I had just sent an email to all our upcoming guests yesterday and then sat down to watch Maui Mayor Mike Victorino’s press conference. I was expecting more of the same, information that affects me as I live here, but nothing positive about vacation rentals. Then – surprise! – he announced the reopening of vacation rentals effective June 16, 2020.
As of this Monday Hawaii Governor Ige extended the mandatory 14 day quarantine through July 31. He talked about infrared temperature scanners and possible testing that will be implemented at island airports in the coming month. We are hoping the quarantine will NOT be extended any further. However, with the recent upswing in Covid cases on the mainland, who knows.
On my walk along South Kihei Road yesterday evening I saw patrons sitting on a lanai at Fred’s Mexican Cafe. In normal times the restaurant would be packed with lines out the door, especially on Taco Tuesdays. I’ve seen people in line to pick up take-out, but this was the first time I saw someone being served on the lanai in…. months. I can’t wait til things get back to normal. Whatever the new normal will be.
Have you been on the Sugar Beach walk? Last weekend the pool at our Sugar Beach Resort condo reopened for condo owners and guests. With Covid-19 restrictions in effect, there are very few owners and guests on property. Sig has been doing a lot of work at our condos and wanted to sit in the hot tub, so off to the pool we went.
I felt the need for exercise and went for a Sugar Beach walk prior to joining him in the hot tub. If you have never been, this is a five mile stretch of beach in North Kihei in front of our Sugar Beach condo. It can get pretty windy, so you may want to time your walk to a less windy time of day to avoid the free exfoliating treatment! One of the best things about this walk is, if you get hot, just step into the ocean to cool off!
I do enjoy walking the beach. There were a number of people enjoying the sun, playing in the water, bringing in a sail boat and fishing. A few years ago we saw a fisher catch and then of course release a ray at this beach. That’s certainly not something I’ve seen caught before but I suppose it happens.
A portion of the beach is lined with Keawe trees. You will want to be very careful around these trees. They have thorns which are painful to step on especially when barefoot. Incidentally it seems every time my brother-in-law goes on a bike ride when on Maui, he gets a flat tire thanks to Keawe tree thorns.
A rare direct flight!
In other news, while sitting at the pool after my walk, I saw a plane flying into Maui. These days with Covid-19 that is sooo rare. There are currently three direct flights to Maui from the mainland. They are all Delta Airlines and arrive from LAX. If you are flying anywhere else, you have to first fly to Honolulu (HNL) on Oahu and then off. Life sure has changed.
It’s been a month since my last update post, so here goes. Hawaii has weathered the Covid-19 storm pretty well. On Friday we had our first day with no new cases in all of Hawaii. At least none that were tested positive.
In total for all Hawaiian islands they’ve had 629 reported cases with 17 deaths (total population of 1.4 million).
The State is slowly easing up on restrictions. Last weekend golf courses and county beach parks reopened (for exercise only, no sports or gatherings). This week retail and shopping malls are allowed to resume business operations (under strict guidelines of course).
The stay at home order and mandatory 14 day quarantine for all arrivals (including inter-island travel) continues through May 31, with the Senate committee in charge announcing that the quarantine will likely be extended.
Everyone is required to wear face masks when leaving their home (except to exercise). Lying on the beach/parks and congregating is not permitted at this time.
What does the mandatory 14 day quarantine involve?
When travelers arrive at the airport, they are met by the national guard or other authorities, checked for symptoms, and have to agree to the terms of the mandatory 14 day quarantine. There is an app they have to download prior to arrival and they are checked on multiple times a day (I’m told). See here for more information.
Basically, you can travel directly to the place you are staying at and then may not leave the room/condo for any reason unless to seek medical help. No shopping, no walking, no beach, simply 14 days of binge-TV-watching, reading, browsing the internet. Not exactly the vacation you planned.
Yes, the State has been enforcing and going after reported offenders. They’ve been getting a warning and then given the option of jail time to serve the remainder of their quarantine or returning to the mainland. There is talk of increasing fines.
What will happen next?
