HONOLULU (KHON2) — If you do a web search for Maunawili Falls, the top results will tell you the popular trail is closed.
While the actual falls are still open, the main trailhead was shut down by the state earlier this week and is expected to remain closed for two years.
The main trailhead is on private property in a quiet residential neighborhood, and the landowner decided to hire a private security company to remind hikers of the closure.
“[When you look online] it says temporarily closed, and I explain that to them,” said Randy Hartnett, whose security company Executive One Protection was hired by the private landowner to make sure hikers don’t access the trail.
“Most people already know, they just try anyway,” he said.
“We turn away about 100 people a day. It’s actually a little less today, I think it’s because the word is out,” Hartnett added.
Residents who live nearby say they’ve seen up to 1,000 people enter the trail on a busy weekend.
On Thursday, the trailhead closed after too many visitors started overwhelming the area.
“The last 10-12 years with social media playing up and glamorizing it, we saw this horrendous upsurge in traffic and the trail was never meant to handle that type of traffic,” explained Chris Nakamatsu, Maunawili Estates Association Board Member, and Maunawili Official Trail Representative.
HRT Realty has control over the main access point to the trail, and for years the City has pressured the company to provide parking and restroom facilities. They finally agreed to what they’re calling “an effort to preserve cultural and archaeological sites.”
“It’s totally decimated,” Nakamatsu said. “And of course with no amenities, no parking, no bathrooms it just overflowed into the community.”
Nakamatsu said hikers have blocked driveways, left trash in yards, used neighbor’s yard hoses and gone to the bathroom in front of people’s homes.
“This is a quiet residential community that can’t handle that,” she said.
Nakamatsu said the closure comes at the right time as the state welcomes back tens of thousands of visitors daily.
“It’s a perfect storm right, it’s been building up to this,” she said. “All of our natural resources are under siege basically, so we’re looking at what is a solution for the whole valley, and maybe the whole island and all of Hawaii.”
She hopes when it reopens, there will be parking, bathrooms or a usage fee for visitors.
For now, she’s grateful that security is there to help get the word out.
“HPD is well aware of it. They’re doing patrols and the owners, unfortunately, homeowners becoming the police which we don’t want to do but on the other hand we may have to,” she continued.
Hikers can still access Maunawili Falls from a trail off of Pali highway.