What’s Hot in Hawaii—2021
In other words, you like to be in the know—and you’re keen on putting the now into that knowledge.
And whether you’re planning a 2022 vacation in Hawaii or have lived here your whole life, chances are that your thirst for knowledge extends to the 50th state. You want to know what’s happening and trending within our islands.
With that in mind, we’ve pulled together the most sizzling trends in the Hawaiian Islands (as demonstrated by Google) so that you can take part in the leading activities, get a better sense of each island’s interest and vibe, plan your vacay (or just your Saturday)—and, in short, leave FOMO behind.
da Playground Maui
Sports bar and arcade by day, live entertainment venue by night, da Playground Maui is the newest music venue to the Valley Isle and is already gaining substantial popularity. Ping pong, corn hole, darts, and retro video games highlight the gaming side of this complex while over 20 big-screen TVs, a full bar, and a chef-prepared, gourmet bar menu round out the sports bar experience. Live entertainment is where da Playground Maui really stands out with events ranging from local bands, comedy nights, and karaoke to mainstream DJs, world-famous musicians, and one of the best laser shows you will ever see on Maui.
COVID-19 Protocols and Restrictions
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the whole world, Maui included. In the past 2 years, Maui has seen a variety of rules and regulations implemented to mitigate the spread of the virus including the island being completely shut off from tourism, to stay at home restrictions for residents and visitors, and now a vaccine pass to enter restaurants and gym’s on Maui. Currently, when traveling to Maui, these are the rules being enforced:
Beginning July 8, travelers entering Hawaii from other states in the U.S. and its territories who have been fully vaccinated in the United States (including its Territories) may bypass quarantine without a pre-travel test. The vaccination record document must be uploaded to the Safe Travels platform or printed out prior to departure and a hard copy in hand when arriving in Hawaii.
Other travelers can continue to bypass quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test result from a test taken from a trusted partner no more than 72 hours before beginning the final leg of their trip. Anyone without a negative test prior to departure must quarantine upon arrival. The negative test result must be uploaded onto Safe Travels or printed out prior to departure and a hard copy in hand when arriving in Hawaii.
Beginning September 15th, many establishments are heeding the mandate for a vaccine card presented at the entrance to each indoor restaurant and many other places.
Once you arrive, masks must be worn in all indoor public buildings and groups may not gather in numbers more than 10 indoors and more than 25 outdoors. Restaurants will want you to wear a mask anytime you are not seated at your table.
The Dirty Monkey
The Dirty Monkey is a restaurant and bar that took over the old Moose McGillycuddy’s spot on Front Street in Lahaina in 2016. They made a quick impact and were voted Maui’s best whiskey bar. The Dirty Monkey is fun for the whole family offering a complimentary game room with a rotating selection and TVs everywhere to catch your favorite team win it all! At night, it’s adults-only for local beers, Maui-style cocktails, and live events. The whiskey list is impressive and boasts over 100 whiskeys from all over the world. DJs are in-house every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to play your favorite jams and keep you dancing into the late night.
Fleetwood’s on Front Street
Owned by none other than Mick Fleetwood (of Fleetwood Mac), Fleetwood’s on Front Street offers amazing food with an even more amazing view. Located at 744 Front Street in Lahaina, this restaurant and bar are unique in that it has a rooftop lounge and dining area so you can enjoy breathtaking Maui views while still in proximity to all of the action on Front Street. A definite must-do while in Lahaina. In the main dining room, there is also a stage where a drum set is always ready in case Mick Fleetwood stops by to jam with his friends which happens every now and then and is a real treat if you happen to be dining when he walks in. Fleetwood’s on Front Street is definitely one to add to your best of Maui list. Most recently, Mick Fleetwood bought a predominant building in Paʻia town and is expected to be bringing his success as a restaurant owner to this small town on the North Shore.
Paʻia Fish Market
Paʻia Fish Market is a small, order at the counter, a fresh fish restaurant located in Paʻia town on the North Shore of Maui. It’s the restaurant with the line wrapped around the block at the corner of Hana Highway and Baldwin Avenue. The line makes sense once you try the unbeatable fish and chips or the blackened fish sandwich or any of the outstanding choices of fresh locally caught fish. The demand has become so great for this restaurant that in the last 5 years they have expanded to 4 locations in Paʻia (original), Kihei, Lahaina, and now Waikiki on Oahu. A favorite among locals, Paʻia Fish Market should not be missed.
