‘Not so hidden anymore’: Tourist influx means lesser-known spots are now visitor magnets

Published: Jul. 18, 2021 at 5:18 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 19, 2021 at 1:02 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With thousands of tourists flocking to the state, lesser-known spots like Pua’ena Point Beach Park in Haleiwa, which is home to resting turtles, are experiencing a surge in visitors.

The growing number of visitors is raising concerns of traffic congestion and harassment of native wildlife, especially on Oahu’s North Shore.

“It’s kind of out of the way and now the tour buses, they’re dropping people off as well,” said North Shore Neighborhood Board Chair Kathleen Pahinui. “And it’s like no place for our resident families to go to anymore.”

By the afternoon, nearly ten tour buses were in the parking lot leading to Pua’ena Point Beach Park on Sunday.

“It’s really crowded,” said Jolene Nagareta, who was visiting from Oregon.

“It’s frustrating because it’s like, can we just have a little something for ourselves?” ask Pahinui. “Can you just not try to come to every special secret beach in Hawaii?”

“It used to be a hidden gem, but like I said, it’s not so hidden anymore,” said Michael Zickus of Hawaii Turtle Tours.

Laniakea Beach was one of the more popular spots to get a glimpse of the sea turtles, but it’s so busy and congested, some tour companies try to avoid it.

“We do not go to Laniakea, we tell everybody not to go there,” said Zickus. “It’s too overcrowded.”

“We feel there’s way more that could be done to manage and do it better,” said Pahinui. “And to provide the residents with the quality of life we all work so hard for.”

But it’s more than just these hidden gems becoming a tourist attraction.

The sea turtles’ safety is also a concern.

“Visitors are again aren’t very respectful of the turtles,” said Pahinui. “I’ve heard stories about them, you know, trying to climb on them with kids and touch them and take pictures with them when they’re required by federal law to maintain a distance.”

“Especially in Waikiki, you got all those brochures and stuff plastered all over the place,” said Zickus. “Put little flyers and give advice about the wildlife and the honu and the monk seals and how to respect that.”

The Hawaii Tourism Authority released a PSA on Friday aimed at preventing the harassment of marine wildlife.

The neighborhood board is hoping the release of the environmental assessment for Laniakea Beach is the step in the right direction.

Hawaii News Now reached out to DLNR for comment and are waiting to hear back.

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