Public Beach Access in Hawaii

The recent swells hitting Hawaii’s north and west facing shores have brought a few topics to the public’s attention. Possibly the most important one is the right for the public to access Hawaii’s beaches, yet the battle continues over homeowner’s beachfront property lines. The fight seems to be never ending, as it rears its head every few years or so since beach erosion is a very real problem for Hawaii homeowners. And with giant swells adding to coastal erosion, the lines between private property and public beaches continue to blur.

How does this relate to someone vacationing in Hawaii you might ask? Two reasons. One is it determines how much beach you have to enjoy. And two is it determines the access points you have to these beaches. Many new resort, commercial and residential development is cutting off access to the beaches simply because they’re building on what’s left of the beaches. And denying public access can actually be legal in some circumstances, such as if it is occurring on private lands without a specific and dedicated public access easement. Though the laws related to public right of access are clear, not all access is public.