Hanalei Bay Kauai | Beat of Hawaii

Time Bomb Ticking: Life on Kauai Now

Kauai is in uncharted territory, marching to its own beat. As of today, one person is hospitalized with COVID, and 11 are in isolation. And while the rest of the state welcomes visitors who meet strict testing requirements, Kauai is closed to tourism. A mandatory 10-day quarantine is in effect.

While health is of paramount importance, we are gravely concerned too about our Kauai businesses who survive on tourism revenue and the workers they employ. Now the question is how many will remain open. We don’t know how long this will go on with Kauai not having tourism. According to Lt. Governor Green, he does not expect any changes at least until after the new year.

The Kauai Chamber of Commerce CEO said, “Small businesspeople stand to lose everything that they have worked a lifetime to build and, in some cases, generations to build.” 

As just one example, Monkey Pod Jam’s Cafe is a Beat of Hawaii favorite that is closing, although you can shop online with them through December. According to the company, “We are permanently closing the Monkeypod Jam Café on December 31st….with our mayor closing the island to tourism, this makes the most sense.” They hope to return later and said, “Monkeypod Jam will not be going away, but hibernating for a season to emotionally recover and decide how to best serve our island.”

Its owner, Aletha Thomas, is a friend, and longtime fixture on-island who has hosted cooking workshops, special dinners, holiday cookie swaps, and more over the years. We’ve attended many of their functions, held meetings there, and enjoyed countless meals. We already feel the loss, and even more than that, we picture the employees’ faces.

Was it essential to close Kauai when the other islands continue to welcome tourists? Only time will tell. Lt. Governor Green says he “sincerely” supports each of the island mayors but doesn’t feel Kauai is doing better than the rest of the state in terms of COVID following its closure. Green said, “Kauai only had seven hospital admissions in seven weeks.”

Kauai reopened on October 15. Then it closed again on December 2.

Together with the rest of Hawaii, Kauai reopened with new statewide rules. Testing within 72 hours of departure became the alternative to the then 14-day quarantine (now 10-days). It was great news for people who work here in the state to return to employment. Finally, they saw some light at the end of the tunnel. Visitors were happy to come back again too.

On Kauai and throughout the state, businesses, from hotels and vacation rentals, to restaurants and activity providers brought back employees, and things started to reopen. It was all the news, and there was excitement, albeit with obvious concerns.

Mayor opted out of the Safe Travels program.  

Kauai shuttered on December 2 and is closed to tourism given the current 10-day quarantine. That as of December 2, following Governor Ige’s approval for the island to leave the program. Beat of Hawaii commentors said they were shifting their Kauai vacations to other islands or, in even more cases, going elsewhere entirely. Many regulars said, unfortunately, that this wavering was simply the final straw. 

Hotels and vacation rentals have since closed down again, restaurants and activities too, and we are hearing that far bigger and more disastrous closures are looming (think major hotel). We know of many businesses that have shuttered permanently and have the nagging sense that we really haven’t seen the worst of the economic impact yet. Besides, both furloughs and job eliminations are now pending for state employees, according to the governor, which will significantly impact Kauai.

Before the opt-out, Kawakami had asked the governor for modifications to the Safe Travel program to allow a second mandatory test for Kauai arrivals. He wanted that change to be in concert with a shorter mandatory quarantine until the second negative test results were obtained. The governor said no, that he was disinclined to island-by-island modifications to Safe Travels. Given that, the choice became one of either in or out, Kauai left the program.

Is Safe Travels Really Safe?

According to the person in charge of Safe Travels, physician/Lieutenant Governor Josh Green, “It’s exceeding expectations. It’s actually working very well.” He said there are fewer COVID cases since October 15, and hospitalizations have gone by over 50%. He said the positivity rate went from 2.8% to 1.8%.

What’s next for Kauai.

We don’t anticipate seeing any changes before year-end in two weeks. Thereafter, the governor will reconsider what others are proposing. That includes changing the 72 testing period to 96 hours and implementing a second test following arrival program.

