Referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon in Kaua’i is a 3,600-foot deep canyon that produces red-colored water due to the red soil erosion around the canyon.
It’s a magnificent wonder for certain, but can you fly your drone around the canyon?
You cannot fly your drone in Waimea Canyon, as it’s a state park. Hawaii’s Division of State Parks and the Department of Land and Natural Resources prohibits drone use of any kind in all state parks in Hawaii.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the rules at Waimea Canyon State Park so you can fly safely. You won’t want to miss it!
Can you fly a drone in Waimea Canyon?
As we mentioned in the intro, the full name of Waimea Canyon is Waimea Canyon State Park.
This stunning canyon in Kaua’i is one mile wide and 14 miles long with crags, buttes, crests, and deep rocky cliffs. The panoramic sight is one worth seeing if you ever get the chance.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to leave your drone at home.
Hawaii’s sole local drone law from the Division of State Parks and Department of Land and Natural Resources states, “The use, launching or landing of drones and other types of aircraft is prohibited” in all 50 Hawaiian state parks.
The total land area of these parks is 30,000 acres.
It’s not such a bad thing not to be able to use your drone in Waimea Canyon. Like another deep canyon in the United States–the Grand Canyon–it’s far too easy for mishaps to occur.
Many pilots have lost their drones for good in deep canyons like Waimea Canyon because they misjudged the distance down or got too close to the edge, or otherwise made a simple but costly mistake!
What happens if you fly a drone in Waimea Canyon?
The Division of State Parks and the Department of Land and Natural Resources created its statewide park ban to protect Hawaii’s appealing geologic features and the rare plant and animal species that often call state parks home.
In a place like Waimea Canyon, it will be very obvious if you’re using a drone, so you won’t be able to hide it. A park attendant will see it, or a park visitor and they’ll report it.
You may receive a warning for a first violation, but you could also be fined. You’ll have to go to court and appeal to a judge, where you could rack up further fines.
The crime also goes onto your record, which is just needless.
Can you fly a drone outside of Waimea Canyon?
While the drone usage ordinance put into effect by the Division of State Parks and the Department of Land and Natural Resources does not apply once you leave the boundaries of Waimea Canyon State Park, that doesn’t mean you can fly around the park as you might have hoped.
After all, there’s not much around. To the north, you’ll find the Black Pipe Trail Loop and Mini Falls. You may be able to fly your drone here.
The Na Pali-Kona Forest Reserve is northeast of Waimea Canyon, but as protected land, you won’t be able to use your drone.
To the west of Waimea Canyon is the Puu Ka Pele Forest Reserve, another off-limits area for drones.
Further east of the Na Pali-Kona Forest Reserve is the Alaka’i Wilderness Preserve, where drones also can’t go.
Places in Kaua’i to fly your drone instead
It’s disappointing to have to give up your aspirations of flying your drone in Waimea Canyon, but all hope is not lost.
Check out these other exceptional places near Kaua’i to enjoy your drone instead.
1. Hanalei Beach
Although it’s a different backdrop than Waimea Canyon, the beauty and majesty of Hanalei Beach will make you forget all about the canyon.
Ranked among the best 25 beaches in the country, Hanalei Beach features waving palms, an enchanting blue ocean, and clear white sands.
The mountainous backdrop all around you will inspire you to take lots of amazing photographs with your drone.
Keep in mind that Hanalei Beach is very popular since it’s so esteemed. Kayakers, paddleboarders, bodyboarders, swimmers, surfers, sunbathers, and families gather here in droves.
To avoid getting too close to anyone when flying your drone, we recommend planning your trip to Hanalei Beach during off-peak hours.
You might wake up with the sun and visit then, when only the most dedicated ocean lovers will be around.
2. Polihale Beach
While you must give Polihale State Park a wide berth, the beach is fine for you to fly your drone. It’s the longest beach in Hawaii.
Polihale Beach is 17 miles of pristine white sand, some of which are arranged into dunes. Those dunes extend 100 feet tall!
Other sights in Polihale Beach include the crystal-clear ocean, desert cacti, and patches of wilderness. If you venture to the beach from the west, you can drink in the alluring Napali Coast.
There’s not a lot of shade here, so as you stroll to find a perfect spot to launch your drone, make sure you bring plenty of water and sunscreen. An umbrella isn’t a bad idea, either.
Don’t venture too close to the water’s edge, as the beach has no lifeguard and scary strong currents!
FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Test Prep
Peltier has quite the experience, making him qualified to teach about photography and drones in separate courses. He was a part of the U.S. Air Force as an F-15E flight instructor for a decade.
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Hawaii drone laws for your flight
Now that you’ve found some great places to use your drone around Waimea Canyon, make sure you brush up on these Hawaii drone laws courtesy of the FAA.
You must have a valid drone license
You cannot operate a drone in the United States without an FAA-administered license. Commercial pilots must hold a current Remote Pilot Certificate.
Since these certificates expire every two years, check that yours is valid before you pack up for your trip to Hawaii.
If it isn’t, it’s now free to recertify through the FAA. You can take an online exam, where you have to answer all the questions correctly.
That’s easier than it sounds considering wrong answers are displayed before you submit your test.
Hobbyists need the TRUST license, which doesn’t expire. Just make sure you have your license or a copy of your license on your person when you get on the plane.
Register your drone before you fly
If your drone exceeds 0.55 pounds or 250 grams, register it before you get to Hawaii. You can register with the FAA for only $5 per drone.
The registration is valid for the next three years.
Do not use your drone around sensitive infrastructure
Sensitive infrastructure in Hawaii, such as government buildings, hospitals, and the like, strictly prohibits drone use.
Check your drone map for restricted airspace.
Do not fly near airports
You cannot fly your drone within five nautical miles of any airport. Kaua’i has no airports, but the closest ones are Lihue Airport in Lihue and Princeville Airport in Kilauea.
Keep your drone where you can see it
Your drone must remain in your visual line of sight when you fly it.
That refers to the natural distance you can still see your drone without using binoculars. You can have a spotter with you to maintain VLOS if needed.
Do not exceed 400 feet in altitude
Drones cannot fly more than 400 feet from the ground to keep the skies safe for manned aircraft.
Only use your drone in clear weather
Hawaii is known for its perfect weather, but when that weather turns less than perfect, beware.
It’s illegal to fly your drone in strong winds, rain, hail, fog, and snow, although you shouldn’t have to worry about that in Hawaii.
Do not fly your drone at night
You can’t use your drone after dark unless you have special permission and adequate illumination.
Be respectful of others when flying your drone
Always respect the privacy of everyone you see when using your drone.
Do not follow anyone with the UAV, don’t film or photograph others without their permission, and try to stick to your own area so you don’t interrupt anyone’s experience.
Waimea Canyon State Park is a beautiful part of Hawaii in Kaua’i. Unfortunately, you’re prohibited from using your drone here, as Hawaii outlaws drone usage in all state parks.
Kaua’i has some amazing beaches for acquiring footage so your trip isn’t a total bust. Make sure to always follow FAA drone laws when flying here!