Diamond Head State Monument to begin reservations system for out-of-state visitors
The iconic Lē‘ahi – Diamond Head State Monument on Oʻahu, will become the third park unit in the Hawai‘i State Park system to require advanced reservations for out-of-state visitors, beginning on May 12, 2022.
Hawai‘i residents continue to enjoy free access without reservations, but entry may depend on parking availability.
Kaua‘i’s Hā‘ena State Park was the first with a reservation system, followed by Waiʻānapanapa State Park on Maui. State officials say the reservation systems have improved the quality of visitor experiences and have reduced impacts on adjacent communities and resources.
Listed as a National Natural Landmark, Diamond Head is one of the most sought after and visited attractions in Hawai‘i.
Prior to the pandemic, during the 2019 winter holiday period, the park had a record visitation day of over 6,000 people. The new reservation system is intended to reduce hiker congestion along the narrow and winding trail to the summit, reduce the load on the comfort station and reduce vehicle congestion entering and exiting the sole access tunnel at Diamond Head. The DLNR Division of State Parks hopes to also reduce parking issues in urban neighborhoods outside of Diamond Head.
The DSP goal is to improve the quality of the experience by reducing access during the more popular and currently congested morning time period and have patrons select the less crowded afternoon slots if they must hike on a particular day. Otherwise, as with any capacity-based reservation system, they must select another day. Visitors will need to plan their hikes in advance.
In 2020, DSP increased fees from one dollar for walk-ins and five dollars for vehicles to ten dollars for parking and five dollars per person for entry.
The system will rely upon QR codes to confirm reservations and will eliminate the exchange of cash at the entrance, reducing the time it takes to enter Diamond Head.
The reservation system is a collaboration with ProPark Inc. which currently manages parking access and entry fee collection at DHSM. ProPark contracted Ascent Partners to create the online system.
DSP Administrator Curt Cottrell said, “We envision being able to modify this system for additional parks. The key element to crafting a reservation system, based on optimal capacity management, and improving the quality of experience, is to work closely with our parking vendors at park units where fee collection is already happening. These valued partners have accurate number’s and use patterns of visitors at these park units on a daily and seasonal basis.”
Parks must have the ancillary contractors or sufficient staff to ensure patronage limits and payment requirements are honored.
During a visit to Diamond Head last Thursday, Gov. David Ige said, “The reservation system is an important part of the destination management action plan. We want to reduce the impact of visitors and really ensure that our residents have access to these desirable places. We can control the numbers of people who visit a particular place so they can more easily be spread out across the day.”
When activated on April 28, the system will allow for reservations beginning 14 days into the future. After May 12, out-of-state visitors will not be allowed to enter without an advanced reservation. In addition, commercial tour and trolley patrons will have to have reservations. Registered PUC carriers will have access to a PUC-only reservation portal developed concurrently with the public reservation system.
Visitors parking vehicles in the crater will be required to book in two-hour time slots beginning at 6 a.m. (two consecutive slots can be booked). Walk-in and drop-off visitors will be subject to one-hour entry time slots. Arrival and exit times will be enforced to assure adequate turnover to allow for later arrivals.
“It is anticipated, as with the reservation systems currently in place, further adjustments and tweaking may be necessary to achieve the desired balance between patronage, parking, trail capacity, and duration of time slots,” Cottrell said.
The DSP is collaborating with the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority and its extensive visitor service network to inform the industry that DHSM is undergoing a significant paradigm shift to manage visitor numbers and to improving the quality of visitor experiences.