Closing Down the Party in Kailua Kona Thanks to COVID19


Hawaii Heads Towards “Shelter in Place” (Lockdown)

This afternoon, Hawaii Governor Ige decided to “lock down” the state of Hawaii in the face of the growing number of people infected with the COVID 19 virus. They said we had until March 25th to make a line in the sand to save the islands from a similar fate to that of Italy. A decision. That is what was needed and now it is up to us to take the appropriate level of action to stay home, shelter in place and be responsible.

But, let’s roll back a bit here.

During the Christmas holidays, tourism had hit another all time high and tensions among the locals was beginning to show as the strain on natural resources was showing and the realization that it was not going to get better any time soon. (Think of hundreds of people in Keauhou Bay trying to view two manta rays or the crush of humanity wearing toxic sunscreen, on reefs that had already been hit by a super heated ocean during the summer.)

Corona Virus Comes to USA

Then we got word that the Corona Virus was coming to the US. Personally, I took a trip off of the island in early February and was rather shocked at how many people from Japan and other Asian countries were wearing face masks in the Honolulu airport. By the time I got home on Valentine’s Day, Corona Virus was turning into a pandemic. Within a few weeks all the major events, including the BrewFest and Merrie Monarch were cancelled.  But the ocean still called, the restaurants with their beautiful views still beckoned and the bars were still calling happy travelers to its stools.

Cruise Ships Go from Boon to Bane

The cruise ships became the pariah. All those happy tourists hopping off boats in Hilo and Kona, providing economic stimulus to our County, have always been a welcome sight. Until, a group came ashore infected. (This is an excellent story from a crew member on the ship that had the most cases. How she describes life on the ship, mirrors exactly how the world is behaving with hoarding, not wanting to use social distancing, fear, etc.) Once people realized that infected passengers had toured all over East Hawaii, the patience for tourists during this time became very thin.

Calling For A Shut Down

Calls have mounted for our Mayor to shut down the island and stop allowing cruise ships and airline travel into our ports. Cruise calls were halted about two weeks ago, as dictated by the Federal government. Then, the airlines started to feel the pressure as people were told that international travel was banned. Then, the drums started beating to halt all non-essential air travel to and from Hawaii.

Fragile Health Care System and Tourist Shaming

The feeling on the islands has been, “We have a fragile health care system. We need to be able to focus on treating those that live here, not the millions of tourists who come and specifically the ones who want to come and “isolate” on our islands.” I have never seen such a push back towards visitors and especially on my “365 Things to Do in Kona” blog as residents were expressing their views about “Staying Home” towards people saying they were keeping their vacation plans in place for the spring. Tourist shaming all over social media has been rampant and calls to the Mayor to shut the island down have only gotten louder as residents beseech government to protect them.

Kailua Kona – Business As Usual

Meanwhile, in Kailua Kona, the restaurants, bars and beaches have been open for business and residents have taken photos and videos of tourists still enjoying Kona as if nothing was amiss. Meanwhile, dire news stories of more cases and more deaths were coming from the mainland, as well as more tourists flying into Kona from the hot spot cities such as Seattle.

On March 17th, I posted a photo of the front page of CNN alongside a photo of a flier for a St. Patricks Day dinner at a local restaurant on Facebook and I asked if we were living in a bubble. But things in Corona Virus World change quickly.  The next day, that restaurant was doing take out only.

Beaches Close Across State

During the next week, the state beaches were closed. We made one last beeline to sit at sunset at Kua Bay and say goodbye to our favorite beach. The next few days brought the closure of all of the County beaches, and once again, I sat alone with our family at Old Airport Beach at sunset, saying good bye to one of my favorite spaces to enjoy Hawaii. It was getting real, really quick. We were told to stay home and shelter in place. Meanwhile, the party continued down in Kona Town and on a few beaches that were supposedly closed. 

A friend of mine who manages one of the restaurants on Alii Drive witnessed a driver of a car screaming at all the open restaurants to close down as he zoomed down the main drag, shocking tourists and waiters, alike. The drum beat was getting louder.

The Tipping Point Is Here

So, here we are. The Governor was given the deadline of March 25th as the tipping point of saving the islands. Is it enough? Should our leaders have acted sooner? Will we look back and see that business interests all over the world were at play in not alerting the public to the dangers of the contagious and deadly nature of the virus?

I had a friend say today from LA, “I think we should be coming out of this in two weeks.” I hate playing that negativity card on my friends, but from everything that I have read and understand about this virus, we are in it for the long haul. I started to freak out a bit when I heard 18 months, and a local grocer said we had enough food on the island, in the sea, on the ranches and on the farms to feed our populace. That made me feel better, a bit.

Robbed of Milestone Celebrations

My daughter is supposed to graduate in May. Now, the schools are closed until mid-April at best. Plans for proms have been cancelled and graduation celebrations look like they  may be next. They say this virus has robbed us of our milestone celebrations.

