COVID-19 IN HAWAIʻI: WHAT LIES AHEAD

A reflection from the Spring of 2020 and Hawaiʻi Walks’ plans moving forward with COVID-19 in Hawaiʻi .

A Honolulu Police Department officer writes a ticket to a man sitting on a bench in an unusually empty Waikiki park on Saturday, May 2nd, 2020.

The Arrival of COVID-19 IN Hawai’i

When news first broke of a novel coronavirus spreading around the world, tensions ran high in Hawaiʻi. On any given day, Hawaiʻi has upwards of 250,000 tourists, and hosts over 450 cruise ships each year. Since one of the first major publicized outbreaks of the virus occurred on the infamous Diamond Princess cruise ship, we here in Hawaiʻi were bracing for an explosive outbreak of the virus. Indeed, our first recorded case was from a man returning from the ill-fated Grand Princess cruise ship. While businesses remained open and travel continued, many began to prepare for a very uncertain future ahead.

A worker paints a boarded store-front at the Marriott Beach Resort on Kalākaua Avenue, Waikiki

outbreaK AND THE CLOSURE OF THE STATE

After the initial case of COVID-19 in Hawaiʻi on March 6th, reports of cases were steadily increasing daily. However, these cases were linked to recent travel, meaning COVID-19 had likely been circulating via community spread on the mainland and in East Asia for the past month. In Hawaiʻi, the first reported case of community spread occurred March 20th. At this point, it became apparent that serious measures would need to be taken to stop the spread of COVID-19. The next day, Governor Ige announced that a strict 14-day quarantine for anyone visiting the islands. A stay-at-home order from the Mayor that shuttered non-essential businesses was the final move bringing the economy to a halt.

Economic Shutdown

Hawaiʻi Walks officially closed operations on March 16th, several days before the official closure by the Mayor. It seemed unsafe to continue to host guests on tours when we did not know the scope of the virus. Many other companies shuttered their doors as well in the following days. This caused Hawaiʻi to have the country’s highest unemployment rate of 37%. The tourism industry in Hawaii supports over 200,000 direct jobs. The income generated from those positions keep other businesses running as well. Thousands of individuals have turned up at free food drives, with some folks to waiting over 4 hours for food.

One of the most popular and crowded parking lots in Waikiki at the Honolulu Zoo sits empty.

Hawaiʻi Flattens the curve

However, good news lies ahead. Despite worries that Hawaiʻi would be an epicenter of the outbreak, Hawaiʻi’s COVID-19 rates are very low. Our strict quarantine measures most likely reduced transmission rates greatly. Scientific studies about the transmission of COVID-19 are in exploratory phases, it appears there may be a connection between warm weather and being outside that can slow transmission.

As of May 1, 2020, Hawaiʻi appears to have flattened the curve on COVID-19 and now has less than 5 cases a day on average. Source: Google with data from Wikipedia

COVID-19 IN HAWAI’I: What’s next

The stay-at-home orders in Hawaiʻi are extended until May 31st. Non-essential businesses must stay closed during this time, and visitors will continue to have to undergo their 14-day quarantine. Hawaiʻi Walks is happy to uphold the requirements decided upon by our public health officials. We are planning to re-open in July at the earliest. This is because we do not want to re-open business and cause an increase of the virus. However, we are monitoring the situation daily and may adjust these plans as needed.

Taking a walk through Waikiki with a facemask. We were sure to observe 6 or more feet of distance between ourselves and any one else nearby.

COVID-19 IN HAWAIʻI: Tour Changes

The first change to our tours is that we will be scaling down the number of tours offered. We expect demand to begin low and develop over time. In addition, our north shore Turtle Bay tours may take longer to resume. We will have to wait on the resort to re-instate their staff and operational capacity. Our East Waikiki Walking Tour will resume first on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and during the week at 5PM on Wednesdays. Because of the many different realities we are facing with the re-opening of bars and restaurants, the Waikiki History and Drinks tour is postponed until further notice. This may change as we come closer to opening again.

In conclusion: Mahalo!

While these have truly been trying times, we’ve been touched by how many former guests and business partners have reached out to say hello and share aloha during this time. We treasure every guest we’ve had the pleasure of meeting and we can’t wait to resume our tours. Being able to share the history and nature of Hawaiʻi with folks from all over the world has been an invaluable experience, and we can’t wait to get to share that again with all of you. Mahalo and stay healthy, safe, and positive for what lies ahead.

    WAIKIKI TRAVEL GUIDE: A SATURDAY ON KAPAHULU

    Wondering how to spend a relaxing but interesting Saturday in Waikiki without driving all around town? Looking for a place that isn’t drowning in tourists? Read our Waikiki Travel Guide for Kapahulu avenue to learn how to spend a perfect Saturday in East Waikiki.

    All the places you’ll need to stop for a kick-ass Saturday in Waikiki

    *Note, none to the businesses mentioned in our Waikiki Travel Guide are advertisements or posted in exchange for financial or other gifts. Hence, this is pure, 100% opinion offered without the judgment cloud of potential instagram fame or fortune. These are actually places I went on my own and thought they were great and worth sharing.

