Keep driving: No parking zone established near popular lava tube entry

  • Visitors ignore no-parking signs fronting the Huehue lava tube off Queen Kaahumanu Highway, north of Kona International Airport on Thursday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • A visitor enters the Huehue lava tube off Queen Kaahumanu Highway on Thursday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • No parking signs line both sides of Queen Kaahumanu Highway by the Huehue lava tube, north of Kona International Airport. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • No parking signs line both sides of Queen Kaahumanu Highway by the lava tube north of the airport. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • State road crews prepare to put concrete barriers along the shoulder fronting the Huehue lava tube off Queen Kaahumanu Highway, north of Kona International Airport. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • The no parking signs are positioned along 1,000 feet of shoulder on the mauka side of the highway where the main entry to the lava tube is located. On the makai side of the highway, no-parking signs will placed along 600 feet of shoulder. The concrete barriers will be positioned along 1,000 feet of shoulder on the mauka side of the highway to deter parking along the highway to check out the Huehue lava tube. (DOT/Special to West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Stop no more.

State Department of Transportation crews are installing no parking signs and moving in concrete barriers to keep motorists from stopping on the side of Queen Kaahumanu Highway to check out the Huehue lava tube in North Kona.

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The lava tube, created during the 1801 Huehue flow from Hualalai’s northwest flank, is located about 2 miles north of Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole, and attracts visitors and residents alike curious as to what is within. Promotion for the lave tube is easily found online and in travel books, and it’s more than visible from the roadway.

Crews began installing no parking signs on both sides of the highway on Jan. 7 and will be placing concrete (Jersey) barriers on the mauka side of the roadway in the coming weeks, said Shelly Kunishige, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Transportation. A no-trespassing sign will also be posted at the tube’s entrance.

The no parking signs are positioned along 1,000 feet of shoulder on the mauka side of the highway where the main entry to the lava tube is located. On the makai side of the highway, no parking signs will placed along 600 feet of shoulder.

The concrete barriers will be positioned along 1,000 feet of shoulder on the mauka side of the highway to deter parking along the highway to check out the geological feature.

“This is in response to concerns over the activities taking place in the area and the damage the unintended parking has caused to the highway shoulder,” Kunishige said.

During the work, lane closures may be required. Work will not take place on Monday because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, but is planned Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Regarding enforcement, Kunishige said the appropriate parties have been consulted.

“We have discussed enforcement of the no parking and no trespassing restrictions with HPD,” she said.

The move follows an August 2018 article published by West Hawaii Today highlighting safety concerns at the popular site near mile marker 91.

State transportation officials said they were unaware of the issue until being contacted by the newspaper about safety concerns there. Depending on the time of day, the number of vehicles at the site has reached several dozen, with cars parked on both sides of the highway and people illegally crossing in the 55-mph zone.

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At the time, a state spokesperson said the department would investigate the issue, adding signage would be considered should findings show stopping and parking along the mauka and makai side of the highway presented a danger to highway users.

Kunishige said anyone with concerns about the restrictions should contact the department’s public affairs office by calling at (808) 587-2160 or emailing DOTPAO@hawaii.gov.

  1. kenmccabe January 19, 2019 3:03 am

    Can anyone guess what will happen? Good intentions but a non-solution and waste of effort. Why not build a proper parking lot and turn lanes?


    1. angkoldoy January 19, 2019 6:32 am

      Perhaps this was planned this way, because DOT became aware that entering a cave in this state is contrary to law without permission from owner or agent.


  2. Sara Steiner-jackson January 19, 2019 7:14 am

    Build a turnout like for Kaumana Cave on Hilo side. We live on an island of 3 active volcanoes, the Lava Nazi position doesn’t work well, it turns off the tourists, which arn’t really coming here as much now – so it would behoove the County to be more lava-friendly, that is what tourists come here to see anyway!!!


  3. KonaKreep January 19, 2019 7:16 am

    A spot that tourists enjoy? Close it off! Put some barbed wire around it! Maybe DOT should fill in the lava tube with concrete. That’ll stop those darn tourists from enjoying their stay!


