Hawaii is already one of the most state-park-rich states in the country, with 50 parks scattered across its four main islands. Very soon, that number will grow even further.

Oahu’s Kaiwi shoreline, which spans a gorgeous stretch of the island’s southeast near Honolulu, is on the home stretch to officially becoming the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline - Hawaii’s newest state park.

The area is best known for its 3.5-mile namesake loop trail, an easy 1.5-hour hike that presents some of the most serene ocean views on the island. The soon-to-be park is also home to the Makapuu Lighthouse, which can be reached by another, steeper trail nearby.

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Why a State Park?

Like many, if not most, of Hawaii’s beautiful outdoor attractions, the Kaiwi shoreline has seen steady, heavy tourism for decades - and, once again, this has taken an ecological toll of increasing concern to local authorities and residents. 

The spot holds a special significance in Hawaiian culture, as many believe it is the first place on the island where Native Hawaiians arrived. Today, the spot continues to witness arrivals, but of a different nature - rental cars bounding over sand dunes to find beach parking and trash-scattering bonfire-goers trampling, perhaps unknowingly, over ancient relics that remain intact for the time being.

What's the Plan?

The primary aim of making the shoreline a state park is to increase awareness about its importance and fragility while increasing its protection and staffing. Impending changes would surely be on the not-too-distant horizon. These might include an entrance fee and/or parking fee system, much like the others implemented recently around the islands

More noteworthy in this plan is what the introducer of the bill, Senator Chris Lee, describes as “explicit language” saying the park will be “managed in its wild and natural state.” Lee says the park will be “protected as it is naturally forever.” How that eternal protection will look in practice is yet to be illuminated. One feature of the bill worth noting is that it includes plans to expand the park further down the road. 


What to expect?

At the time of writing, the would-be park has just one major hurdle left in its path to fruition: ratification by the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

In the short term, no major changes will likely occur following the ratification. Don’t expect steel walls to come rocketing out of the earth as you approach the shoreline. The official designation as a state park is a shift that enables new protections and systems to be implemented.

The new Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline will likely see parking and reservation fees required in the weeks and months following. There’s a good chance staffing will also increase, which would entail multiple effects. The park would hopefully become cleaner and better maintained. It would also be subject to state park rules, which would be more strictly enforced.   

Ultimately, this is a move to protect better and maintain one of Oahu’s loveliest areas. Time will reveal the answers to more specific questions, such as how long the transition will take and how far the park will expand over the coming years. 

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