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Efforts are underway to conserve 2,317 acres of land near Nāʻālehu for lineal descendants

Waikapuna Ala Kahakai Trail Association hawaii island
Shalan Crysdale
Ala Kahakai Trail Association

Future plans for more than 2,000 acres of conservation land in Kaʻū on Hawaiʻi Island may include limits to public access — with preference given to lineal descendants and area residents.

Waikapuna, an ancient Hawaiian fishing village between Nāʻālehu and Waiʻōhinu, was purchased in 2019 by the Ala Kahakai Trail Association to protect the area from subdivision development.

The 2,317-acre land parcel includes numerous cultural sites including ancient trails, lava tube caves, and heiau, all surrounded by native coastal vegetation, tidepools, and sea caves.

Waikapuna Map
County of Hawaiʻi and Townscape Inc.
Ala Kahakai Trail Association
The County of Hawaiʻi hired a planning consultant, Townscape Inc., an environmental community planning company, to work with the Ka’u community to develop a resource management plan for Waikapuna.

Generations of Kaʻū residents have learned to fish and swim at Waikapuna, and local families still rely on the area’s nearshore resources for subsistence.

Kaʻū native Kenneth DeCoite worries Waikapuna and its limited resources are being exploited and overrun by outsiders – prompting calls from local families for restrictions to public access.

"The Kaʻū community always know. Hunt. Fish. You don’t starve. That’s our resource. We live too far away from Kona or Hilo to do any shopping. Rather they fish, hunt," DeCoite said. "This is how they feed their families and this is how they share with other families that no more."

"It’s the outsiders that’s been coming here and abusing the place. Now, being a resident of Kaʻū, I’m raised down there. My kids is raised down there and now my grandkids is raised down there. It was never like this. It was never like this. That’s why we get into this situation cause enough is enough," he told Hawaiʻi Public Radio.

The Kaʻū community is working with the Ala Kahakai Trail Association to develop a management plan for Waikapuna.

A draft community management plan is set to be completed by the end of the year.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at
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