Parking complaints at Hanauma Bay spotlight larger concerns

Parking complaints at Hanauma Bay spotlight larger concerns

HANAUMA BAY, OAHU (HAWAIINEWSNOW) - When Mililani resident Andre Cooper and his family visited Hanauma Bay on Friday, he saw dozens of unoccupied parking stalls at the nature preserve's lot.

So he was stunned when city staffers told his parents, in a separate car, that the lot was full and that they would not be allowed in.

"They're saying there was no parking even though I told them there were 50 stalls available," said Cooper, who took to Facebook to complain about the situation with a video that's now gotten more than 40,000 views.

"This is not acceptable. It's not aloha, you know. It's just sad. They're blocking access to the beach."

Cooper's cell phone video includes images of the empty stalls.

Adding insult to injury, Cooper said a tour guide told his parents they could get around the rules by driving down to Koko Head Marina and paying $8 each to catch a shuttle back. The tour operators run shuttles between the Marina and the bay even though they don't have the permits to do so.

"I don't like seeing tourists get ripped off because they spend a lot of money to come here," he said.

Cooper contends the city should do a better job keeping track of how many people are visiting Hanauma Bay.

On Monday, the city told Hawaii News Now it was looking into Cooper's complaint but gave no further response.

Then, in an email Tuesday, city Parks Department spokesman Nathan Serota said bay staff would do a better job of monitoring parking and tour arrivals.

"Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of the most popular destinations on the island," Serota said.

"Our parking policy is to maintain at least 15 spaces available before reopening the parking lot. That being said, we will look into different ways of monitoring the amount of available stalls to make this process more efficient as it is apparent in the video that more than 15 stalls were open at that time."

Serota added it would be "difficult" for the city to crack down on unpermitted shuttle operators.

"Now that our staff is aware of this shuttle service, they will more diligently check for the proper PUC licensing ... to determine if they are permitted to utilize the commercial vehicle parking lot," he said.

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