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Diamond Head, like many other attractions, is slammed with tourists. What can the state do?

Published: Jul. 5, 2021 at 2:45 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 6, 2021 at 2:30 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The base of Diamond Head State Monument looks a bit like Disneyland these days with crowds and long lines of tourists eager for an adventure around one of Hawaii’s most popular landmarks.

“Really busy, a little chaotic,” said Cassandra Springer, Diamond Head State Park coordinator.

“It honestly surprised me how much people were here,” said visitor Macie Grany.

Moving higher up the crater, the dusty trail is crowded and there’s no social distancing. Springer counted more than 500 people on her way up, and 200 to 300 people at the summit alone.

“A little bit frustrating because we have structures that are falling apart. My job is to protect the park and people’s safety,” she said.

Once at the top, it’s a tight squeeze to get that picture perfect beauty shot as park staff try to enforce the rules.

“Hey folks can you please leave that area? The sign says it’s closed and says danger keep off,” State Parks Division Administrator Curt Cottrell said to a group of tourists standing on one of the off-limits structures at the summit.

All of this is further proof Hawaii is being slammed by visitors.

According to data provided by the state, more than 100,000 people flew to Hawaii over the July 4 holiday weekend. The state is now trying to figure out how to handle it all.

“I think the state got caught with our pants around our ankles not quite ready for this rebounding and robust tourism industry,” said Cottrell.

In May, Diamond Head had 70,029 visitors.

Compare that to May 2019 when there were 51,327 visitors, and May 2018 when there were 58,925.

He says the land department is planning a reservation system at Diamond Head possibly in December similar to the ones already in place at Haena State Park and Wainapanapa State Park on Kauai and Maui.

He says the state could also raise fees again for non-locals which recently increased from $1 to $5 dollars for the hike, and up to ten dollars for non-commercial parking.

“What we’ve learned from that is those rates nobody is even blinking,” said Cottrell.

There is a plus to all these people, however. The pandemic and lack of tourists left a crater in the DLNR’s budget. But now that’s filling up fast.

“With the new rates, in five months we’ve generated $900,000 dollars,” he said. In 2019, Diamond Head generated $1.1 million in fees.

“We are catching up really, really fast, but we do have to work with the legislature next session because they reduced our spending cap,” said Cottrell.

He says fees from visitors go back to maintaining the world famous monument among with attractions managed by the DLNR.

But for the foreseeable future, there’s no immediate solution in place for tourist hotspots like Diamond Head. The timeline for implementing changes isn’t yet set.

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