The state Board of Land and Natural Resources waived a $1,000 fine last month that the department had initially imposed on Maui Ocean Activities for "unauthorized commercial activities" conducted at Wailea Beach, according to a department spokeswoman.
Maui Ocean Activities provides lessons and rentals for stand-up paddling, kayaking and snorkeling. It had left "multiple kayaks lined up unattended on the sandy beach below the shoreline" during a site inspection on the morning of Jan. 30, according to a report submitted by District Land Agent Daniel Ornellas.
He alleged that the kayaks were left unattended on the beach for about 20 minutes before an instructor of Maui Ocean Activities led a group of 14 people, supposedly tourists, to the kayaks. After 10 minutes of instruction on the beach, the kayaks were pulled down the beach and placed into the water.
Under Hawaii state law, it is illegal to conduct commercial activities on "unencumbered public lands." Those include public beaches makai, or seaward, of the highest water mark along the shoreline. Those conducting activities first need to obtain a permit, which are usually granted for beach weddings, baby christenings, the scattering of ashes or the teaching of a hula class, according to DLNR's website.
The department suggested that Maui Ocean Activities pay a fine of $1,000 for the violation, which would "serve as a deterrent to any future unauthorized activity," the report said.
The fine comes just months after a lawsuit was filed against DLNR for granting the Four Seasons Resort Maui a 10-year easement to "pre-set" beach chairs, exclusively for the hotel's guests, on state lands at Wailea Beach.
The complaint alleges that the resort already places multiple rows of chairs and umbrellas on the beach, as well as canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, surfboards and other equipment on public areas. Resort owner 3900 Wa Associates, as well as land board Chairman William Aila Jr., also are listed as defendants in the pending lawsuit.
At a meeting last month, the BLNR decided to waive the $1,000 fine on the condition that Maui Ocean Activities agrees to cease commercial activities within the shoreline at Wailea Beach, DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward said in an email. Additionally, any future violations would be considered a second violation, warranting a higher fine of $1,000 each day the unlawful activities occur.
Maui Ocean Activities still must pay the department a $450 administrative fee, Ward added.
Owner Dan Cardoso, who has operated Maui Ocean Activities at the stretch of beach fronting The Grand Wailea for seven years, said he didn't know he wasn't allowed to dock the kayaks on the beach to give guests instruction, even for only 20 minutes.
"We went to the board in Honolulu, and according to the law we're guilty, but we didn't know," Cardoso said. "Now we do know, and we're willing to fix it."
He said he has since and will continue to work with DLNR officials to comply with state law. Instead of giving instruction on the sand, he said staff members now give the safety briefing further from the shoreline on the grass at the privately owned Grand Wailea. (Maui Ocean Activities has a partnership with that resort.)
Guests will need to drag their kayaks and paddleboards a bit farther to reach the ocean, but it is a sacrifice Cardoso said he is more than willing to make.
"There's limited space (at the new location), but it's private property at least," Cardoso said. "It makes it more difficult, but it's what we got to do."
According to Ward, DLNR has levied fines on two other commercial operators on Maui. South Pacific Kayaks & Outfitters and Tiki Team Adventures were similarly fined for docking their kayaks while providing instruction at Olowalu Beach earlier this year.
* Eileen Chao can be reached at echao@mauinews.