a large mountain with green and brown cliffs and blue water

Wherever you travel, the least you can hope for is a warm welcome. Tourism is the lifeblood of many destinations, and any tourist entering Hawaii, or Kauai right now is already jumping through hoops, including a negative covid-19 test before departure, at their own expense. At circa $150 a pop, they’re not cheap.

But for some locals in Kauai who want more out of their visitors, or no visitors at all, there’s a new rebellion afoot in the island, after Mayor Derek Kawakami backed down from plans to enforce a second test on visitors. The rebellion? Select Kauai restaurants are refusing service to tourists. It’s not off to a pretty start…

a large body of water next to a rocky cliff

Unhappy Restaurants, Unhappy Tourists

Tourists and residents returning from the mainland and other islands are being told they’re not welcome in select restaurants on Kauai, and other islands. Online orders are still being accepted, but a variety of restaurants have posted notices that visitors and those recently returned from travel are not welcome to sit and enjoy any outdoor dining.

It’s the latest stand off between locals, tourists and government officials who can’t seem to get along. Kauai’s mayor requested a second covid-19 test three days after arrival, but Hawaii State Government overruled the request, stating it would add too much complexity to the already large ask of pre-flight covid-19 testing in place of prohibitive 14 day quarantine periods.

Locals, spooked of potential for virus spread through visitors, despite incredibly low statistical evidence of any additional worries are refusing sit down service to anyone who has yet to complete 14 days of quarantine, according to news reports from the Honolulu Star, and KHON.

Of course, the state dropped 14 day quarantine for mainland US visitors who take a covid-19 test prior to flight, which means these local businesses are creating their own rules, which visitors aren’t necessarily subject to. Those who travel intra-island without leaving Honolulu Airport on arrival are also exempt from 14 day quarantine, but that doesn’t change the opinion of many business owners.

“(Our) plan is to keep our area safe of travelers so the locals can have somewhere to feel safe eating not crowded by visitors that may or may not be COVID positive.”

Kauai Restaurant
Hawaii Beach

Restaurant owners are said to be checking for local state ID and are refusing sit down dining service to anyone without one. Since locals may also have traveled off the island recently and restaurants can’t purely determine travel from a local ID, the individualist policy seems more xenophobic than covid-19 secure.

It’s hardly the welcome many visitors keen to dine in local establishments were expecting after months without visitors, though food can still be taken away. Kauai has experienced incredibly low covid-19 figures, with fewer than 100 confirmed cases throughout the pandemic. With few intensive care hospital beds available on the island, concern for overwhelmed health systems is real, if not overblown by fear.

The news is the latest in the saga of Hawaii’s approach to reopening. By most country or state standards, pre-departure testing is more secure than others, but locals don’t seem to care. In Europe, very few countries require covid-19 testing of any kind prior to or during intra-European travel. In Asia, covid-19 testing is more commonplace, but quarantine restrictions are constantly being reduced.

Travel hasn’t been named globally as a large contributing factor to surging covid-19 cases in recent months, and recent studies regarding air quality on planes, believed to be 5x more secure than that of a hospital operating rooms only bolster those claims. According to studies in Canada, pre-flight testing is seen to catch up to 80% of cases.

Mask wearing, social distancing and practical hygiene make transmission, even for travelers who do slip through the cracks, far more unlikely. Authorities, including Lt. Governor Josh Green, have urged locals to take matters more into their own hands by following these measures, rather than punishing tourist arrivals. Only time will tell.

Just don’t expect that welcome punch bowl. You might be more likely to get a punch in the face, depending on which establishments you visit.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Many nice (arguably nicer) beautiful tropical places to visit that lack Hawaii’s strange behaviors, exceptional prices, and pushy activism.

    Vote with your feet and wallet. Kauai’s ecosystem will be grateful for the respite. Economic loss is a great motivator away from miserable behavior … unless you’re United Airlines.

