About 60000 travelers arrive in Hawaii in first week of program requiring tests before flights

HONOLULU – Hawaii had about 60,000 travelers arrive in the islands in the first week of its pre-travel coronavirus testing program. That’s a state effort …

A file image shows Waikiki Beach on Oahu Island, Hawaii. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

HONOLULUHawaii had about 60,000 travelers arrive in the islands in the first week of its pre-travel coronavirus testing program.

That’s a state effort to get the tourism-based economy moving again. Lt. Gov. Josh Green said Thursday that nearly 60,000 returning residents, military members, essential workers, tourists and others had been tested since Oct. 15.

The vast majority tested negative and were allowed to skip the previously required two weeks of quarantine.

Other travelers came to Hawaii without being tested. Nearly 7,300 people were ordered to quarantine upon arrival.

Is Hawaii ready for visitors? Scenes from one reopened island

Since Oct. 15, when state officials eased quarantine restrictions to allow visitors with recent negative COVID-19 test results, new arrivals have found …
Hikers watch the sunrise on Oahu.

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

In four days of roaming Oahu in October, Times photographer Kent Nishimura and I found aloha spirit and corona worries as tightly entwined as the roots of a banyan tree.

The deserted halls of the Honolulu airport were a welcome sight Oct. 15, after the startlingly large crowd of travelers in LAX’s Terminal 5, where I boarded a Hawaiian Airlines flight with middle seats empty. (The arrival process, however, now includes an extra step for officials to check your COVID-19 test results.)


Almost all of Oahu’s beaches and most trails are open, as are hotel pools, with restrictions. Surfboard, bodyboard and paddleboard rentals are open. Since late September, most restaurants and retailers are operating at 50% capacity. Most gatherings are limited to five people; bars and nightclubs are closed.

I’ve made half a dozen visits to Hawaii over the last 20 years, and I never imagined I would spend hours searching Oahu looking for tourists and finding so few.

The Koolau mountain range from the Moli'i Fishpond.

The Koolau mountain range from the Molii Fishpond on Oahu.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

“The streets are so empty. Have you ever seen a college town in summer?” said Matthew Aguilar, who had come from San Francisco.

Every morning, I carried my brown-bag breakfast (the only kind many hotels offer at the moment) to the Waikiki Wall and watched locals swimming, bodyboarding, surfing or hanging out on the mostly empty sand.

Most afternoons I found my way to beaches elsewhere on the island, including the calm waters of Kailua Beach Park, where Popoia Island reposes offshore like a crocodile waiting to snap.

Creative burgers at a farmers market in Kailua town on Oahu.

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

In the lobby of the Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach hotel, desk clerks welcomed guests with free coffee. But there was no place to sit: All the chairs and couches were behind crime scene tape so people could not linger.

When I arrived for lunch at the indoor-outdoor Haleiwa Beach House on the North Shore, I found servers eager to seat me. But before anyone can order, you must share your contact-tracing details, a state requirement for all indoor dining rooms.

At the Waiahole Poi Factory in Kaneohe, I queued up with a dozen other customers to order slow-cooked pork, stewed squid and hand-pounded poi to go. The roadside eatery looked like an ideal place to slip into Hawaiian time and talk story with a local or two.


But not now. A hand-lettered COVID-era sign warned, “No loitering after receiving your food,” so I ate my sack lunch on the hood of my rental car. (I ate my meals outdoors, either on patios or picnic-style.)

How did Hawaii move so fast from island time to “no loitering”?

It might be a matter of bitter experience, said professor Jonathan Kamakawiwoole Osorio, dean of the Hawaiinuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Hanauma Bay with Koko Head in the background from a hiking trail overlooking the popular nature preserve.

State officials have closed Hanauma Bay, a popular destination for snorkeling, to visitors.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

In the century after the first Europeans reached the islands in 1778, islanders endured “practically a century of one epidemic after another killing native people off,” Kamakawiwoole Osorio said. “We went from somewhere between half a million and 800,000 people at the time of contact to fewer than 40,000 people by 1892.” The epidemics included cholera, measles, whooping cough, dysentery and influenza.

“That’s something that’s in Hawaiian minds and understandings. That’s something you really don’t mess around with,” he said.

And now that so many have seen what their home is like without 30,000 arrivals a day, he said, “Do we just run back full speed into that economy and look for as many ways as we can to bring people here? Or did we learn something?”

