Hawaii’s beaches are empty. The sun is shining. The surf is up. No reservation required. Too bad there is a 14-day quarantine for visitors to Hawaii.

Traveling to Hawaii is not currently safe, in light of COVID-19. The island is doing a great job protecting residents, but traveling here as a visitor puts everyone at risk. The spread of the virus due to travel coupled with an insufficient quantity of doctors means you should stay put and not take your Hawaiian vacation, for now. 

We are social distancing in our home in Maui, Hawaii. My 2-year-old son Henry, wife Erica, and I are following the stay-at-home order issued by Hawaii Governor David Ige, doing what we can to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Social distancing in Hawaii sounds nice at first but this isn’t the Hawaiian vacation you dreamed of. The pools closed yesterday, the restaurants have shut, and beach parking is currently off-limits. These measures are important to contain the virus but don’t make for a great vacation. So put your trip on hold until this is over and you can fully enjoy it. 

Here’s what it’s like to be in Hawaii right now.

Waikiki Beach Empty Coronavirus

Waikiki Beach on March 26th, 2020. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority 

 

Is Hawaii Safe Right Now?

Stay at home orders are currently in place, which makes the islands safe for people who are already here, but not safe for people planning a trip. 

While Erica and I love living in Hawaii and helping people plan their vacation to this paradise in the Pacific, now isn’t the safest time to visit Hawaii. 

“With the majority of Hawaii’s COVID-19 cases linked to travel, it is critical that we further mitigate the spread of the virus by both residents and visitors who are coming from out-of-state,” said Gov. Ige. “This plan was developed in collaboration with our county mayors and Hawaii’s business, community, and visitor industry leaders.” 

 

Hawaii is safe for the residents and the visitors who decided to stay through the growth of the pandemic. The state is doing everything in its power to save lives, keep residents comfortable, and communities strong during these uncertain times. The Governor has taken extraordinary measures to flatten the curve.

These measures may come across as unwelcoming to visitors, but that is far from the truth. By being preventive, we are all hoping the Hawaiian islands can open their doors for visitors sooner rather than later.  

Part of that safety program is to ask visitors to postpone coming to Hawaii. Visitors on the islands have been asked to adjust their travel plans to end their vacations.

The Hawaii economy is taking a hit due to the virus: businesses in Maui are boarding up their windows, snorkel shops have laid off their employees, and the tourist towns of Lahaina and Paia are ghost towns with boarded-up windows on the storefronts. 

It is lonely out there but residents are heeding the advice of the Center for Disease Control (CDC). 

Lahaina Maui closed for coronavirus

Lahaina, Maui’s famous Front Street is closed except for convenience stores. Photo taken March 26th, 2020.

 

What Happens if You Visit Hawaii?

A mandatory self-quarantine for Hawaii visitors will greet you upon arrival to the Aloha State.

That means your welcome to Hawaii starts with staying in your hotel room for 14-days — if you can find an open hotel. Sneak out to the beach and you risk getting hit with a $5,000 fine and/or imprisonment of up to a year. I have a feeling the aloha spirit isn’t found in Hawaii’s prisons. 

Hawaii Governor David Ige declared a state of emergency on March 4th and followed up with a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine of all persons entering the state.

Started on March 26th, Governor Ige ordered all visitors and residents arriving in Hawaii to self-quarantine for 14-days or the duration of their stay in Hawaii, whichever is shorter.

Starting on the flight to Hawaii, visitors will complete a Hawaii Department of Agriculture form. This form is their ticket to the state. At the airport, the Department of Agriculture will check their form and issue a certificate that they cleared the checkpoint. 

Duke Statue Waikiki with no leis COVID-19

The Duke Kahanamoku statue in central Waikiki isn’t adorned with leis as normal but keeping a friendly eye on beachgoers during the pandemic.

 

Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority 

 

Safety in Hawaii with COVID-19

The party is over in Hawaii due to COVID-19 for the time being. We are all waiting for bars, restaurants, and beaches to open again but for now, businesses are literally boarding up their windows. 

hawaii safe to visit covid-19

The islands in Hawaii are shut down, but crime isn’t currently a concern. Residents are courteous at the grocery stores, neighbors are helping their neighbors and police are patrolling the streets. Hawaii feels as safe as it always does. 

The homeless have nowhere to go or don’t want to go to the shelters. They are still on the streets and the beaches but they are doing what they always do, keeping to themselves and sitting in the shade.

