What’s New on Oahu > January 2021

*This is a copy of the Waikiki Beach Stays Monthly Mailer (sent out 15 January 2021). Click here to subscribe for future editions.

Welcome to the first edition of Waikiki Beach Stays Monthly Mailer, the best place to keep up to date with everything happening on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

Aloha, we’re Ash and Keli‘i! We run The Hawaii Admirer blog and have recently launched Waikiki Beach Stays, a website focused on Oahu travel and Waikiki vacation rentals. We look forward to popping into your inbox every month to keep you connected with Hawaii.

Day-to-day life goes on in the islands, albeit with a mask on our face and social distancing. Oahu has a Honolulu Reopening Strategy based on a tiered system, we’re in Tier 2. It outlines what businesses can operate (sadly, bars and nightclubs remain closed).

The good news is 40,000+ COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Hawaii, with 70,000+ more to go in this initial roll-out. After being in lockdown we are trying to reboot the economy (which relies heavily on tourism) while managing the health and safety of our residents.

Tourism took a big hit but the Safe Travels Hawaii program currently allows for Trans-Pacific (U.S. mainland to Hawaii) and Inter-Island travel to return. But to put things in perspective, January would usually yield around 800,000 visitors but this month we’ll be lucky to see over 100,000.

There is one noticeable travel trend, an increase in long term stays over 30-days. With the best COVID-19 rates in America, many U.S. mainland folk have opted to remote work from Hawaii, and take what’s being coined a “workcation” 😎

We know so many of you are missing the Hawaiian Islands and cannot wait to return. We pray that day comes very soon! In the meantime, We hope this regular Oahu update keeps you abreast of all the changes.

Warmest Aloha,
Ash & Keli‘i
[email protected]

COVID-19 Hawaii Travel Updates

  • As of 13 Jan 2021: There have been 23,733 cases of COVID-19 identified in Hawaii, resulting in 312 deaths. There are 2,292 active cases. The 7-day average number of cases is 184 island-wide (Oahu 137; Maui County 32; Hawaii Island 13; Kauai 2).
  • Hawaii is open to visitors thanks to the Safe Travels Hawaii program! In order to bypass the State of Hawaii’s 10-day mandatory self-quarantine, travelers must take a pre-travel COVID-19 test from a trusted testing and travel partner (on the U.S. mainland or in Japan) 72-hours prior to the final leg of their trip, and get a negative result returned prior to boarding their flight. In addition, a Travel and Health Form must be completed along with temperature screening at all Hawaii airports. One exception is Kauai, they opted out of the pre-travel testing program and instead have two options. Some islands require or suggest a second test after arrival for non-quarantine travelers, the Safe Travels Hawaii Quick Facts explains this further. Note, there are umbrella rules for the State of Hawaii as well as rules per island.

Destination

  • Waikiki Beach Maintenance starts in Feb 2021 and is estimated to take 3-4 months. The project will restore and maintain the public beach between the Kuhio Beach Ewa Groin and the Royal Hawaiian Groin, by replenishing up to 20,000 cubic yards of sand dredged from nearshore to the beach. The nearshore sand was originally on the beach and eroded offshore over time, thus this a form of periodic “sand recycling”. It’s estimated the beach width will double from the current conditions.
  • Centennial Park is a new park on the corner of Seaside Ave and Aloha Dr. The City and Rotary Club of Honolulu turned a patch of undeveloped land into a green space.
  • Aloha Stadium has shut down while a new Aloha Stadium Entertainment District is built. During the construction, Aloha Stadium Swap Meet & Marketplace will remain. University of Hawaii football games will relocate to the Manoa campus in the interim.
  • As of 2 Jan 2021, sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate are banned in Hawaii. The law prohibits the sale, offer of sale, and distribution of sunscreens that contain these two chemicals after being identified as harmful to marine ecosystems.

Airlines

  • Hawaiian Airlines will add new routes across America. Nonstop flights from Honolulu (Oahu) to Austin (Texas), Orlando (Florida), and Ontario (California) start in Mar 2021, with Kahului (Maui) to Long Beach (California) following in Apr 2021.
  • Hawaiian Airlines offers flyers from the U.S. west coast access to reliable COVID-19 test options. Clients flying to the Aloha State can use drive-through and walk-up COVID-19 testing clinics in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle.
  • Ohana by Hawaiian, a subsidiary of Hawaiian Airlines, is suspending passenger service to the islands of Molokai and Lanai from 14 Jan 2021. Essential air service to these islands will now be maintained solely by Mokulele Airlines.

Accommodations

  • The State’s largest hotel Hilton Hawaiian Village re-opened on 15 Dec 2020. Many onsite businesses have also resumed operations including Hatsuhana Japanese Restaurant, Lappert’s Hawaii, Blue Water Shrimp, and Round Table Pizza.
  • The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel on Waikiki’s “Gold Coast” changed ownership on 30 Nov 2020. Now managed by Private Label Collection, the property has rebranded to Kaimana Beach Hotel.
  • Construction has begun at Hoakalei Resort on Ewa Beach in West Oahu, set to open in 2022. This hotel will have the world’s largest man-made surfing wave up to 2ft along with a lagoon offering SUP, kayaks, outrigger canoes, and boat cruises.