Previously the Travaasa Resort, The Hana-Maui Resort is under new ownership and new leadership on their quest to become the premier resort at the end of the road…to Hana. The quiet little town of Hana on the east side of Maui is home to some of the most amazing landscapes and stunning views you can find on Maui. Most of the surrounding area is untouched and seems to exist in the old world, allowing you to slow life down and relax. Take in a spa treatment or rest in a hammock by the pool, lazy days have never felt this good. Amazing beaches and memorable adventures are in close proximity and with a small population, you will feel like you have the place all to yourself.
The great thing about Maui is if you are on the beach at all, it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It’s easy to get lost in trying to do the best of everything on Maui but don’t forget that you are on a volcano in the middle of the ocean taking in what most people will never see. When it comes to beaches you’ll want to consider your activities. Are you snorkeling, fishing, swimming, doing yoga, tanning, having a wedding or just hanging out? For instance, Kamaʻole and Charley Young beaches on the south side of Maui are great for laying in the sun, swimming, and boogie boarding but if you get in with your snorkel mask you will see mostly sand and rocks. For good snorkeling, you will want to head even more south to Ulua Beach or Makena Landing where you can see reef formations and all the sea life Maui has to offer. The west side of Maui offers some of the most beautiful views as you can see several other islands from the comfort of your beach chair. Napili Bay, Fleming Beach, and Honolua Bay are some of our favorite west side beaches for snorkeling, swimming, surfing, and just hanging out.
Another thing to keep in mind is weather, or more importantly, wind. The trade winds keep the air clean and cool off the islands but they can be fierce, especially in the afternoon. Mornings are the best time to hit the beach and do activities on windy days as it really picks up in the afternoons. There are really no bad beaches on Maui so pick one that suits your needs and get out there! See more of our picks for the best beaches on Maui.
Just before the new year, a large blue flying object, which a witness said was “larger than a telephone pole” was spotted off the coast of Oahu where it flew across the sky for miles before crashing into the ocean. After a flood of 911 and police calls Honolulu police reported the incident to the FAA who reported that no flights were in distress or missing. As USA Today said, “Overall, it was just another strange incident to wrap up a strange year.”
Major Flooding on Oahu
In early March of this year, heavy rains fell across all of the islands causing major flooding on multiple islands but some of the most dramatic footage came from Oahu where neighborhoods and businesses were devastated with feet of standing water. Although there were no deaths or injuries, the community is still recovering from these floods.
Hanauma Bay Closes
Oahu shut down access to Hanauma Bay — a tourist hotspot that sees over 3 million people a year — due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020. It remained closed all the way until early 2021 when it reopened with a reservation system to keep the crowds down. However, as of August 10, 2021, the park has reopened fully and you no longer need reservations to enjoy one of the most beautiful bays in Hawaii.
Oahu COVID-19 Restrictions
Oahu has seen many restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting travel and daily life on the most popular Hawaiian Island. As these restrictions constantly change, it can be difficult to figure out what is and is not allowed. Find out what the current COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions are so that you may have a fun, safe, and healthy visit to Hawaii.
Historical Real Estate Market
Hawaii, like many other parts of the U.S., is experiencing unprecedented growth in the real estate market. As people relocate now that remote work is abundant housing markets across all of the islands have skyrocketed. As of August, Oahu made history with the highest median house price to date at just over $1 million for a single-family home according to the Hawaii Board of Realtors. This has also lead to an exodus of local residents who are not able to afford such high prices.
It doesn’t really get more iconic than a luau in Hawaii and no one does it bigger and better than they do on Oahu. As people began to travel again in 2021, Hawaii became a major destination for people looking to escape and so naturally luaus became one of the most sought-after activities on the island known as “The Gathering Place.” There are countless luau’s to choose from and all of them are exciting but these are some of our picks for the best luaus on Oahu.
Sonesta International Hotels Corporation has made an impact in recent months converting 88 old Marriott properties into luxury resorts. The latest in the collection is now on Kauaʻi and opened its doors in March of 2021. This resort boasts 350 rooms, the largest single-level pool in Hawaii, beach-side spa treatments, and over 27.000 square feet of meeting and event space.
March of 2021 brought historical rains to the Hawaiian islands leaving major flooding and millions of dollars in damage in its wake. Kauai’s North Shore roads suffered a landslide that cut over 1,000 people off from the rest of the island. Luckily, no one was injured during the landslides, but this community was without access to the rest of the island for almost a week. However, the community was resilient and created a ferry system to get people to and from work, doctor’s appointments, and grocery stores.
Kauaʻi COVID-19 Restrictions
COVID-19 continues to affect the Hawaiian islands and each island has a different set of requirements and restrictions. In order to stay in accordance with the regulations, refer to the county website on each island to make sure you are in line with all of the protocols and restrictions. They are constantly changing, but you can stay on top of the changes by visiting the Kauaʻi COVID-19 website.
