Author: Cara Birkholz

New post-arrival test starting May 5 for Maui

As mentioned a few weeks ago, Maui’s mayor is instituting a (hopefully temporary) post-arrival test on May 5, 2021.

The current process is that up to 72 hours prior to the last leg of your flight to Maui, you need a negative Covid test which is then uploaded into the Safe Travels App. Only NAAT tests done by the State’s ‘trusted partners’ are valid (please see the official website for the most accurate details).

As Maui’s new Covid infection numbers had not been going down in recent months, the mayor is instituting a second test. The second test is a rapid test which will be done at Kahului airport, free of charge for travelers.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • if you have proof of being fully vaccinated (both doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of J&J) you are exempt. Proof of vaccination means presenting your original CDC vaccination card or certificate of vaccination downloaded from the CDC’s Vaccination Administration Management System (VAMS).
  • the rapid antigen test administered at the airport is free. Results are expected to take 15-20 minutes.
  • if you test positive, you will be asked to return to the airport for a second test, a PCR test this time. You will be notified right away if the confirming test is negative. If you refuse the second test or it comes back positive, you will need to quarantine for 10 days at your own expense. NOTE: by law you cannot quarantine in a vacation rental but would need to stay somewhere on the County’s ‘approved list‘.
  • kids aged five and under are exempt from the post-arrival test
  • see the County of Maui’s website for more details

Where is the State of Hawaii at with their vaccination passport

The State will be phasing in a vaccination passport program. This vaccination passport program will eliminate the need for the pre-travel testing when showing proof of being fully vaccinated.

Phase 1: testing exemption for inter-island travel for those who have been vaccinated within the State of Hawaii

The State is just starting the program, so as of May 11

  • if you have been fully vaccinated at a facility within the State of Hawaii
  • and it’s been more than 2 weeks since you were fully vaccinated
  • upload a copy of your vaccination certificate to the Safe Travel App (starting May 7)
  • these will be manually verified with the State health records

The State is starting the program small – in-State vaccinations are easiest for them to verify.

At some point (possibly in summer), they hope to open the vaccination passport program to those vaccinated in other states.

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Maui Chocolate Factory

Do you love chocolate? I love sweets and chocolate is one of my go-to treats. Did you know Maui has several chocolate growers?

This weekend’s Maui News has an article on Ku’ia Estate Chocolate. In fact, last summer someone gave me some Ku’ia individual chocolate pieces. The pieces I got were dark chocolate and absolutely delicious. For much more information on Ku’ia Estate Chocolate, how the owner got started 10+ years ago, do read the very interesting article in the Maui News! They work hard to give back to the community – in fact, last summer’s chocolate gift was from a fundraiser for a local charity. Ku’ia Chocolate offer tours and tastings. The factory/store is located at 78 Ulupono St in Lahaina.

A picture of my Ku’ia chocolte gift I posted on our Instagram last summer. Do you follow us on Instagram or Facebook?

Other chocolate growers on Maui

Doing a quick chocolate farm search on google, I’m coming across two other chocolate farms. Kupa’a Organic Farm is located upcountry in Kula and offers coffee and chocolate tours. Hana Gold Plantation is located in Hana. I’m not seeing tours offered, however have seen their chocolate in stores. I’m pretty sure there are more – send me a note if you know of any others and I’ll add them!

Have you ever been to a chocolate farm? I haven’t here on Maui, but a few years ago we visited a small chocolate farm while on a cruise off Honduras and Mexico. The chocolate was definitely calling to me (and calls to me still).

My favorite chocolate

While I definitely appreciate dark chocolate – particularly the fact that it’s something I savor and enjoy slowly, my favorite type of chocolate is milk chocolate. Having grown up in Austria, the land of amazing deserts, coffee and chocolate, my favorite is Milka chocolate. It’s so smooth, I can eat that whole bar in a matter of minutes. That’s why it’s best to not open it until I have a couple kids nearby. Ha!

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Reef safe sunscreens and sunburn remedies

This weekend I got the worst sunburn. It has been a long time since I last burned this badly. Yes I was wearing sunscreen. I just forgot to re-apply. This is ironic since I worked for a dermatologist for a number of years. Ugh.