I would love to have a crystal ball as to how soon Hawaii State will reopen for business and visitors. Truthfully, this has hit Hawaii hard. For decades everyone has known that our economy needs to expand and not be so tourism-centered. With many hotels and resorts closed, all the associated businesses are either closed or operating on skeleton staffing. Affected businesses include hotels, resorts, condo owners, restaurants, activities providers, farmers, grocery stores, cleaners, maintenance people, rental car operators, Uber/Lyft drivers etc. State-wide unemployment numbers are at approximately 35% and the unemployment office has been hopelessly overwhelmed with all the applications.
The State cannot afford to maintain its current lock-down mode in the long run and is looking at ways to re-open for business responsibly. However, state-wide there are only 340 ICU beds ad 560 ventilators with the vast majority of those on Oahu. Besides allowing residents to once again move freely, Hawaii has been averaging 10 million visitors/year with Maui itself welcoming 3 million visitors in 2019. An influx in Covid-19 cases is a serious concern for our healthcare system.
Our five condos sit empty. Late March, April and May guests have been cancelled, rescheduled or given a credit for a future stay. The majority of June have cancelled as well with a few still waiting to see what may happen. If you have a booking at one of our condos, please reach out to me directly.
Sig has been working on some maintenance projects at both our Sugar Beach and Maui Kamaole condos. We are checking all our condos regularly to ensure there are no surprises. Of course we continue to pay our HOA fees, insurance, property taxes, advertising fees, maintenance and cleaning.
Our cleaners are maintaining the condos with regular cleans to keep them in top shape for when we are able to welcome guests to the condos again. When our wonderful long-time cleaner Cindy retired last year, we switched to Ed and his team who have stepped into Cindy’s footsteps and continue to do an excellent job cleaning, as evidenced by our guest’s review comments. Ed and his team are on top of their game and are currently working on new protocols and procedures to properly sanitize condos between guests once we are allowed to reopen.
It’s a whole new world these days and we are thankful for all of you in these strange times. We look forward to welcoming you and your family back to Maui sometime soon! In the mean time, aloha and a hui hou no (Aloha and see you soon)!
As you know from mandatory quarantines being instituted elsewhere, in Monopoly terms this means ‘do not pass go’. No stopping at grocery stores or running other errands, just go to your home or condo and order groceries in. The point of the quarantine is to protect others on island in case you have Covid-19. If you are returning home to Hawaii, you have a support system of people to help you with this. If you are coming to Hawaii on vacation – frankly, this is not a vacation. As nice as the condo is, it’s not that nice that you want to spend 14 days in it. Internet speed on Maui is pretty slow.
While it may seem harsh to some, please remember that the Covid-19 situation is a lot worse in other parts of the US. Hawaii is the most isolated center of population on earth, 2400 miles away from the nearest landmass (California). The government feels they have the opportunity but also the obligation to isolate to protect our population as it takes significant time for help and supplies to arrive, if they are even available to come.
What does this mean for you
If you are already on island, the mandatory 14 day quarantine does not affect you. However, on Maui for instance, the social distancing mandate went into effect on Friday (March 20). Return flights are being cut – Westjet I believe stops flying its regular flights today. Hawaiian Airlines has announced they are cutting their flights. My friend’s son just returned from his year abroad in Spain yesterday (yes, he is in quarantine), and I’ve been seeing pictures of very empty airplanes. Please check directly with your airline about your return flight as I’m sure other airlines will be cutting flights in an attempt to preserve funds.
If you are still hoping to come to Hawaii on your vacation, please keep a very close eye on Hawaii news. Things are changing on a daily basis. Great sources are Hawaii News Now for Hawaii news, Maui Now and Maui 24/7 for Maui specific news. If you are staying at one of our condos, please email or call me.
There have been reports of sign-wavers near the airport, rudely telling those arriving to go home. This is embarrassing and uncalled for. However, please understand that as everywhere in the world, people are stressed and panicking about their health and our already fragile health care system. Covid-19 has been brought to the islands by those arriving from other places. Ironically the majority of cases are locals returning home, but that fact is lost on the sign-wavers.
Of course, concern regarding visitors is not helped when they are seen blatantly violating social distancing rules (keeping 6 feet distance from others).
