One lane near Hanalei Bridge to remain closed

LIHUE — When Michael Ching heard that one lane of Kuhio Highway near the Hanalei Bridge would be closed, 24 hours a day, for the next four to five months, he wasn’t happy.

There was no way to put a positive spin on what this could mean for Hanalei businesses.

“It’s going to be horrible,” said Ching, manager and owner of Ching Young Village Shopping Center.

The parking lot of the center, usually packed with vehicles at this time of the year, was about 30 percent empty Thursday afternoon, he said during a phone interview with TGI.

Fewer people than normal walked in and out of the retail shops, and restaurants had many open tables.

The lane closure that started Saturday, Ching said, “is already taking a toll. Definitely.”

So, the North Shore town already hammered by the flooding in April 2018 that damaged stores and homes, still slowly but surely recovering, is about to take another punch in its economic gut that could leave some down and out.

“This is not helping,” Ching said.

Here’s the problem.

The Hanalei-bound lane of the Kuhio Highway at mile marker 1 was closed Saturday in response to a rock slide following heavy rains. Since then, traffic has been limited to one lane as the Hawaii Department of Transportation carries out emergency slope stabilization work on the hill leading to Hanalei Bridge.

Work on the slope Sunday included removal of a large tree that had been cracked by the falling rocks and rock scaling. It was hoped the slope stabilization would be finished Monday.

But following a Wednesday assessment of the slope adjacent to Kuhio Highway at mile marker 1, optimism for a quick reopening of two lanes was dashed.

HDOT said Thursday the Lihue bound lane of the highway will remain closed as crews work to stabilize the upper and lower slopes.

The closure, though, is not for just a few days. It’s for several months. For 24 hours a day.

That means alternating traffic control — which means long delays and long lines of cars, trucks and SUVs.

That will affect not just tourists coming and going, but residents who live and work on the North Shore.

“The Lihue bound lane of Kuhio Highway will remain closed for the duration of the slope stabilization, which is expected to take between four to five months to complete,” the release said.

The plan for the slope stabilization includes scaling, soil nail installation, and Tecco mesh and shotcrete reinforcement.

Traffic will be allowed in both directions with alternating traffic control except for when rock scaling is scheduled on the upper slope.

The delays could be even longer, some days, because during rock scaling, crews will temporarily stop traffic for 30-45 minutes as they knock loose material down and clean the road.

Then motorists will be directed through the closure one direction at a time.

Rock scaling operations will not take place during the lower slope work.

“Please be advised that the highway in this location will be limited to one lane 24 hours a day until the stabilization is completed for the safety of passing motorists,” the release said.

The HDOT said the public is asked to avoid the area if possible and to treat the traffic control personnel with courtesy.

“We are aware of scheduled events in the area including the HCRA State Championship Race in August and will coordinate access and traffic control with the county and other stakeholders,” HDOT’s release said.

Mark Perriello, president of the Kauai Chamber of Commerce, said the impact on Hanalei business “will be significant.”

Reducing traffic to one lane on Kuhio Highway for nearly half a year will greatly reduce the number of visitors who frequent retail stores and restaurants on the North Shore.

Perriello said while the chamber supports businesses in Hanalei and will do all it can to help, it would be hard to encourage people to go there if it meant sitting in traffic for an hour or more.

“It’s a really tough situation,” he said.

He said all businesses in Hanalei should be prepared for interruptions and fewer guests, and should record customer foot traffic and sales on a daily basis. That way, they can document losses which are likely due to the highway repairs and seek government assistance.

“There’s definitely the potential to lose businesses up there,” Perriello said.

He said perhaps something could be done at the government level to help resolve the situation.

“I don’t think there is anything that can be done in terms of helping the businesses maintain their customer base during this time,” he said. “That’s going to be really, really difficult.”

“There are no quick answers,” he added. “They’re going to have to get creative.”

Ching suggested one solution could be to do night work, though he added that would present safety issues.

“We need to sort of brainstorm this together,” he said, “see where windows of opportunity are and maybe let both lanes flow two to three times a day.”

He said he couldn’t blame people for not wanting to drive to Hanalei as the situation stands.