‘Waikiki’ shines at Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

… center of Hawaii’s tourism was turned into a high-rise hell squeezing dollars … Despite the fact that Kea has two other part-time jobs—as a Hawaiian …
‘Waikiki’ shines at Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

Promotional image for Waikiki

America is currently experiencing a historic surge of protests igniting a cultural awakening and racial reckoning. October 12, which has been called “Columbus Day” and is now referred to as Indigenous Peoples Day has come and gone. But in this month, shorts, documentaries, and features by and about the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Islands are being given their day in the sun as part of the 36th annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Since 1983 Visual Communications, a nonprofit organization, has presented LAAPFF, whose mission is “to develop and support the voices of Asian American and Pacific Islander filmmakers and media artists who empower communities and challenge perspectives.” This year. due to the pandemic. the Festival is online.

To be sure, the plethora of pictures presented at LAAPFF are by Asian and Asian-American filmmakers with roots in countries such as the People’s Republic of China, India, etc., with populations that vastly outnumber the peoples of Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia. Nevertheless, LAAPFF provides a perch for works by and about Oceanic talents and topics in Los Angeles, a global capital of cinema. This is the first in a series of reviews of selections from Hawaii, the Marquesas, Samoa, Aotearoa/New Zealand, etc., at LAAPFF, which reels through October 31.

Waikiki, mon amour

Writer/director Christopher Kahunanana’s feature film debut Waikiki is a sensitively nuanced peek behind the paradise façade paraded before tourists to lure them to come visit Hawaii. It goes far beyond old South Seas cinema’s celluloid stereotypes. Danielle Zalopany depicts Kea, a “local girl” on the skids at Oahu. When the feature opens, Kea is performing with a troupe of hula dancers at a nightclub for tourists with a backdrop of world-famous Diamond Head. The beautiful young Polynesian is alluringly clad in a halter top, sarong, and what are probably plastic leis and flowery crown. They dance to the lovely sonorous song (probably recorded) “Waikiki” by Andy Cummings that extolls the idyllic vision of a bygone era before the center of Hawaii’s tourism was turned into a high-rise hell squeezing dollars out of visitors drawn to Oahu by a heavenly vision:


My whole life is empty without you

I miss that magic about you

Magic beside the sea

Magic of Waikīkī.

Despite the fact that Kea has two other part-time jobs—as a Hawaiian language teacher for children (probably as part of the Aloha State’s laudatory program to teach the Indigenous mother tongue, which has largely vanished from daily discourse due to colonial subjugation) and as a bar girl in a downtown Honolulu (perhaps in Chinatown?) gritty bar—she is homeless, like so many other landless Hawaiians dispossessed in their ancestral homeland.

Despite her beauty, Kea is anything but the carefree, sensuous sarong girl stereotypically depicted by countless Dorothy Lamour types in South Seas Cinema productions shot by “Haole-wood” filmmakers. Kea is a real, three-dimensional human being suffering as one of the wretched of the Earth in an Island stolen from her ancestors who must cope with the vicious vicissitudes of a callous capitalist society.

Apparently mistreated by her partner, brawny Branden (Jason Quinn), Kea seems to have fled her abusive household, where she may have also lived with their child—although like other facets of Waikiki this is unclear, as is the exact nature of her relationship with Branden. Kea is living out of her van, and her efforts to find a new place to live are thwarted by bureaucratic stipulations and paperwork, despite the fact that she actually has the cash on hand for the first month and a deposit required to rent an apartment in incredibly overpriced, hyperinflated Hawaii.

While living on the streets and out of her van, Kea falls in with the woeful Wo (Peter Shinkoda, whose lengthy credits include Daredevil), a homeless man whom, shall we say, she meets by accident. Kea’s misadventures in the harsh high-rise habitat that is much of contemporary Honolulu include having her van towed and her inability to retrieve it, again, due to red tape, thus depriving her of what little shelter she had.

Homelessness is a major problem in Hawaii, where thousands of disenfranchised Hawaiians and locals literally live on the beaches in tents and other makeshift shelters. In scenes that akamai (in-the-know) viewers will find poignant, a traumatized Kea wanders past the statue of a woman and a stately 19th-century building in the American Florentine architectural style. If the viewer is familiar with them, this can evoke a sense of estrangement, of becoming a stranger in one’s own land.

However, ordinary moviegoers outside of Hawaii are unlikely to recognize that the bronze figure on the pedestal is Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last monarch who was overthrown in a coup d’état executed by descendants of American missionaries and merchants, backed by the U.S. military in 1893. The statue is near Iolani Palace, where Liliuokalani had reigned over an independent kingdom before she was toppled in the planters’ putsch depriving Polynesians of their sovereignty and then placed under house arrest in America’s only royal palace by the Washington-backed traitors. Kea also traipses past the 50th State’s volcano-shaped State Capitol building.