    7:30 AM: Coffee Time at KNots Coffee

    • Knots Coffee Roasters Main Picture
    • Coffee from Knots Coffee Roasters
    • Patio at Knots Coffee Roasters at Queen Kapiolani Hotel in Waikiki
    • Merchandise at Knots Coffee Roasters in the Queen Kapiolani Hotel
    • Baked goods at Knots Coffee Roasters

    First of all, if you’re not already in Waikiki, it’s time to splash some water on your face and head down to the shore to get caffeinated. We recommend the delicious coffee at Knots Coffee Roasters inside of the Queen Kapi’olani Hotel. This is a chain from Tokyo that just opened this Honolulu location in 2019. This is probably one of the few coffee bars that sells not only coffee, but also alcohol and dog treats. Yep! Knots Coffee is dog friendly and before-noon-cocktail friendly too. Choose your poison–booze, coffee, or pupper. They’ve got it all.

    A picture of a croissant from Knots Coffee Roasters in Waikiki Hawaii
    Knots Coffee Roasters Croissant

    I was really impressed with the latte I ordered. It was exceptionally rich and smooth with a subtle taste of lavender. Turns out they brew with coffee from Big Island Coffee Roasters based out of Puna, Hawai’i, which was recently named the 2nd best Coffee Roaster in the U.S. by Forbes. I also was pleasantly surprised by their croissant, which was really tasty and flaky. Feel free to take your goods to go, or do as I did and sit and enjoy the view from their street-level patio.

    Knots Coffee Roasters is open from 5AM – 11PM daily. It is located at The Queen Kapi’olani Hotel at 150 Kapahulu Ave. Instagram: @knotscoffeehawaii Facebook: /KnotsCoffeeRoastersHawaii

    8:00 AM The Waikiki Specialty Farmers’ Market

    • Specialty Farmers Market Waikiki
    • Specialty Farmers Market Sign
    • The line for produce at the Specialty Farmers Market in Waikiki

    The Waikiki Specialty Farmers Market is a very small but quirky outdoor market open every Saturday. It is held by Creations of Hawai’i, a non-profit that supports community programs around cultural arts and social awareness. Touring the entire market should take around 30 minutes, even with stopping at each booth. Expect to pick up some local Filipino food, some baked goods, and cheap produce.

    The Waikiki Specialty Farmers Market is held every Saturday from 8AM – 2PM. It is located at 324 Kapahulu Avenue. Facebook: /Waikiki-Specialty-Farmers-Market

    9:00 AM The Hawaii Walks East Waikiki Walking Tour

    Kapiolani Park by Hawaii Walks Walking Tour Company
    Waikiki Travel Guide: Kap’iolani Park on a perfect day during the East Waikiki Walk

    We may be biased, but we are fairly confident the absolute best way to spend 9AM -10:45AM on a Saturday morning is on our East Waikiki Walking Tour. Our walking tour was created to bring information and wonderment in an accessible and affordable way to tourists and residents in historic Waikiki. We want you to look up, see birds, trees, learn about the history of the area, and understand Waikiki in ways you haven’t ever had the opportunity to do before. Let our expert guide show you why Waikiki is so much more than just high rises and fancy restaurants. Join us!!!

    The Hawaii Walks East Waikiki Walking Tour takes place Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9AM. It starts and ends at the “Surfer on a Wave” statue. Facebook: /hawaiiwalkstourco Instagram: @Hawaiiwalkstourco Twitter: @HawaiiWalks

    11:00 AM Art on the Zoo Fence

    • Art on the Fence in Waikiki
    • Vendors along Monsarrat in Waikiki

    After enjoying your Hawaii Walks East Waikiki Walking Tour, check out the Saturday morning Art on the Zoo Fence along Monsarrat Avenue right across the street from the ending spot of the walking tour. During this event, local artists line the fence along the East side of the Honolulu Zoo to sell their photographs, paintings, and mixed-media art. Unlike most expensive galleries, you buy the works directly from the artists themselves. Incredibly, Art on the Fence has been being held for more than 50 years. If you’re visiting Hawai’i and looking for something authentic and affordable, check out Art on the Fence.

    Art on the Zoo Fence is open every Saturday and Sunday from 9AM – 4PM. It is located along the Zoo fence on Monsarrat Avenue. Facebook: Art-on-the-zoo-fence-Hawaii

    11:30 AM: Lunch at Lulu’s

    Storefront of LuLu's Waikiki
    Storefront of LuLu’s Waikiki

    Amidst the $30 hamburgers throughout the menus of rapidly gentrifying Waikiki, there stands one relatively affordable spot with a view–LuLu’s Waikiki. LuLu’s is perhaps the last restaurant in Waikiki that normal local folks go to for normal meals. Otherwise, Hawai’i residents usually only venture to Waikiki on birthdays and anniversaries as most the affordable spots have long since been converted to high-end bistros that charge $10 for a Heineken. Most importantly, with plenty seats facing the ocean, you’re almost guaranteed a great view while you eat. Expect non-fussy, straight-up American fare–burgers with fries, nachos, and dips. Lastly, feel good about supporting this local business, as they are a certified ocean friendly restaurant meaning that they use sustainable policies in the establishment to cut down on plastic waste.

