New reservation system to visit Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach off Maui’s Road to Hana

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If out-of-state visitors want to visit Wai’anapanapa State Park, the beautiful black sand beach off Maui’s famous road to Hana, they’ll have to make a paid reservation. Hawaii residents will continue to be able to visit without a fee or reservation and parking spaces will be held specifically for them.

This new system is designed to limit tourists and over crowding on the road to Hana. Here’s an excerpt from the Maui News about the purpose:

“As a response to rural East Maui residents seeking reprieve from high traffic and increased crowding, the new state system will help manage traffic flow into the area, according to state Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English, who has been facilitating with state Rep. Lynn DeCoite the East Maui Reservation Project, an effort to mitigate over-crowding in East Maui after COVID-19. The year before the pandemic, visitor numbers reached a record high in Maui County.”

“This is a new way to better manage the impacts of tourism on our local communities and I look forward to working with DLNR to implement these types of systems in other areas of my district,” English said in the release.

You can access the new reservation system at www.gowaianapanapa.com. It went live February 15, 2021, with the first available reservation set for two weeks later, March 1, 2021.

With any new system, the rules, costs and schedules are subject to change, but let’s look at what they’ve set up so far. There are various options ranging from a walk-in to commercial tour vehicles. Rather than complicating the description with the all the options, we’ll focus on the experience of the average tourist who is driving a rental car:

  • The cost/car for a reservation is $10. This fee includes both parking and entry into the park. Per the site’s FAQs, this single fee includes entry to all passengers within the vehicle.
  • Reservations can be made two weeks in advance. Per the state park’s website, they intend to extend this window in the future. Additionally, they state that no same-day reservations will be available.
  • Reservation options include the following time slots:
    • Morning I: 7:00am to 10:00am
    • Morning II: 10:00am to 12:30pm
    • Afternoon I: 12:30pm to 3:00pm
    • Afternoon II: 3:00pm to 6:00pm
  • Per the FAQs, visitors can enter anytime within their reserved time, but must exit by the time the reservation time slot ends.
  • For visits, which extend longer than the available time slot, additional reservation vouchers will need to purchased for cover the entire stay.
  • Per the FAQ page, for further assistance, maui-sp@reefparking.com or call 1.808.437.8900

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So, it’s going to be trickier to plan your day touring the road to Hana if you want to visit Wai’anapanapa State Park. Could you still have an enjoyable day without visiting this park? Yes, but, in our opinion, it’s worth the effort to try to include it in your plans.

As always, we give our readers the very same advice we would give to our friends and family. So, what would we do if we were planning a day touring the road to Hana including a stop at Wai’anapanapa? Here’s some food for thought:

  • Without stops…and you’re going to want to make many stops…it takes approximately 2.5 hours to drive directly to Wai’anapanapa from Ka’anapali and 2.25 hours from Wailea. We prefer to get an early start on the day — say 7:00am to 7:30am. The earlier start, the better, as long as you have mostly daylight for your drive, because you do want to be able to see the scenery.
  • We would allocate 30 to 45 minutes to visit this park. That should allow ample time to walk along the coastline, snap many photos and take the steps down to stand on the black sand beach. If you tend to be efficient, a half-hour is enough time. If you tend to take more time, allocate 45 minutes or more.
  • With all the above in mind, ideally, we would select the Morning II: 10:00am to 12:30am time slot. This time slot would still allow enough time afterwards to stop in Hana, check out the sights just beyond Hana and explore the Kipahulu section of Haleakala National Park.

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What if you’re unable to secure a reservation, but you still want to see Wai’anapanapa? In this case, here are some brainstorm ideas:

  • Look into booking a guided tour that can guarantee a visit to Wai’anapanapa. We’ll have to see how this all plays out because the commercial tour operators are also subject to booking their own reservations. A couple of tour operators we’ve toured with are Valley Isle Excursions and No Ka Oi Adventures. We’re not certain that they can guarantee this stop, but they are two, very good tour operators to consider.
  • Allocate the time you would have spent at Wai’anapanapa elsewhere. For example, spend extra time in the Kipahulu region of Haleakala National Park.
  • Take an abbreviated tour of the road to Hana. This winding road isn’t for everyone — especially to those who are prone to carsickness. We created an shortened guide of the road to Hana that allows you to see some great sights, but doesn’t take you too deep into the drive.

Once again, bear in mind that this is a new system and is subject to change. Here are the official resources for you to check for the current fees, schedules and polices:

For more advice on driving the road to Hana see our extremely thorough guide to driving the road to Hana.

UPDATE: In addition to the parking fee, effective April 2021, the park system implemented an entrance fee. At the time of implementation, the entrance fee is $5 per person. See the park’s website for more details and for any updates on fees and policies.

6 comments
  1. I think this system sucks. We just arrived February 13 and just read about this today. Tourists have to have a negative COVID test to come to Hawaii, so why can’t they scan that QR code at entrance to the park. We have to wear masks all the time so why isn’t that good enough.

    1. Teresa – this new reservation system is not COVID-related. It’s a way that Maui leaders have developed to try to limit tourist in the Hana area. It’s also designed to create revenue.

  2. Sure seems like Hawaii in general, and particularly Maui and Kauai, are increasingly unfriendly to vacationers! My family and I have been vacationing in Hawaii every year for the last 15 years, but I am not feeling welcome anymore. The locals are reported to be increasingly hostile and the requirements increasingly more restrictive. Seems an odd approach for an economy largely supported by visitors! I hear Fiji is both delightful and very welcoming to vacationers. Think it’s time we move on to friendlier tropical island?

  3. What time do tickets release on the website to get into the Waiʻānapanapa State Park?

    I appreciate this idea because it means when we visitors want to enjoy the beauty of the park there won’t be much crowds? I hope!

    It’s just a bit stressful because this is the one thing I want to be guaranteed and now I won’t know until 2 weeks prior. Still excited though!

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