Tsunami Surges Force Cancellation of Regatta, Floods Portions of Kona Hotel

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A BIIF high school regatta was canceled as tsunami surges, triggered by a volcano eruption in Tonga, flooded the Kona pier damaging a hotel, equipment and canoes early this morning.

Doug Vera Cruz, president of Kai ʻŌpua canoe club, said the last time he saw surges like that was when the tsunami hit Hawaii Island in 2011.

Vera Cruz was alerted to the flooding at approximately 2:45 a.m. When he got down to the pier at around 3 a.m. he said Kamakahonu Beach and pier were inundated with water. The significant waves were between 2:30-3:30 a.m.

“Canoes were floating, some smashed up into a corner, one was on top of the rock wall,” Vera Cruz said. “It was pretty intense for a little while.”


The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami advisory for the Island and State of Hawai‘i around 1:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 15 following a volcanic eruption that occurred at approximately 6:27 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time in the vicinity of Tonga. The advisory, which are issued when waves are expected to be three feet high or less, remained in effect until around 8 a.m. Saturday. No evacuation orders were issued, but officials across the state advised the public to remain cautious of treacherous ocean conditions throughout the day Saturday.

A spokesperson from the hotel confirmed flooding on the property. The pool, Hotel Fitness Center and Honu’s on the Beach are temporarily closed for assessment and remediation.

The hotel will reopen Honu’s on the Beach for breakfast service beginning Sunday, Jan. 16. The remainder of the property, including Billfish Bar & Grille, has not been impacted and remains open to guests and the public.

Surges also wiped out the course they plotted for the regatta. Vera Cruz said there were still surges when he left the pier at around noon.


Vera Cruz said the club’s seven canoes were not structurally damaged but had a lot of bumps and bruises.

Cruz spent the morning trying to reach out to schools to tell them what was going on. By 5 a.m., about 30 people came down to help Vera Cruz with the cleanup.

Regattas have been slowly making their way back after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down 
all sporting events.

“We put so much effort into the high school regatta,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we got the kids back on the water. We were really looking forward to having this event.”


As far as the canoe club, Vera Cruz said, they have to shut down until further notice.

“We’ve had so many obstacles these last two years that nothing surprises us,” Vera Cruz said. “The community and the clubs we just real resilient we bounce back and help each other out.”

Vera Cruz said the club will be working with the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the King Kamehameha Beach Hotel on the next steps as far as repairs to the area.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a full-time reporter for Pacific Media Group. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.

Tiffany can be reached at [email protected].
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