Will Hanauma Bay Fee Hikes Help with Honolulu Money Woes?
Park remains closed due to COVID-19
Back in May of this year former Honolulu City Council Chairman Ikaika Anderson had submitted Bill 44 (2020), CD2 to increase fees at state-run park Hanauma Bay Reserve. The popular ocean activity location for both tourists and residents has been closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the closure due to the coronavirus, Hanauma Bay saw on average around 3,000 visitors a day, the equivalent of around 1 million visitors per year. The preserve is the top 3 destination on the island of Oahu. The City Council says the increase in fees is justified.
The bill passed this month, and the entrance fee and vehicle parking fees have increased as follows:
Nonresidents of Hawaii, 13 years of age and older:
From $7.50 to $10.00 per person
Vehicles entering the preserve:
Operated by residents of Hawaii: $1.00
Operated by nonresidents of Hawaii: $3.00
Those who leave the preserve within 15 minutes of entry will receive a refund.
Licensed Motor Carriers entering the preserve, the following fees apply:
Vehicles that can accommodate 1 to 7 passengers: $10.00
Vehicles that can accommodate 8 to 25 passengers: $20.00
Vehicles that can accommodate 26 or more passengers: $40.00
Customers of a commercial scuba diving and snorkeling permittee and the permittee will pay the applicable fees.
These fees do not apply to a taxicab unless the vehicle may also be operated as a licensed motor carrier.
The Director of Parks and Recreation is authorized to waive fees and allow entry of any person to the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve as part of an educational or promotional program or package made available or authorized by the city.
Hawaiians entering the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve to exercise their traditional and customary rights for subsistence, cultural, and religious purposes are exempt from paying the fees. Records show that Hawaiian royalty often went to the bay for entertainment and fishing in the 1800s.
Hanauma Bay is a hot tourist spot and also popular with Hawaii residents. It has been suffering from overuse with snorkeling being the most popular activity. In 1967, Hanauma Bay was declared a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park, and in the 1990s, measures were taken to start preserving the area and reducing the impact of visitors. Since then, the Bay has had periodic closures so that the wildlife can recuperate from interactions with humans.
Today, Hanauma Bay limits visitors and focuses on educating tourists on the natural wildlife of the area. In 2002, a marine education center was opened for visitors and part of the conservation plan requires first-time visitors to watch a 9-minute video before entering the park so they can learn about the marine life, preservation and safety rules for the park. All visitors are required by law to refrain from mistreating the marine animals and from touching or walking on the coral.
A natural spa called “Toilet Bowl” because of the rise and fall of water with the waves, was closed in the early 2000s due visitor injuries and safety concerns.
It has not yet been determined when the Bay will reopen.