With new reservation system in place, Diamond Head is seeing fewer hikers ― and rescues

Three months ago, a reservation system was imposed to control the crowds and keep hikers safer.
Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 2:03 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 8, 2022 at 4:44 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The trail up Diamond Head is one of the most popular hikes in Hawaii. Officials might say it’s a bit too popular.

Three months ago, a reservation system was imposed to control the crowds and keep hikers safer.

To get to the beautiful views of Diamond Head, hikers trek up a steep 0.8 miles to the summit.

“It’s only 10 a.m. and we’re both sweating,” said Honolulu Fire Department Captain and Public Information Officer Jamie Kinard.

“It’s hot. It’s pretty warm,” said Stephanie Strohm, a Missouri visitor. “We actually did see somebody in a sun dress on this hike.”

Strohm might have seen Shani Landau and Liron Glassner, who were visiting from Israel.

“We didn’t expect it to be this strenuous,” said Glassner.

Landau added, “But we made it. We survived.”

They said next time they would wear athletic clothing and tennis shoes.

According to Kinard, 90% of rescues at Diamond Head involve visitors. Besides Koko Crater, this is the most likely place for folks to find themselves in need of HFD’s help.

“I think a lot of visitors might think this hike is a little easier when you look online or Google. A lot of sites describe it as easy,” said Kinard.

In 2019, before the pandemic, firefighters rescued 32 people in the first six months.

This year, they only had to rescue 19.

A few things are different than in 2019. Tourism still hasn’t fully recovered and the DLNR implemented its reservation system in May.

“It feels like a much emptier place,” said Alan Carpenter, assistant administrator for the Hawaii State Parks Division.

Carpenter said 3,000 people a day still come through the park but the reservation system spreads them out.

“What personnel in the field have told me is that the trails are a little bit less congested because of the reservation system,” Carpenter said. “So that assists HFD in assisting your rescue and being able to get to a hiker in distress quicker.”

Parks officials said this is part of the state’s effort at tourism management.

“Everything that we’ve done with these reservation systems has created a far more inviting and welcoming place for locals,” said Carpenter.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority says that forcing people to go through a website also helps tourists be prepared.

“What DLNR has done is manage capacity,” said Ilihia Gionson with the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s public affairs. “And that enables the presence of people to let folks know what to expect.”

Despite the progress, the fire department said they feel tourists still get in trouble here too often.

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