Life on Kauai

Life on Kauai Now | 18 Months Later

So nearly a year and a half has passed since we first published this post about Life on Kauai Now (during Covid). We wouldn’t have believed it if you’d told us then that we would still be stuck where we are, after this long. Back in April of 2020, we had hopes of coming around the curve on this and perhaps reopening to tourism during summer 2020. Well, that certainly didn’t happen. And now we find ourselves wondering more than ever, when will this end, or maybe more so, will this ever end. Here’s what life is like on Kauai in September 2021, followed by what it was like in April of last year.

Living through a global pandemic on a small Hawaiian island.

Whose lives haven’t changed significantly? People don’t seem to be the same anymore. Interactions feel harsh, especially with those we don’t know well. Comments in social media and on websites like Beat of Hawaii have become mean and divisive. Empathy has gone out the window.

Kauai in September 2021.

While last year we were cleaning and disinfecting our groceries, that has stopped. We resumed shopping on a more normal basis. Quotas at stores don’t seem to exist. Restaurants reopened, although we have barely stepped foot in one personally. It seems we are all making new choices.

Travel has resumed in fits and stops. Starting this past spring, Hawaii travel took off with a vengeance. Fueled by a huge pent up demand for tropical travel, and for Hawaii in particular, paired with the difficulties associated with international travel, US mainland travel resumed at a pace that has exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

With travel has come concerns. Obviously residents have been largely responsible for bringing Covid back from the mainland. Especially those who have elected neither to be vaccinated nor tested, but instead have opted for “self-quarantine.” But likely so too have visitors brought Covid to some degree. After all, before travel resumed, there were virtually no cases.

Traffic and congestion resumed with travel. When we first went into lockdown last year, there were nearly no cars on the road. We had a curfew that resulted in near silence outdoors. Then after months passed, that started to change.

Then we learned of the dreaded variants. The incredible from in cases since the spring have been shocking. Numbers had dropped so low that we stopped thinking of them. And then almost overnight it seemed, they were higher than ever before, together with hospitals cancelling elective surgeries and the likes. Gratefully, here on Kauai, the caseloads have been proportionately lower than elsewhere in the state. Kauai, has had a 5.3% positivity rate in the past week, which remains significantly lower than elsewhere in Hawaii. And yet that rate is more than we once thought would happen. After all, we thought this was largely done months ago.

Numbness has set in. We see the daily numbers, but at the same time, life instead of coming to a halt as it did last year, continues to go on. Where we once couldn’t sit on a beach for fear of a costly citation, we now go to the beach at leisure. Stores and restaurants that were closed, have “mostly” reopened. Some never came back at all of course.

Most of us here have learned to work from home. On Kauai, in many ways, that’s a great thing. For example, conferences that were previously inaccessible due to travel are mostly all on Zoom. The distances between Hawaii and elsewhere have all but evaporated.

Through the rear-view mirror: Kauai in April 2020.

Before we tell you about the checkpoint pictured above on Kauai, here is something rare that happened. We received a handwritten postcard in the US Mail from a reader. It just happened. There was no return address or name; only a postmark from Phoenix. A copy is below. In addition to wishing us well, this Beat of Hawaii fan also asked us to keep reporting about what life is like now on Kauai. So here is our next installment.

Never ceasing changes include closures, roadblocks and delays.

We miss you! Kauai is more quiet than ever. Do you remember taking pictures of a crowded Poipu Beach? Now all beach parks are closed. We can, however, use the beach to access the ocean for swimming and surfing. There is no beach time allowed and it’s not a time to travel between South and North Shore unless essential to do so. The idea is to go to a beach close to where you live. For us that would be Poipu Beach or Salt Pond. To go further means getting stuck in multiple checkpoints.

Last week that happened to Jeff. The checkpoint he was in was at Halfway Bridge (our lead photo today) where police and the National Guard were stopping cars in both directions. So a simple run to Costco in Lihue took several hours now on the highway. We really curtail going out and make sure it’s necessary. Between that and masks and everything else, any prior enjoyment around excursions is gone.

One of our daily outings is driving around nearby Koloa. The goal is to cut specialty horse grasses for Muley while her pastures recover from the torrential rain you’ll remember we had a few weeks ago. In the past it was challenging even to pull over on the road with all of the cars going by. Now there is hardly any traffic at all, and you can stop wherever you want. We have the road to ourselves.

Before the mandatory 14 day isolation for visitor arrivals happened, Jeff had ordered bookcases from IKEA in Los Angeles. There is a company on Oahu that specializes in shipping IKEA orders for those living in Hawaii. They have someone purchase at IKEA and then send it to Hawaii. The problem is that while the order successfully reached Honolulu on Matson, it cannot come to Kauai. The barge operated by Young Brothers is currently only shipping essential items. While obviously not critical, it is a sign of the times, and if and when these will ever arrive remains to be seen.

New businesses thrive

Jeff has been doing a weekly pickup of produce at Monkeypod Jam. Now, CSA produce stands are popping up all around the island like the one pictured here. We heard of three new ones just this week. So while Farmer’s Markets are closed, these stands allow commerce to still happen. It appears these will be a thriving business for everyone on Kauai going forward, and they are really awesome.

Curfew and other measures here and on other islands.

Other islands are starting to implement measures that began on Kauai. We’ve become accustomed to our curfew, which runs from 9pm to 5am daily. Now on Oahu, they have one starting at 11pm nightly. It is running on a test basis this weekend and may then go through April 30. Can you imagine the H1 empty? It’s happening. Vacation rental bans are also now in effect on Kauai and the Big Island. And on Maui, short-term rentals are also no longer allowing visitors.

What is it like where you are? What do you miss most about Hawaii?

We’ll keep watch while you are away and look forward to when you return. We will offer our view of life from here on Kauai, and invite any of you from other islands to continue add your experience. And if you are on the mainland, chime in too with any questions you have.

Please join us in comments.

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Aloha and Mahalo!

159 thoughts on “Life on Kauai Now | 18 Months Later”

  1. Aloha!

    I am sad to read about the politicians have chosen to deal with the pandemic, and the adverse impact on the residents and businesses. My wife and I love Hawaii, especially Kauai where we honeymooned. We spent 2 weeks divided between a private house in Kilauea and the Hyatt and Sheraton. Now both hotels are closed and the crazy restrictions make planning a trip to Hawaii out of the question. I understand that residents view tourists with ambivalence, but most of us respect the land and the people. It was always arduous for us to visit Hawaii from the east coast, but we made the effort many times. Sadly, we may never visit again. How in the world will Hawaiians cope with the virtual cessation of tourism? I have donated to #AlohaChallenge and it is a shock to see the long lines for food.

    Ironically Hawaii will be the leading example of what happens when you eliminate the middle class. The only people left will be the ultra-rich with their sea walls destroying the beaches, and everyone else. The concept of a secure, state-funded job is an illusion – the current Hawaii deficit is $1.5BN per year, which will only deepen when the real estate market declines.

    We cannot even visit our grandchildren a few states away. Hawaii? It was fun while it lasted.


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