Did you know, as of 2021 by law stores in Hawaii are not allowed to sell sunscreens containing reef-damaging oxybenzone and octinoxate. Of course, you may still bring these sunscreens into Hawaii, though in the interest of protecting our reefs, we would prefer you didn’t. Here is an article by the Star Advertiser with much more information about the new law.

Sunscreen options

Which sunscreens to use? My dermatologist friend’s favorites were Blue Lizard, EltaMD and Vanicream. Another great way to avoid sunburns is to wear UV protectant clothing and hats. There is also a product called Sun Guard which claims to add UV protection when used in the wash (not sure how long it lasts, I think you need to re-use it from time to time).

I don’t know about you – but I really don’t like wearing sunscreen. My preferred way to avoid sunburns is to stay inside until 4pm and then venture out. Yes, I realize I am missing out of beautiful days in the sun and I guess you should still wear sunscreen even after 4pm… but I’m not much of a beach body anyway, so I’m usually ok with that.

A few of my favorite products – no Advil doesn’t protect you from sunburns. But it helps with the post-sunburn pain. Ugh.

Sunburn remedies

The best way not to get a sunburn is to protect your skin. But when it’s too late….. hydrate, use aloe or aloe products, pop a few Advil for the pain, stay out of the sun and then moisturize to minimize large scale skin flaking. One product I came across a few years ago and love is Mauivera. On Maui you can find it at ABC stores, grocery and drug stores. Yes, Amazon carries it too. Do avoid after-sun products containing alcohol.

As for me – my sunburn is slowly calming down. Yes, I’ve learned my lesson. I will be covering up or staying in the shade for the foreseeable future.

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Current Maui Farmer’s Markets

This morning I saw a list of Maui farmer’s markets and thought – I know some people who may be interested! My readers! Here you are:

South Side
  • Saturday 8-12 behind Kukui Mall parking lot in Kihei (I am told this one USED to be located in the Fabiani’s parking lot)
  • Tuesdays 8-11:30 Wailea Village farmer’s market (check my blog post from a few weeks ago)
  • sadly the farmer’s market at Aloha Marketplace is gone
Kahului/North shore
  • Wednesdays – morning through mid-afternoon – Queen Kaahumanu shopping center in Kahului, center court
  • Wednesday/Friday 2250 Hana Hwy (Haiku area)
West side
  • Wednesday/Saturday Napili farmer’s market 8-12pm
  • Thursday Lahaina Jodo Mission 4-7pm
Upcountry
  • Saturday Maliko Country Farms at Oskie Rice Arena (Makawao) 8-12pm
  • Wednesday Farmer’s market at Oskie Rice Arena (Makawao) 8-1pm
  • Upcountry Farmer’s market at Kula Malu shopping center 8-11am (I call this the ‘crunchy market’ – go and you’ll see why! It is an amazing farmer’s market)
farmer's market
Saturday morning upcountry farmer’s market
There are also farm stands, open most of the week
  • Kumu Farms (at the Maui Tropical Plantation) Tues-Saturday
  • Kula Country Farms Mon-Sat 9-4pm – this is my favorite upcountry farm stand. They have strawberry u-pick Wed/Sat through mid June
  • North Kihei ABC Store Mon-Fri 8-4pm

Am I missing any that are open now in 2021? Send me a message, I’ll add them to this list!

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New post-arrival testing at the airport

This week Maui’s mayor announced new post-arrival testing at the airport. What is this all about?

As you (should) know by now, when flying to Hawaii there is a mandatory 10 day quarantine for all arrivals. You can bypass this quarantine by taking a pre-arrival test up to 72 hours prior to the last leg of your flight into Hawaii. For much more information on all this, please check the official State of Hawaii Covid Travel website.

On Maui our Covid numbers have been a bit elevated since around Christmas. The Health authorities and mayor say it’s community-based. However, with the dramatic increase in tourism (6000-8000 arrivals/day the past few weeks), community pushback and blaming both arriving visitors and returning residents for the higher numbers and new variants has grown.

