(BIVN) – Hāpuna Beach State Park has been named “America’s Best Beach” for 2021 by coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, the professor at Florida International University who is known as “Dr. Beach”.
Hāpuna took the top spot in Leatherman’s 31st annual Top 10 Beach list. Dr. Beach wrote:
Hapuna Beach, a beautiful coral sand beach, seems incredibly white, partly because of the sharp contrast with the black lava rock that flanks and bounds this half-mile pocket beach. During the summer months the beach swells to over 200 feet wide, sloping gradually into the offshore waters. The crystal-clear water is a perfect place to swim, snorkel or scuba dive. In the winter during big wave days, pounding shore breaks and rip currents make swimming impossible. At these times, I enjoy riding the rapidly moving swash of the broken waves up the beach face on a boogie board; the key is to stay in the shallow water far from the breakers so that you are not swept back into the ocean. All Hawaiian beaches are no smoking.
Elsewhere on the website, Dr. Beach noted that “fortunately, there are well-trained lifeguards at this state park.” The need for added lifeguards at the popular beach park was discussed at the Hawaiʻi County Council in November 2018:
The Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources responded to the Dr. Beach list, saying the honor “highlights the continuing paradox of protecting the features that make it #1 while sharing it with ever-increasing throngs of visitors.” From the DLNR:
DLNR Division of State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell said, “It is always an honor for one of our State Parks to receive recognition of this caliber. It reflects both the scenic and natural resource value of Hāpuna, as well as the quality of recent upgrades at this popular park.”
Visitors, whether kama‘aina or guests, are cautioned that Hāpuna Beach and the adjacent Waialea Bay are sensitive and protected marine environments. Waialea Bay is one of eleven Hawai’i Marine Life Conservation Districts (MLCD) which enjoy the State’s greatest level of natural resource protections.
Cottrell added, “We’re approaching the busy summer season with post-pandemic visitor numbers expected to potentially increase sharply. This undoubtedly means more people spending time at Hāpuna and Waialea, so our conundrum is balancing resource protection, quality of experience, and public safety concerns.
Visitors should take note of entry requirements at the state recreation area, utilize reef-safe sunscreen, and be aware that lifeguard coverage at Hāpuna may be reduced, due to revenue losses and budget cuts created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Plans are underway to provide free reef-safe sunscreen dispensers at Waialea. Sunscreen usage here and elsewhere around the state, is traced to stunting the growth of coral reefs and potentially killing them. This is particularly an issue with the spawning of new corals which occurs during certain moon phases.
This is the reason the Waialea Bay section of Hāpuna State Recreation Area will be closed tomorrow and Saturday morning, until noon each day. Corals are expected to be spawning during this time and the reproduction is more successful without sunscreen lathered swimmers and snorkelers in the water.
Cottrell concluded, “The paradox we face each time when one of our parks garners national attention…this naturally brings more people to see these outstanding natural and cultural places, which makes it increasingly difficult to manage expectations, maintenance and upkeep, and most importantly the natural and cultural resources that bring people to Hawai‘i, as one of the world’s most sought-after destinations.”
Also cracking the Top 10 on this year’s list is Duke Kahanamoku Beach on Oʻahu.