Hawaii is the #hashtag blessed of island destinations, with never ending demand that exceeds what the eco-tourism driven islands can offer. But therein lies the problem.

A never ending supply of visitors to a place with precious natural resources has to find a way to make things sustainable. In recent months, Hawaii has taken action.

A permanent ban on visitors was placed at a Big Island viewpoint often named one of the most beautiful in the world, and now a beloved park in Hawaiian island, Oahu, will limit visitor access with a reservation system.

Diamond Head Restricts Access

Oahu’s Diamond Head Monument, Lē’ahi, is having the same frustrating moment other major natural attractions around the world are suffering from. Everyone wants to visit — and few people realize how draining the constant slog of visitors, trash and infrastructure requirements can be.

Of course, overcrowding isn’t fun for visitors either. No one wants their big trip to an iconic place marred by selfie sticks and dodging bodies.

To help reinvest in vital infrastructure, natural resources and guest experience, the incredibly popular monument on Oahu will begin utilizing a reservations system for visits beginning May 12th, 2022. That is, for people without a local drivers license.

All visitors without a Hawaiian drivers license — shoutout McLovin’ — will be required to pay a fee and make a reservation, when reservations open, 14 days outside of a desired visiting date.

Reservations to Oahu’s Diamond Head Monument can be secured here.

Reservations to Diamond Head ‘Lē’ahi’ Park will cost $5 per out of state visitor, with children under 3 allowed free entry. Separate charges for vehicles entering the park will also exist, and non commercial vehicles will cost $10 per vehicle.

The park now joins a growing list of Hawaii’s most beautiful spots charging for entry and requiring reservations. But hey, it’s better than on Big Island, where visitors are banned from Waipio Park and the Valley Of Kings entirely now.

“The new reservation system will mitigate environmental impacts sustained by foot traffic, reduce vehicle congestion in the park and surrounding neighborhoods, improve the experience of kamaʻāina and visitors enjoying the monument,”

Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources

Balancing Tourism And Sustainability

Tourism brings commerce, business and jobs that creates sustainability within lives and communities, but it also brings waste, infrastructure needs and a level of damage to natural resources.

As sustainability discussions heat up globally, many countries are looking at the impact of tourism on the local communities and environments and weighing options.

Venice is largely “saying no” to large cruise ships, which bring tourist visitors who statistically do not spend at desirable levels, and also contribute the most waste.

Taxes have been added for ship visitors hoping to enter the city limits. In areas such as Santorini and Key West, similar proposals have been weighed.

Hawaii is the latest tourism hot spot seeking to balance dollars and damage to the environment, and visiting Diamond Head will now be a different experience. Maybe, for the better.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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25 Comments

    1. Yup, I’d stay away. No reason to fly that far for a state that clearly doesn’t want visitors.

      1. If you live here you see the damage.. its real…so if making a reservation and paying a small fee is too much ..then yes,please feel free not too visit

      2. It is not that at allt is too popular andthe experience has gone to crap. It’s over crowded from top to bottom, tha restrooms are overwhelmed, the garbgr cans stuffed and that is from the folks who use them…lots don’t. People do dumb stuff they would never do at home and leave things messed up, eroded and dangerous, the complaining was crowded etc. So this is intended to make it better, sustainable and lasting. Don’t like it stay home. Most people get it and have no issues. We dont want to become New York City, or San Francisco or the Jersey Shore or Miami.

    2. Aloha Chris,
      2 years of quarantine. We spent it on the empty and clean beaches and freediving an ocean recovering from tourism. It was the first break the islands and us got since Cpt. Cook 🙂 Many of us enjoyed the quiet and want it back.
      Yes, tourism is a problem because 80% of all people are crazy. The cheaper the package they book the louder, messier, noxious, entitled, uglier and unfit those visitors are. Same goes for the rich farts too. Andccerything between.
      Midwesternrs and biblebelters really are uncivilized. We do our best to keep them in resorts and on cruisers. For their own safety. Nature here is very unforgiving and many locals have had enough. The islands morgues fill steadily with tourists all year round. Some crash their rental into lava rocks, fall off waterfalls, die on the beach, die in shallow water – others catch the Tahiti express, get bitten by centipedes and 5-20 times sharks. Murder and suicide on cruise ships is a big thing. Sometimes loud visitors just disappear. It all depends on your attitude if you leave the hotel compound – wether you make it alive to the liquor store or get shanghaied on a north Korean fish trawler, turned into chum or work the plantation.
      Cruise ship people are a total loss. They only create smog, waste, pollution and all profits never touch the islands.
      Big hotel chain profits leave the isles.
      Rental car money never even touched the islands.
      No, dear entitled tourist: You did not buy me when you book a trip but if you show respect we always have time for a friendly chat, tell story and point you in the right direction and hope you spend money locally. Hawai’i is very different. Low income and high prices are a problem for us. If you are in the same boat..don’t come here. It’s our home. We like a clean environment and quiet. This way we can all enjoy the most beautiful environment.
      Some people like you use up all Aloha before they even come here.