Maui’s mayor asked the Governor and received the State’s official ok to introduce a second mandatory post-arrival test. Details are not really available yet as they are still figuring things out. Here’s what we know so far

  • Rapid-test
  • Mandatory on arrival at the airport for trans-Pacific flights
  • Free to the traveler (paid for by the County of Maui)
  • If traveler tests positive, they will need to quarantine

What is unclear at this time:

  • What about false-positives? Will it be followed up by another test (while you and your fellow travelers quarantine)?
  • Airport logistics when you have multiple large trans-Pacific flights arriving at the same time.

This week Maui County opened vaccinations to all residents 16+. It is my hope that with increased vaccinations our numbers will go down and that this post-arrival test will be short-lived.

No vaccination passports at this time

As of now there is no exemption to all the testing for those who have been vaccinated. The Lt Governor heads up the Covid task force for Hawaii and would like to see a vaccination passport implemented soon. However, the Governor recently announced that his priority is to vaccinate residents and not to expect a vaccination passport until later in the summer.

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What is the current re-entry process to Canada

Remember when flying between Canada and the US was as easy as ensuring you had a valid passport, ticket and passing security and customs? I checked – our family’s passports are all valid. And yet, travel to Canada seems so remote these days.

My Canadian return guests and Facebook page followers have been lamenting their cold Canadian winter. Some have optimistically booked their winter 2022 Maui stays (yes, those calendars are filling up).

The Canada-US border remains closed to non-essential travel at this time. Apparently there are exceptions, and of course, Canadians may return to their country. There are just ‘a few’ steps to take in order to do so.

I have a few friends who have gone through this process in the past months. One repeat guest in BC told me of unmarked government vehicles parking outside her house and phone calls, checking that she was quarantining (this was last fall). My mom (also in BC) recently told me of an unmarked vehicle checking in on one of her neighbors, the official in the car speaking with the quarantin-er on the phone through the door.

Direct Westjet flight YYC-OGG arriving on April 3, 2021

Several Alberta friends who own second homes here on Maui recently flew back home. Here is a short summary of one of their experiences:

  1. They had to organize and take a pre-travel test while here on Maui. The requirements are quite specific (so do check the Canadian government website for specifics). I believe Minit Medical, Doctors on Call and Clinical Labs of Hawaii all offer tests. The Minit Medical test ran at $175US/person. You need these results on time, without negative results, you will need to reschedule your trip.
  2. Then for the return flight. Apparently WestJet has one direct flight per week between Calgary and Maui (OGG). I was surprised there are direct flights into Canada. My friend’s return flight to Calgary was a third full and according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority (check here for very cool searchable arrival statistics), there are Canadians are still arriving on Maui on those inbound flights. As I check right now, it doesn’t look like there are any direct flights to Vancouver, and my quick spot check is not showing direct AirCanada options either.
  3. On arrival in Calgary my friends took a complimentary Covid test at the airport and then proceeded to their pre-booked hotel room for their 3 night stay. The cost at the Acclaim hotel for two persons was $1300 for 3 nights which included all meals. Curious me checked the Acclaim Hotel at the Calgary airport. The hotel looks nice, my friend had a standard size hotel room with a king-size bed, chaise, desk and chair. Imagine spending up to three days in a hotel room?
  4. Fortunately for my friend, they received their test results within 24 hours. They called the front desk, were escorted out of the hotel and headed home to ride out the remaining 13 days of quarantine at home. There was no discount for the unused nights/meals at the hotel.
  5. On Day 10 of their quarantine they will take another Covid test. If that test is also negative, then after Day 14 they are free to resume their ‘normal’ routine.

For much more information and current details on the Canadian out-of-country arrival program, please check the official Canadian government website.

As for our family – we will continue to wait to visit our family and friends until the Canadian border becomes a bit more porous.

How many Canadians come to Maui?

When we first started our vacation rental business, about half our guests were Canadian. Over the past years this number has decreased to perhaps one fifth, but Maui remains a popular warm-weather destination for Western Canadians. Per the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s Canada Fact Sheet, in 2019 Maui saw 277,000 Canadian visitors, on average 35% first-timers (65% repeat), spending an average 12 days on island.

