03/16/15 – Weather Anomaly Contributes To Localized Erosion At Waikiki Beach

Posted on Mar 16, 2015 in News Releases, OCCL, slider

News Release


For Immediate News Release March 16, 2015    

Waikiki Beach - Weather Anomaly

(Click on image to watch video)

Sand Should Return with Trade Winds

HONOLULU – A relatively rare set of weather conditions led to erosion issues this winter in Waikiki, particularly in the area near the Royal Hawaiian Groin.  

Sam Lemmo, administrator of the DLNR Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands (OCCL) said, “Weather conditions influence sand deposition in Waikiki.  Under normal trade wind conditions, sand generally moves along the shoreline in the Ewa direction. This winter sand has moved in the opposite direction, due to a weather anomaly, resulting in a serious erosion hotspot at the groin.” Kyoya, the owner of the Royal Hawaiian, responded to the “washout” surrounding the stairs, by installing sandbags.  Exposed metal on the Royal Hawaiian groin was removed to prevent injuries to ocean users. Late last year, media reports focused on the loss of sand on the beach adjacent to the Kuhio Beach groin.

A 2012 sand nourishment project moved 27,000 cubic yards of sand from offshore onto Kuhio Beach. This was the first sand restoration project in Waikiki in more than 50 years.  Sections of Waikiki Beach were severely eroded, especially in front of the police station and Moana Hotel.  “We were looking at a complete loss of sand in this sector, which would have been catastrophic in the heart of Waikiki Beach. The Hawaii Tourism Authority and Kyoya helped with this project.  This private-public partnership is expected to continue with the execution of the DLNR’s long-term beach maintenance plan for Waikiki,” Lemmo explained.

The State is developing plans to eliminate erosion hot spots at Royal Hawaiian Groin and next to Kuhio Beach.  Lemmo said, “However, nature is unpredictable and all we can do is try our best to maintain a modest recreational beach which has to be balanced with the protection of the surfing sites and the marine environment.”

Waikiki is an engineered beach which includes imported sand and rock stabilizing structures. As with any man-made project, continued maintenance is necessary.  University of Hawaii Sea Grant Extension Agent Brad Romine explained, “What we have here is largely a manmade beach system, but it’s still prone to natural fluctuations and any change in the predominant trade wind swell, like we’ve had this winter.  We had a lot more waves coming from a westerly direction and that resulted in the erosion at the far end of the beach against the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the recovery of the beach at the other end near the Kuhio groin.”

Both Romine and Lemmo anticipate that when the usual spring and summer trade wind pattern returns the pattern will reverse and natural wave conditions will replenish sand to the “erosion hotspots.”

Lemmo can’t understate the importance of Waikiki.  He said, “Waikiki is important to the economy; it’s the gateway to Hawaii.  It’s the first place most visitors see when they come here, so it’s very important to make a good first impression upon them and show them the Aloha spirit.  This feeling then spreads, as they have good memories of Waikiki and tell their friends and family about how great it and Hawaii are.”  He added that by focusing the bulk of tourist traffic to Waikiki it helps alleviate pressures at more rural and environmentally sensitive areas around the state.


Dan Dennison                                
Senior Communications Manager                
Office of the Chair
Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources
1151 Punchbowl Street, Room 130
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

Tel    808-587-0407
Cell   808-295-8749
Fax   808-587-0390

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