Alcohol banned at Sandbar on Memorial Day weekend

This Memorial Day, family-friendly gatherings at Ahu o Laka are in, but drunken parties at the Kaneohe Sandbar are out.

May 16, 2013

Web exclusive

The Kaneohe Sandbar is a popular hangout spot for tourists and locals.

Photo: guerric De Coligny

Memorial Day weekend is coming up, and one of the most popular hangouts is bound to be the Kaneohe Sandbar. If state officials have it their way, though, it will be a much calmer scene than it has in years past.

A new boating rule put into effect last September bans alcohol use and loud, disruptive behavior at the Kaneohe Bay sandbar during summer’s biggest holidays—Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day—as well as any associated three-day weekends. (It’s not illegal to drink at the Sandbar on any other day though.)

The holiday restrictions are meant to protect Ahu o Laka’s natural and cultural resources, while recognizing that the sandbar is a popular destination for picnicking, snorkeling, playing Frisbee and relaxing. Even non-boaters often find a way out to the exposed sandbar during low tide by hitching rides with friends, renting kayaks, chartering boats or signing up for Kaneohe Bay tours.

The state Land Board approved the holiday boating rule last year after a similar emergency rule in 2011 led to calmer, kid-friendly celebrations. That summer, the Department of Land and Natural Resources issued eight citations for unauthorized alcohol consumption and levied fines from $50 to $400. The rule allows for fines up to $1,000 for anyone caught drinking, using drugs or causing a disruption within the Ahu o Laka Safety Zone, a square-mile perimeter that comprises most of the sandbar.

“We have listened to the concerns of families and responsible boaters in striking a balance that applies needed rules and enforcement to three summer holiday weekends, which have historically been the times when larger crowds, drinking and unruly behavior caused more disturbances,” said DLNR Chairman William Aila Jr.

So far, the state hasn’t moved to ban alcohol from Floatopia parties in Waikiki but there has been an increase in enforcement officers to help curb underage drinking and dangerous or lewd behavior.


Treena Shapiro is a Honolulu-based freelance writer and editor. She has worked previously for the Honolulu Advertiser, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the Associated Press. She currently lives in Windward Oahu with her husband, two children and a pair of cockatiels.