What’s New on Oahu > Aug 2021
*This is a copy of the Waikiki Beach Stays Monthly Mailer (sent out 25 Aug 2021). Click here to subscribe for future editions.
Last month, we celebrated: YAY!
Hawaii’s travel, business and social restrictions finally loosened. Locals happily resumed roundtrip travel to the U.S. mainland and holiday-makers flocked to the Hawaiian Islands, with hotel occupancy rates outpacing pre-COVID levels.
This month? We’re cursing the arrival of the delta variant: NOT GOOD!
An ease in rules + a highly contagious strain of COVID-19 = a local surge in coronavirus cases. This uptick is not unique to Hawaii, many destinations are grappling with a similar situation.
I know all too well, having just returned from a trip to visit my family in Australia. I spent two weeks locked up in hotel quarantine only to exit into Sydney’s lockdown for the remainder of my stay! I’m feeling for my fellow Aussies who remain locked down.
While Hawaii’s approach is not as strict, our Governor has re-instated some limitations.
Large gatherings have been suspended for the next four weeks, including weddings, funerals, sporting events, and events at the Hawaii Convention Center. Small groups of 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors are still allowed, as well as church services.
Bars, restaurants, gyms and social outlets are back to operating at a 50% capacity with 6ft (1.8m) between groups. Masks must be worn indoors except when eating or drinking.
Hawaii is also considering a vaccination verification program, similar to San Francisco and New York City, which would require people to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in order to enter indoor establishments.
In fact, some local businesses have already announced vaccine mandates for their employees (like Merriman’s restaurants) and are requiring proof of vaccination for their customers (like Morimoto Asia and Momosan Waikiki). As of mid-August, 61.7% of all Hawaii residents have been fully vaccinated.
The Safe Travels Hawaii program remains intact, for now.
American travelers who have been fully vaccinated in U.S. (starting on the 15th day after their last dose) can bypass Hawaii’s quarantine and testing requirements. For everyone else, the mandatory 10-day quarantine period can be avoided by following the pre-travel testing program.
However, there is a rumor that the pre-travel testing program could be back on the table for all Hawaii passengers regardless of vaccination status. Upcoming visitors should keep a close eye on the official website and check regularly for updates: hawaiicovid19.com/travel
If you have any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to reply to this email and ask us! We’re on the ground in Hawaii and always happy to respond to our future guests and readers 🙂
Ash & Keli‘i
COVID-19 Hawaii Travel Updates
- As of 23 Aug 2021: There have been 57,747 cases of COVID-19 in Hawaii to date, resulting in 573 deaths. Average daily new cases 687 island-wide (445 Oahu, 84 Maui County, 28 Kauai and 131 Hawaii Island). The vast majority of cases and hospitalizations now are among those unvaccinated.
- Hawaii is open to visitors via the Safe Travels Hawaii program.
- Travelers entering Hawaii from the U.S. and its Territories who have been fully vaccinated in the United States (or its Territories) may bypass quarantine without a pre-travel test (starting on the 15th day after their second dose). The vaccination record must be uploaded to Safe Travels or printed out prior to departure and hard copy in hand when arriving. This program does not cover international travelers.
- Other travelers must continue to take a pre-travel COVID-19 test from a trusted testing and travel partner (available on the U.S. mainland, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, French Polynesia, South Korea and Philippines) 72-hours prior to the final leg of their trip, and get a negative result returned prior to boarding their flight in order to bypass Hawaii’s 10-day mandatory self-quarantine.
- There continues to be a rental car shortage on Oahu. To avoid disappointment we recommend booking early with Discount Hawaii Car Rental. They have no booking fees or cancellation penalties, no prepayment and reservations are guaranteed.
- PARKLINQ is a new app that enables users to find, reserve and pay for parking spots in Hawaii using your smartphone. You can search for covered, EV charging and handicap accessible spots, to name a few. Parking availability is in real time and includes unused parking spots hosted by local businesses and individuals (think Airbnb for parking). This app will prove useful in Waikiki where hotel and public parking lots are expensive (up to $40 per vehicle overnight). To see what we mean, download our free Waikiki Map for a list of Waikiki hotel’s parking rates.
- Korean Air Lines are set to resume flights to Hawaii in Nov 2021. They plan on operating the Incheon (South Korea) to Honolulu (Oahu) route three times a week, increasing to five times a week in Dec 2021.
