Those who reside in Haena felt the effects for the longest and were hit the hardest. Access via the Kuhio Highway was severely curtailed for 18-months. On one hand it created an almost eerie island on the island where residents had beaches and breaks to themselves. On the other, Haena residents endured a complete upheaval of their lifestyles trying to get into, and out of Haena, to work, for school or a simple shopping trip had to be coordinated around an ever-changing "caravan" schedule - there were even periods of time when access was completely shut-off for days in a row. Inasmuch as the freedom to ride your bike down the middle of the Kuhio Highway was dreamy, trying to manage a family's life around a half-dozen haphazardly scheduled caravans every day was a nightmare.
Thankfully, today Haena is well on it's way to being rebirthed and resurrected. The reefs had a chance to heal and replenish. The Kalalau Trail was refurbished. Bridges were or are in the process of being rebuilt. But most importantly for many, Haena State Park was redesigned, reorganized and relaunched.
Haena was a victim of a burgeoning phenomenon - "Overtourism". What is overtourism? In short, overtourism occurs when there are too many visitors to a particular place - residents and tourists alike. “Too many” is a subjective, but it's defined by local residents, hosts, business owners, tourists and Yelpers. When rent prices push out local tenants to make way for vacation rentals, that is overtourism. When narrow roads become jammed with rental vehicles and they are parked askew seemingly everywhere, that is overtourism. When wildlife is frightened away, when visitors can't find a place to park, can't enjoy the serenity and solace of space, or take in the views because of the crowds. When fragile environments become degraded – these are all signs of overtourism. For Haena, and especially, Haena Beach Park, Ke'e and the Na Pali Coast Trail, check, check, check, check. An overtourism poster child. Residents could not enjoy the reasons they live on Kauai on the first place and for visitors, the paradise found was a buzzkill.
We're pleased to report that in the ensuing 18-months from the imperfect storm, steps were taken, millions and millions of dollars were invested and today Haena appears to be just a little less overrun. Visiting Haena Beach Park takes a bit more advance planning, hiking the Na Pali Coast Trail takes a little scheduling and it all comes at a modest cost. There is a new Kauai North Shore Shuttle service, which makes it all a little easier. Feedback thus far has been positive. There's also been a set-aside for Kauai residents so they no longer feel shut out. All are still a work in progress and continuous improvement is the credo the various supporting agencies are abiding by.
Mount Makana (also known as Bali Hai) is located at the Limahuli Garden & Preserve, a National Tropical Botanical Garden. It's the sentry for Haena Beach Park and the Hawaiian translation for this pyramid-shaped peak means "reward" or “gift from heaven” in the Hawaiian language. We should all be thankful for this gift and cherish the ability to share it with each other.
To learn more about visiting Haena, the Na Pali Coast, Limahuli Gardens or to ride the North Shuttle, just click below:
Haena Napali Access
Limahuli Garden Now Open