Waikiki’s beaches are famous and bring in millions of visitors a year, but each year the beaches look smaller.
The state has allocated $13 million to improve seawalls and other structures at several popular beaches in Waikiki.
Friday’s high tide and large surf took some beach goers by surprise.
Others watched the wave’s crash close to the manmade walls near the sidewalk.
Waikiki’s locals say five years ago there was an entire beach in front of the Sheraton hotel. Today there’s a sign keeping people off the once manmade sidewalk which stands several feet above the then beach.
Experts say with the increasingly higher than normal tides and the high surf, the ocean is chipping away at the structures.
“When we begin to combine high surf or a storm for that matter with those exceptionally high tides, we’re going to see impacts in places that are very unusual if not unprecedented,” said Dolan Eversole, University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program.
Eversole is also with the Waikiki Beach Special Improvement District Association. The group is coordinating a private partnership with the DLNR for the $13 million project.
They say the critical areas are in front of the Sheraton and Royal Hawaiian which will see improvements in spring 2020, and Kuhio Beach which will see improvements begin by the fall.
“While we have beautiful sand and people enjoy being in Waikiki, they may not realize it’s entirely man-made,” Eversole said.
“Because we’re working in a manmade environment that’s been heavily engineered and manipulated—that lends itself to creative thinking and engineering approaches on how to solve some of the erosion problems,” he said.
The group says they’re working with the community and seeking input on whether they want to see new structures built or updated.
“What we’re realizing in working with this committee is there’s not a single solution that works everywhere but a variety of solutions,” he said.
Solutions include adding more sand, reconfiguring structures, also adding new structures.
But many wonder if it will work.
“Every time you try and mitigate it you’re causing problems too,” said Waikiki resident Jacob Vandor.
“There’s a natural process in the ocean where the sand comes and the sand goes, the minute you start putting in rock structures or anything like that you are messing up that process,” he said.