Year after year travel and tourist publications have voted Hamoa
Beach in Hana one of the top beaches in the world. But it’s not the
easiest place to get to. In fact, the only public access to the beach
is through Hotel Hana Maui property.
While the pubic can freely access the beach by walking down a long,
steep, cracked flight of concrete stairs, most people—especially the
disabled and elderly—simply ask one of the hotel’s beach attendants to
unlock a gate on the right side of the beach. That allows them to drive
their cars down to the beach, unload and they drive back up to the road
to find parking.
But on May 5 I received a call from Hana resident Tony De Jetley
saying that easy access was closed to the public. On that day, De
Jetley told me, a hotel beach attendant had denied him use of this
access. When De Jetley asked why, he said the attendant told him Hotel
Hana Maui employees had a meeting earlier in the week in which they
were told that no one, save hotel vehicles, would be allowed entry
through the drive.
“When I asked the beach attendant if that meant that even people who
could not physically make it down the steep staircase, he told me, ‘no
one,’” De Jetley said. “I had him call Manny [Arriaga], who was the
on-duty property manager and when he got off the phone the message he
had was the same: No one was to be granted driving access through the
There is no way that someone in a wheelchair could possibly access
Hamoa Beach without the cooperation of the hotel staff. In fact, it’s
doubtful the elderly, young children or pregnant women would be able to
get to the beach using the still available but steep and winding
staircase. Many of the steps are cracked, and it doesn’t seem the
hotel—which owns it—has done much to maintain it.
So on May 6, my husband and I packed our baby in the car and went to
the Hotel Hana. I walked down to the hotel’s “activity center” and
asked if I could get through the gate to unload my car.
“No,” the attendant said. He added that it was hotel policy to not allow anyone access through the gate.
Even if I was handicapped?
“Well, if you were disabled or really needed the help, I’d open the gate,” he said.
So the hotel’s policy is now that the access is closed to the public, except for disabled people? Actually, it’s hard to say.
Hotel Hana Maui General Manager Douglas Chang, who is also chairman
of the Hawai`i Tourism Authority, didn’t return repeated phone calls
requesting comment for this story. But Valerie Ng, Chang’s executive
assistant, told me there hasn’t been any change in hotel policy
concerning the beach access road.
“Our policy is to allow access to people wishing to unload their
vehicles, or access to those that can’t make it down the stairs,” Ng
said. “As long as there is a beach attendant available, the gate is
accessible to people who wish to use it.”
That would seem to be the end of it—just got to plan your trip to
the beach to coincide with hotel beach attendant hours—except for the
fact that another hotel employee who preferred to remain anonymous told
me that it’s always been hotel policy to block public access through
“It’s private property and we would be liable,” the employee said.
And what are disabled people supposed to do?
“We’re not supposed to let anyone down through there, but I guess
that it would be a good thing to do,” the employee said. “But it
wouldn’t be anything we’d want to advertise.”
Since Hotel Hana Maui’s policy concerning public access to Hamoa
Beach seems ill-defined, it’s hard to say whether it’s in compliance
with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which
guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in state
and local government services, public accommodations, employment,
transportation and telecommunications. In other words, whether there’s
a beach attendant on duty or not. MTW