My 55th birthday was on Saturday. I had big plans for all of my friends to meet me at my favorite local jazz bar and we would dance and drink pink Prosecco together. But such is life. On this island, with its eruptions, and tsunamis and hurricanes and earthquakes, we have learned a few things about resiliency. While the party has not always gone on in Kona through THOSE natural disasters, or the 9/11 fallout, we keep going.

A Shared Experience

We are looking at sheltering in place just like the rest of the world is looking at it. My husband and I created a video about our experience for YouTube. I see people playing trumpets on the balconies of Italy to entertain other people sequestered in their homes around them. I just saw hundreds of people clanging their pots and pans and cheering for the first responders and the essential workers in Vancouver, Canada, where they do this from their condo balconies each evening at 7 pm. The world is experiencing the same thing, together.

It is an amazing time in human history. The potential for change has never been greater. Think about the coral, the dolphins, the mantas, the stress of humanity trying to survive EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Everyone has been given a break, all at the same time. Some metaphysical friends on the island call this “the shift”.

You should have seen the locals loving up the big waves today at Banyans, Magic’s and Kahalu’u.  Wide open. I saw a photo of a parking lot at the Aloha Stadium today with 25,000 rental cars sitting idly and people on that island finally able to move on the roads. Folks here have been complaining about the traffic. Today, we sailed easily down the road to stock up on fresh produce.

All We Have Is Now

My friend Tess recently told me about another meaning behind the concept of “ho’oponopono”.  The literal translation is “to make right”.  Listening to Hawaiian elders, she says it also has a more deeper meaning around, “It is what it is”. Think about the freedom in that. All we have is now. This moment. No shame, no judgement, no expectations, nothing but the here and now. We don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. A vaccine could be developed next week, next month or next year.  If you have some belief in things, you could say that all is in divine order.

Not trying to get all spiritual on you, my constant reader, but we are in uncharted territory right now. I am trying to rush to the DMV tomorrow before County offices close to get my son a drivers test, I have lost half my income in the past ten days as my real estate clients tighten their belts for a long road ahead, but knowing there is always opportunity in uncertain times. I created this blog in 2010 when I had no clue how we were going to get out of the financial chaos of the Great Recession. That led me to create something that has helped hundreds of people and given me so many blessings. You just never know.

What We Miss, What We Will Gain

We will mourn the people we have lost in all of this, and we will mourn our personal freedoms for a bit, as well. But think of the smog lifting in Beijing, or people learning that technology could change traffic patterns forever, or the way people communicate is shifting to teleconferencing faster each day. (I have Zoom wine -30’s with my friends and a writers workshop set up)

We are on the front of something big. But the party in Kona is shutting down tomorrow night.

We are in strange times. Keep healthy and safe.

What is going on in your world right now in these uncertain times? Share in the comments!


Spread the word if you love what you heard! #365kona so we can say Thanks!

Meet the Author

Julie Ziemelis

Julie Ziemelis is an entrepreneur, business owner, author, blogger and vlogger in Kailua Kona. She created and moderates the “365 Things to Do in Kona” page and the Kona Newbies group on Facebook. She blogs at and and vlogs with her husband, Eric, at “365Hawaii” on YouTube. Julie also authored the books, “How to Move to Kona” and the “Insiders Guide to Buying Real Estate on the Big Island of Hawaii”. You will most likely find Julie in Kona hiking, running, biking, taking photos and sharing Aloha.

Leave a Question or Comment About this Topic

  • patty thurston says:

    Good luck, Hawaii. Great story, Julie.

  • Susan Jacobson says:

    I love this even though I don’t. Beautifully written, my friend. These words are exactly my feelings too. We live in Payson, Arizona a small town but an island surrounded by forest and desert. Our county has not had any cases so far of the Covid-19. And I feel we should close our little town for awhile. We are also short of supplies as well as toilet paper and sanitary wipes, and store shelves are bare. And we have people with their big RVs going through our town

    getting “stocked” up in our stores for their quarantine in our woods. They come in from counties that have the virus maybe not knowing they carry this awful “gift”. Then they leave, having left this gift and leave their trash behind and take with them the supplies are town needs. But Ho-o pomo- pono is beautiful and I see how we all can survive through this disaster and realize that this too shall pass. I know what it feels like to live through the bomb scare
    and go on that boat with you and have
    dolphins swimming and racing the boat under our feet all along wondering what was going to be happening at that very time. Miss you Julie.

    • Julie Ziemelis says:

      I have heard this has been happening to small towns around the country. Residents need to band together during these times, for sure. Miss you too Susan and stay well.

  • Sherrill says:

    I would love to see pictures of Kona Kailua if possible..haven’t been there in a couple of years..such a beautiful place..💞..take care,stay safe.

    • Julie Ziemelis says:

      You can go to my 365 Things to Do in Kona Facebook page and also my 365KonaHawaii account on Instagram where I am posting photos and videos of Kona all the time! Thanks Sherril!