Great news! As we mentioned a couple months ago, ‘Īao Valley, one of the most popular parks on Maui, is set to reopen May 1st, 2023 after being closed for over nine months for slope stabilization work. But that’s not all. The reopening of ‘Īao State Monument in Maui will also mark the fourth Hawaii state park to require advance reservations for out-of-state visitors. The reservation system was first introduced during the pandemic and was a result of overcrowding and an influx of commercial tours. Hā‘ena State Park on Kaua‘i, Diamond Head State Monument on O‘ahu, and Waiʻānapanapa State Park on Maui already require non-resident reservations. Now, the ‘Īao reservation system will mirror those at Diamond Head and Waiʻānapanapa.
Based on feedback from visitors, those who make reservations are delighted with the uncrowded parks and their ability to explore and enjoy the natural beauty without any inconvenience. The major attraction at Waiʻānapana is the black sand beach, a simply spectacular stretch of sand. But in reality, the beach is just a few hundred feet long and cannot sustain the hundreds of visitors it used to see daily.
Visitors are advised to plan ahead to secure their reservation, as other parks have seen some people turned away at the entrance for failing to have a reservation. DSP (Department of State Parks) Assistant Administrator Alan Carpenter hopes that with the addition of a reservation system at ‘Īao, visitors will be aware in advance that they need reservations at some of the most popular parks. Carpenter explained, “The true silver lining to these systems is the ability for local residents to return to these spaces they felt pushed out of for years by throngs of tourists.”
While there are currently no plans to require visitor reservations at all Hawaii State Parks, DSP is considering a system at Mākena State Park on Maui. Curt Cottrell, DSP Administrator, said, “We’ve found visitor satisfaction is much higher when compared to pre-reservation days. It’s a way to effectively manage the number of people in parks across the day. It helps protect our natural and cultural resources from being loved to death, and by spreading visitation out across the day people generally have a better experience.”
If you’re planning to visit ‘Īao State Monument when it reopens, make sure to mark your calendar for the day that reservations open, which is two weeks prior to the scheduled park reopening. The parking fee is $10 per vehicle, and the additional non-resident entrance fee is $5 per person. There are separate fees for commercial vehicles.
It’s also worth noting that Hawaii residents with a valid driver’s license or state ID can still access all state parks for free. Carpenter added, “However, any out-of-state visitor in a vehicle with a Hawaii resident still needs to have a reservation.”
In conclusion, while the need for reservations may seem like an inconvenience, it is ultimately beneficial for visitors and locals alike as it helps manage the number of people in the parks and protect Hawaii’s natural and cultural resources. So, plan ahead and enjoy your visit to ‘Īao State Monument!
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