Kaneohe Beach Maui family activity

Sea level rise is not the only thing that is eroding our shorelines or access to it. Lately there seems to be a wave of entitlement from wedding vendors, hotel managers and ocean side multi-million dollar home-owners who feel they have the right to decline access or even tell local families to get off “their” beach.

This summer it happened to a pregnant mama whose friend was taking maternity pictures down at Oluwalu. She stood her ground, shared her story on social media, and ended up on the front cover of this magazine last issue! So, for those of you who may not know your rights, here are a few facts provided by our friends at The University of Hawai`i Sea Grant College Program to help empower you if you are ever asked to leave a beach you, your friends, or your family are enjoying.

1. The Law – HRS §§ 115-4, 115-5, Revised 2010: The public has a right of access along all beaches and shorelines* in the State of Hawai`i situated below the “upper reaches of the wash of the waves.” The only exception are a few areas to accommodate the military.

2. Access – DLNR §46-6.5 Public access: (a) Each county shall adopt ordinances which shall require a subdivider or developer, as a condition precedent to final approval of a subdivision, in cases where public access is not already provided, to dedicate land for public access by right-of-way or easement for pedestrian travel from a public highway or public streets to the land below the high-water mark on any coastal shoreline. (Maui’s subdivision ordinance requires public access intervals of no more than 1500 ft and a minimum width of 15 ft.)

3. Access Denied – If private homeowners are obstructing existing public rights-of-way to the shoreline, HRS § 115-9 provides a remedy and up to a $2000 penalty. Contact the County Planning Department to enquire about enforcement. (808) 270-7735.

4. Ownership – REGARDLESS OF OWNERSHIP as part of the public trust doctrine, beaches are essential public coastal recreational resources. Providing coastal recreational opportunities accessible to the public is a fundamental objective set forth in Chapter 205A, Hawai`i Revised Statutes (HRS).


*Shoreline means the upper reaches of the wash of the waves, usually evidenced by the edge of vegetation growth, or the upper limit of debris left by the wash of the waves.”

The University of Hawai’i Sea Grant College Program supports an innovative program of research, education, and extension services directed to the improved understanding and stewardship of coastal and marine resources of the state, region, and nation. 

Image Credit: Heather Ganis

Issue 60 NavigationKabocha Squash Curry with Chickpeas >>The Need to the Reduce the Driving Blood Alcohol Level to .05% in Hawaii >>


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here