Kahalu‘u Bay Education Center is a partnership between The Kohala Center and the County of Hawai‘i to revive and revitalize Kahalu‘u Bay and Beach Park. Rich in historical, cultural, and environmental treasures, Kahalu‘u Bay welcomes more than 400,000 visitors annually, making it West Hawai‘i’s most popular tourist destination.
As visitor traffic increases, educating visitors on proper reef etiquette and ecosystem stewardship is critical to the bay’s survival and the region’s economic health. Through volunteer-driven educational programs such as ReefTeach and Citizen Science, Kahalu‘u Bay Education Center promotes and measures the positive impacts of environmental stewardship to ensure the bay remains a healthy and welcoming place for residents and visitors alike.
Kahalu‘u Bay Education Center offers a unique visitor education experience—one that teaches respect and reverence for the natural and cultural resources of Kahalu‘u Bay. KBEC represents a new model of collaboration between a county and a non-profit organization, The Kohala Center. The two entities are working together to enhance the natural environment of Kahalu‘u Bay through education, public outreach, and research efforts.
“Kahalu‘u Beach Park can and should be host to a visitor center similar to the one at Hanauma Bay on O‘ahu, a center which provides outstanding educational experiences and employment opportunities for local people. Current visitor numbers support the creation of an education center at Kahalu‘u. Local residents, adjoining landowners, and business owners support this project, and the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce took action to adopt it.”
Cindi Punihaole, Director, Kahalu‘u Bay Education Center
KBEC is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day that the park is open—the park only closes due to severe weather or other hazardous conditions. As part of its educational outreach efforts, KBEC manages a snorkel rental concession where visitors can learn how to enjoy the bay while caring for its fragile environment. All profits are reinvested into the center’s educational programs and the implementation of the Kahalu‘u Beach Park Master Plan, a conceptual plan which incorporates the community’s vision for revitalization of this area.
“We are excited about this partnership with The Kohala Center and we hope it can be used as a template for similar agreements around our island. Kahalu‘u Bay Education Center will provide the necessary link to remind us of what we already know—that our recreational and natural resources can be enjoyed by our residents and visitors — but these wahi pana, or celebrated places, are fragile and it is everyone’s responsibility to help preserve them.”
Billy Kenoi, Mayor, Hawai‘i County
KBEC oversees two successful and essential volunteer programs: ReefTeach and Citizen Science. Currently, ReefTeach includes more than 400 volunteers, and through its “Adopt-a-Day at Kahalu‘u Bay” program, more than 30 local businesses and their employees participate in reef etiquette education at the bay and with their own customers. Citizen Science volunteers routinely collect water-quality and other environmental data in and around Kahalu‘u Bay to monitor the bay’s health.
The staff, volunteers, local residents, and area businesses that support KBEC are dedicated to protecting and enhancing Kahalu‘u Bay and Beach Park so that it remains a healthy, beautiful, and welcoming gathering place for generations to come.