Ray Pendleton Water Ways

Ray Pendleton

Hawaii needs to be more
like Mexico

About six months ago I reviewed the cost of boat slip rentals in Southern California as an example of how far off base our state's fees of just over $4 per foot per month are compared to similar locales and true market values.

Shortly after, a couple of readers sent me e-mail protesting the comparison and arguing that Hawaii should be compared with less affluent and less developed coastal areas.

By that, I assumed they had someplace like Mexico in mind. After all, isn't that where many folks from the U.S. head for bargains?

Fortunately, Sea Magazine ran a survey last month that covered slip rental fees along Mexico's Baja California coast, so now Hawaii's boaters and our bureaucrats can all see how we compare.

For those unfamiliar with Baja, it is a rugged, 1,000-mile-long peninsula that begins just south of San Diego with one of the most infamous border cities in the world -- Tijuana -- and ends with one of the most famous sportfishing resorts in the world -- Cabo San Lucas.

Between the two, along its coasts, are a growing number of marinas, thanks in part to the Mexican government's aggressive support of private sector development.

About an hour's drive south of Tijuana is the port city of Ensenada, which has seen a tremendous expansion of its marinas in recent years. One of the newest is the Coral Hotel and Marina, with 373 slips for boats from 30 to 65 feet.

This marina offers boaters mailboxes, security, showers, laundry, ice, barbecues, a restaurant, a swimming pool, tennis and cable TV, all for $11 per foot per month.

The two other marinas in Ensenada offer a comparison of how location and amenities can effect slip rental fees. The older of the two, located in a commercial shipyard, charges from $7.20 to $9 per foot a month, while the newer and better located marina's slips rent for $18 per foot.

I see this disparity as a perfect example of how a revitalized Keehi Lagoon and Ala Wai marina might one day complement each other by offering slips for a variety of boaters' budgetary and amenity requirements.

Cabo San Lucas, at Baja's southern tip, may be more like the Big Island's Honokohau harbor in Kailua-Kona. Both are centers for some of the best sportfishing in the world, but the difference in marina amenities and mooring charges is quickly apparent.

There are two marinas (and another under construction) in Cabo, with about 400 slips for boats from 20 to 200 feet. Their slip fees start at $12 a foot per month.

Like the Coral Hotel and Marina, these facilities offer boat owners all the creature-comforts expected in a world-class resort.

Conversely, Kona's Honokohau doesn't even offer slips. Instead it has 262 stern-to-dock moorings and little else.

For the past decade-plus, under the state's Department of Boating and Ocean Recreation, Hawaii's recreational boating facilities have been steadily disintegrating due to a lack of sufficient funding.

Revenue coming into the Boating Special Fund has not been nearly enough to cover maintenance, the debt-service on earlier construction loans, employee compensation packages and the marina expansion required by a growing population.

The answer? Bring our marinas up to Mexico's standards, charge boaters commensurate rates, and if it takes privatization to do it, so be it.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu.
His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at


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