    Lulu’s Waikiki is open 7AM-2AM. Location is 2586 Kalakaua Avenue. Instagram: @lulus_waikiki Facebook: /LulusWaikikiHI

    1:00 PM: The Honolulu Zoo

    • The entrance of the Honolulu Zoo
    • Flowers at the Honolulu Zoo
    • A bench in the HNL Zoo
    • The playground at the HNL Zoo
    • A walking path in the Honolulu Zoo

    After checking out the artists on the back of the zoo fence, we recommend visiting the Honolulu Zoo itself. The zoo was founded back in 1877 on a small plot of land, and has since grown to encompass 45.5 acres housing hundreds of animal species. With affordable entry prices, it can be a great way to spend your afternoon. If you have children, you will find a huge playground in the center of the zoo where you can watch your wee ones play while you sit under gorgeous canopy trees on a large landscaped lawn. However, beware of overly friendly peacocks! Look at this guy who came up and squawked at me while I was enjoying a drink at one of the rest spots inside the zoo:

    The Honolulu Zoo is open 9AM – 4:30PM daily. It is located at 151 Kapahulu Avenue. Instagram: @TheHonoluluZoo Facebook: /HonoluluZoo

    5:00 PM: Sunset Drinks and dinner at DECK.

    After working up an appetite walking around the zoo, it’s time to reward yourself with a drink, a view, and a great meal. You’ll need to return to the Queen Kapi’olani hotel where you had that morning coffee at Knots Coffee Roasters, and head up to the Mezzanine by way of the central elevators. Once on the mezzanine, you’ll see the gorgeous patio view of DECK. bar and Grill overlooking Kapi’olani Park.

    • The outside of the Queen Kapiolani Hotel
    • An indigenous pohinahina plant
    • A view of Leahi from Deck Bar and grill in Waikiki
    • The Queen Kapiolani Hotel sign in Waikiki

    DECK. Bar and Grill opened in 2019 after the renovations were completed at the Queen Kapi’olani Hotel which transformed the spot into a retro-chic boutique hotel with major nods to its historic past. However, DECK. is actually a separate company from the QK Hotel, as its parent company is the massive Plan Do See America, a corporate chain from Japan that develops hotels and restaurants around the world. The open-air design is really laid-back, unpretentious, and the views it offers are really unrivaled. Happy hour is from 4-6 and from 9PM until close, and we recommend trying one of the local beers on tap!

    Sunset view of Kapahulu from DECK
    Sunset view of Kapahulu Avenue from DECK.

    DECK. is open from approximately 6:30 AM – 11PM daily. It is located at 150 Kapahulu Avenue. Instagram: @Deckwaikiki Facebook: /Deckwaikiki

    7:30 PM: The Royal Art gallery at the Queen kapi’olani hotel

    • The Royal Art Gallery at Queen Kapi'olani Hotel
    • Portrait of Queen Kapi'olani at the Queen Kapi'olani hotel
    • View of the Royal Art Gallery at the Queen Kapi'olani Hotel

    Finally, after you’ve drank and eaten yourself into a soft stupor, take a moment of repose at the Royal Art Gallery located at the back of DECK. Note, to get there, walk back towards the elevators and head down the small set of stairs located behind the pool. At this gallery, you can see re-paintings of the monarchy’s official portraits in large and gorgeous detail. Above all, read the placards below the images to learn more about these important royals’ history. In fact, there’s even an old map of Kapi’olani Park that shows its former use as a horse race track! Furthermore, the gallery will really help contextualize all that you learned on your tour. It’s a really fantastic room with gigantic ceilings that make the Queen Kapi’olani such a special hotel that includes such a valuable and interesting display of Hawaiian history.

    The Queen Kapi’olani Hotel is open 24/7. It is located at 150 Kapahulu Avenue. Instagram: @QueenKapiolaniHotel Facebook: /QueenKapiolaniHotel

    Closing time

    After these many stops in this small area of Waikiki, you’ll certainly be ready for bed. Or, if you’d rather continue drinking, you can head over to Hulas next door (gay bar), or venture down Kuhio avenue to one of the many bars down the road.

    Our Waikiki Travel Guide reflects our philosophy as a tour company. The world is rich and full of details that need your attention to be seen. We encourage you to appreciate the less-popular, small streets in Waikiki–and life. Too many times tourists think they have to go to the most famous or fancy hotels or restaurants, missing the smaller spots that have great history and real soul. So next time you’re in Waikiki, make a day of it on Kapahulu Avenue: The most underrated block in town.

    Leahi during sunset from DECK. in Waikiki
    Waikiki Travel Guide: Le’ahi during sunset from DECK. in Waikiki