Tsunami Damage on Hawaii, The Big Island Won’t Impact Most Visitors

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BY JESSICA FERRACANE – Hawai’i Island – Hawai’i Island, especially the Kona District, sustained some damage from the tsunami generated by an earthquake near Japan, but impact on visitors will be minimal, tourism officials said.

On Fri., Mar. 11, a tsunami hit Hawai’i following a devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake near the east coast of Honshu, Japan. Some hotels and businesses along the Kona and Kohala coasts received significant damage and were flooded with sea water and debris, but many are up and running as they assess the aftermath.


“It’s business as almost-usual,” said George Applegate, Executive Director of the Big Island Visitors Bureau. “We had plenty of advance warning from our government agencies, and we were able to coordinate and prepare for the worst. What can be damaging for visitors is bad information,” he said.

For instance, King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel on Ali’i Drive in Kailua Village is open contrary to some reports, and sustained no damage to guest rooms. The hotel’s website stated:  “The rooms were untouched by the water. Some of our guests are choosing to stay at the hotel, since only the public areas have been affected, however, we are happy to work with our guests to relocate elsewhere, if desired.”

General Manager Jak Hu said most guests are opting to stay put, and that Billfish Bar will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner starting Sunday.

The popular Kona Brewers Festival is on today, and is relocated across the street to Kona Brewing Company.

Despite erroneous reports and headlines that Kailua Pier was “condemned,” by the U.S. Coast Guard (which does not have the authority to condemn the pier) some boat charters are operating. Maggie Brown, owner of Body Glove cruises, said her company is running whale watches and historical cruises today. She canceled snorkel trips only because of poor visibility caused by swirling surges and waves that have now subsided.

“This town is pretty resilient. We’re all willing to go the extra mile to make things happen,” Brown said.

The National Park Service reports that Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is closed indefinitely as park officials assess damage there. Kaloko-Honokōhau National Park is open, but the unimproved road that leads to Kaloko Fishpond is closed. Hulihe’e Palace is also temporarily closed due to flooding in the basement, but the artifacts were successfully relocated.

On the Kohala Coast, the Four Seasons Resort Hualālai will remain closed as its staff surveys tsunami damage. Ciro Tacinelli, Director of Marketing, said all guests and employees are safe and sound, and that guests have been relocated. The resort is calling those scheduled to arrive through Tuesday to inform them of the situation.

There were no deaths or serious injuries reported as a result of Friday’s tsunami. All airports are open and flights are on time, and nearly all roads, including Ali’i Drive in Kailua Village, are now open.

“Overall, Hawai’i Island escaped with minimal damage,” said George Applegate. “The best way to help us is to come visit and enjoy all be have to offer, which is an inspiring experience and vacation. We send our aloha and heartfelt sympathy to the people of Japan, and to everyone who sustained losses due to the earthquake and tsunami,” he said.