  4. joedriver January 19, 2019 7:28 am

    Another quick no plan over reaction that will hurt the economy on the west side and eventually less revenues for the big island. Kudos to those who act in the worst interest of all by claiming no knowledge of the issue and erect barriers instead of a proper solution.


  5. ghillert January 19, 2019 8:16 am

    A rather questionable and bizarre solution. Almost all, if not all lava/volcano related sights/hiking is off-limits to the public (officially) in Kailua-Kona already – You cannot even hike to the top of Hualalai legally. There are only 2 public trail systems (Kaloko and Walua trail) up the mountain (mauka). And now this. Sometimes you wonder if the county has any interest in developing non-hotel-resort-focused tourism.


    1. Colin12345 January 19, 2019 9:18 am

      I agree; the State and County have utterly failed to consider and take a pro-active approach to recreational access that could increase manageable eco-tourism. Imagine a contract-managed trail system from Hualalai to Mauna Loa with overnight campgrounds in between, very similar to New Zealand’s “Milford Track” on South Island.
      Although the subject lava tubes here in Kona, at HueHue are actually spectacular, and far more interesting than the Thurston lava tube in VNP, I’ll be the first to admit they are dangerous; the ceilings of the tubes could fall at any time, as they obviously have many times (piece by piece) in their 200 year existence. And a slip and fall over the existing interior rubble could easily engender multiple successful multi-million lawsuits. I am just so thankful I’ve seen this beautiful – but dangerously risky – jewel of North Kona.


    2. Kaipo Wall January 20, 2019 12:03 am

      You can go up on to Hualalai , if you choose to be a paying tourists , with Hawaii Forest and Trails , which has exclusive access from the Bishop Estate -Kam Schools . Tourists only . All local hikers are forbidden . Kapu! Shibai…..


  6. Mike Lumi January 19, 2019 8:46 am

    Queen K highway is too dangerous for cars and pedestrians to cross from either side. This “solution” will not solve anything long term, but push tourist to park just outside the no parking areas and continue the dangerous trend.


  7. metalman808 January 19, 2019 9:02 am

    The Harry $kim way. Nothing for the people. Now go to work and pay your taxes.


  8. onceawarrior January 19, 2019 9:18 am

    Tourism industry could be better served on the Big Island if it is considered secondary to Agriculture.
    There would be better quality of appreciation of our heritage.
    The topography of Big Island lends itself to different types of food products.
    Instead of enriching offshore interests, the quality of our economy should enrich our island residents.
    Our ecology of life should be focusing wisely on us first.

    .


  9. Buds4All January 19, 2019 9:28 am

    There is going to be deaths from people trying to cross the road…bad solution. Stop and rethink this.


  10. LimeyinHi January 19, 2019 10:27 am

    And let’s close the beaches while we are at it, they are dangerous too. How about those rent a cars as well, people die in those all the time.


  11. FreddyBurke January 19, 2019 12:10 pm

    Is there a No Trespassing Restriction there?


  12. LOL in Kona January 19, 2019 4:05 pm

    Hey,
    Its OK, the mayor
    …who already has 30,000 votes from the food stamp folk
    doesn’t care about YOU!!
    Block everything off and, if you vote for him to get another raise,
    ..the Hilo folk might “consider” letting you in…if you pay!
    Of course, if you are just visiting, Haaa, Haaa, Haaa!
    ….the Hilo gobement doesn’t care about the 88,000 folk actually doing something.


  13. Nancy Marley January 19, 2019 10:08 pm

    If you check the photograph you will see there is a very smooth, level wide area for people to safely park. The area is wide enough for two additional lanes of traffic. This decision by the State Highway Department is so wrong to take this action and block the lava tube from visitors. Lets have the State tell us about the statics of car accidents from people parked at this location. I doubt there have been any and what are the problems they don’t identify, again I would guess there have not been any. This area needs to be left as is and let visitors check out the lava tube. Our local representatives need to get involved in this matter and stop the State Highway Department’s foolish decision.


  14. angkoldoy February 2, 2019 10:20 am

    When will the reporters and editors of this rag disclose that it is illegal to enter a cave. And that DLNR are turning their backs on the issue.


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