We are confident that Kauai will be rejoining the Safe Travels program either by its own volition or by the governor’s decisions. We don’t know when that will occur, or how long the island can wait.

Differences between what it’s like now and when we authored our prior Life on Kauai article.  

When Kauai reopened, the Grand Hyatt Kauai brought back over 400 employees as rooms began to fill, and restaurants started to open. Since Kauai closed, the Hyatt has shut down again, and we hear that it will be closed at least until the end of January.

Following Kauai’s October 15 reopening, more than 1500 people per day started arriving on the island. Since December 2, that reversed direction, eliminating at least 90% of arrivals. 

While the Lt. Gov. feels otherwise, Kauai’s mayor believes the cases were growing due to travel, even with the Safe Travels program. Did the impact of this second shutdown miss the mayor’s radar in terms of its impact on working people, as thousands became unemployed once again? Did he even think the governor would approve of Kauai opting out of Safe Travels? We just don’t know. 

Holidays would normally be the busiest time of year on the island and a time when businesses hoped to regain at least a part of what they had lost since March. Nothing could have ended up being farther from reality.

Kauai resort bubbles are an epic failure, as we said, and you concurred.

Five “enhanced movement quarantine” properties still exist, at least in theory, but the concept is a zero. Guests can not leave the property for any reason, and even if some have kitchens, you can’t go to the store yourself to stock them. Beaches are off-limits. Oh yes, and don’t forget that the requisite monitoring bracelets are freely offered. With regards to resort bubbles, we have said all along what was repeated by Koa Kea Hotel’s general manager recently, “People just don’t want to quarantine, period.”


109 thoughts on “Time Bomb Ticking: Life on Kauai Now”

  1. In addition to the local population struggling to survive, this is what Kawakami has created…

    Received a photo this morning from a friend whose husband had just returned from a short business trip to Kauai – it was a photo of white Range Rover (obviously not a rental car) parked at Walmart where someone had spray painted on the side “Go Home”.

    She said her husband found it difficult to be “white” on the island right now. She is the second generation to own their condo on Kauai and, living in SoCal, both she and he spend about 6 months a year on the island so he would not have been an “obnoxious tourist”.

    No matter how Kauai transforms itself into the future, tourism will continue to be the island’s main source of income for the foreseeable future and the reputation that is starting to be perpetuated is not compatible with tourism!

    Even we are starting to become concerned about our 44th trip to the island this Summer unless things turn around.

  2. From the Senior Vice President – Global Owner Services…

    Hi Barbara, and Happy Holidays,

    There have been lots of meetings taking place, and when complete, a communication with details will be sent to Kauai Beach Club Owners regarding any transition plans for the hotel portion of the resort.

  3. It is sad to see so many businesses closed. The homeless population has increased significantly, not by their choice,but rather their lack of choice. Our mayor has not thought this through. He and his staff are employed but he has left many in a huge financial situation. This wil pass, but with what long term result? Thank you.

  4. I pray for Kauai every day. I have family on this beautiful island. Kauai is my home away from home. thank you for all the information much aloha. stay safe

  5. Interesting… We’ve not been able to test with Vault because we are on Medicare. In addition, Vault has been posting warnings about their limitations on timing. However, our State announced this morning that anyone – symptoms or not – can be NAAT Covid tested by Vault for free with results returned within 24/48 hours! A bit of a contradiction there, no?

  6. Wow. Kauai is done. Unbelievable. So sorry to those who wanted visitors back. Spending 3 weeks on Hawaii Island next month, when we would have to visit Kauai for the 19th time

  7. The mayor of kauai meant well but he is a cowboy who wants to walk to his own beat and failed to listen to the Lt governor and the governor. The safe travels program works. Kawakami was impetuous to opt out. He is ruining the island and people he says he represents. He has failed the island of Kauai. The islands have one governor. And need one set of rules. Definitely need 96 hours to get tests done. The trusted partners cannot get the tests done in time. A post test should be paid by the tourism board. As a good faith gesture. People need an incentive to come back. And the mayor of kauai has destroyed people’s dreams of going to kauai. He is not the governor and needs to look to the Lt governor with his medical experience as well as the CDC guidelines. He needs to save the people of kauai or step down.

