more cars,” another resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday morning; the bay opens at 7:45 a.m.

“I think the key issue is when Hanauma Bay accommodates its visitors’ cars, they don’t have to go into the neighborhood to find parking,” he added. “The situation has vastly improved.”

Hanauma Bay has regularly reached its 720-person daily capacity since its Dec. 2 reopening, said DPR spokesman Nate Serota, but failed to reach capacity on Saturday and Sunday under the new, on-site reservation policy.

“We had quite a few no-shows (people who got their tickets, left, and didn’t return), and that takes away opportunities for other visitors to visit Hanauma Bay.” Serota said, “so we are asking people to honor their tickets once they receive them.”

Visitors entering the nature preserve on foot, as well as by vehicle, will follow ticketing procedures that provide pre-determined entry based on show times in the preserve’s theater, which holds 30 people and wherein everyone is required to view a 15-minute, safety and conservation video before being continuing down to the beach.

Visitors have the choice of remaining in the parking lot and upper area of the preserve while they wait, or to leave after receiving their entry ticket, but they must be outside of the theater with their ticket 15 minutes before their designated show time to ensure their admission.

Over the weekend, many visitors were seen enjoying the upper areas of the preserve, including picnicking on the upper lawn areas or enjoying the scenic views, DPR said, adding this was encouraged.

Over the weekend, the preserve’s 240-stall parking lot was never full, Serota added.

The Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is open to the public from 7:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, with last entry at 2 p.m. All face mask, physical distancing, and gathering restrictions remain in effect.

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