Kauai North Shore Permits Information
Navigate Kauai's North Shore permits with this comprehensive guide about access to Ke'e Beach and the Kalalau Trail.
Ke'e Beach, the beloved beach at the end of the road and the gateway to Kauai's legendary Kalalau Trail, has experienced a surge in visitors over the years. To manage this upswing, new rules have been put in place to limit overcrowding, manage the flow of visitors and safeguard the fragile marine and coastal ecosystems. Under the new rules, out-of-state visitors are now required to obtain advance reservations for entry into Haena State Park (Ke'e Beach) and the Kalalau Trail. In this article, we discuss the new rules and the various options for access to the park and trail.
Kauai's North Shore past the town of Hanalei is a truly special place. A two-lane road winds along the coastline for about 8 miles, passing through rural communities and alongside epic beaches (including Lumahai Beach and Tunnels Beach). The tropical scene is straight out of the South Pacific, and in fact the acclaimed 1958 movie South Pacific was filmed at Lumahai Beach. Haena Beach Park/Tunnels Beach is basically as far as you can go on Kauai's North Shore without a permit for Ke'e Beach/Haena State Park.
Except for Ke'e Beach, none of the beaches on the North Shore past Hanalei require a permit. We mention this because in the past (shortly after the North Shore reopened) several North Shore residents set up an unofficial roadblock past the town of Hanalei disseminating information that access to the entire North Shore required a permit. This is not true.
In the past, access to Ke'e Beach and the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail (and the trail to Hanakapiai Falls) did not require reservations. Limited, paved parking could be found at the beach and there was a large dirt (and often muddy) parking lot about a 10-minute walk away. On most days, the parking was not sufficient for the amount of vehicles, prompting many visitors to illegally park along the rural, two-lane road to the area. Likewise, the local North Shore community would see a steady stream of traffic through their rural neighborhoods throughout the day.
In April 2018, historic flooding caused several large landslides over the road to Ke'e Beach. The damage and subsequent repairs would take more than a year to resolve, and the situation was compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the North Shore past the town of Hanalei was closed to all but local residents until 2021.
overtourism: a situation in which too many tourists travel to a popular destination, causing the place to suffer negative environmental, economic, and sociocultural impacts. (Dictionary.com)
During the closure, without a steady stream of visitors through their communities, local residents were able to realize the full impact of creeping overtourism on the area. Jumping on the opportunity to make positive changes, prominent island leaders joined with engineers, scientists, historians, archaeologists and community activists to formulate a master plan for Haena State Park to better manage the situation.
Many of the recommendations of the master plan actually came into fruition. The dirt parking lot was paved with 100 parking spots and a shuttle was implemented to ferry visitors from Hanalei to Ke'e Beach to minimize traffic through the North Shore neighborhoods. The website gohaena.com was created to manage reservations.
How to Obtain Reservations
There are three reservation options for Haena State Park access. Reservations include access to Ke'e Beach, the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail to Hanakapiai Beach, and the trail from Hanakapiai Beach to Hanakapiai Falls. A separate camping permit is required to hike beyond Hanakapiai Beach towards and to Kalalau Beach.
Reservation dates open 30 days prior at 12:00 am HST. The Parking + Entry Passes are the most popular option and usually sell out within the first minute of availability. There is more availability for the shuttle.
(Hawaii residents with a state drivers license or state ID may park their vehicle and enter the park for free, first-come first serve.)
To make a reservation go to GoHaena.com.
1. Shuttle (Park and Ride) + Entry Pass (Round Trip)
Shuttles run every 20 minutes daily from 6:20 am to 5:40 pm from Waipa (Hanalei) to Ke'e Beach, with several stops along the way (if necessary). Travel time is approximately 30 minutes each way.
Fees: Adults $40, children 4-15 $25, children 3 and under free on lap.
2. Parking + Entry Pass
This option allows visitors to park at the Ke'e Beach parking lot for a certain time slot. To stay longer, purchase multiple time slots. Enter any time after time slot begins and leave before the time slot ends. All visitors named on reservation must arrive in same vehicle.
