Town Hall Idea: Weekends Reserved for Locals Only at Hanauma Bay
Residents at a town hall meeting discussed a number of possibilities to decrease the number of tourists in Hawaiʻi Kai — with a special focus on Hanauma Bay.
One of the ideas that floated around was to reserve the weekends for locals only at Hanauma Bay.
The popular snorkeling spot is already closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Nonresident adults must pay $25 for entry, while local residents and children of any residency are free.
John De Fries, CEO of the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, proposed the idea at the meeting hosted by local representatives.
"When visitors come here on vacation, every day is a weekend. When we go on vacation somewhere else, every day is a weekend. But for the local community, every day is not a weekend," De Fries said.
"Saturdays and Sundays are primarily the greatest number of weekend opportunities, right? Could Hanauma Bay pilot a resident-only Saturday and Sunday? If I’m a responsible visitor, I can go Monday through Friday because every day is a weekend for me. Saturday and Sunday I can go to Bishop Museum," De Fries continued.
Over one million visitors would come to Hanauma Bay every year before the pandemic — it's the most popular snorkeling destination in Hawaiʻi.
COVID-19 caused an unprecedented eight-month closure for the popular tourist destination. During that time, Hanauma Bay saw a dramatic ecological resurgence in its marine environment.
The water became bluer because there was no sunscreen haze. There were no visitors to walk on the reef flats, damaging the coral. Reports showed larger fish and schools of fish returned to the bay.
Advocates say reserving Hanauma Bay for locals only on the weekends would help lessen the foot traffic.
Lisa Bishop, President of Friends of Hanauma Bay, recommends reducing the number of visitors to preserve the bay's natural resources and beauty.
The idea must be sponsored by the state government or Honolulu City Council to become a bill.
The town hall meeting was hosted by state Representative Gene Ward, state Senator Chris Lee, and Honolulu City Council Chair Tommy Waters. All three politicians represent the Hawaiʻi Kai area on Oʻahu.