‘Glamping’ business scrutinized for luxurious setup just yards from homeless Waimanalo families

The city also says the company’s actions may have been illegal.
Published: Jun. 9, 2022 at 9:21 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 9, 2022 at 10:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A business at the center of a “glamping” controversy is facing harsh scrutiny from the community after setting up a luxurious campsite just yards away from homeless families in Waimanalo last Friday.

The business, Glamping Hawaii, specializes in glamorous camping services. They’re now under investigation by the city for illegally operating in a county beach park — a violation of the newly enacted law banning commercial activities at beaches from Makapuu to Bellows.

”This was not just a camping outfit. This was glamping in it’s full hewa source. I mean, it was a bar, a tall bar, set up with bar stools,” Waimanalo Neighborhood Board Member Kapua Medeiros said.

Glamping Hawaii offers various packages that can be rented for several hundred dollars a night. Customers pick their dates, find a location, and arrive to a fully set up site.

The business declined an interview for this story, but a representative told Hawaii News Now they believed they were operating in the clear.

They said their customers are responsible for obtaining the proper camping permits, which also appears to violate city law because permits are non-transferrable, according to the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Critics say that’s no excuse.

”As any business owner, myself included, if I want to operate a business, I have to know the rules that govern my business,” Medeiros said. “You cannot make that excuse that ‘I never know.’ That’s your problem you never know, that’s not our problem.”

Police were called out to the site on Friday, but the business said they never received a citation.

”It’s really frustrating,” Waimanalo native and business owner Emma Koa said.

Koa was there Friday when Glamping Hawaii was setting up, and confronted the business for profiting off what she calls a “romanticized” depiction of Hawaii.

“We don’t need more people prostituting and exploiting Hawaii and her people and her aina, and the whole paradise depiction of Hawaii,” Koa said. “They’re targeting tourists.”

However, the company representative claims locals make up over 70% of clientele. Still, they acknowledge the frustration within the community.

”This is not an attack on commercial activity, but it is a warning, a shoutout to all business owners who are operating on our parks and beaches that you are not welcome here. And we passed a law to cement that,” Medeiros added.

The city says their enforcement of the commercial activity ban heavily relies on tips.

If you suspect illegal activity at a campsite, you’re urged to report it by emailing camping@honolulu.gov.

”Passing a bill would not come with enforcement. That means we’re still gonna have to be watchdogs in our community. We’re still gonna have to work with the city and the state to get enforcement issues aligned and corrected,” Medeiros said.

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