Morning: 6:30 am - 12:30 pm
Afternoon: 12:30 pm - 5:30 pm
Evening: 4:30 pm - Sunset
Fees: $10 per time slot plus $5 entry per person.
3. Entry Pass Only
This option is for visitors who are being dropped off at the park or who are riding a bicycle to the park. Parking elsewhere, such as at Haena Beach Park, or along the side of the highway, is a violation of the terms of service.
Fees: $5 per person
- The parking lot opens at 6:30 am.
- The park is open daily including holidays 7:00 am to 6:45 pm.
- Reservations may not be resold or transferred to other individuals.
- Download, take a screenshot (and save to photos), or print your reservation as there is no cell phone service at Ke'e Beach.
- For the shuttle, check in 10 minutes prior to boarding time.
- Ticket (permit) holders must ride on the shuttle for park entry.
- The shuttle option includes all day admission.
- Small beach gear, such as folding chairs, umbrellas, snorkel gear and small coolers, are OK to bring. Larger items such as large coolers and surfboards cannot be transported on the shuttle.
- Weather conditions and unsafe conditions may prompt closure of the park and trail. Current conditions can be found at https://gohaena.com/conditions/.
This map is included with your permit.
Kalalau Trail Permits
The Kalalau Trail, Kauai's renowned 11-mile hiking trail along the Na Pali Coast, is a challenging yet rewarding trek for outdoor enthusiasts. Access to the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail is provided with the above Ke'e Beach/Haena State Park permits. Full access to the Kauai Trail (all 11 miles) requires an overnight camping permit.
Camping Permits are available 90 days in advance via the website at https://camping.ehawaii.gov/. Reservation slots open at 12:00 am HST 90 days in advance, and they often sell out within the first few seconds or minutes.
For the best chances of obtaining a permit, ascertain the time of 12:00 (midnight) HST at your location 90 days out and attempt to make a reservation at that time and date. Use a computer or device with the highest Internet speed and do not use a browser in private or incognito mode. If possible, use two or more devices. Login to the website before midnight and be ready to click purchase at the stroke of midnight. Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, you may be left without a reservation due to demand. Don't give up, try again the next day or days. Winter months, when demand is a little less, may provide a better chance on obtaining a permit.
Fees: $25 per person per night (Hawaii residents), $35 per person per night (non-residents).
(The maximum length of stay is five consecutive nights.)
With a Kalalau Trail Camping Permit, you do not need a separate Ke'e Beach/Haena State Park reservation as described above. However, if you are parking overnight at the Ke'e Beach parking lot you will need to purchase overnight parking at the GoHaena.com website. You must already have your Kalalau Trail Camping Permit Number to make the parking reservation. (Does not apply to Hawaii residents with valid state ID, parking is free.)
(If possible, have someone drop you off at the Haena State Park entry point. Parking your car overnight in the lot is not advised due to possible theft of gasoline from the vehicle or vandalism. Though rare, it does happen infrequently.)
North Shore Shuttle and Parking Photos
The North Shore Shuttle leaves from the parking lot at Waipa Park & Ride which is just past the town of Hanalei. This is also the site of the Waipa Farmers Market held on Tuesdays, 2-5 pm. Google Maps
Officials check permits before shuttle boarding.
The shuttle ride is scenic and takes about 30 minutes. The driver usually provides interesting commentary about Kauai's North Shore.
Arriving at the Ke'e Beach parking lot and pavilion.
The parking lot for Ke'e Beach is now paved.
The pathway from the pavilion to the beach is approximately 0.4 miles, a 5-10 minute walk depending on your speed.
All personal, beach and trail items must be carried from the pavilion to the beach/trail.
Restrooms and outdoor showers are located near the beach and trail head.
The trail head for the Kalalau Trail is located to the left of Ke'e Beach.
In conclusion, new rules and permits for Ke'e Beach and the Kalalau Trail aim to strike a balance between allowing visitors to experience the beauty of Kauai's North Shore while preserving its natural integrity. By respecting these regulations and planning ahead, visitors can continue to enjoy these breathtaking destinations while contributing to their conservation for generations to come.