Almost everyone I know here in Hawaii is affected by tourism. Social distancing, tourists staying home and mandatory quarantines is creating economic hardship for all on the islands.
Clearing my head
Yesterday after an early dinner I went for a walk. If we are healthy, we are still allowed to leave the house and go for walks. It’s been seemingly forever since I went to the beach for sunset. It appears others had the same thoughts as I. One local family was having a beach bbq at the County beach park (I didn’t count to see if they were following the ‘groups of 10 or less’ County rule). Many were standing or sitting on the beach, enjoying the view while a few kids still played in the water.
This too will pass. I don’t know when. But it will.
Aren’t these strange dystopian times we are currently living in? It is so surreal that the entire world is facing this same COVID-19 crisis at the same time. We here on Maui are fortunate to face social distancing and school closures in the tropics instead of say in winter-bound Edmonton. Maui itself has two confirmed cases of COVID-19 at this time.
Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino announced new public health emergency rules for Maui County effective this Friday March 20th at 7:45AM. As I read it, restaurants and cafes can still serve take-out (no dine-in), public attractions are to close, the Road to Hana (together with all its roadside stops) is closed with exception to local traffic (all tours including private drivers are halted). Grocery stores, convenience stores, banks and others will remain open per the article.
First, we and our condos are still here. The condos are being well-cleaned and sanitized and are ready for guests. After a busy winter season Sig is tackling some of his maintenance projects. And did you hear we replaced a number of our mattresses last month?
If you have booked your Maui vacation rental with me, please contact me directly. I have reached out to all our guests arriving through end of April to discuss the terms of your contract and reschedule your stay.
For all non-Airbnb guests, if you have a balance payment due, please contact us before making your final payment. If you are more than 60 days away from your arrival, you can still cancel and get your deposit back subject to the terms of the rental agreement. We certainly hope that travel will again be possible in the next few months.
What does this mean for us?
Well, as with everyone else in our industry we are currently experiencing many cancellations/reschedules. We will continue to pay our cleaners even for the cancelled cleans to help them remain financially afloat. We very much look forward to COVID-19 settling down and the world becoming more stable again. And we look forward to welcoming you here on Maui for your next Maui trip! Hopefully in one of our beautiful Maui Oceanview Condos.
In the mean time, one would hardly believe it’s high season. In the past two days I’ve twice been able to easily turn left from Keonekai onto South Kihei Road at the unregulated intersection. I wonder just how slow it will get…. Hopefully not for long, our tourist economy will be hurting for a long time.
Safeway update – well stocked, except I noticed there was no rice, no pasta and little fresh meat available. I did not check for toilet paper.
You’re probably wondering what this title is about. If you’ve been to Maui, you’ve likely seen people struggling with beach chairs. They are so convenient to have and quite comfy to sit in. But when it comes to folding them up…. there is a trick to it.
Here is a little how-to video on how to fold up the Tommy Bahama beach chair as sold at our local Costco. These are convenient backpack chairs with a little cooler compartment and an additional bag to store other stuff in. No, they are not theft proof, please never leave anything of value unattended at the beach.
Once you are ready to fold up the chair, the trick is to stand behind the chair. You stand on the cross bar, lean over the chair and lift on both arm rests simultaneously. The chair will easily fold up, making it so much easier to carry and store.
Please, before you bring the chair into your rental car and/or the condo, knock off all the sand. Sand is corrosive not only to the chair itself, but also really beats up the condo flooring and closet tracks.
What other beach gear do we provide at our condos?
Each of our Maui Oceanview Condos is outfitted with 2-4 beach chairs, 1-2 boogie boards (please, use at your own risk), one beach towel per person and a cooler. Sometimes other guests will leave beach umbrellas behind, so before you go out and buy one, check the beach gear closet. However, they have a tendency to fly away unless drilled properly into the sand, so we do not provide them.
Not staying at one of our condos?
Before you run out and buy a beach chair, check your condo. They may provide them. If not, these run about $34/each at our Costco in Kahului. However, then you have chairs to dispose of at the end of your trip. You could also check with a nearby snorkel or activities store. Often you can rent them.
