Earlier this month, Kauai Polihale State Park reopened for overnight camping for the first time in nearly two years. Known for its 300-foot-wide and miles-long beach, Polihale is the last point reachable by car before the Napali Coast cliffs begin on the western side of the island.
Although daytime visits were permitted, “Covid concerns and issues of overuse and abuse” led the Hawaii Department of Lands and Natural Resources to restrict nighttime access. Permits are required to camp overnight in the park. It was estimated that there were 1,000 illegal campers in one weekend, resulting in the closure.
The ministry hopes people visiting the park will consider the importance of the beach in the future and choose to visit it responsibly. You can do this by following park rules, adhering to posted signs, and obtaining a permit to avoid overuse.
Driving on Polihale State Park Beach is not permitted as it may damage cultural sites and natural resources. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Hawaii Department of Lands and Natural Resources
Driving on the beach is also illegal. It’s dangerous because you might not see anyone lying on the beach; and it has the potential to damage or destroy natural resources and cultural sites.
“In addition to its natural beauty, with dramatic cliffs and a stunning beach, the park is also a place of cultural significance,” the department said in a news release. “The sand dunes, some reaching over 100 feet high, contain Hawaiian burial sites and are key habitat for critically endangered lauehu and ohai plant species.”
For visitors to the island interested in visiting Polihale, it is important to keep in mind that this is a rocky dirt road that can flood during rain. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are strongly recommended. The sand can get deep in some parts of the park and there is a risk of getting stuck. I’ve seen it happen to others, and it’s happened to me. For this reason, I recommend not going alone and bringing enough provisions.
The department says it’s still working to improve “resource protection and quality of experience,” but in the meantime, if the abuse of the park happens again, camping could be restricted again.