Erica and I are still walking our dog and our toddler at sunrise down the Maui streets. There are just no longer new visitors running off jetlag, employees opening up stores, or surf camp instructors waxing boards. 

As with many other states in the country, the governor of Hawaii issued a stay-at-home order to help flatten the curve of the spreading novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The order started at midnight on March 25th, 2020 and is in effect until April 30th, 2020. 

Governor Ige has directed businesses to do the following and we’ve seen business and residents on Maui comply: 

🍍 Restaurants are closed and are providing drive-thru or take-away

🍍 Bars and clubs are closed

🍍 Theaters, entertainment centers, and visitor attractions are closed

🍍 Places of worship have suspended gatherings

🍍 People are staying home

🍍 There is no discretionary travel

 Maui Hawaii closed for coronavirus

The take-out business is strong now in Hawaii. Collect your to-go order at a table in front of Mala Tavern in Lahaina. A McFlurry is only available via drive-thru.

All this is being implemented to keep our Hawaiian communities safe during this pandemic. 

hawaii safety during pandemic

 

 

What is Open in Hawaii During the Pandemic

Director Kenneth S. Hara, Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency, has determined critical infrastructure or essential services to include utilities, fuel producers, shipping facilities and industry, financial institutions, financial services, telecommunications companies, wholesaler or distributors, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, and other industry vital to the Hawaii community.

That means our grocery stores in Hawaii are open and fully stocked. 

The electricity is on and power is operating as normal.

The gas stations do not have lines and fuel prices have not increased.

Hawaii’s roads are open. There are cones and signs if a road to a park or other public space is closed. Roads to remote areas of the island with only local residents have been restricted. 

For example, the Road to Hana has been closed to non-residents and the Kahekili Highway around the west side of Maui has been closed to non-residents. 

And ABC Stores are still open. Since they are located in every-other-store it still feels like the island is humming at times. ABC Stores and Whalers General Stores are classified as grocers (by some) and part of the essential services open on the islands.

Erica and I feel safe on Maui because all these services are open, functioning as normal, and the brave people working them are as hospitable as always in Hawaii.

 

What Hawaii is Doing to Keep Us Safe from COVID-19

The Governor, the counties, and the local mayors have taken drastic action to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

For visitors and us residents who seek the outdoors during the quarantine, the hard part has been the closure of beach parking lots and pools. Beach parks have been closed with their parking lots barricaded. 

State and county parks have also been closed. Swimming pools have been closed at the resorts, hotels, and vacation rental communities. 

Hotels and resorts are closing also due to the stay-at-home order and the request for visitors to postpone their trip to Hawaii for safety. 

Click here for a list of accommodations by Hawaiian island that have closed or will be closing shortly.

On Maui, cities have been closing parks but also wrapping the benches in plastic to prevent sitting. 

hawaii stopping to spread virus

In Lahaina, Maui Eco Power Washing has been volunteering their equipment, people, and sanitation products to clean the city. They have been power washing benches and other public spaces to help control the spread of the virus.

maui citizens helping fight coronavirus

 

 

When Will it Be Safe to Go to Hawaii?

I’ll be updating this article as life on Hawaii changes with COVID-19. For now, Hawaii still feels very safe for my family. We are glad visitors have gone home to be with their loved ones.

The actions and orders that have been taken by the State of Hawaii and its counties are to keep the island’s residents and communities safe. That will help Hawaii open its doors again to visitors from all over the world. 

Believe me, tour operators and store owners are eager to get back to playing in the sun with our visitors.

Check back here at The Hawaii Vacation Guide for a local’s perspective on Hawaii safety and visiting the Aloha State. 

Check out these websites for the best news and facts on Hawaii Tourism during the pandemic:

🍍 Go Hawaii for FAQ on visiting Hawaii during COVID-19

🍍 Hawai’i Tourism Authority for tourist bulletins and health alerts

Right now, let’s protect Hawaii for everyone. That means staying away for a little while so everyone can get back to enjoying the islands we all love. 

Royal Hawaiian Empty Beach COVID-19

The Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki is quiet due to the COVID-19 mitigation measures.

 

 Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority 

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Jordan Fromholz

Jordan Fromholz

Author

I'm the co-founder, with my wife Erica, of The Hawaii Vacation Guide. We live on Maui with our toddler Henry and our sweet but quirky dog Hattie. I have a thing for photographing pineapples and learning to surf.

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