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Seeking the Aloha Spirit While Traveling in a Pandemic—My Experience in Waikiki

Last updated May 3, 2021

The islands of Hawaii have opened their doors to mainland travelers, and it has become a perfect escape for many in need of sunshine and positive vibes. In a time when health and personal wellness are so important, there is no shortage of healthy options to lighten your spirits. 

For me, travel has always been a form of wellness as it forces me to connect with all things unfamiliar and bring back balance to my life. For this trip, I wanted to indulge in the natural island vibes and focus on healthy options without breaking the bank. 

I also wanted to stay in a safe place that I knew was doing its best to keep tourists safe through a pandemic, and Hawaii was a perfect option. 

Before You Leave

It all starts with a negative COVID test and a quick review of the state’s Safe Travels Hawai‘i program before departure. The program, which was developed to mitigate the virus’s spread to the islands, is the first step to ensure a safe trip for both you and your fellow travelers. 

Here is a quick video that explains their current program and what to expect.

Without proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours, visitors arriving from out-of-state will be required to quarantine for ten days. The test must be taken at one of Hawaii’s “trusted testing partners,” and results must be uploaded to the Safe Travels App.  

However, with the state’s Pre-Travel Testing Program, all individuals showing a negative test result on arrival can bypass the 10-day quarantine and head straight to their hotel. Therefore, make sure you receive the result before you board your flight and keep your phone fully charged. 

Safety While Traveling

You will find that masks are required in public venues throughout the trip and social distancing is still enforced. With these protocols in place, you can safely explore and enjoy the island as others have done in the past. 

When Hawaii first opened its doors back up to mainland tourists in October, there were some rumors that travelers were not welcome on the islands; however, that was not the case in Oahu. Locals and professionals in the tourism industry are happy to have travelers back.

When asked about the future of travel to Hawaii, Geraldine Harvey, Global Account Manager for Outrigger Hospitality Group, sounded very optimistic: “Things are changing, restaurants and bars are opening back up, bookings from agents are increasing and we are hopeful that everything will get back to normal. Some agents are booking more Hawaii than they ever have before, and it’s showing.” 

The Outrigger Resorts have been a pioneer of change through the pandemic. Some of their hotels have been open from the very beginning to accommodate first responders and military personnel and have worked to find the best protocols to keep people safe during their stay. 

They provide the highest standards for health and safety at each of their properties while still ensuring a welcoming culture. Hand sanitizers are always available, and 6-foot distance markers can be found throughout the hotels. 

My Stay at Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger

Upon arrival, I quickly made my way to the hotel room and stepped outside for some fresh air. Nothing makes you feel better than a warm ocean breeze and a view of the Pacific from your balcony. My heart rate immediately dropped, and I quickly forgot about the daily stress of living in a pandemic.   

The Beachcomber is in a perfect location for visiting the beach and hitting the shops. You can certainly feel the aloha spirit with its surf-inspired murals by photographer Zak Noyle and its Instagram-friendly common areas throughout the hotel. 

You won’t need to go far for your morning coffee or an afternoon drink. The Hawaiian Aroma Café, which boasts the highest quality espresso drinks and latte art in Waikiki, is located directly across from the lobby, while the Maui Brewing Company is located right next door, offering craft beers and nightly happy hours. 

Both venues offer live music, bringing back a sense of normalcy and a chance for guests to relax and unwind. 

But it doesn’t end there; live music can be heard in all directions as you stroll the main street of Waikiki. From sidewalk singers to beach bands that play all night long, the sounds of Waikiki were exactly what I needed. 

Staying Healthy

Gyms and spas in Waikiki are slowly starting to open but there is no shortage of beautiful places to exercise outdoors. With its long stretch of coastline, you can enjoy a morning run while watching the beachgoers start their day. 

If you’re a hiker, not far from Waikiki, you will find the trailhead for Diamond Head State Monument. Make sure to bring your mask, $5.00 in cash for the entry fee and your camera. 

The view at the top is spectacular, and the pineapple stand at the bottom is a rewarding treat that I was not expecting. 

If you’re more of a water person, the ocean averages a wonderful 77°F in the winter and surfboards are available to rent for a small fee. 

Healthy Treats

While exploring the area, I stumbled upon a few healthy treats that brightened my day, not only from the staff’s positive energy and welcoming attitude but with the superfood nutrients I got along with it. 

Sunrise Shack:

Located directly across from The Beachcomber at the main lobby of The Outrigger Waikiki, the Sunrise Shack offers a healthy variety of specialty and bulletproof coffees, smoothie bowls and organic superfood snacks. 

The shop was created by four Hawaiian surfers to provide healthy food options while also bringing positive energy and aloha vibes to its customers. With its vibrant paintings of rainbows and sunshine, the aloha vibes were strong from the moment you walk in the door.

Banan Hawaii:

Just around the corner and only steps the sand, you will find Banan Hawaii, offering a frozen treat made of Hawaiian-grown bananas and other island-grown ingredients. 

The motto at Banan Hawaii is “ Make the earth happy – Make people happy – Serve righteous food.” The company was started by 4 childhood friends in hopes of supporting Hawaii’s agriculture and serving healthy food. 

Their main goals are to restore Hawaii’s banana industry, to gain a greater focus on agriculture and to create meaningful jobs for locals. This cold treat was a perfect way to cool down at the beach.

There are many ways you can spend a week in Waikiki, but sometimes you don’t need an itinerary at all.  Only minutes away, you can visit the famous Pearl Harbor National Memorial, spend the day at Kualoa Ranch or take a kayak out to the beautiful waters of Kailua Bay.

There are places all around the island that give you a feeling of home and escape even with a mask on and a bottle of sanitizer in your pocket. Island vibes are a real thing and sometimes the one thing we need most. 

“This is always a place of aloha where neighbors help neighbors. That is the aloha spirit, to come together, no matter what is going on in the world but especially during times of crises,” says Stephanie Harris, whose family has been living on Oahu for multiple generations. 

“To stay happy, we continue to go to the beach and go for hikes with the Keiki (children). We feel very fortunate that we have a beautiful outdoor playground 365 days a year.”


All images courtesy Lindsay Santoro

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