Vacation rentals are gaining in popularity world-wide as vacationers discover the advantages to renting a condo vs staying in a hotel. However with this increased popularity there is also an increased amount of concern regarding vacation rentals and the impact they have on communities and neighborhoods.
Disclaimer: ALL five of our vacation rentals are legal. They are located in designated resort zones surrounded mainly by other vacation rentals. Each one is classified as a short-term rental by the County of Maui based on their zoning. These condos are located in areas frequented by tourists, the buildings generally too expensive to buy and maintain for long-term rentals. We pay the short-term rental property tax rate to County of Maui and collect and submit transient accommodations and general excise tax to the State of Hawaii as is required by law.
Does Maui have legal vacation rentals?
Maui County has two types of legal vacation rentals. Those in approved zones (hotel/business/historic) and then those that are outside of the designated zone and have applied for and received a special bed & breakfast (or TVR – transient vacation rental) permit. There are 400 of these permits available in Maui County. When you are renting one of these properties, they should be displaying both their permit# and their tax ID on all advertising. (Source: Maui County website and here)
How do I determine if my Maui vacation rental is legal?
If you are renting a place that is NOT in an apartment building, ask for the Maui County permit number. If they can’t produce one, don’t rent it.
If your vacation rental is in an apartment building or larger resort, there is a very handy website called MauiPropertyTax.com. On it you can search by address or owner’s name. Make sure you select the correct unit number. In the assessment page it will show you what the condo is classified as – it should say ‘short term rental’. Note, short term rentals pay a significantly higher property tax than owner-occupied or even long-term rentals (zoned ‘apartment’).
What happens if I rent an illegal vacation rental?
Best case scenario – nothing. You come on vacation, everything is fine.
Worst case scenario – you arrive and realize your vacation rental has been shut down and you have no place to stay. You are out thousands of dollars and scramble to find another rental. If this happens during high season (Christmas through early April, you may end up camping in your rental car).
What are other things owners need to do to have a legal vacation rental?
Besides zoning, there are other requirements by the State of Hawaii. Owners/property managers must collect a total of 14.4167% tax from their guests and submit to the State of Hawaii. Their GE/TA tax ID numbers must be listed on all advertising and rental agreements.
Legally we also must have an on-island contact person and our guests must have this person’s phone and email address so they can reach them when there is a problem. In our case, that on-island contact is me (Cara). When you rent with us, my email and cell phone number is included in both the rental agreement and check-in information. It is also posted in each condo. When we do travel, we always provide you with an alternate contact person (the cleaning company manager).
Current real-life State of Hawaii example of what can happen when you rent an illegal vacation rental
Let me preface this news story: each County in the State of Hawaii has its own vacation rental legislation. There are numerous counties: Maui County (encompasses Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe), Hawaii County (also known as ‘Big Island’), City of Honolulu (this is the island Oahu – home to Honolulu, Waikiki Beach etc), Kauai County.
The City of Honolulu (Island of Oahu) is currently in the news for clamping down on illegal vacation rentals. Part of the problem is that they have not issued vacation rental permits since 1989. Since then many illegal vacation rentals have proliferated unchecked as the island’s government has purposely ignored the problem. Effective August 2019 the City of Honolulu has decided to clamp down on illegal vacation rentals and issue fines. This is causing a lot of vacation rental chaos ON OAHU as owners, threatened by steep fines for rentals of less than 30 days, cancel existing bookings and pull listings.
Note, this enforcement action does NOT affect Maui vacation rentals. Different county, different rules. However, as the owner of five LEGALLY operated vacation rentals on Maui, I do support Counties’ enforcement of current rules. Illegal operators put legal operators at a disadvantage. I pay the higher property tax rate, insurance costs, collect and submit the 10.25% transient accommodation tax and 4.167% general excise tax as required to the State of Hawaii. Illegal operators do not do these things and have an unfair competitive advantage.
A week ago we had a pretty bad brush fire here on Maui. It started on Wednesday July 10th near Waikapu and spread rapidly across the Central Valley coming very close to North Kihei (and our Sugar Beach condo). The fire ended up burning 9000 acres of brush land. This is mostly former sugar cane land.
