Fee increase proposed for park

  • A visitor rests at one of the ponds at Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park on Friday.

  • Ponds are scattered on the grounds of Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park on Friday.

  • Visitors photograph the Heiau at Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park on Friday.

  • Ponds are scattered throughout the grounds of Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Visitors stroll through Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park on Friday.

  • A visiting family looks at the tide pools Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Visitors stroll through Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park on Friday. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

HONAUNAU — More than 420,000 people visited Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park in 2016, according to the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

And from 2013-16, it was the second-most-visited island and cultural attraction — behind Hawaii Volcanoes National Park — on Hawaii Island.

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But visitors to the South Kona site might be paying a little more at the gate depending on a proposal to increase entrance fees for vehicles, pedestrians and motorcycles.

The park’s proposal would raise fees at the site for vehicles, people and motorcycles to $15, $7 and $10, respectively.

Currently, the per vehicle, per-person and motorcycle rates are $5, $3 and $7.

The park is accepting feedback and comments through March 1. Comment cards are available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily at the park visitor center and comments can also be submitted online through the online system, accessible at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/HawaiiFees.

A direct link to the proposal is available here. Those interested can submit comments by scrolling to the bottom and clicking “Comment now.”

It’s not the first time the park has considered increasing entrance fees in recent years.

Toward the end of 2014, the park sought input on proposed fee increases that would have made entrance to the park even costlier than the current proposal.

According to a notice published in West Hawaii Today in October 2014, that proposal would have raised the per vehicle fee to $20, the walk-in fee to $10 and the motorcycle fee to $15.

Following the comment period, Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park received a waiver and refrained from increasing its fees, leaving them at the same level they were as when first implemented in 2004.

A release from the park outlining the new proposal says the newly proposed increases “represent the smallest fee increase possible under the current National Park Service pricing model.”

The new proposal would also make available a $30 annual pass to just Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park and would also increase the cost of the Tri-Park Pass, which also includes Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Haleakala National Park, from $30 to $50.

But some visitors said even raising the per vehicle entrance fee to $15 is too much for what the park offers.

Marina Nickel and Claudius Huppert, visiting from Germany, said they felt the $5 admission fee per vehicle “is absolutely fair.”

“Because it’s not too big, the area,” Nickel said, saying $5 makes sense with the map and self-guided tour.

Huppert said the reason they came to the park was because they had read about it in a guidebook and figured if it wasn’t too expensive, they would stop in.

But if it would have cost more than $10 for the two of them, they said, they wouldn’t have come.

Still others said they don’t mind paying more if it helps the park.

Nathan Willkie and his mother Veronica, both of Oahu, said they wouldn’t mind the fee increases if it helps improve the park.

“As long as it’s well spent, I think it’s fine,” said Nathan Willkie.

Thursday’s visit was Nathan Willkie’s third to the park. He said he loves the park and the history behind the location.

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A former teacher, Veronica Willkie said she often accompanied groups of fourth-graders to the park as part of their visit to Hawaii Island. She said the site is a great resource and its significance as a place of refuge has important lessons to offer.

“Even though you mess up — because we all mess up in life — there’s a place you can go where you make amends for that, and this was a place to do that,” she said. “And you can be reintegrated into society. It’s important for kids to know that if you make a mistake, it’s not the end.”