Although all beaches in Hawaii are open to the public, access is restricted in some locations by the development of hotels, condominiums, and private homes on beachfront properties. On all islands, access has been guaranteed by traditional public easements, but these are under constant threat of loss or restrictions. Private gates and security guards have been placed at some easements, especially in Hawaii Kai, Portlock and Kailua on Oahu), causing concern to all users. Along with closing off access to beaches, private homes and developments have been encroaching on the public’s right of way to the beaches by extending their vegetation line and their properties further toward the ocean. In October 2006, the Hawai`i Supreme Court issued a ruling strongly reaffirming that the shoreline in Hawai`i, which marks the boundary between public beach and private land, extends to the highest wash of the waves, and rejecting the use of artificially planted vegetation to determine the shoreline. In response to the increasingly limited access to beaches in these areas, the Oahu Chapter helped formed a coalition called Beach Access Hawaii. On Groundhog Day, 2008, the Coalition organized an island-wide demonstration to demand more beach access, and a trolley of Surfrider activists traveled to many of these contested areas and then brought their message back to the state capitol. Currently, the Oahu chapter is supporting SB1088, a 2009 state bill that would help prevent property owners from unnecessarily obstructing beach access by “amending the definition of obstruction for access to public property and creating a private right of action” to challenge those who block access.
Blocked Public Beach Access Around Oahu