As you may recall, A&B finished their sugar cane operations on Maui with their final harvest in December 2016. Since then the land has mostly been fallow, with sugar cane regrowth, weeds and of course kiawe trees growing wild. During their sugar cane operation A&B would irrigate the fields regularly, keeping them nice and green until about 2 years in, when they would have controlled burns and then harvest the sugar cane. These controlled burns would of course generate their fair share of ash particularly in North Kihei. Locals called it ‘Maui Snow’, black ash on cars and roads in the morning. However, A&B would then work up the fields within a few days and things would settle down again.
Last year A&B sold 41,000 acres of sugar cane land to Mahi Pono, a joint venture between a California agricultural group and ironically one of Canada’s largest pension funds. They have very slowly been starting to work up some acres and planting. Unfortunately it’s been an incredibly slow process. We were so used to the green central valley. It’s been brown and dry ever since cessation of the sugar cane operation now. In fact, there have been brush fires the past few summers, prompting the landowners to work up or disk buffer zones near roads as a form of fire break.
On July 10 the fire came so close to North Kihei, our guests at our Sugar Beach condo were evacuated. The Mokulele Hwy (now known as Veterans Hwy) and North Kihei Road to Ma’alaea were both closed due to the fire and heavy smoke and people missed their flights (including me – we had an inter-island flight to Oahu for a hockey tournament). The community pulled together, opened shelters and eventually everyone got to where they needed to go.
In wonderful news, there was no damage to inhabited buildings at all. To our knowledge, noone died in the fire. The police have an ongoing arson investigation for both this fire and a smaller fire which was started between the new Kahului Safeway and Target and the Sugar Cane factory on July 11.
What to expect when you come to Maui?
You’ll noticed the burned area in the central valley as you fly in – in fact, I would love to see your pictures! You’ll see the burned area as you drive across the central valley. You will see the dust blowing badly in the central valley and into North Kihei during certain times of the day. Here in South Kihei we are still getting some ash on our lanai.
However, fire fighters brought the fire under control within two days and are working to put out any flare ups that occur. We are so thankful for these men and women!
Our Sugar Beach condo is fine – no damage. There is still a lot of dust, we apologize. Join us in praying for rain. I’m not sure what else to do to help calm the dust down.
This September we took advantage of an opening at our Palms at Wailea condo and moved in for a little staycation while tackling a two week floor installation project at our own home. After all, why try to live through a remodeling project when you can escape it (and the dust) altogether. By the time we needed to move back home, the demolition stage was over and the upstairs of our house (including kitchen) was completed.
I am thankful we had a condo to move into, even if it was a little stretch for a family of five. Our kids are used to their own rooms, at the condo they shared. I am used to my own bed and kitchen. A staycation at your own condo is always the ultimate test as a vacation rental owner. It’s not actually a vacation, but another project. What needs replacing, fixing or doing?
The master bed was amazing. Guests have told us they love the bed, but it was lovely to sleep in it myself, possibly better than my bed at home. I loved the shower – we remodeled the condo 3 years ago and this is one of my favorite parts of the remodel. So big and luxurious. And I love the large tile flooring – almost made me wish we did that at our home instead of the vinyl planking we chose, but then I remembered how much we hate grout lines. It took me a while to get sorted in the kitchen – different space, different places to store things. I did buy nice new pots, the old ones were getting weary. And who keeps using metal utensils on the non-stick frying pans? I have to replace them at least yearly.
Sig’s staycation projects
Sig had his own list of annual maintenance projects. He’s a perfectionist and can’t sit still, so between painting baseboards (at home) and overseeing the flooring installation, he also
drained the hot water tank,
replaced cabinet hinges (slow close),
acid washed and re-sealed the 350 sq ft lanai (patio) and entry,
did some deep cleaning,
replaced filters on taps,
arranged some service work on the dishwasher and fridge,
did some work on the BBQ etc. etc.
He particularly enjoyed sitting in the condo complex hottub at the end of his long days.
