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People Counts Continue to Grow

December 25, 2017

In recent years we have been guessing, mostly by indirect methods, that the Reserve gets around 30,000 visitors per year. Thanks to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, we were able to install early this year a couple of those infrared-beam people counters like the kind you cross when you enter a big department store. In waterproof cases at strategic locations, they have been counting people for us!

Hawaiian Stilt

Over 40,000 people per year are likely to view the new wayside exhibit funded by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. It features endangered water birds that frequent the wetland restorations, including the rare and beautiful Hawaiian Stilt, as in this photograph contributed by Hob Osterlund.

And, as you might have guessed, it turns out we have been underestimating. Even without the numbers yet in for December, we can say with reasonable certainty that more than 40,000 people visited this year. We know from the registration book in the cave that 15,000 or more got guided tours, and additionally hundreds of local school children participated in our education programs. We also know that about 20% of our total visitation is local, the rest being from the elsewhere in the state, the nation, and the world, including increasing numbers from Asia, Australia, and Europe.

Our longer-term studies show that, from 2013 to this year, our total visitation has doubled. One of the most encouraging trends is the large number of people who visit each time they return to Kauai. Part of the reason given is that there is always something new – new discoveries in the cave; new developments with native plants or tortoises; and new educational offerings. In that last category, we just added another wayside exhibit, sponsored by the Hawaii Tourism Authority like the one put up last year on the sinkhole rim.

This new one is in front of the lo`i area, our cluster of 15 pondfields containing many varieties of kalo (taro) and native wetland sedges. The exhibit features photos mostly by Hob Osterlund, noted Kauai bird photographer, and paintings of extinct birds, known from the cave deposits nearby, created by Dr. Julian Hume, who also provided illustrations to the book about the cave. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a magnificent color illustration of the kalo plant by noted botanical artist Wendy Hollender.

Having so many visitors, and maintaining the amenities and exhibits for them, keeps our staff and volunteers really busy. We must be one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Hawaiian Islands that is still free! We think it’s important to make our offerings available to everybody – not just rich tourists. This is why your donations are so critical to keeping this place open, thriving, and welcoming to everybody.