He said since the lane closure began over the weekend, traffic has backed up to the shopping center from about 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On the other side of the bridge, it backs up to Princeville.

One Hanalei employee went to pick up some freight Thursday morning, which meant passing through the work zone, and couldn’t return until the afternoon due to the traffic jam.

Ching said businesses that rely on tourists, like gift shops and restaurants, are suffering.

“They’re the ones taking more of a hit,” he said.

While Kuhio Highway beyond Hanalei has been closed to general traffic since the April 2018 floods, at least visitors could get to Hanalei to shop and eat. But the lane closure is compounding an already difficult situation.

Ching is hoping to “work something out” with government agencies.

“Let’s put everybody in the room and come up with a mutual solution,” he said.

Until then, challenges await Hanalei businesses.

And that’s putting it mildly.

“I’m thinking it’s going to be worse,” Ching said.


Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or

Kauai single-family home sales rise in April as condo sales stay flat

By  – Real Estate Editor, Pacific Business News

Single-family home sales on Kauai increased last month while prices remained flat, compared to last year, while condominium prices shot up as sales declined, according to statistics provided by Hawaii Information Service on behalf of the Kauai Board of Realtors

There were 57 single-family homes sold in April, a 42.5 percent increase from the 40 homes sold during the same month in 2018. The median price of those homes was $630,000, which was 0.79 percent less than the median price a year ago, which was $635,000.

The median price of a Garden Isle condominium, however, rose 35.38 percent to $627,500, from $463,500. Sales of condos were fairly flat at 40 units sold, which was 4.76 percent fewer than the 42 units that sold during April of last year.

Kauai single-family home price drops as condo prices jump 18%

By  – Real Estate Editor, Pacific Business News

The median price of a single-family home on Kauai fell 17 percent last month as the number of homes dropped by more than 50 percent, compared to a year ago, while the median price of a Garden Island condominium rose by 18 percent despite fewer sales, according to statistics from Hawaii Information Service on behalf of Kauai Island Realtors.

The median price of a single-family home on Kauai in March was $629,900, which was a decline of 16.9 percent from $758,000 during the same month last year.

That was based on sales of 29 homes, which was a drop of 54.69 percent from 64 homes sold in March 2018.

The median price of a condo on Kauai in March was $521,750, which was an increase of 18.18 percent from $441,500 last year. That was based on sales of 34 units, a drop of 22.73 percent from 44 units sold in March 2018.

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Along with an expansive kitchen, the home provides two living areas, one on the upper level and one on the lower. For added flexibility, it has a bonus room with ocean views, which could be used as an office, playroom, craft room, or home gym. A wrap-around covered lanai faces the ocean, offering beautiful views of the sunrise and the Pacific.

Flowering shower trees line the driveway leading to the home, and the property also includes numerous avocado trees. A three-car garage and an agricultural building (currently used as caretakers’ quarters) create additional options for storage. Avoid the “Kapaa crawl” on your commute to Lihue from this move-in-ready residence. Please contact Donna Rice for additional information.

Tourism Reaches New Heights


NAWILIWILI — Joe Phillips of New York was pleased with his beer shirt that was wrapped up by Ana Munoz of Bamboo Island Bath &Body Thursday at Anchor Cove Shopping Center.

Phillips said this was his and his wife’s first visit to Kauai.

“This was a place I always wanted to come to visit,” he said. “My wife’s former co-workers retired to winter on Kauai and kept inviting us to visit.”Kauai welcomed a record number of visitors like Phillips in 2018.

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Kauai had 118,873 visitors in December, bringing the total for the year to 1.38 million, the most ever for this small island, and a 7.6 percent increase over 2017.

Those visitors spent $163.2 million in December, down 3.5 percent from December 2017, but for the year, visitors spent $2 billion, a 10.2 percent increase from last year, according to the HTA report released Thursday.

Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau, said there were a few factors that influenced the boost in tourism.

“The hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas redirected visitors to places like Kauai,” she wrote in an email to TGI. “Also, I think the eruption of Kilauea Volcano had some folks rebook to Kauai, which is why it was important to emphasize the map of Hawaii Island, so people could see how small the area was that had been affected.

Asked about successful marketing efforts, she said an emphasis by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau and the island chapters in the New York area with a foodie emphasis seemed to resonate with people in 2018.