Kauaʻi Backcountry Adventures
Ok, so you followed all the protocols and made it to Kauaʻi. Now, what are you going to do? It is time for a fun adventure and a zipline or tubing down a mountain river sounds like a great idea. This adventure company was closed for a long time due to COVID-19 but as of September 1, 2021 all tours are up and running again. Zipping is a great way to see the island and the historical tubing adventure is one of a kind! In addition here are some of our other picks for the best activities on Kauai.
Bar Acuda on Kauaʻi is known as Hanalei’s “hippest eatery” and the restaurant run by San Francisco’s Chef Jim Moffat is only gaining more popularity. Bar Acuda has created and maintained close relationships with local fishermen and farmers to deliver the freshest Mediterranean tapas on the island. The wine selection is amazing and newly added Chefs Hana and Kenny Udiffa are poised to take the restaurant to the next level. This is definitely a stop on Kauai’s North Shore not to miss.
Red Salt at the Koʻa Kea Resort
This award-winning restaurant is run by Kauaʻi native Noelani Planas, who was mentioned in Modern Luxury’s “Top 5 Chefs to Watch in Hawaii.” The restaurant offers fresh local flavor at breakfast and dinner and sits along the coast in beautiful Poipu.
The Big Island of Hawaii is known for its massive volcanoes and lava formations. Even more exciting are the lava tubes that remain from all the volcanic activity. One of the most popular activities on the Big Island is to hike through these tubes. Thurston Lava Tube and Kaumana Caves are two of the best places to see these incredible rock formations and venture deep into their caverns. If you really want to see some rare sites, there are some hiking tours that have exclusive access to lava tubes like Kazumura Caves and Kula Kai Caverns that are sure to last in your memory forever.
Big Island Wildfire
The Big Island saw its largest wildfire in history in late July and early August which covered over 60 square miles and displaced thousands of residents. Extreme drought conditions and 40 mph winds only made the situation worse and the fire was considered out of control for several days burning around 100 acres per hour.
Big Island COVID-19 Restrictions
Like the other islands in Hawaii, COVID-19 has put a strain on how things operate and the regulations put in place are constantly changing. Find out the current rules and requirements for traveling to the Big Island as well as regulations on indoor and outdoor spaces by visiting the Hawaii County website for the Big Island.
Things to do on the Big Island
The Big Island of Hawaii is, well, big and that means there are so many things to do it’s hard to fit it all into a vacation. From ziplining to a luau to a night dive with manta rays, there is something for everyone on Hawaiiʻs biggest island. For a more in-depth look at all that the Big Island has to offer you can check out our recommendations for the best activities to do on the Big Island.
Big Island Brewhaus
As the youngest island in Hawaii, the Big Island weighs in at 4,028 square miles (and growing), making it larger than all of the other islands combined and making it the biggest island in the United States and the third-largest in Polynesia (New Zealand’s two main islands score first and second place). Translation? That, well, bigness extends to the flavor and quality of its island-brewed beers, which are served to great acclaim at the Big Island Brewhaus in Waimea. Here, artisan crafter Thomas Kerns (formerly of the renowned Maui Brew Co.) distills concoctions in an array of tastes, including a whole-cone hop flower Holy Humulus IPA, a wicked-refreshing Starshine Ginger Beer, and a smooth but robust The Red Sea of Cacao. The highlight of the experience is that you’ll be absorbing it all at the highest brewpub in the islands.
Hilton Hawaiian Village
Nestled on the shores of Waikoloa, the Hilton Hawaiian Village is a 60+ acre property with no shortage of fun and relaxation. With a water park, a lagoon full of paddle boats, stand-up paddleboards, snorkelers, dolphins, and turtles you have a plethora of activities at your fingertips. If you would rather relax it boasts one of the largest spas on the big island and there are plenty of cozy little nooks to park your behind and take it all in.
Big Island Luaus
Seeing a luau in Hawaii is almost a necessity. The Big Island is home to some of the best luaus in Hawaii . More than a relaxing evening, the show provides entertainment while teaching guests about the culture of the island and just what it took to live in Hawaii hundreds of years ago. We have a lot to say about luaus and we invite you to check out our list of the best luaus on the Big Island.
Big Island Ziplines
Ziplining is a great way to see the beauty of the Big Island without having to leave too big of an imprint on the natural environment. The Big Island has some of the biggest and best ziplines that you can find in Hawaii. Whether its through the jungle or high above the treetops, there is no doubt that ziplining on the Big Island should be on your “must-do” list. Here you can find some of our picks for ziplining on the Big Island.