      1. Everything right here…on point. And I’m saying that as one that comes there regularly. But it’s an undying respect for the culture that separates some.of from the stereotypes. Leave it better than you found is more important in Hawaii than on ANY TRAIL I’ve ever hiked.

      2. I totally understand. We have the same problem in California. Tourists and homeless locals disrespect our coast& beaches. I recently went to Maui. It was wonderful. No its not too much to ask. When we visit beauty, we need to be kind & respectful.

    3. You will never begin to understand the true meaning of Aloha so don’t even try. Good, one less visitor to worry about. I pray you will NEVER visit Hawai’i 🙏🏼😁

    4. Chris,
      You will never begin to understand the true meaning of Aloha so don’t even try. Good, one less visitor to worry about. I pray you will NEVER visit Hawai’i 🙏🏼😁

    5. Could not agree more! You should probably stay home, wherever that is, and leave the “cash grab” destinations to those that know how to behave and are thankful to be able to experience cultures outside of their own.

      Seriously now guy, this is the most ignorant statement you could have made. I’ve been to both place referenced in this article and in the link. They are amazingbut its people like you that ruin places like these. People who feel entitled, people who get there and pay no mind to the fact that these places are sacred to a culture decimated by by forced tourism. DO NOT GO…unless you can afford the experience and understand what it is you are actually paying into.

  1. So disappointing. The minimum 3 month vacation rental outside of tourist areas, the paid reservation system for the best beaches and attractions which exempts locals (Haena, wainapanapa, Haunama), the out and out closure of the best off the beaten track spots (queens bath, the toilet bowl). Pretty clear that the intention is to keep tourists in touristy areas.

  2. Disappointing, but necessary to maintain these beautiful areas. As someone who recently visited and had previously lived in Honolulu, visitors who do not respect the island are a problem.

  3. I understand why Hawaii is asking for reservations. Diamond Head gets so busy, no one can enjoy it. There are also travelers who assume they can do whatever they want and take advantage of beautiful places by trashing the place up. I am excited to travel to Hawaii this summer and can’t wait for the opportunity to see so many beautiful landmarks. We will be cleaning up the entire way. Aloha!!

    1. I can not wait to get to Oahu myself, and feel the Hawaii spirit, and also take in the sights. I will treat the islands with the upmost respect. And also the islanders as well, I will so my respect to them.

  4. This summer will be my first visit since I was a child and my husband and kid’s first visit. I’m worried we will be unable to visit some some of these iconic beaches and places (the whole reason we chose Oahu). We are the kind of family that cleans up beaches and attractions wherever we go, so it’s disappointing that all tourists are being punished for the bad behaviors of others. I’m second guessing the trip now and feel my money would be best spent elsewhere.

    1. 👏👏👏 same i went to high school there and want to share the beautiful culture with my family now i fear my family and i will be judged the same.

  5. These islands are beautiful, and all the state and the Hawaiian people want is you to RESPECT THEIR LAND AND THEIR CULTURE. It stinks that the minority ruins it for the majority. The food, culture, and Aloha spirit of the Hawaiian people is nothing short of amazing.

  6. Been to the BIG ISLAND, MAUI, and going to KAUI this year. It’s nothing new. The entitled need their own ISLAND to trash among themselves. The Hawaiian culture is amazing. People who trash things while on vacation , most likely trash things at home too. This is learned behavior.

  7. The locals posting here are as ignorant as the tourists, as without tourism Hawaii would crumble. I’ve seen many locals disrespecting the lands as well. There needs to be balance and most of all respect shown to these beautiful islands and their waters… by both tourists and locals alike. Embrace the Aloha spirit!

    I’m not sure why people complain about paying a small fee (for maintenance) to experience some of natures finest areas. Most of you have no problems bucking up for an alcoholic beverage, smokes, a movie, your streaming (Netflix, Prime, Hulu, etc.) service but are going to complain about a minimal fee to enter a nature or historic location.

  8. There is no where more beautifull. Living there was a delight. The perfume’ the beach boys’ I miss so much ” a delightful hawaiian wedding yes. See u soon my beloved Honolulu .

  9. We have been to Hawaii many times . I always respect the the locals .always make sure I don’t leave rubbish around . I feel the sprit of Aloha when there .

  10. Yes I agree with the locals 100%. I visited Hawaii a few years ago and I thought it was the most beautiful place on the face of the earth. I agree with locals in that if you visit respect the people and their land. If you don’t respect it, then don’t go.

  11. Everything right here…on point. And I’m saying that as one that comes there regularly. But it’s an undying respect for the culture that separates some.of from the stereotypes. Leave it better than you found is more important in Hawaii than on ANY TRAIL I’ve ever hiked.

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