She also said the 25th anniversary of “Jurassic Park” seemed to have quite a few movie buffs seeking out Kauai, and a press trip around the movie proved successful.

Looking to this year, Kanoho said KVB doesn’t have a specific goal. Whether or not it’s another strong tourism year depends on flights, global conditions and weather patterns, she added.

“Any one of those can have an impact,” she wrote. “We are just working to achieve balance for what we have now.”

Dan King, general manager of the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort &Spa, said while the number of visitors to the island was up in 2018, the Hyatt’s occupancy remained consistent with the past few years.

“Our goal, which is in line with the Kauai Tourism Strategic Plan, is to see an increase in length of stay and spending on the island, not an increase in the number of arrivals,” he said. “This type of growth indicates guests are taking the time to experience activities on the island and enjoy Kauai’s beauty. To that end, our length of stay increased slightly in 2018 to 4.4 days.”

The HTA reported the average length of a visitor’s stay on Kauai in 2018 was 7.45 days, down slightly from 2017.

Nearly 10 million visitors came to Hawaii in 2018, an increase of 5.9 percent from the 9.4 million visitors in 2017. Total visitor days rose 5.3 percent in 2018. On average, there were 242,629 visitors in the Hawaiian Islands on any given day in 2018, up 5.3 percent from 2017.

Visitors to the Hawaiian Islands spent $17.8 billion in 2018, an increase of 6.8 percent compared to 2017, according to the HTA report. Spending by visitors generated $2.08 billion in state tax revenue in 2018, an increase of $133.1 million (plus 6.8 percent) from 2017.

Additionally, 217,000 jobs statewide were supported by Hawaii’s tourism industry in 2018, up 6.8 percent from 2017, HTA reported.

But not everyone is happy about rising tourism. Some have concerns that too many visitors have resulted in traffic problems and crowded beaches, put a strain on the island’s infrastructure, and are threatening the beauty, lifestyle and environment that makes the island so unique.

Kauai native and Kapaa resident Bill Fernandez, in a guest commentary published in TGI in October, called for regulations on the tourist industry.

“When I grew up on this island the sugar and pineapple economy dictated and regulated our lives. That economy is gone, replaced by the tourist industry. To keep our place unique, it must be regulated,” he wrote.

He pointed out that the tourism strategic plan outlined what could be done:

w Limit visitor numbers by caps on arrivals and visits to scenic spots.

w Develop alternative transportation like shuttle buses to visit specific destinations, such as Haena and Ke‘e Beach.

w Tax tourists by permits to visit places, and add entry fees and rental car fees.

w Place a moratorium on new accommodations, and limit the number of Airbnbs.

w Encourage longer visits: statistics show that the stayover visitor (overnight and longer) spends 15 to 25 times as much as the cruise ship or tour visitor — and they spend at local businesses.

w Better educate visitors.

“Fear that we will destroy the tourist economy by regulating it is often voiced by naysayers. It is a misplaced fear,” Fernandez wrote.

“To do nothing will destroy the place that is the very product that tourism sells,” he wrote. “If we as a community demonstrate by thoughtful regulation and marketing that we are making Kauai a quality place to visit, then people will come. People like to feel exclusive.”

The Kauai Chamber of Commerce, in its 2019 Policy Priorities, addresses tourism: “Recognizing the importance of tourism to our economy and the importance of managing the industry for the benefit of all, the Chamber will strongly support and encourage the implementation of the Kauai Tourism Strategic Plan (2019-2021) “Refocusing Tourism to Find Balance.”

Kanoho wrote that, based on the new tourism plan for Kauai, “we are looking at how to achieve balance for our island.”

Peter Ingram, president and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, recently gave a presentation on Kauai. He was asked — due to increased tourism — if there was an opportunity for locals to have input on Hawaiian’s flights to the island.

He said that was possible. He highlighted environmental, economic and cultural concerns. The airline wants to be part of the effort to create balance between maintaining levels of tourism to support the economy, while protecting Kauai’s mountains, forests, beaches and the ocean, and being respectful of the culture.

“It’s actually a discussion we think is important for all of us in the community to engage in,” he said.


Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or

Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or