    1. Genuinely curious. Where else do you recommend?
      We have cancelled 2 Kauai trips this year. Got refunds and hanging onto the cash to use at a different destination.

  2. Hawaiins are perhaps the most racist culture I have ever encountered. I’m happy to leave them alone! Mexico is closer anyway!

  3. We had the most unpleasant visit to kauai oct 15-20. After looking forward to proposing to my girlfriend there, we were met with rudeness and hostility. First our condo had bedbugs and were told we just had to leave and find some place else or the police would be called. Then told the covid test was incorrect and we needed to return to the airport. After a two hour wait it was again cleared. Those are just a few of the nightmares we encountered. There was no “aloha”. A very expensive nightmare we won’t repeat. My family had been visitors for 25 years. I wanted to share kauai with my fiancee. We won’t be back

  4. 1. People shouldn’t travel unnecessarily when there’s a pandemic.
    2. They reserve the right to refuse service.
    3. Kauai had little cases, the only ones they saw were travel related.
    4. They aren’t just refusing visitors to sit down, they are refusing anyone who traveled within the last 14 days, including locals that they know traveled.
    5. They still allow them to take out, just not dine in.

    Just a few things you forgot to mention.

    Finally, yeah, a very large part of the population in Hawaii isn’t happy to see tourists right now, it’s being shoved down our throats from those on the top. They’re more than welcome when this thing is over, but for now, just stay away.

    1. Clearly you are the president, emperor and king.

      1) not necessarily true. with precaution travel can be safer than going to your local supermarket.
      2) mentioned.
      3) mentioned.
      4) mentioned.
      5) mentioned.

    2. THANK YOU. The entitlement in this article and its comments should be shocking but isn’t.

      Let these people be safe on their own terms. Damn. I say good for them for sticking up for themselves against selfish brats.

    3. Absolutely! The mainland is again being overwhelmed major large areas: Kauai has kept its numbers low BECAUSE THEY HAVE HAD RESTRICTIONS! This isn’t about YOU, selfish visitor, it is about the health of the resident community! Stay home: don’t travel now – are you crazy?

  5. That’s totally BS. Hawaii and Kauai got a big stick up their behind. There are many residents there that have valid ID from another state. They need to stop with the crap and wash they damn hands and cover they mouth and put some damn SOAP in the public restrooms. They can start there with helping battle Carona. The reason it would spread there is because of bad sanitation practices all over the island. Be real with it. I know I lived there for 6 years. I tell you, they complain about tourist coming to visit and they complain about no tourist visiting. It’s so weird and by the way there are more Hawaiian people in California and Nevada than people form those states in Hawaii and telling me to leave and take mainland stuff with me , gladly, that would mean millions in government assistance as well would be gone to so you and your family can no longer rape the system. Enjoy your pork and poi. I can live without poki and the shit attitude towards me for no damn reason. Keep it.

    1. Totally agree! I have lived in Kauai for 14yrs, currently still do & came from midwest where racism happens everyday but NOT like here. Hawaiians are the worst! Constantly racist/hateful towards visitors, white people, their own kind & frankly to anyone they do not know. And leads to violence often! My wife is part Hawaiian from her mother’s side, her father a Caucasian (swedish Japanese mix) bc she was born with Caucasian features she was subjected to racism her entire school life! She even attended Kamehameha for schooling on Oahu, which is for those that do not know a very expensive private school held to the highest regards here in the islands, but you must be part Hawaiian to attend the school. even though everyone knew she was part Hawaiian because she belonged to the school she was still treated as a white person because the color of her skin. Constantly picked on constantly bully! and now my three children have experienced the same thing their entire school life here on this racist island! The racism is absolutely disgusting for how much the American government provides to these people. I’m sorry, you – Hawaiians, feel that your land was taken unfairly by the American government but the people that move here & the people that visit here have nothing to do with that act in history! Small business owners are shutting down their businesses left and right throughout our island and all the islands, without tourism people’s livelihoods are being destroyed.