Restaurants & Bars

  • Foodland, a local supermarket chain, opened Redfish Poke Bar in Kakaako (Dec 2019), Mahiai Table in Kapolei (Jul 2020), and now Et al. in Kahala (Dec 2021). Et al has a modern American menu with locally sourced and seasonal ingredients.
  • Waikiki Food Hall launched at Royal Hawaiian Center in Mar 2020, only to close two weeks later due to COVID-19. Now it’s back! Find Meataly Boys, Five Star Shrimp, Honolulu Burger Co., and Surfer’s Cafe & Tap Bar on the third floor of Building C.
  • Hawaii’s first Olive Garden Italian Restaurant opened at Ala Moana Center, replacing Bubba Gumps on the Hookipa Terrace. A second Olive Garden to slated to open later this year at Ka Makana Alii, a shopping precinct in West Oahu.
  • There’s a fantastic new restaurant 1938 Indochine in Kakaako. The interior is incredible, decked out to the nines and inspired by the 1930-40s period serving Asian cuisine. It has a huge bar with awesome private outdoor dining tables.
  • Tony Roma’s Waikiki wasn’t gone for long, it’s back, having merged with Fire Grill Waikiki. You can keep getting those famous Tony Roma’s Original Baby Back Ribs at the TR Fire Grill Waikiki at 2330 Kuhio Ave, opposite International Market Place.
  • Waikiki Brewing Co. underwent a renovation and reopened in an expanded space in the old Cheeseburger Waikiki location, corner of Ala Moana Blvd and Kalakaua Ave. It has indoor and outdoor bar areas with beers on tap and bites like giant pretzels.

Tours & Activities

  • Due to the impact of COVID-19, online travel booking platform Expedia Group is ending its Local Expert operations in Hawaii. The closure is expected by the end of Jan 2021, with the shuttering of 44 concierge desks at a number of hotels on Oahu, Maui, Hawaii Island and Kauai. Expedia Group still offers activity bookings online.
  • Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve re-opened in late Dec 2020 with significant restrictions. Access to the parking lot, entrance, and educational theater is now limited to 30 individuals at a time with a daily cap of 720. Face-coverings must be worn. Hanauma Bay is open Wednesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays) between 8am and 2pm (visitors must leave by 4pm). The gift shop, education center, food concession, snorkel, and locker rental facilities will remain closed. Visitors must bring their own snorkel equipment. No commercial vehicles, taxis, or tour groups are allowed. City bus service into Hanauma Bay continues to be suspended. Additionally, entry fees have increased to $12 per person. The fee is waived for children under 12 years and for Hawaii residents. The parking fee is $3 per vehicle, walk-in admission is no longer allowed.
  • Diamond Head State Monument re-opened in late Dec 2020 with new rules in place. The park is only open from Thursday to Sunday (closed Friday and Saturday). Visitors will be required to wear face coverings, stay six feet apart from other hikers and not linger long for photos to avoid clogging the trail and viewpoints. Fees for visitors are $5 per individual walk-in and $10 per vehicle.
  • Polynesian Cultural Center re-opens on 18 Jan 2021, opening hours from 4pm on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday to Saturday. The adjoining Hukilau Marketplace is open from noon to 7:30pm on Monday through Saturday. Visitors must follow CDC guidelines including wearing face-coverings and maintaining a physical distance.
  • The old Bed, Bath & Beyond space at the Ward Center is being transformed into a Kids City Hawaii indoor playground for children aged seven months to 13 years. This recreational space will have a giant ball pool, interactive projection screen, bumper car racetrack, augmented-reality video games, and sensory play areas.

Festivals & Events

  • Honolulu Festival is canceled, it was scheduled for 12-14 Mar 2021. Holding a large-scale event is not possible under Oahu’s current COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. The festival is a celebration of cultures from throughout Asia and the Pacific and typically attracted thousands of visitors for performances at multiple venues including the Hawaii Convention Center and Ala Moana Center.
  • The ’80s pop star Tiffany, known for the hit “I Think We’re Alone Now” is returning to Hawaii for some socially-distant shows at Blue Note Hawaii on 20-21 Feb 2021.
  • Robert Hawaii’s ‘Magic of Polynesia’ is no more. This magic show was a visitor attraction in Waikiki for over 30 years. The company has acquired another space and is looking into the possibility of opening a high-technology illusion show.

Business Closures

  • Alan Wong’s, Honolulu
  • Chart House, Waikiki
  • Like Like Drive Inn, Honolulu
  • Nobu Honolulu, Ward Village
  • Ruffage Natural Foods, Waikiki
  • Town, Kaimuki
  • Vegan Hills, Kaimuki
  • Wang Chung’s Karaoke Bar, Waikiki

Special Offers

*Terms and conditions apply, please refer to the individual businesses for full details.

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Image Credit: Shutterstock/Evan Austen