- Marriott’s upscale brand, Renaissance, is returning to Hawaii. The Renaissance Honolulu Hotel will open at the Sky Ala Moana project currently under construction on Kapiolani Boulevard near Ala Moana Center (due for completion 2022). The hotel will share the hotel entrance with the Renaissance Residences hotel-condominium units that will be located on the upper floors.
- Hilton Grand Vacations has acquired Diamond Resorts Hawaii properties including The Modern Honolulu (Oahu), The Point at Poipu (Kauai) and Kaanapali Beach Club (Maui). They plan on rebranding these Hawaii time-share resorts under a new Hilton Vacation Club brand.
- The Surfjack Hotel has wiped out their resort fees for the rest of 2021, previously $25 per room per night. It’s common for Hawaii hotels to charge resort fees. They’re a daily amenity charge in addition to the room rate usually paid at checkout, inclusions vary per property. We’ve listed the cost of resort fees and parking rates at every Waikiki hotel on our free Waikiki Map.
Restaurants & Bars
- The Oahu Eats Guide is 50% off for our readers! Don’t leave the most delicious part of your Hawaii holiday up to chance! Let me take the guesswork out of where to dine on Oahu. After six years eating my way around the island, I’ve downloaded my insider foodie advice into this guide. Get ready to drool over incredible eats, many you’ll be learning about for the first time. This purchase will turn your next trip to Hawaii into an unforgettable eating adventure!
- The Moani Island Bistro & Bar in Kapolei has opened a second location, Moani Waikiki, on the International Market Place third floor’s Grand Lanai (next to Herringbone). It serves comfort food crafted from local recipes and live local music every night. Happy Hour on the patio runs 4-6pm Monday to Friday with selected $5 drinks and $10 pupu (appetizer) menu.
- Hilton Hawaiian Village’s premier restaurant, Bali Oceanfront (formerly Bali Steak & Seafood), has reopened with an elevated prix fixe dining experience for breakfast and dinner. The restaurant is open Wed to Sun 7-10am and 5:30-9pm. The main restaurant overlooks Waikiki’s widest stretch of beach, while the newly-opened Lagoon Terrace area boasts views overlooking Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon and provides the perfect venue to catch a Waikiki sunset.
- Castro’s Cuban Food on Saratoga Road is a new Waikiki family-owned and run Cuban restaurant. Try their innovative breakfast and lunch menu with bright latin flavors, Cuban classics and a full espresso bar. Open Tue-Sun 7am-2pm.
- Restaurant and cocktail lounge Podmore has opened in the historic Joseph W. Podmore building in Downtown Honolulu (20-mins from Waikiki). It’s a new concept by Anthony Rush and Katherine Nomura, the duo behind restaurant Senia. The interior design is beautiful, think European grandeaur, and it’s theme is “brunch by day and cocktails by night.”
- Bar Māze, a new concept by the team behind Bar Leather Apron, has opened in The Collection at Kakaaako (15-mins from Waikiki). The vision for Bar Māze is to go beyond the idea of pairings to create cocktails and dishes that are created specifically to go together. There are two dinner seatings (5:30pm and 8pm) in the main dining room featuring a five-course omakase meal for $125 per person. In the mezzanine bar and lounge, an a la carte menu will feature small plates.
- Raising Cane’s has opened a new fast-food outlet in the Paina Lanai Food Court at the Royal Hawaiian Center. It’s the sixth Hawaii restaurant for the brand, and the first in Waikiki. Meals consist of crispy made-to-order chicken fingers, Texas toast, secret recipe Cane’s Sauce, coleslaw and crinkle-cut fries.
- Head down to International Market Place to celebrate its 5th Anniversary! Now through 31 Aug 2021, sip on $5 tiki cocktails, enter to win big on social media, and enjoy live local music.
Tours & Activities
- Insight Vacations premium guided journeys have launched new 2022 Hawaii itineraries. Each trip includes dining, hotel services and experiences that have been carefully selected. A Travel Director and Well-Being Director take care of all the details so that guests can relax and enjoy all that the islands have to offer. Hawaii with Oahu, Maui & Big Island and Hawaii with Oahu & Maui packages are available.
