A lot has changed since Hawaii shut down their islands to tourism in March when the Covid-19 pandemic took over our daily lives.
The economic damage brought on by the pandemic and a shutdown of the state’s largest economic driver has been enormous. Hawaii currently has the highest unemployment rate in the nation and recovery will take years.
Hawaii Coronavirus Success
But with this hardship came success in keeping the virus from infesting the islands like it has in most parts of the United States and the world. As of this writing (October 26, 2020) there have been 14,709 cases and 212 deaths. A substantial number to be sure but Hawaii ranks 44th out of the 50 states in both categories, and the island of Kauai has basically been Covid free since June. Hawaii has also avoided having its hospitals overwhelmed with Covid patients to date.
When Hawaii opened its doors back to visitors on October 15th with a testing protocol that allowed for the bypass of the 14-day mandatory quarantine, it was only one of two states (Vermont being the other) that had experienced a more than 10% drop in seven day rolling average case counts from the previous week.
As of October 26, the seven day rolling average case count on Oahu was 57, meaning the island has moved from Tier 1 to Tier 2 of its four tier system.
The relative success of Hawaii in controlling the spread of the virus has been due to an adherence to restrictions and guidelines by the local community and has come at a steep price economically. So while state residents look forward to the return of tourists, they expect visitors to behave in a responsible manner consistent with their own.
These expectations are consistent with the common sense guidelines and mandates (wearing a mask is not a recommendation but a law per Governor Ige on October 27) established by medical science: wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands regularly.
Island guests will be greeted with the famous “aloha spirit” the islands are famous for if they behave responsibly while they’re here. On the other hand, residents are sensitive to and may be not-so-friendly to those who do not follow the local requirements. Hawaiians have collectively embraced the protocols to minimize the spread of the virus and they expect their visitors to do the same. That is the custom here.
The Best Hawaii Experiences During COVID-19
For visitors that make their way to Hawaii in the first weeks and months of the re-opening, they will find a slightly different Hawaii. Many hotels, restaurants and activities will be closed or operating in a limited fashion. But there are reasons why this time will represent an opportunity to see Hawaii at its best. For instance:
- The Hawaiian Fauna is thriving. Sea life has flourished in the absence of human activity. Sea turtles are in abundance near our shores, huge schools of fish known as “bait balls” are a common sight, and all varieties of marine life have been on display for those lucky enough to wade into the crystal clean waters (another benefit of fewer humans). Sharks have been seen in higher frequency, although most are of the white tip reef shark variety, a shark species that is not known to be aggressive to humans. (Note: if you find yourself in a “bait ball” you might want to swim to shore- that’s a shark buffet!)
- Roads are devoid of the traffic that came with an annual migration of ten million visitors.
- Beaches are less crowded than they’ve been in decades despite Hawaii beaches being open, and popular hikes are more peaceful and quiet.
- Normally crowded resort areas like Waikiki, Lahaina and Kaanapali are quieter than they’ve been in years.
- Some of the activities that are operating will be restricted to 25-50% of normal capacity, making boat tours, zip lines and museums feel like you chartered them for the day.
Hawaii is a fantastic choice for a vacation right now. The only thing that our “ohana” (family) asks of you is that you treat our residents and land with “kuleana” (respect) by doing your part to mitigate the spread of the virus that closed our islands in the first place.