KAILUA-KONA — The Board of Land and Natural Resources earlier this month gave a green light to a local business allowing it to move forward with plans to use Napoopoo Landing for commercial tours at Kealakekua Bay.
The permit, issued to Hanalike Ohana LLC, doing business as Moana Ocean Adventures, also allows for the use of a mooring about 300 meters off shore from the pier to secure the boat at night.
Hanalike Ohana LLC is owned by Gordon Leslie, whose grandfather installed the mooring more than a century ago, and his brother’s grandson Eke Keliinohomoku.
The vessel is called “Kaawaloa,” and is a 42-foot catamaran built to resemble a double-hulled canoe, Leslie said. But this won’t be the first time the vessel will give visitors a unique way to experience the bay and its history.
Leslie built the vessel in 1979, he said, and he ran tours during the first half of the 1980s until he received a cease and desist revoking his permit. The state, he explained, determined running a tour operation from the pier wasn’t “the right thing” given that Kealakekua Bay was considered a conservation area.
“So they pulled the permit and forced me to bring my canoe on land in dry dock,” he said.
Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park is currently in the midst of the development and enactment of a master planning process.
Following the transfer of Napoopoo Landing and the bay’s waters to the DLNR Division of State Parks from the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation in 2013, State Parks established its vessel management policy at the park, citing “unauthorized and illicit solicitation” at the landing that led to overuse and waste problems at Kaawaloa Flats.
Under the current policy, all vessels — from charter boats to kayaks to stand-up paddle boards — are required to have a special use permit to transit the bay and are forbidden from launching from or landing at park land, according to documents filed with DLNR.
As of mid-July, State Parks had issued 562 special use permits for 215 commercial and 764 non-commercial vessels authorized to transit the bay, according to those documents.
Those documents also indicate there’s a commercial mooring off shore of Kaawaloa Flats and three revocable permits for launching guided kayak tours from the landing, crossing the bay and landing at Kaawaloa Flats for a hike to the Captain Cook Monument.
And on July 13, the Board of Land and Natural Resources approved one more revocable permit to let Hanalike Ohana LLC moor its canoe and use Napoopoo Landing for tours.
DLNR documents indicate a revocable permit is necessary in this case because Hanalike Ohana LLC needs access to Napoopoo Landing so guests can get on board the vessel. And because of the ongoing master planning process, any long-term concession lease for the landing and commercial rentals of any vessels would be inappropriate.
A revocable permit rather “is a good method to test the viability of this activity,” DLNR staff noted in their report to the board.
“Kaawaloa” can hold as many as 24 passengers, Leslie said, but will start out with six-person tours to reduce the amount of parking taken up by tour patrons in the area.
The tour will depart from Napoopoo Landing and head toward the monument. Tour patrons will meanwhile learn about the history of the bay, Kaawaloa and Captain James Cook’s arrival and death.
Tours will then take patrons to a designated place for snorkeling outside of the bay. Leslie said the vessel won’t land at Kaawaloa Flats, nor will passengers be able to disembark there.
Keliinohomoku said in his experience, more and more tourists are looking for “a deeper connection to the culture and history” of the area, which they hope to provide through the narrated tour.
Leslie said he hopes to get the vessel in the water within the next 90 days, but said that will depend on water conditions as the winter season approaches.
As for the bay’s future, he said it’s his hope that the re-introduction of canoes is a demonstration of what tourism at Kealakekua Bay can look like.
“It’s what our aspiration would be for the bay,” he said, “but whether that will transpire, that’s really all up to State Parks and the state departments.”