On May 1st, a stretch of Kuhio Highway on Kauai’s North Shore will reopen to the general public for the first time in more than a year. State and County officials are rolling out a new permit system that aims to limit the human impact on one of Hawaii’s most popular attractions: the Na Pali Coast.
In April 2018, a historic flooding event devastated communities across the North Shore, closing vital roads and state parks. Residents of Hanalei and the surrounding area have been dealing with damage from the so-called “rain bomb” ever since, including limited road access.
After a year of repairs, the Hawaii Department of Transportation announced it would reopening Kuhio Highway to non-residents. The announcement brought to light that many area residents have been enjoying the lack of visitor activity in recent months, brought about by the closure of the popular Haena State Park and Na Pali Coast Wilderness Park.
As residents and officials prepare for the reopening of the highway, a new system is being developed for managing traffic in the parks. Regulators have known for a while that the Kalalau Trail into the Na Pali Coast Wilderness was being overused.
They are now planning to implement a permit and reservation system, similar to that being used successfully at the Haleakala summit on Maui. Vehicle traffic will also be limited through a paid parking and shuttle system.
The Kauai Visitors Bureau has been heavily engaged in outreach since the rain bomb, helping to inform visitors of the closures and impending changes. In the process, officials learned that the Kalalau Trail is much more popular than previously known.
“We just were not aware of how important the Kalalau Trail is to many people coming to Hawaii” said Sue Kanoho, Executive Director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau. The Na Pali Coast has long been on KVB’s “Do Not Promote” list, due to its already high traffic. Kanoho hopes the new permit and shuttle system will help lessen human impacts on the park and better preserve the wilderness areas.
Although the state highway will reopen in May, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources has not yet announced a date for the parks to follow suit. Sue Kanoho estimates that it will be sometime in early summer, possibly as soon as June.
Get more information on the Hanalei Initiative shuttle here.
Get more information on the DLNR reservation system here.