These are all poignant symbols for residents and those familiar with Hawaii and its history, but as they are never specifically identified onscreen may go over the heads of many off-island viewers. Thus Waikiki will probably lose much of its intended impact because film fans aren’t mind readers. Movies are often criticized for being too long (are you listening, Marty Scorsese?), but the 82-minute Waikiki is one of those rare productions where a skillfully added 10 minutes or so with the exposition necessary to explain the historical background and context for the general viewer would probably enhance the work. (Of course, that’s easy for a critic to write as he’s not paying any of the costs.) But malihinis (Island neophytes) can pick up some of the nationalist vibe by listening closely to the angry lyrics of the bitter song that plays over the end credits, Brother Noland’s “Look What They’ve Done,” which contrasts sharply with the trope-filled “Waikiki.”

Nevertheless, Kahunanana is clearly an Oceanic auteur brimming with promise. Waikiki plays with time like the French director Alain Resnais, who helmed New Wave classics such as 1959’s experimental Hiroshima Mon Amour. A series of shots flashback to Kea as a child, learning aspects of her Hawaiian heritage from her tutu (grandmother, played by Hawaiian actress Claire Parker Johnson), which serve to show grownup Kea’s alienation from her culture. Interestingly, these scenes are lensed in water, either a stream or the ocean. Kahunanana has a keen eye as there are some exquisite shots of Oahu which, beyond Waikiki, the most overcrowded, crime-ridden, traffic-choked, polluted part of Hawaii, still boasts plenty of splendid scenery. Cinematographer Ryan Myamoto’s camera colorfully captures it all.

Ms. Zalopany is likewise an Islander filled with talent, who bestows dignity and poignancy on her down-on-her-luck character, grappling with the oppression of struggling to survive in a homeland torn from the rightful owners, her ancestors. Ms. Zalopany’s TV and movie credits include Hawaii Five-O and 2016’s Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, and she appears in the shorts Kālewa and Moloka’i Bound, which are also being screened at this year’s LAAPFF.

Just as I greatly look forward to future films by/with Kahunanana and Ms. Zalopany, it was a delight to see an old friend, the Hawaiian radio/stage/screen stalwart, beloved Kimo Kahoana in a cameo as Uncle Bully (who appears to abandon little Kea in flashbacks). Waikiki credits the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation, Hawaiian language expert Maile Meyer, the Sundance Institute, Native Lab Fellows, and Maori Oscar winner, actor/director/screenwriter Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit).

The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival does viewers a great cinematic service by providing a platform to film buffs of the off-the-beaten-path pictures by presenting worthy works like Waikiki. In showing the other side of the South Seas on film, with its Indigenous POV, Waikiki is a step forward in the film genre that began in Honolulu in 1898, when a Thomas Edison camera crew shot scenes of Waikiki and Oahu. Interested viewers can watch Waikikihere. For more information about the film, see here.

LAAPFF’s other Pacific Islander films this year include:

Patutiki: The Guardians of the Marquesan Tattoo; Hinekura; Faces of Oceania; Kama’āina (Child of the Land); Kālewa; Kapaemahu; Liliu; Mo’o!; Moloka’i Bound; Tā Moko—Behind the Tattooed Face; The Moon and the Night; and Toa’ipuapuagā Strength in Suffering.


Ed Rampell
Ed Rampell

    Ed Rampell is an L.A.-based film historian/critic and co-organizer of the 70th Anniversary Commemoration of the Hollywood Blacklist.



    Hawaii Tourism will not reopen as planned on October 15

    There are more problems for Hawaii’s travel and tourism industry, and there are problems between the mayors and the Governor. Only the Island of …

    There are more problems in paradise. There are more problems for Hawaii’s travel and tourism industry, and there are problems between the mayors and the Governor.

    Only the Island of Oahu with Honolulu and Waikiki may reopen for tourism arrivals after October 15 as originally planned and ordered by Hawaii Governor Ige.

    The Aloha State of Hawaii was planning to welcome visitors from the U.S. mainland without the requirement of a mandatory 14-day quarantine if a passenger provides a COVID-19 negative test done within 72 hours prior to arrival. Airlines had been getting ready to transport again visitors to Hawaii. United Airlines said such a test can be done hours prior to departure at San Francisco Airport for a $250.00 fee or prior by mail.

    Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell had told eTurboNews on September 15 he prefers second testing after arrival but confirmed today that O‘ahu plans to participate in the State’s pre-travel testing program. Mayor Caldwell maintains a two test program would be preferable to the current option, but also understands the current restrictions on testing capacity.

    Kauai Mayor Mayor Kawakami made this statement:

    “We have not yet made a determination. Decisions must be deliberate and we can’t commit to plans we don’t fully understand. Our goal from the beginning has been to supplement the Governor and Lt. Governor’s statewide travel plan. The option to opt-out is a recent development. As we understand it, our proposal was denied in part because the state aimed for consistency across the board, so visitors would not be confused. How does the option to opt-out achieve that goal? If each county were to opt-out, where does that leave the statewide travel plan? We need more details on what an “opt-out” means for the counties, and whether that provides the option for us to implement a single-test post-arrival program.

    “If we were to remain in the program, the Lt. Governor has committed to implementing enhanced testing, such as a surveillance testing program, and we look forward to hearing details on how that will be implemented on October 15.

    “Our goal is not to extend a mandatory 14-day quarantine in perpetuity. Our goal is to keep our community safe while we take a phased, responsible approach to reopening. We believed we could do that by offering an enhanced second-test program.”

    Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim said yesterday, he was opting out for the state’s pre-travel program starting October 15. It means anyone visiting Hawaii Island, also known as the Big Island of Hawaii will be required to quarantine for 14 days regardless.

    eTurboNews reached out to Maui’s mayor Mike Victorino. A spokesperson for Mayor Mike Victorino said the mayor had not made a decision yet. Maui County also includes the Island of Molokai and Lanai.

    In summary, as of now only the Island of Oahu with Waikiki Beach are a 100% reopening for visitors.

    Kuleana Opening Weekend A Huge Success; Expanding To Regal Theaters On Oahu

    The award-winning film KULEANA announced today that its opening weekend saw near sell out audiences statewide and will be held over in Hawaii and Guam and will add screens at Regal Cinemas on Oahu including Windward, Kapolei Commons and Pearl Highlands. KULEANA has proven itself a …

    Kuleana Opening Weekend A Huge Success; Expanding To Regal Theaters On Oahu

    The award-winning film KULEANA announced today that its opening weekend saw near sell out audiences statewide and will be held over in Hawaii and Guam and will add screens at Regal Cinemas on Oahu including Windward, Kapolei Commons and Pearl Highlands. KULEANA has proven itself a mainstream competitor to other Hollywood films in theaters now. Produced entirely in Hawaii, KULEANA has received the Audience Choice Award in the Santa Cruz Film Festival, the Maui Film Festival, and the San Antonio Film Festival, as well as “Best of Fest” in the Guam International Film Festival. Mainland residents can sign up to host/attend a screening in their city at www.hawaiicinema.com via Gathr, a technology-based Theatrical On Demand service.

    “We are excited to expand Oahu presence into Regal Cinemas many luxurious locations,” shared KULEANA writer/director Brian Kohne. “They have proven to be a reliable partner for the Hawaii Filmmaker through their incredible support of KULEANA with openings statewide and in Guam, as well as in their ongoing relationship with the Hawaii International Film Festival. Our island stories deserve to be showcased alongside that of our Hollywood friends, and the Regal Entertainment Group are truly the ones in Hawaii investing in our growth as motion picture writers, directors, actors and producers.”

    In KULEANA, set in Hawaii in 1971, a disabled Vietnam vet rediscovers the Hawaiian warrior within to protect his family, defend their land, and clear his father’s name. Boasting high production values in picture, performances, and music, KULEANA has earned the faith of mainland theater giants Reading International (Consolidated) and Regal, who will also open the movie in Guam. The film received an MPAA PG-13 rating, and also holds a spot on popular movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

    KULEANA is the Hawaiian word for Spiritual Responsibility. The provocative new mystery/drama was written and directed by Brian Kohne, produced by Stefan Schaefer, and stars Moronai Kanekoa, Sonya Balmores (Marvel’s INHUMANS), Kristina Anapau (TRUE BLOOD), Augie T, Marlene Sai, Branscombe Richmond (CHICAGO MED), and Mel Cabang. Willie K provides an original score; the soundtrack boasts hit songs by Joni Mitchell, Procol Harum, and Tony Orlando and Dawn, with Hawaiian classics of the era by Genoa Keawe, Lena Machado, Sunday Manoa, Sons of Hawaii, Marlene Sai, and more.

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