O‘ahu Neighborhood Guide (Quarantine Edition): We May Be Social Distancing, But Kailua’s Beaches Are Still Packed

Now, because of COVID-19, the Windward Side neighborhood’s streets are a little emptier, but the energy pulsing through Kailua town remains strong.

During the summer, writers from our sister publication Hawai‘i Magazine explored various neighborhoods across the state to experience the community under various COVID-19 restrictions. This story originally appeared as “What Kailua is Like Right Now” in July 2020 on Hawai‘i Magazine.

  beaches are packed

Photo: Kyla Smith


Just after I graduated last December I met up with friends, and we took a day trip to Kailua. We drove from town through the Ko‘olau mountains, stopped for food at Adela’s Country Eatery and finally ended up at Kailua Beach Park to eat lunch, talk story and relax. Even in December, Kailua was packed with tourists and locals alike, all enjoying the beauty of the Windward Side of O‘ahu.


Now, because of COVID-19, the streets are a little emptier, but the energy pulsing through Kailua town remains strong.


SEE ALSO: Small Town to Bustling Attraction: Tourists and Traffic Trouble the Residents of Kailua

shopping for essentials during coronavirus
Stickers show shoppers where to stand to maintain safe social distancing.


What’s Change

Many restaurants are still take-out only, and those that have opened for indoor seating have moved tables so that they’re six feet away from each other—some have even put up plastic barriers between tables.


The Kailua Whole Foods Market has employees posted at the entrance to monitor how many people go in and out of the store. And stickers mark the floor showing shoppers how far to stand from each other in check-out lines.

  coffee shops in kailua

Some restaurants and cafés, like Morning Brew, have outdoor seating for customers.


Many stores have left their doors open—so people don’t need to touch anything when they walk in—and are limiting the number of customers in the store at a time. And, as mandated by the city, every store and restaurant requires people to wear face masks to enter. Public seating areas are closed off, too, so people typically return to their cars to eat and chat. However, some cafés—including Morning Brew—still have their own outdoor seating set up for customers.


Although Kailua and Lanikai beaches are not as crowded as they were pre-COVID, they’re still busy. For the most part, people are observing six-feet social distancing guidelines, but most beachgoers have foregone masks. Even though beaches are open spaces, it would be a good idea to bring a mask since you’re sure to run into people from different households.


SEE ALSO: Inside HONOLULU: Confessions of a Kailua Resident

shopping areas in kailua
Lines are down in most of Kailua’s visitor-friendly areas.


Our Recommendations

Since visitors numbers are down, so are the lines to some of the area’s more popular spots. Goen Dining + Bar, a concept by James Beard Award-winning chef Roy Yamaguchi with shareable small places and creative sushi rolls, has reopened for dine-in service—and with plentiful outdoor seating. 22Kailua (22 Oneawa St.) has a takeout deal right now—a bento of its specialties for $22, which is a great way to try its sushi without having to reserve a coveted spot. Bookends (600 Kailua Road, Suite 126), an indie bookstore, has a diverse collection of new and used books and an awesome (and helpful) staff. And if you’ve never been to Boots & Kimo Homestyle Kitchen, this is the time to go. You won’t find the crazy lines outside. You can finally try its famous pancakes with macadamia nut sauce.


SEE ALSO: Heart of Honolulu: Kailua Family Reaches Out with a Little Help Across the Sidewalk

beach in kailua


Where to Park

There’s plenty of free street and municipal parking lots in Kailua. The parking lots near Kailua Beach Park are still open, and parking is free. If you’re heading to Lanikai Beach, consider parking in the Kailua Beach Park lot and walking over since finding parking in the neighborhood can be difficult. If you’re looking to shop and eat, there’s still lots of parking available in Kailua Shopping Center and Kailua Town Center.