Popular snorkel spot overrun after state closes beaches because of coronavirus

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today Visitors flock to La‘aloa Beach on Friday.

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today Residents took it upon themselves to close Honaunau Beach on Friday.

Residents at Honaunau Bay, also known as Two Step, took it upon themselves Friday to close access to all non-residents.

At 6 a.m. Friday, a group of 11 residents put up signs at the entrance saying “Beach closed. COVID-19 kills” and turned away a steady stream of cars full of would-be beachgoers.

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Resident Jimmy Medeiros said after the closure of neighboring Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park and state beaches, Two Step was overrun with tourists looking for a place to go.

“There must have been about a thousand people here (Thursday),” he said.

“We had to do this after the county didn’t respond to us for two weeks. We made many calls,” Medeiros added. “Everyone is coming down. The county is endangering people. Endangering our health and safety. We appeal, appeal, appeal to the county and they don’t respond.”

As vehicles were turned around, the residents were telling them that they were doing it for their own health and safety.

“Everyone understands, except the county,” Medeiros said.

Hawaii Police Department officers arrived and advised the residents that they could be there, but could not block the road leading to the beach lots. Medeiros complied by removing the orange cones that were blocking access to the road, but politely continued to turn people away.

“We appreciate their understanding,” Medeiros said. “We try not to sour the poi.”

Lori Hayes was also part of the group.

“The county says it’s leaving it up to the businesses if they want to stay open or close. Well, we’re closed,” said Hayes.

Meanwhile, at county beach parks, throngs of visitors flocked to the only beaches still open Friday.

La‘aloa Beach Park, also known as Magic Sands, was completely full of people swimming and catching some sun.

Patrick Bartel of Illinois was enjoying the day under an umbrella. He said he was not concerned, if nobody brought the virus in. His advice was one that has been heard throughout the pandemic. If you are sick, stay home and frequently wash your hands.

“The only way they are going to knock it down is if they lock it down,” he said. “If there is a lockdown back home, I’d rather be here.”

Bartel said the best place to be was in the sun.

“This is the best place to be sitting at this point in time,” he said.

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A few hours later, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim announced to the County Council that all county beach parks will be closed effective Saturday.

Email Laura Ruminski at lruminski@westhawaiitoday.com.