Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Got Aloha at Ke’e Beach?

Lovely Ke’e Beach is a reef-protected pool right under the Napali Cliffs—located at road’s end, which is the beginning of the famed Kalalau Trail. For these reasons, it gets a lot of action from tourists.

Until about a year ago, there wasn’t even a lifeguard station at Ke’e. Now, along with a new lifeguard station and a mind-boggling array of signs—some of them homemade—has hit the beach, and, ironically, spoiling the scenic beauty and spirit of aloha that they are trying to protect. The trail to one of the island’s most sacred spots—the Kauluolaka Hula Heiau (temple)—has been closed by both homemade signs put up by locals and an official-looking sign, citing “severe weather,” although the weather does not affect this trail. (The trail goes inland and up, away from high surf.)

In an effort to protect this spot, it has been closed off to visitors, inclduing those who respect it as much as anyone and who have traveled thousands of miles to pay their respects. Only selected persons can visit the anciet hula site—“selected” by whom is the question. For sure, tourists need to understand the ground rules, to protect both themselves and the cultural and scenic resources of Hawaii. But making tourists feel unwelcome is not the best strategy, especially in light of a one-third drop-off in tourism that hit the islands earlier this year. Hopefully this overreaction in the form of an outburst of signs and unwarranted closures is temporary, and true aloha will be restored at Ke’e Beach.

Before visiting, check out the beach safety tips in Hawaii's green guide, Kauai Trailblazer.