  6. Life and community is precious this is a pandemic continuing in full force in most places around the world. 40 states have higher covid cases. California work from home, dining outdoors only. I support 2nd testing and I support how Kauai ‘s restaurant community is creating a safer environment for those who want to venture out. Respect the cautionary acts of Aloha.

  7. Just to be clear, our mayor, Derek Kawakami did not back down. Governor Ige did not approve the mandatory second test after three days that Derek has proposed. Kawakami has done an excellent job keeping our island protected and informed as well as doing what he feels best for our economy. He had to option of opting out of the pretext program altogether but realizes tourism is what many of us rely on here to make out livelihood. That is why he has installed a four tier system to keep track of the COVID and implement restrictions depending on which tier we are at. This is NOT to be unwelcoming to visitors, but instead to protect residents and visitors alike. It is the definition of “ALOHA”!
    We are a community that has some of the lowest number of cases in the WORLD, and ZERO deaths! His concern for opening while keeping the issue of safety paramount should be not only applauded but mirrored by others!

    1. By not opting out, he backed down. He protested, but not to the extend of Big island. I respect his delicate situation, but pretending that things opening with one test is anything less than backing down is inaccurate.

    2. Pall Gail– my sentiments exactly– mayor Kawakami has exceeded my expectations, from the early measures taken on the island (ie 9pm curfew) to the tiered system today, and most notably the DAILY communication. Being surrounded by ocean is a major advantage, sure, but a comparison of the numbers from island to island makes it crystal clear that Kauai is doing something different, and doing something RIGHT.
      Keep in mind the primary subject of the article/post, that extra measures are being taken by local businesses themselves, NOT executive orders passed down by the govt. None of them would be willing to forgo that desperately needed revenue if not for a good reason.

      I’m sorry for any visitors who don’t feel the aloha right now, but Kauai needs to look after our own. Our healthcare system is strained under normal circumstances, and we have an older than average population so just a moderate outbreak would be disasterous. We’ve eternally welcomed visitors and shared our home with love and aloha for as long as they’ve wanted to come, and now we’re simply asking they return in kind and give us this little bit of time to focus on our Kauai ohana.

  8. Also, Gilbert…
    You writing , “you might get a “punch in the face “ from some restaurants is so offensive.
    Restaurants that are taking extra precautions for visitors and residents who have traveled is just them wanting to protect not only their employees but the Ohana (family) of employees who often live with family who are Kapuna (elders) and do not want to take the risk of exposing them.
    I urge you to consider posting a retraction of your comment.

    1. I’ll respectfully decline that offer. I cover travel every day and have never seen more angry messages about travelers than those from Kauai.

    2. Re. “punch in the face” My wife and I (60 somethings who owned property on Kauai) were accosted, by a 40 something dude, in the Costco parking lot pre-Covid last December. Subjected to numerous cuss outs and “you wanta fight me bro” Just for being there to shop. NEVER AGAIN! We sold. A Low Haaa !

  9. While I respect localities and states taking measures to protect themselves and their economies, this sounds very strange. Please name names so we can decide our own support for these places of business.

  10. Let them rot, no flights, no shipping. They want to be bigoted and isolated let them. Send your money to places that want it. I was their yesterday they don’t want our money. Just wish we could completely cut them off from the mainland. Maybe North Korea would like a new island, it is politically closer to how they want to live.

  11. Well well, we’ve [wife and I] have canceled our 2nd trip in a year now, it looks like that was, and is, a good idea! There has been a overtone of people and their condescending attitude toward mainlanders, and has gotten worse over the last 40 years! I could get philosophical here but I’ll spare you all, so it’s sad for we loved to spend our hard earned money on Kauai but not with this kind of attitude happening, a real shame because now those with the proper attitude towards their fellow man [tourists] spending alot of cash, will suffer from a few SELFISH ONES. Anyway empathy for the ones that will suffer. So we’ve decided to go to Eleuthera Bahamas instead, they will be glad to allow us to sit and break bread, drink wine and spend our hard earned money there! We’ll live
    ” Aloha” in Eleuthera!