Sugar Beach 104
Pull up a chaise lounge and take in the view
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Where are all the rental cars?

Remember a year ago when all the tourists left? Beside empty condos and empty hotels, empty restaurants, stores and streets and insane unemployment, Maui had another problem. Empty rental cars. Empty rentals cars all needing to be stored and no place to put them. Most of those rental cars ended up being stored in fields surrounding the airport. For months we had cars sitting in fields, and it got to the point where they closed and guarded the road by the heliport overnight to prevent theft, gas syphoning and car part picking. From time to time you would notice windshield wipers raised on some cars – I am told this was to indicate that a car had been checked.

a not-so-temporary rental car parking lot at the intersection of Airport Road and Hana Hwy in Kahului (March 2020)

Eventually the rental car fields emptied. Rumor has it many were loaded onto ships and sent back to the mainland to be sold or integrated into the mainland rental car fleet.

In mid-October tourism slowly restarted with the pre-travel test option. There were plenty of rental cars available for the demand. Here on Maui we are used to car lots running out of cars around Christmas and the early January PGA golf tournament, but we didn’t hear anything about shortages.

Until now! It’s been spring break this month and Maui has been BUSY. Arrival numbers have skyrocketed and guess what – there are no rental cars to be had. HawaiiNewNow reports today that on Oahu you are hard pressed to find a car, and those businesses with cars available are reaping the benefit of supply and demand. $1000/day for a car anyone? Yikes.

What to do?

Well, spring break should be coming to a close with Easter this weekend, so hopefully things will slow down a bit again. And hopefully rental companies will start shipping inventory back to the islands. In the mean time, taxis and ride-shares will have to fill the gaps. If you can get one.

Do you love statistics?

I track the Hawaii Tourism Authority daily arrivals logs, looking at how many people are arriving on Maui on a daily basis.

But today I stumbled across this arrivals compilation on the Hawaii Covid website, showing where people are coming from, airlines etc. You can look at all of Hawaii, or break it down by County, play with dates etc. Fascinating. For example, one of my neighbors flew back to Calgary (Canada) by direct flight on Sunday (March 28) where she is currently languishing in quarantine (another story). So I knew there must have been a flight coming from Canada – I found it on March 27th – a Westjet flight with 28 passengers (yes – 28!!). Apparently they fly once week. Who knew?

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Did you know Wailea has a farmer’s market?

Wailea Village, the new upscale shopping area by Manolis Pizza Company and the Wailea Blue Course, opened just as Covid was beginning. They’ve had a rough start of it, with half the store fronts still empty. Management decided to help its shops out this past January by starting a Tuesday farmer’s market.

Every Tuesday from 8 to 11:30 vendors set up their tents and food trucks in the Wailea Village plaza. Today was my first time going, and let’s just say – it was a great way to start my day!

They had live music, flowers, two vegetable stands, two bakery stands (including my favorite Maui Artisan Breads), a variety of stalls selling juices, jams, cookies, breakie bowls, balsamic vinegars etc. It kept true to Wailea-standards, from what I could tell, good quality products.

Sabado Art Studio

My first stop actually was the Sabado Art Studio, one of the shops at the mall. I’ve been meaning to go in here for a while to get matching cushions for the Philip Sabado art rug we have at our Palms at Wailea condo. They helped me select some (reasonably priced) cushions right there. The artist’s son, who I have met several times, was there running the store. Do go in and have a look – they have some beautiful items for sale.

Farmer’s Market vendors

My favorite local bakery had a stand, but I had my heart set on trying the other sourdough bakery – Momo. I picked up a braided foccacia loaf and also an artisanal fig loaf. Both are excellent.

I looked at these protea bouquets, but realized we still have flowers in the kitchen and passed. But aren’t they beautiful?

The Maui Cookie Lab was calling my name and I picked up a few of their cookies.

Should you be looking for something to do on a Tuesday morning, do check out the Wailea Farmer’s Market!

