Hawaii's national parks saw more visitors in 2015

Hawaii's national parks saw more visitors in 2015
Thousands visit the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor every year. (Image: Hawaii News Now/File)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii's national parks are among the top tourist attractions in the islands – and they're only getting more popular, new visitor statistics show.

In 2015, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park got 1.8 million visitors. That's up 8.2 percent from the year before, and the highest number since 1997.

Cynthia Orlando, Hawaii Volcanoes superintendent, said the increase is likely thanks to several reasons -- a thriving tourism industry, an active year in lava flows, and more cruise ship traffic to Hawaii Island.

"It's obviously a resurgence" from the lows of the Great Recession, she said. "We're seeing a steady annual increase."

The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Memorial on Oahu saw 1.6 million visitors in 2015, which is down from 2014, but way up from the 1.3 million in 2010.

Haleakala National Park on Maui attracted 1.2 million visitors in 2015, compared to 1.1 million in 2014 and just 785,300 in 2013.

Here's how other national parks in Hawaii fared in 2015:

  • Kalaupapa National Historical Park: 67,891 visitors (up slightly from 2014)
  • Kaloko Honokohau National Historical Park: 170,683 visitors (from 154,205 in 2014)
  • Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park: 437,286 visitors (compared to 401,000 in 2014)
  • Puukohala Heiau National Historic Site: 139,586 (from 134,000 in 2014)

The increasing visitor numbers come as the U.S. National Park Service celebrates its centennial, an anniversary that's driving more people to visit national parks but also highlighting the backlogged repairs many parks face.

How do Hawaii parks stack up in that regard?

A new federal report says backlogged repairs at Hawaii's national parks total about $112 million, an increase of $12 million from 2014.

The biggest chunk of backlogged repairs -- $79 million – can be found at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is also the state's largest national park in terms of size and assets.

Orlando said aging infrastructure, from roads to utilities, contribute to the backlogged maintenance total. Hawaii Volcanoes is also celebrating its centennial this year, and Orlando said many structures at the park are historic.

But she pointed out that she's been able to chip away at backlogged repairs in recent years. A few years ago, the total reached $125 million.

Meanwhile, Haleakala National Park has $22 million in needed repairs, and Kalaupapa National Historical Park has $23 million in needed maintenance.

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