As the whole world comes to terms with restricted living due to COVID-19 regulations, many have asked how day-to-day life has changed here on the Big Island. On March 25, Governor Ige passed a mandatory 14-day quarantine on all visitors arriving in Hawaii, and this has effectively stopped all tourism to the state for the first time in its history. So, how is life in a tourism-driven state with no tourists? In a few words - eerie and calm.
A stay-at-home order was issued at the end of March, and the vast majority of public parks and beaches are closed to the public. As a result, Big Island residents have far fewer options for outdoor recreation. Fortunately, Hawaii's COVID-19 guidelines allow people to enter the ocean for surfing or other physical activities, but people are not allowed to linger on the beach or put down towels. As a result, our beautiful beaches are completely empty - a fascinating and rare sight to see. Most public parks and beaches have since re-opened as of July 2020.
Yesterday, the Big Island's best beach (subjective opinion), Hapuna Beach, was almost completely quiet. One lifeguard monitoring the beach casually jogged up and down the white sand, and two swimmers splashed around in the near-shore waters. It is fascinating to see Hapuna Beach empty - somehow the beach looks larger and more beautiful with no signs of humanity around.
All of the major resort hotels on the South Kohala Coast have closed their doors while the 14-day quarantine is in effect - including Mauna Kea Beach Resort, The Weston Hapuna Beach Resort, and the new Auberge Mauna Lani Hotel. Most of the Big Island's resort employees are on short-term layoffs, and most are abiding by the stay-at-home order. Traffic across the island has also decreased by more than 50% according to data from Kona, which is hard for us locals to complain about. The 4-way intersection in Waimea is sometimes completely silent in the middle of the day.
The lack of tourism and vehicle traffic has given the Department of Public Works a rare opportunity to complete road construction with minimal impact, so more than a dozen road-side construction projects are being completed. This includes widening the Mamalahoa Highway in Waimea, as well as widening the bike lanes in some areas at the Mauna Lani resort.
The number of feral goats in the Waikoloa Resort area has increased dramatically - offering the few here unusual sights - including herds of twenty or more goats wandering the championship golf courses and nibbling at the landscaping. The number of feral goats in South Kohala has increased dramatically over the last five years, and the shutdowns have allowed the goats a temporary paradise of empty, well-manicured hotels.
The short-term quarantine has lead to concerns about vacant vacation properties being illegally accessed - so resort security and HOAs have banded together to search for any suspicious activity at all four major resorts. Property management companies like us are taking advantage of the down-time to prepare our homes and condos for the upcoming busy season, and a welcome return to the normalcy of Big Island life.