Despite all the work (the other condos, my office job, school for the kids, the home remodel, living in a smaller living space etc) I really enjoyed our staycation. I love the privacy of the location – we hardly noticed our neighbors – and the large green lawn with distant ocean view. For now it’s nice to be home again, but we’ll have to plan another staycation.
June through November is hurricane season in the Pacific and as of now we have Hurricane Lane, a category 4 hurricane, preparing to pass close to the Hawaiian Islands Thursday/Friday. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now. I guess now is the time to do it. This is more of a general post on what to be aware of if staying in one of OUR condos. It is by all means NOT intended to be an all-inclusive list, but hopefully will give you some sense of what to expect.
Please note that in case of a disaster, Sig and I will be in touch and try to help as much as we can.
KNOW YOUR CONDO’S STREET ADDRESS. Note that the condo’s cable phone will NOT work during a power outage.
During a disaster it is important to keep calm and use common sense. The condo’s front desk of the property will become the resort’s command center. Please listen to the local news and check with the front desk for more information. During a disaster the Maui Police Department is inundated with calls – they will triage these 9-1-1 calls. It is important for you to secure your valuables (we have a safe at each of our condos).
For hurricanes and tsunamis (except locally generated) you will have time to prepare.
Check your condo’s binder on whether you are in the flood zone and need to evacuate (Sugar Beach Resort and Kihei Surfside yes, Palms at Wailea and Maui Kamaole no). Portions of South Kihei Road itself are considered flood zone and may be blocked off – you may not be able to leave the property after the event. The local power plants and water treatment facilities are also in the flood zone. Be prepared to go up to seven days without water, electricity and outside help. Clean the bathtub and fill it and as many containers as you can find with fresh tap water. Locate and check the condo’s flashlight, check batteries. Charge all your electronic devices. If you have time, stock up on food, paper plates, batteries (for flashlight & radio), gasoline (for your rental car), cash (possibility of no credit card/bank machines in power failure) etc. Avoid unnecessary travel as the roads become clogged quickly.
Earthquakes cause landslides, property damage, and tsunami waves.
Local earthquakes are no-notice events. There is no way to predict them. If you feel an earthquake, DROP, COVER and HOLD ON.
If there is a local earthquake, it typically takes 3-5 minutes for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center to let Civil Defense know if a local tsunami has been generated. If the earthquake is strong enough to knock you off balance and you are in an evacuation zone, move uphill as soon as things stop moving. Don’t wait for a siren. You may only have a few minutes until the tsunami wave arrives.
A tsunami is a series of waves caused by a local or distant earth quake. Do not go to the beach to watch until the all-clear has been given (usually a number of hours). Tsunamis can create erratic currents and there can be debris washed into the water, so stay out of the ocean for a few days.
Maui is equipped with tsunami warning sirens (these are tested on the first day of the month at 11:45am). If you hear them sounding otherwise, move to higher ground and tune in to local news for more information. The siren closest to you may be out of order. If you are in a remote area, there may not be a siren. Signs of a pending tsunami: the earth shakes strong enough to knock you off balance, you hear the ocean roar, or there is a sudden pulling back of the water.
The water treatment facilities are shut down 30 minutes before the first tsunami wave is scheduled to arrive. Avoid flushing the toilet until the all-clear has been given, waste water will flow untreated into the ocean (another reason to stay out of the ocean for a few days after).
You may or may not be in a flood evacuation zone. There will be emergency shelters that open, if you do need to evacuate. Listen to the news and check the front desk for more information. Do not go to an emergency shelter until it has opened and, very importantly, you will be expected to bring your own supplies. Even if you do not need to evacuate, keep in mind you may be without water and utilities and the road may be blocked.
Hurricanes have 3 danger components: wind (can also cause tornadoes), rain and lightning, storm surge. During a hurricane, you want to button down anything loose outside (move all patio furniture inside), secure all doors and windows and then stay away from windows.
Again, you may or may not be in a flood evacuation zone. There will be emergency shelters that open, if you do need to evacuate. Listen to the news and check the front desk for more information. Do not go to an emergency shelter until it has opened and, very importantly, you will be expected to bring your own supplies.
Stay out of the ocean for several days. Storms wash debris into the ocean and stir up the ocean currents.