HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Every day, hikers in packs and pairs ignore signs warning of danger and trespassing to climb to the Upper Makua Cave for a photo opportunity.
They're putting themselves at risk.
“There’s a lot of loose debris and rock, steep edges that individuals can get hurt really bad on,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Creghino, of U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii.
On Sunday, for example, a hiker was injured when he slipped and fell.
The cave is in a remote area on the Leeward Coast. The Army leases the land from the state, and there are no fences, police or military personnel on site.
It’s become the wild west.
“There’s vandalism going on up on these hikes, on the mountainsides, in the cave, people graffitiing, littering,” resident Micah Doane said.
Doane and his fellow Protectors of Paradise clean up the mess and ― when they see them ― warn hikers they’re breaking the law and putting cultural sites in jeopardy.
Some hikers listen.
"Hearing that it was private property, that's kind of the main reason why we're not going to," Marseo Gordon said.
"That and hearing that someone just fell," Jema Brag added.
But masses of people do risk it, despite a $100 fine if they’re caught plus the potential that unexploded ordnance is still buried on the mountainside.
"People don't seem to care," Doane said.
Websites and blogs advertise the Upper Makua Cave as a “can’t miss” hike, and social media’s plastered with photos of trespassers who post selfies of themselves on Instagram.
The Army is forming a task force to discuss ways to mitigate the problem.
"We just want to sit down and do a thorough analysis of what we need to do," Cereghino said.
That could mean putting a fence along Farrington Highway, but the reality is people would just climb over it.
In the meantime, Doane hopes more people heed the message that the Upper Cave is off-limits.
“All we can ask is for people to be more conscious, considerate and aware,” he said.