Price of paradise may rise for Hawaii visitors; counties looking to implement fees, reservations, beach closures

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — The state is preparing for the return of tourism ahead of Gov. David Ige’s anticipated announcement regarding tourism and visitors. The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) already has reservations and paid parking systems at popular sites across the state but is looking at rolling out more.

DLNR recently increased fees for parking, entrance and camping ahead of the state’s reopening.

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“Places like Diamond Head, as an example — under the old fees, that would generate about $1.1 million per year, and under the new fee structure it’ll come in at up to $4 million,” said Curt Cottrell, DLNR administrator of state parks.

The Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) is also looking to implement entrance fees and reservations at Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, similar to Hanauma Bay. Meanwhile, to control crowds at Diamond Head, a reservation system is in the works.

“We need a system, and we just met with the designers today that does advance reservations in two-hour blocks for both cars, walk-ins and the trolleys,” explained Cottrell. “Then we will find a certain number that you want per unit of time because that’s what a reservation is all about — establishing a limit and set the price that set those limits.”

On the Garden Isle, the county is taking notes from the state’s already successful system at Ke’e Beach.

“The county council passed a bill last year, which authorized our county parks department to start charging tourists for parking in our county beach parks,” said Luke Evslin, Kauai County councilmember. “That system has not been implemented yet. That parks department is working towards implementing it at some specific beach parks.”

Hawaii County said it will be taking a different approach and is working on closing popular beaches for a month or two at a time.

“We’re looking at other places like Pololu, all the way along the Kona and Hilo coastline, Keaukaha, Richardson, Four Miles and just giving these places a break because they’re heavily trafficked,” said Cyrus Johnasen, Hawaii County spokesperson.

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