When you think of the Big Island of Hawaii, chances are the first things that come to mind are volcanoes. Not surprising, as out of the five volcanoes which are considered active in Hawaii, four of them are on Hawai’i Island. The opportunity to walk among these incredible forces of nature is why millions flock to the island (pre-Covid-19!) every year.
You probably also remember the devastating eruption of the Kilauea volcano in 2018, which sadly destroyed over 700 homes in the Puna district of the island, permanently changing the landscape of the island. The eruptions ceased in September 2018, and the area is currently safe.
We were lucky enough to be able to visit Volcanoes National Park just before lockdown happened. At the time of writing, most areas, including visitor services remain closed.
You can check up to date information on the park and plan your visit Here.
In this post, I’ll be writing about my recommendations and experiences of the incredible hikes in this area. Hopefully you will soon be able to plan your own visit!
It’s hard to believe it’s been six weeks since I first wrote about sheltering in place on the Big Island of Hawaii (Hunkering down in Hawaii: social distancing on the Big Island). I thought I’d write a little update on the situation here, as we wait to see if and when we can begin to travel back to the U.K!
Hawaii is one of the states that has imposed the most restrictive rules and regulations around lockdown and behaviour in the Time of Coronavirus.
As I mentioned previously, Kauai was the first island to mandate an evening curfew to all residents and visitors, violation of which was punishable by a fine and/or prison time! The Big Island stopped short of a curfew, but insisted on self-isolating and sheltering in place. As the weeks went by, all the beaches, parks and golf courses closed, and shops, hotels and restaurants ceased trading. Some restaurants remained open for take out only.
The local hotels closed their doors around the end of March
We had already cancelled our onward travel to the neighbouring islands, deciding that it was safer to stay where we were and see how things progressed. We didn’t think that the lockdown could last as long as it has! The Big Island, where we were to spend three weeks, has inadvertently become our home and refuge during this crisis.
Luckily, we had an ongoing reservation on our rental home, which has given us some flexibility, with travel restrictions and mandates changing on a regular basis.
The information we have from the Government of Hawaii is confusing at best. Trying to keep up with both the Governor’s updates for the state, and the localised updates from the Mayor of the Big Island is a challenge.
Before all the state beaches were officially closed, “Beach Closed” signs started to appear around the area, and gates were closed to block access to cars. Apparently some were put there by locals to try and keep visitors away, which only added to the confusion (and isn’t really in the spirit of Aloha!).
It was unclear whether you could use hiking trails, and given that we were only supposed to be driving in order to buy groceries, we have mostly stayed in the local area.
Our grocery shopping is mainly limited to one trip a week – planning meals ahead of time. This is something we have never done as city dwellers in Europe, where a supermarket or any type of cuisine imaginable is always a 5 minute walk away!
It has been very quiet here. We normally go walking a few times a week around the neighbourhood. Until recently, we have regularly been able to walk 4-5 miles without seeing more than one other person. The wild goats have happily taken over the golf courses, and wander along the roads nonchalantly, enjoying the lack of traffic.
It’s a surreal but relaxing experience to walk among the volcanic paths and not see a car or human for miles.
When we do eventually get back to the UK, it will be a shock to the system after months of idyllic island living. I’m so used to this house now, it will be like moving home all over again!
The pools in the complex have stayed open, so we have been able to sit and read in the sunshine. Until recently, the pool area has been very quiet, with people mostly observing social distancing.
In the last few days, we’ve noticed more “new” families in the area, who we assume have come in from the mainland. There are apparently flights still coming in, with a few visitors per plane – a tiny fraction of the numbers that the islands would normally see.
A new law requires anyone arriving to Hawaii to quarantine inside their residence or lodging for 2 weeks, only going out for medical emergencies. This even applies to inter-island flights. I’m not sure that this is being adhered to in our remote part of the island.. and there doesn’t seem to be anyone around to enforce it! We just keep our own social distance and make sure we’re exercising and keeping as healthy as possible.
The shops in the local mall remain closed, despite permission being given last week for some retail stores to re-open. Perhaps after weeks of lockdown, they don’t have the staff or finances to open their doors. There are so few tourists that there may be no point.
We saw today that one shop has closed its doors permanently and the space is now for lease. It’s a tiny indication of the impact that the lockdown has had – and will continue to have – on the economy, as we watch companies and businesses slowly fold. It seems like it’s only going to get worse, the longer the country and the world remains at this standstill.
In the last few days, the Governor of Hawaii has indicated that some restrictions will start to slowly be relaxed. We are now able to go hiking, within a family group, and we can go to some beaches, as long as we don’t sunbathe!
For the rest of our time here, we will be doing a few more hikes, and hopefully be able to spend some time at the beach. It’s been very strange to be in Hawaii for this length of time and not do our usual amount of hiking, shopping, beach time and dining out. It has, however, been very relaxing, and we have been lucky to be in this situation.
I don’t think these guys are going to be impressed when people want their golf course back!
As it stands at the moment, our flight home from the mainland has been cancelled and re-booked by the airline four times. They are not sure that the next one they have scheduled for us (in June) will fly. As my Visa Waiver entry to the U.S. expires before then, we are trying to contact various Government agencies for help with an extension. We still have no clear idea of when we will get back to the U.K.
So we continue our day to day life on the Big Island, caught somewhere between not wanting to leave, and the frustration and expense of not being able to get home. We are grateful that we have been able to shelter here, and although times are stressful, it has been the best place to wait things out.
As we take our evening walk in the shadow of the stunning Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the world, I am reminded of the wild beauty of the island, and how fortunate I am to have been able to visit here.
Hopefully, as the world starts to re-open, we will be able to return home, and we will plan to re-visit the islands as soon as we can.
Stay tuned for more updates, as we continue to negotiate these strange times!
Before the islands shut down, we were able to spend some time hiking and visiting the National Parks And historical sites on the Big Island, which I have written about in previous posts (you can find them under the “Big Island” category).
Next up, I’ll be writing about the incredible Volcanoes National Park, and some of the hikes we did in the area.. including the eerie Kilauea Crater. Hopefully you will be able to plan your own visit soon!
In the meantime, stay safe!
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