Polihale State Park will reopen overnight camping beginning Aug. 14, 2022. Reservations will be available online starting Aug. 1 and may be made up to 90 days in advance.
Since December 2020, Kaua‘i’s popular beach and camping area has been restricted to day-use only. Camping without permits, driving on the beach and dunes, and careless behavior, in general, led to the indefinite closure of the park that July. Going forward, the DLNR Division of State Parks, DSP, expects overnight visitors will camp responsibly and take steps to re-establish positive stewardship of the area.
“We look forward to welcoming overnight campers back to Polihale, in limited numbers as is befitting the place,” said DSP Assistant Administrator Alan Carpenter. “The late summer timing of this reopening is deliberate, as holiday weekends have seen the heaviest use and most damage to Polihaleʻs fragile resources due to heavy use. By next summer, we intend to have additional protective measures in place, including a pair of new westside park interpretive technicians (Rangers) to patrol and educate park visitors.”
Stories of Hawaiian marine life rebounding in the absence of people were myriad during the pandemic. Since the 2020 shutdown of Polihale, two monk seal pups have been born in the park. One was just weeks ago and mom is still nursing her on the beach. Notably, these are the first two recorded monk seal pupping’s at Polihale since 1962.
The park is also a setting of cultural significance. The sand dunes, with some reaching upwards of 100 feet high, contain Hawaiian burial sites and are key habitats for critically endangered plant species Lau‘ehu and ‘Ohai. The DSP hopes a greater awareness of the value of Polihale can change mindsets and improve the overall conduct of park users. However, DSP has taken proactive steps, including installing additional signs, and placing numerous boulders as barriers to unauthorized vehicle pathways through the most sensitive areas of the dunes, between Poʻoahonu (Queenʻs Pond) and the developed camping areas.
In addition, DLNR has enlisted the services of PBR Hawaiʻi to kickstart a public outreach and consultation effort with the aim of planning future management and improvements at Polihale to enhance the protection of resources and quality of experience. PBR Hawaiʻi is the firm that helped shepherd the Hāʻena State Park Master Plan through implementation. That plan has been lauded as a model for community-based management and for mitigating overtourism. The Polihale survey is an opportunity for the community to share inputs and concerns on a vision for the park and can be accessed at the DLNR website.
DLNR officials say it is challenging to enforce park rules due to Polihale’s size and remote location. Should old abuses return, camping could be shut down again.
“That’s where help from dedicated residents comes in, as even with posted rules and hours, it is a shared kuleana,” DLNR stated in a press release.
Mālama ka ‘aina includes staying alert to suspected illegal activity. Anyone who witnesses suspicious or illegal actions in a Hawai‘i State Park is asked to call the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) immediately at 643-DLNR (3567), or download the DLNR Tip app, which allows real-time reporting along with the submittal of photographs.