One of the most popular attractions in Hawaii will now require reservations in an effort to stem the overwhelming amount of tourists.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) announced this week that starting May 12, out-of-state tourists will need a reservation to visit Diamond Head State Monument.
Hawaii residents will continue to have free access without reservations, but entry may depend on parking availability, the DLNR said in a release.
“The reservation system is an important part of the destination management action plan,” Gov. David Ige said last week. “We want to reduce the impact of visitors and really ensure that our residents have access to these desirable places.”
DLNR officials did not say what the limit on visitors will be, but they believe the reservation system will avoid having certain time periods where there is a crush of people.
“We can control the numbers of people who visit a particular place so they can more easily be spread out across the day,” Ige said.
Visitors at the park this week understand the need for improvements.
“Just even taking photos, you have to kind of wait for the nice picture behind you,” Mary Anne Basco, a Californian visiting the area, told Hawaii News Now.
The move makes Diamond Head the third park in the state to be controlled by a reservation system. Haena State Park on Kauai and Walanapanapa State Park on Maui already have systems in place, and officials are pleased with those results.
Diamond Head is the most recognizable landmark on Oahu and one of the most popular for tourists. Prior to the pandemic, officials said more than 6,000 people visited Diamond Head in a single day, causing hiker congestion and a huge load on the comfort stations.
The crowds have also created parking issues in urban areas near Diamond Head.
This is the latest attempt to solve the crowding issue. In 2020, fees were dramatically increased with little impact. Walk-in fees jumped from $1 to $5, while parking doubled from $5 to $10.
“The key element to crafting a reservation system, based on optimal capacity management, and improving the quality of experience, is to work closely with our parking vendors at park units where fee collection is already happening,” said DLNR administrator Curt Cottrell. “These valued partners have accurate numbers and use patterns of visitors at these park units on a daily and seasonal basis.”
The new reservation system will be activated April 28 and allow for reservations 14 days into the future. Visitors arriving by vehicle will be required to book a parking space in 2-hour time slots, with two consecutive slots allowed.
Cottrell said the system will most likely be tweaked once it is up and running based on feedback and results.