As Hiking in Hawaii Sees 50% Increase, a Visitor Fee for Parks and Trails Looms

The actual amount of the fee is still up for debate.

Aerial of the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve in Oahu, HI
Westend61/Getty Images.

It may soon cost tourists to visit the gorgeous parks and hiking trails on the islands of Hawaii thanks to a bill being considered by state lawmakers.

The measure would charge travelers a fee to buy a license to visit a state park, forest, hiking trail, or other state natural area by establishing a visitor impact fee program. 

The actual amount of the fee, however, has been up for debate. While the Senate passed a version of the legislation that set the fee at $50, the House Finance Committee last week deleted the actual dollar amount, The Associated Press reported.

“All I want to do, honestly, is to make travelers accountable and have the capacity to help pay for the impact that they have,” Gov. Josh Green — who himself campaigned on the idea of all tourists paying a $50 fee to enter the state — said earlier this year, according to the AP. “We get between nine and 10 million visitors a year, (but) we only have 1.4 million people living here. Those 10 million travelers should be helping us sustain our environment.”

The push for a fee comes as the number of visitors hiking has increased by 50 percent over the past decade, State Rep. Sean Quinlan, who chairs the House Tourism Committee, told the AP. And those travelers are seeking out more and more off the beaten path locations. 

“It’s not like it was 20 years ago when you bring your family and you hit maybe one or two famous beaches and you go see Pearl Harbor. And that’s the extent of it,” Quinlan said. “These days it’s like, well, you know, ‘I saw this post on Instagram and there’s this beautiful rope swing, a coconut tree…’ All these places that didn’t have visitors now have visitors.” 

Most state parks in Hawaii are currently free, but some do require reservations and a fee. Last year, Diamond Head State Monument on the island of Oahu introduced a reservation system for out-of-state visitors in the hopes of reducing hiker congestion. The fee to enter the park is $5 per person and $10 per vehicle.

Hawaii isn’t alone in wanting to impose a fee for visitors. Thailand, for example, plans to start collecting fees from tourists this year. Similarly, the city of Venice also wants to charge day-trippers to come.

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