Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission - Frequently Asked Questions (2024)

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How can I access the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve?

Access to the Reserve (the island and the 2 miles of ocean surrounding Kaho'olawe) is restricted because of the continued danger of unexploded ordnance. Access to the Reserve is permitted only with authorization of KIRC for specific purposes, such as restoration, education, and culture. Access opportunities are limited at this time to volunteering with the KIRC in support of its cultural and natural resource projects and participating in cultural access with the Protect Kaho'olawe 'Ohana (PKO). Persons interested in volunteering may fill out our volunteer form by clicking here. The PKO access information can be obtained from their website at www.kahoolawe.org.

Is it safe to access the Reserve?

No. Unexploded ordnance hazards remain throughout the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve, even in the cleared areas, as well as in the uncleared areas and in the surrounding waters. Because of the existing hazards, including the UXO, rough terrain and harsh environmental elements, no unauthorized persons are allowed into the Reserve and protective measures have been adopted to maximize safety for those persons with permission to access the Reserve. The Access and Risk Management Plan was developed specifically for this purpose.

Are there facilities for volunteers who access the Reserve?

Basic facilities and amenities (such as toilets and camp sites) are provided for individuals and groups who access the Reserve as part of an authorized access. Volunteers must find their own transportation to the island of Maui. Transportation to Kaho'olawe will be provided.


Is fishing or boating allowed in the Reserve Waters?

Trolling is permitted on two scheduled weekends each month in waters deeper than 30 fathoms (180 feet). No other fishing, ocean recreation or additional activities are allowed within the Reserve. Absolutely no bottomfishing or use of anchors is permitted because of the hazard of unexploded ordnance and risk of damage to coral and other parts of the marine ecosystem.

Are there special rules that apply to the Reserve?

Yes. Those rules are found in Chapter 13-261, Hawai'i Administrative Rules. The Kaho'olawe Island Reserve (the island plus the submerged lands and waters within two nautical miles of the island) is divided into two zones: Zones A and B. Zone A includes all the submerged lands and waters between Kaho'olawe's shoreline and the waters less than 30 fathoms. Unauthorized entry into Zone A is prohibited at all times, except in case of emergency. Zone B includes all waters and submerged lands between a depth of 180 feet and two nautical miles from the shoreline of the island. Unauthorized entry into Zone B is prohibited at all times, except for trolling on the days stipulated by the Open Waters Schedule listed online at http://kahoolawe.hawaii.gov/ocean/open_waters.pdf. Trollers must remain underway, at all times while in Zone B.

Who enforces the rules?

The rules governing use of the submerged lands and waters within two nautical miles of the shoreline of Kaho'olawe are enforced the by the State of Hawaii, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE), as well as KIRC and the U.S. Coast Guard.


What is KIRC doing to restore the Reserve?

KIRC is actively pursuing restoration projects in both the ocean and island portions of the Reserve. Data on species currently living in the Reserve is continuously being collected. Ongoing monitoring is conducted to detect any threats to the ecosystem and species that inhabit the Reserve. On Kaho'olawe, the Restoration Program has worked successfully to reforest and re-vegetate portions of the island, implement erosion control systems and replace alien plant species with native species. To support these efforts, a 500-thousand gallon rainwater catchment and storage facility that provides irrigation has been installed and operated for more than a year, greatly accelerating the pace of revegetation and environmental restoration.

How can I volunteer to help with restoration efforts?

Anyone interested in volunteering to help in restoration activities can do so by filling out our volunteer request form located here.


How does the KIRC care for the cultural resources of the Reserve?

KIRC operates a culture and education program to ensure that the island and its cultural resources are managed effectively and appropriately. Cultural protocols are carefully followed and cultural practitioners routinely participate in planning and conducting cultural activities. Restoration work is continuously carried out on archaeological and cultural sites throughout the island.

Can someone from KIRC come to my school or organization to talk about Kaho'olawe?

Yes, the KIRC Cultural and Education Program provides speakers and materials to educate students and community groups about Kaho'olawe. Please call the KIRC office at (808) 243-5020 for more information.

How can I help Kaho'olawe?

You or a group you belong to can volunteer to work on KIRC projects. Please fill out our volunteer request form by clicking here.

Can I make a donation?

Donations are gratefully accepted. Please call (808) 243-5020 for information on giving opportunities, or click here.

Where can I get additional information about Kaho'olawe?

Information about Kaho'olawe and the Reserve is available at the KIRC website: www.kahoolawe.hawaii.gov. For specific inquiries, contact the KIRC office by phone at (808) 243-5020 or by email at administrator@kirc.hawaii.gov.


Who is responsible for the management of the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve?

The Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) was established in 1993 by the Hawai'i State Legislature to manage the Reserve. Composed of seven commission members, the KIRC relies on a staff of 22 with expertise in Native Hawaiian culture, ocean management, environmental restoration, planning, policy development, and ordnance safety to fulfill its management responsibility.

What is planned for Kaho'olawe?