      1. Thank you!!!! I am beyond over this!!! The left hand has no clue what the right hand is doing. And Kauai’s people and tourism are suffering because of an incompetent Mayor. His dreams of being governor are going South. He can’t even listen or respect the governor or the Lt governor. Nor does he respect science and the CDC. This only benefits the rich. There have been more suicides on kauai alone since March and 1 death that they called “COVID”. The governor needs to act like the governor of ALL the islands and stop allowing the mayors to “play” with people’s lives and livelihoods. It is despicable. And utterly sad.

  8. I wonder how many people are not going to pay their timeshare maintenance fees for a place they can’t use like the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort? What happens then?

    1. Aloha
      Excellent question. But the TimeShare Owners can not Opt out for any reason. I asked.
      They say the maintenance and repair goes on.
      The Only concession is to rollover your time at no charge. I rolled 2020 to 2021 and expect to do it again. Actually gave away a week to a co worker on Maui. We are Essential Workers and split Maui,
      Kaua’i and Mainland for the same company.
      So we are Taxpayers in two States.
      If this goes another year we will have to get out by legal means. Can’t just pay and not go. We are Pono Kai In Kapaa.

  9. Any advice from Kauai would be welcome. We are supposed to come March 30-April 8. I’m debating now if I should change our trip to another island. 😢

  10. I would like to know when the Mayor is up for re-election so that I can throw support towards whomever will be running against him….

  11. Class warfare, what is going on in Kauai is really a class warfare between the haves and have nots. The haves are all well to do ( including the mayor) their income does not depend on tourism they are doctors, dentists, retired people who have steady income and county employees who get paid fully even though they do not work the full 40 or 35 hours. The haves support the Mayor’s actions because they are afraid of getting sick and do not give a damn if those who need to work to earn a living starve. The complaint about ICU beds is also not valid- there has never been more than one ICU bed occupied on Kauai. Finally the mayor himself is behaving like a spoiled child “if the governor does not give me what I want I will not do what he is asking of me” has been his mode of operation. It did not have to be this way.

    1. We have a winner. You’ve hit the nail on the head here. The rich say ‘keep the disease infested ‘outsiders’ out and it can be all mine—the way it should always have been. No testing regime can ever be enough. We love the mayor.’ The poor head to the food bank wondering how long before they lose their home and if they have enough gas left to make it back home, their children crying in the back seat. They wonder when they’ll go back to work or if they’ll go back to work as their bosses and the owners face bankruptcy.

    2. ERDOGANG…
      Well said – well written! It does seem that way, doesn’t it. I hear every day from friends on Kauai that they are basing their sustenance on food that their former employer is providing! Bet Zookie isn’t hurtin’!

    3. So true. Have you seen the homeless camps on kauai??? The mayor is responsible for that. He is killing the island.

  12. The people of Kauai, through their elected representatives have decided that preventing the virus is more important than anything else. That is their decision and I respect it. This changing of the rules over the past months is very frustrating to everyone. Let the people’s voices be heard, shut down everything until the virus is under control (via vaccines).

    1. ERDOGANG…
      Well said – well written! It does seem that way, doesn’t it. I hear every day from friends on Kauai that they are basing their sustenance on food that their former employer is providing! Bet Zookie isn’t hurtin’!

    2. JEFF… Your comment is appropriate as a generality but I doubt that when Kawakami was elected, anyone elected him based on how he would respond to a pandemic – which wasn’t exactly on anyone’s radar! So saying that he represents the “will of the people” is a wonderful comment in the altruistic sense but I wonder if it is reality!

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top