Other shops at Wailea Village

While here, check out my favorite local card store Paper Garden. In addition to cards and gift wrap and such they host arts and craft workshops. Check out their website or follow them on Instagram for more information.

Love your coffee but looking to support local over say Starbucks, check out Akamai Coffee next to Paper Garden. They also have a store in Central Kihei across from Times Supermarket and a coffee stand in the Home Depot parking lot.

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Our Sugar Beach remodel is complete!

As you may know, we’ve been working on a remodel of our Sugar Beach condo. Pre-Covid we had discussed replacing cabinet doors, a few of which were starting to delaminate. But remodels rarely go the way you think they will. It ended up making more sense to replace the cabinets altogether. This in turn meant new counters – we chose quartz this time! I love it!

One of the things about our climate is that metal rusts quite quickly. Our appliances were definitely starting to rust, so we replaced those with stainless. Have you tried replacing appliances this past year? It turns out Covid has had a major impact on appliance manufacturers and, at least here on Maui, it was tricky getting appliances.

The ceiling fans needed replacing, and we’ve added a small ceiling fan with light kit in the bathroom which should help with condensation.

Sugar Beach #104
The California-king size bed with plantation shutters

Last but not least we decided to do away with the blue paint. When we purchased this condo in September 2010, the previous owner Joanne had most of the walls painted blue. Personally, I loved it. Over the years we’ve repainted the walls a lighter blue, but this January we did away with it completely. I love this even more. The entire condo seems brighter and bigger.

This afternoon I need to schedule the professional photographer to properly photograph the condo. For now, enjoy my amateur Youtube video! I love the results!

We hope one day soon to welcome you to our Sugar Beach condo!

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What’s new with Maui travel?

NEW: Mandatory sign-up for AlohaSafe Alert App (or similar) to avoid the 10 day quarantine per County of Maui. This is in addition to the SafeTravels program (pre-travel Covid testing etc etc). Please, if you are traveling to Maui at this time, make sure you read the official websites carefully to avoid problems.

Tourism on Maui has settled into its groove, in a manner of speaking. After the Christmas ‘rush’ of about 2200 arrivals/day, we seem to have settled in at about 1700 visitor arrivals/day. This down from January 2020’s 7000/day. After 9 months of minimal traffic, it seems like a lot, but really it isn’t.

You’ll notice Lihue (Kauai) is seeing minimal travel. In December they opted out of the ‘pre-travel testing to avoid quarantine’ program. Predictably their economy is suffering badly.

Who is traveling to Maui?

Generally we are seeing a younger than usual crowd for this time of year. Typically winter is snowbird season, time for baby boomers to come thaw out from winter back home. Yes, there are always younger people also, but they typically stay a week or two and then have to get back to work. This year many snowbirds are taking a pass on travel – I assume pending receipt of the Covid vaccine or the pandemic ending. Completely understandable. Thankfully the younger crowd is coming, many staying longer and working remotely from the condos. We are thankful.

Anecdotally I am told there are a lot of condo owners on island. Perhaps they haven’t been able to travel this past year, haven’t had much luck renting their condos out. Good for them! In normal years high season rents help pay the bills during low season, so often owners will limit their high season stays. This year the world is upside down.

Some vacation rental stats for you!

I just received my monthly update email from the Hawaii Tourism Authority on vacation rentals for December 2020. According to their data, condo occupancy for the month of December was at 45% for Kihei/Wailea vs last year’s 83%, with average rates down 29%. over last year’s. We were lucky, our condos were all full for December. For January our Kamaole Sands condo sat empty. Next month all condos will be full again, with exception of our Sugar Beach condo – the remodel should hopefully be completed in the next two weeks.

In contrast, Kihei/Wailea’s hotel occupancy for December 2020 is at 26% (down from 85% for December 2019). Interesting hotel nightly rates are only down 7%. See here for the Hawaii Tourism Association’s report. We’ve definitely seen near empty resorts on our Wailea beach walks. A few weeks ago we overheard a Wailea Beach Resort employee telling someone their occupancy was at 18% that day. How do these resorts stay open at those numbers?

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