The KIRC strategic plan calls for a campaign to raise funds through partnerships and grants to provide a sustainable trust fund, which will enable needed restoration, stewardship, cultural and educational initiatives to succeed. A copy of the strategic plan can be found on the KIRC website at www.kahoolawe.hawaii.gov.

The Strategic Plan initiatives include:

  • Assessing and stabilizing cultural sites, and providing for appropriate access and cultural practices.
  • Systematically restoring the native environment.
  • Developing a significant volunteer base for the purposes of cultural and natural resource restoration.
  • Installing and maintaining appropriate and sustainable infrastructure, including on-island improvements.
  • Improving and establishing new inter-island transportation, along with energy, communication and water resources, sanitation, as well as a Kihei information center.
  • Developing an enforcement network spanning the community and government to protect Kaho'olawe and its waters from illegal, inappropriate and unsafe uses.
  • Maintaining a significant on-island presence for the purposes of managing and protecting the Reserve.
  • Creating and distributing educational programs and materials to further the public's understanding of the cultural, historical and spiritual significance of Kaho'olawe.
Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission - Frequently Asked Questions (2024)


Why is no one allowed on Kahoolawe? ›

Access to the Reserve (the island and the 2 miles of ocean surrounding Kaho'olawe) is restricted because of the continued danger of unexploded ordnance. Access to the Reserve is permitted only with authorization of KIRC for specific purposes, such as restoration, education, and culture.

What are some interesting facts about Kahoolawe? ›

It is 45 square miles (117 square km) in area (the smallest of the main Hawaiian Islands) and rises to an elevation of 1,477 feet (450 meters) at Lua Makika, its highest point. Archaeological evidence reveals that the island was inhabited for more than 1,000 years, but it is now uninhabited.

Why is Kahoolawe uninhabited? ›

More than one quarter of Kahoʻolawe has been eroded down to saprolitic hardpan soil, largely on exposed surfaces near the summit. Historically, Kahoʻolawe was always sparsely populated, due to its lack of fresh water.

Has anyone ever lived on Kahoolawe? ›

Ancient History of Kaho'olawe

While the exact date of settlement isn't entirely certain, researchers believed that Ancient Hawaiians established communities on Kaho'olawe as early as 1000 A.D. Due to the scarcity of water, however, it isn't believed that the population every numbered over a few hundred people.

Who stopped bombing on Kahoʻolawe? ›

1990 – President George Bush Sr. halts the bombing of Kahoʻolawe. 1993 – Senator Daniel K. Inouye sponsors Title X, authorizing the transfer of the island back to the State of Hawaiʻi, ending the military use of the island, and allotting $400 million for the removal of any unexploded ordnance on the island.

Why is Kahoolawe red? ›

To the east, much of the island has an orange-red tone due to bare hardpan dirt—a result of erosion and dry weather. The fire is just the latest trial for nature on the island. In the late 1700s, goats were introduced to Kaho'olawe, and they chewed up much of the landscape.

Who has ownership of Kahoolawe? ›

The island of Kaho'olawe and the waters two miles from the shoreline are designated as the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve, owned by the State of Hawai'i.

Does anybody live on Kahoolawe? ›

Though it is one of the eight primary Windward Islands and not very far from the sun-drenched beaches of Maui and Lanai, this tropical outpost is completely uninhabited.

Why is Kahoolawe important? ›

Kaho'olawe has long been a sacred and storied place for Native Hawaiians. Steeped in cultural and historical significance, the uninhabited island was once a center for celestial navigation training, agriculture, and spiritual practice.

When did kahoolawe last erupt? ›

Kaho`olawe is the exposed top of a shield volcano. Most volcanic activity ended prior to 1.1 million years ago, when a thin mantle of postshield lava flows coated much of the upper surface.

Does Kahoolawe have trees? ›

Kahoʻolawe is being planted with native species that include trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, and herbs. More than 400,000 native plants have been reintroduced to date.

Can people visit Kahoʻolawe? ›

Kaho'olawe and its surrounding waters contain quantities of unexploded ordnance (UXO) that are hazardous to public health and safety. Unauthorized entry onto the island and/or within a two-mile perimeter of its surrounding waters is prohibited (HAR §13-260). Opportunities for access are available, however.

Why are tourists not allowed to visit Niihau? ›

No one is allowed on Niihau Island because of the Robinson family's decision to preserve the island's traditional Hawaiian culture and language following their purchase from King Kamehameha in 1864.

Is Kahoʻolawe a private island? ›

Following a 10-year period of ordnance removal, control of access to Kaho'olawe was transferred to the State of Hawai'i in 2003. Today, the KIRC is responsible for the restoration and sustainable management of the island until it can be transferred to a Native Hawaiian entity to manage.

Which Hawaiian Islands don't allow visitors? ›

Ni'ihau doesn't allow tourists, and although it has a population of about 160, they are all — with the exception of the Sinclair/Robinson family — native Hawaiians. Kahoʻolawe is the smallest of the main Hawaiian islands and is similarly unavailable for visits.

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