HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state will reopen a two-mile section of Kauai’s Kuhio Highway on Monday that’s been closed since historic flooding in April 2018.
But while things will look like they’re back to the way thing are, they’re anything but.
That’s because along with the highway’s reopening, the state has instituted a series of new regulations aimed at preventing too many tourists at Haena State Park and Kalalau trail head.
Residents say the highway closure helped them see just how bad things had gotten.
When tourism into the area was unregulated, "we saw cars parking on either side of the road, literally anywhere they wanted to. And in some cases, the fire trucks and emergency response vehicles could not even get through the illegally parked cars,” said Chipper Wichman, who runs Limahuli Garden and Preserve and has been helping to organize the community ahead of the highway’s reopening.
One major win for residents: The state will limit daily visitors to Haena State Park to 900 — who must pre-register online — down from a daily average of around 3,000.
Parking rules will be strictly enforced and fines have increased from $35 to $200.
At the parking lot for Haena State Park, 30 spaces will be set aside for locals while visitors will have to apply online and pay a fee to park in one of the other 70 spots.
Kauai County is also putting up $1.5 million in grant money to start a north shore shuttle. Round trips to Kee Beach will cost $11 with options to get off at Haena State Park.
“That shuttle has been talked about for a long time but this disaster really allows the community and county and state government to hit that reset button," Kauai’s Mayor Derek Kawakami.
“When you talk about public private partnerships, this is one that is geared for success.”
Sue Kanoho, with the Kauai Visitors Bureau, believes visitors will adapt to the new rules and they shouldn’t have a long term negative affect on Garden Isle tourism.
Visitors and residents are asked to sign the “aloha pledge," an effort to educate the public on having a lighter footprint on Kauai’s north shore.
“Some people do in fact plan their trip around this experience," Kanoho said.
“So yes, there were some cancellations initially and I think the good news is that we are just going to train everybody how to best experience the area moving forward.”