Kapukaulua Dune Restoration project

Name of case study

Kapukaulua Dune Restoration project


Kapukaulua, Hawai’i


Ongoing planning and pilot studies since 2019


Landscape / regional scale

Area / size

12 hectares

NbS employed

Dune preservation

Type of NbS

Ecosystem restoration; Ecosystem protection


Maui County Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR)


The University of Hawai’i Sea Grant Program (Hawai‘i Sea Grant) was awarded a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s National Coastal Resilience Fund to develop site-specific plans for dune restoration at Kapukaulua (Baldwin Beach) from Lower Pāʻia Park to Wawau Point (“Baby Beach”); Federal funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.


Not available

Design group

Tetra Tech

Kapukaulua, Hawai’i. Photo from The University of Hawai’i Sea Grant Program.
Zone 4 conceptual site plans. Kapukaulua, Hawai’i. Image from The University of Hawai’i Sea Grant Program.
Climate change benefits
  • Coastal erosion / wave attenuation
  • Coastal inundation 
  • Sea level rise
Societal / socio-cultural benefits
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Disaster risk reduction
Ecological benefits
  • Disturbance prevention (erosion, storm damage, flooding etc.)
  • Habitat provision
Kapukaulua, Hawai’i. Image from The University of Hawai’i Sea Grant Program.
Kapukaulua, Hawai’i. Image from The University of Hawai’i Sea Grant Program.

Summary of case study

This project aimed to kickstart the restoration of approximately 12 acres of degraded coastal sand dunes in Hawai’i and its surrounding region by implementing tailored dune restoration and preservation strategies. The overarching objective is to bolster ecosystem restoration while enhancing community resilience in the face of sea-level rise (University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program, 2022).

Seven restoration zones and crafted proposed strategies have been proposed, aiming to develop site-specific plans supporting habitat restoration and community resilience (University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program, 2022). To ensure comprehensive guidance, the Kapukaulua Advisory Group was formed, providing expertise and guidance throughout the development of the Kapukaulua Dune Restoration strategies (Tetra Tech, 2023). The involvement of the local community, including the Pāʻia Youth and Cultural Center (PYCC), has been instrumental. PYCC, operating an after-school program, previously collaborated with Hawaiʻi Sea Grant to install a pilot dune restoration project, and their ongoing involvement underscores community engagement and commitment (University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program, 2022).

Kapukaulua holds significant cultural and historical value, marked by documented heiau (Hawai’ian temple), habitation sites, and burial sites. Past and current human interference and environmental degradation, including extensive sand mining and sewage outfalls, have led to erosion and ecological decline. Addressing these challenges necessitates a comprehensive restoration approach (Tetra Tech, 2023).

At Kapukaulua, invasive ironwood trees pose both ecological and public safety concerns. While removal is necessary for ecological restoration, phased removal and engagement with the community ensure alignment with community preferences and needs  (University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program, 2022).Guiding principles for dune restoration include allowing natural processes to guide the restoration, considering sea-level rise projections, avoiding importing sand, and prioritising public safety by removing hazardous debris and vegetation (Tetra Tech, 2023). Restoration strategies encompass expanding existing dune restoration efforts, restoring native plant cover, addressing erosion hotspots, enhancing beach access, and creating kipuka restoration sites for gradual expansion of the dune ecosystem. Additionally, reintroducing sand from the ironwood forest and stabilising erosive clay deposits with native vegetation are proposed to mitigate erosion and enhance ecosystem resilience (University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program, 2022).

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Further resources:

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