  12. God forbid you entitled crybabies aren’t able to sip Mai Tai’s on someone else’s beach for five days this year due to a once in a century pandemic that had killed more people in the US than any other nation. Your strength in the face of adversity is amazing. Surely your vacation selfies and humble bragging at work will suffer but I’ll say a prayer that next year this will all be over and you can resume turning their home into your amusement park once more.

  13. We are here on Oct 21-Nov 4 2020. So far on the mid island if Kauai, near Kapaa we have been well accepted. People have been kind, appreciate of business. We dont eat out much so have not experienced biased restaurants. Our tests were negative and we are allowed to be here as we don’t have Covid. This article is disappointing and disturbing in that we just want to swim in warm waters, hike trails of splendor and enjoy the beauty that is in abundance here.
    I can say that locals have repeatedly asked if we are ok, as if they know something we don’t. ( I wont read into that) but overall it has not been anything but wonderful!

  14. @GilbertOtt, if you need more clicks… gotta title your articles like this “https://liveandletsfly.com/hawaiian-islanders-revolt-against-covid-19-re-opening-measures/”. The other author framed the exact situation in a much more sensationalist way and gathered so much more anger filled response. Of course, didn’t matter to him that the first 3 words… Hawaiian-islanders-revolt are ridiculously false. I get it, its all about the money (clicks=advertising) but truth and facts matter (unless your a deluded orange clown)!

  15. Can’t say enough good things about the Kauai trip so far. From the rigor of the documentation required to the genuine helpfulness of the national guard folks tasked with reviewing and approving our entry, to the folks at the Walmart, gas station and shops. God for them for being cautious. THIS is how a rational society deals with an infectious disease. As for the racism… I’ve been to Kauai 7 times in 20 years. I’ve never experienced a bit of it. Now Texas, where I’m from? That’s an epidemic of a different kind (ampant COVID and abundant racism). If I was from Kauai, I’d be proud of it, and want to protect it too, especially given its remoteness. Maybe its not just ‘them’, you know? Perhaps fear of contagion is also subject to a bit of white privilege that doesn’t go over so well when ‘locals’ display it?

  16. Lest they forget, Kauai/Hawaii is part of the United States. They seem to feel that the islands are theirs & that people are trespassing! Sorry but that’s not the case. Get over yourself & get over it!

  17. I believe that Kauai, unlike Oahu, have enough flora and fauna to sustain the current population. Just think! The goods coming on Young Bros, or the crews could be contaminated with the virus. Better close off contact completely, like Kalapapa was with Hansen’s Diease, only in reverse. It’s the only way to be sure, and calm your fears.

  18. We ate at a restaurant in Hanalei last night and this restaurant was not representative of true Kaua’i Aloha and I guess it’s because they are probably anti tourist as your article states.

    I would have hoped that their hostess/staff would practice more “lokomaikai”. They were very rude and unkind. I have a home in Princeville and always visit this restaurant which is a Hanalei institution because it used to feel like aloha but I will no longer go to this restaurant. I was told that only “VIP” people can sit inside and that someone has to have a reservation if you want to sit inside. If this is the case, please ask them to update their website where it clearly states: “FIRST COME FIRST SERVE” and explain what a VIP person is. Seriously, so rude!

    I know this restaurant is a Hanalei institution because of the whole “movie” thing but please, they need to eat some humble pie. There are other wonderful “local & family run” restaurants on the island that you can enjoy as a “non VIP” and feel welcome but I’m sure they won’t care what one “makuahine” has to say. It used to make me happy to bring my ohana from the mainland to eat there but I will no longer be spending my money at this restaurant and I will let everyone and anyone who will listen to me that they will not feel any Kaua’I aloha at this restaurant.

    I am writing this comment because if they are treating me poorly they are surely treating our valuable tourists poorly and that makes me “sad”. We should treat each other kindly and welcome everyone into our eating establishments – COVID safely!

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