- Westside Dive & Tackle, a spearfishing and diving sports shop with it’s flagship store in Kunia on the west side of Oahu, recently added a second location in Kailua on the east side of Oahu. The east coast, especially Kaneohe Bay, is one of the most popular diving areas on the island.
- The Koko Marina 8 movie theater in Hawaii Kai has reopened. It has a new reserved seating and ticketing process that ensures social distancing between parties.
- Three new tenants have opened at Pearl Highlands Center, a central Oahu shopping center. The Good Feet Store which specializes in custom-fit foot arch supports, the fifth location for Liliha Bakery and second location for Little Joe’s Steakhouse. The center is anchored by Sam’s Club, 24 Hour Fitness, Regal Pearl Highlands, Ross Dress for Less and Buffalo Wild Wings.
- Aloha Collection, a Hawaii-based water-resistant beach bag designer, has opened their first brick-and-mortar store at the Moana Surfrider in Waikiki after several years of success online. Their bags are made in eye-catching tropical prints and vibrant colors and leverages splash-proof technology that keeps your belongings dry.
- Kailua Shopping Center welcomes two new tenants. The first, Dogtown Bakery, sells Paradise Pawz brand organic, locally sourced dog treats. The second, SoHa Keiki, is a children-centric version of the SoHa Living chain.
- New retail stores are popping up at Pearlridge Center, Oahu’s second largest shopping mall. They include Hina (locally designed apparel, home accessories and hula supplies), Windsor (women’s clothing and accessories), Hawaii Vault (clothes, shoes and sporting gear), Happy Koi Nursery (easy-care plants), and Santa’s Pen Hawaii (gift items and holiday memorabilia).
- Fine art curator Island Art Galleries has made its debut at Ala Moana Center. When not hosting a specialty show, the gallery will represent international and local artists with its collection of original fine art paintings, sculptures, glass arts and photographs of various cultures and histories. Prices from $1,200 to $150,000.
- New York City-based fashion brand Kith launched its new two-story store at Royal Hawaiian Center (next to Jimmy Choo). Kith sells a variety of footwear and apparel for men, women and children, between its in-house brand and selections from other companies. The space also includes a Kith Treats parlor, featuring its cereal and ice cream dishes, and a build-your-own menu.
Festivals & Events
- O Na Lani Sunset Stories have returned to International Market Place, every Mon, Wed and Fri. Free and open to the public, the show honors the center’s rich history and sense of place through Hawaiian and Polynesian song and dance. The event begins at sunset with the ceremonial lighting of the Lamaku Torch Tower on Kalakaua Ave and leads to the stage at Queen’s Court. The show starts at 7pm through Aug and 6:30pm from Sep to Feb.
- Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort is hosting an art exhibit in commemoration of surfing officially becoming an Olympic sport at the Tokyo Games. The exhibit of surfboard art by Eduardo Bolioli is entitled “Golden Dreams” and will be at the resort from 25 Jul 2021 through the end of the year.
- With increased concerns surrounding COVID-19 cases, the KCC Farmers Market will temporarily close beginning Sat 28 Aug 2021, for the next four Saturdays. The market normally runs every Sat 7:30-11am.
- For at least the start of the 2021 fall athletics calendar, fans will be barred from attending University of Hawaii (UH) sporting events due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. The decision affects football, women’s volleyball and soccer.
- The Hawaii Food & Wine Festival is returning in 2021! Book a range of culinary experiences and hands-on activities featuring local and visiting chefs. Events slated to take place on Hawaii Island 1-2 Oct, on Maui 7-10 Oct, and on Oahu 14-24 Oct.
- USS Arizona Memorial “Small Group” from $92.65 per person (save $16.35)
- Private Tour Up to 5 People from $629.10 per group (save $69.90)
- Half-Day Small-Group Food Tour in Honolulu from $152 per person (save $38)
- Private Round Trip Transfer To And From Honolulu Airport from $64 per person (save $16)
- Waikiki Hotel Pool Passes
- More Oahu Tours & Activities
*Subject to change/terms and conditions apply – please refer to the individual businesses for full details.
Shop Hawaii Style
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- Lonely Planet Honolulu Waikiki & Oahu
- ALOHA Collection Splash-Proof Reversible Totes
- Homesick Scented Candle, Hawaii
- Aloha Kitchen: Recipes from Hawaii
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Image Credit: Shutterstock/Daniel De Petro