Reopening the Road to Hāʻena

Dec 31, 2018

Kuhio Highway on Kaua'i's North Shore has been closed to local traffic since the 2018 April floods. Now that repairs are nearly complete, local residents are worried about opening up the road to the public.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

This past April, Kūhiō Highway on Kaua‘i’s North Shore was devastated by heavy flooding. Road repairs are now nearing completion. The state Department of Transportation plans to reopen the highway to the public by the end of January or early February. But HPR’s Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi reports local residents are concerned the coast isn’t ready for the increased traffic.

It’s been nearly eight months since the state Department of Transportation reopened a single lane route along Kuhio Highway to local residents. But the prospect of reopening the highway to the public has Hāʻena resident Erlette Smith worried.

Local residents line up for a 5pm convoy from Ha'ena into Hanalei. For the past eight months, residents have worked around road repair work on Kuhio Highway by commuting only during scheduled convoy times.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

“It takes us long enough to get from point A to B, and if we have everybody coming through its gonna take us an hour maybe more,” says Smith, “How are we supposed to that?”

“I mean I don’t have any hard feelings against it,” says 27-year-old Hāʻena resident Keegan Algrin.

“People should be able to come back down here,” says Algrin, “It’s gonna be amazing, I mean, if they can limit it a little bit which it sounds like they are.”

Limiting the number of vehicles traveling to the end of the road in Hāʻena has been in discussion for years. A cap of 900 vehicles a day was even included in the (date) master plan for Hāʻena State Park, along with plans for a 100-vehicle parking lot which is currently under construction.

“So this will end up being the parking lot,” says North Shore community leader Makaʻala Kaʻaumoana.

Kaʻaumoana recently took me on a tour of the Hāʻena coast.

Construction workers clear land near Ha'ena State Park for the 100-stall parking lot. The parking lot is intended to reduce traffic along the North Shore in anticipation of the state Department of Transportation re-opening Kuhio Highway in late January, early February 2019.Credit Ku'uwehi HiraishiEdit | Remove

“There will be a lot that will be for permitted parking and there will be a lot for...we’re not gonna call it for community, for public space but it will be essentially that,” says Kaʻaumoana, “And then you book online to get in. And parking will be limited.”

The Na Pali Coast from Ke'e Beach. The beach at the end of the road on Kaua'i's North Shore will no longer be accessible by car. Anyone wishing to visit will need to reserve a parking stall at the nearby Ha'ena State Park and walk in.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

“Overall it will be a better experience for everyone – visitors and locals,” says Presley Wann.

His family has lived in Limahuli for generations.

“I got family that won’t even come down there,” says Wann, “So at least now, we’re assured of parking.”

A set number of parking stalls will be set aside for local residents, but whether or not everything will be in place before the end of next month is up in the air. Joel Guy is the President of the Hanalei to Hāʻena Community Association.

“All of our understanding is when you talk to State Parks and the DOT that we will make sure that that park is ready before we open the road up because you wouldn’t open to visitors and then not have a place to go,” says Guy.

“So DOT is saying that they want to open the road in January, the mayor is saying don’t you dare, the owners of commercial vacation rentals are, some of them are starting to take bookings,” says Kaʻaumoana, “Yeah, it’s gonna be. It’s gonna be a thing.”