Hawaii & Alaska
Yoko Liriano / AP Photo

HI - Pandemic Gave Locals Fleeting Taste of a Tourist-Free Hawaii

Line-Noue Memea Kruse lives on Oahu’s famed North Shore, where marveling at sea turtles, epic waves and sunsets that paint the sky orange and purple are a must for many tourists in Hawaii.

After the islands required a two-week quarantine for travelers amid the coronavirus pandemic, Kruse rejoiced in the little things as the number of tourists dramatically dropped. It took her 35 minutes to drive to Walmart, instead of spending hours stuck in traffic as tourists gawked at turtles on the beach.

But tourist-reliant Hawaii has now eased the restrictions imposed in March, allowing visitors to produce a negative COVID-19 test to avoid the quarantine.

“I can literally tell you the day that they opened up,” Kruse said. She was driving to Walmart on Oct. 15, when the travel restrictions eased, and “I waited for hours again.”

For seven months, locals had taken back spots normally crowded with visitors. They could enjoy Waikiki’s famous beaches without the sunburned tourists and walk on sidewalks without hordes of visitors awestruck by clear blue water, white sand and the other trappings of a tropical getaway.

Locals, many of whom depend on tourism jobs, have long felt ambivalence about living in an island paradise that relies heavily on visitor spending, but many saw an upshot to a health crisis that threatened their livelihoods — reclaiming favorite areas long overrun by crowds.

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