The Biggest News and Events of 2021 in Hawaiʻi

Hawai‘i has had a rollercoaster of a year, so let's take a look back at some of the biggest stories and news that dominated the headlines.
Makena Secret Beach At Sunset In Maui, Hi
Photo: Getty Images

As the clock strikes midnight, we will say aloha to 2021—and what a year it’s been.

From COVID-19 to Carissa Moore making history, there was always something happening in the Islands. And if you haven’t been keeping up with local news—or just want to see what were some of Hawaiʻi’s biggest happenings in the year 2021—then this article is the perfect way for you to catch up.

1. Hawai‘i Reopens in Spite of COVID-19

Young Woman Wearing Sunglasses, Face Mask On Tropical Beach

Photo: Getty Images

As much as we’d like to ignore it, COVID-19 continues to be a threat to our community. As 2021 came to a close, Hawaiʻi saw some of its highest COVID-19 infection rates since the pandemic began almost two years ago. However, in spite of COVID-19, businesses, hotels and the community as a whole found ways to reopen for visitors and locals. With vaccine cards, restaurants can once again allow diners to be seated in their restaurants. Hotel staff can fill vacant rooms after a thorough disinfecting, a process that has been refined and improved upon by our top-of-the-line hospitality industry. And once more visitors mingle with residents on beaches, in bars and along hiking trails.

READ MORE: Attention Travelers: This is a New Hawaiʻi

2. Carissa Moore Makes History

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Photo: Courtesy of Ben Reed/International Surfing Association

A shining light on an otherwise dower year, Carissa Moore made history as she won the gold medal in the first-ever Olympic surfing event. Not only that, but Moore also won her fifth World Surf League championship title, closing the gap between herself and current world title record-holders Stephanie Gilmore and Layne Beachley—both of whom have seven to their names. We can only expect more great things to come from Moore in 2022.

READ MOORE: Hawaiʻi’s Carissa Moore Wins First-Ever Women’s Olympic Surfing Gold

3. Rainbow Drive-In Turns 60

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Photo: Courtesy of Rainbow Drive-In

Sixty years. Three generations of owners. Countless happy customers. Rainbow Drive-In, opened in 1961, has been the place to go for local comfort foods and affordable plate lunches on Oʻahu—and on Oct. 2, 2021, hit the 60-year mark. One of Hawaiʻi’s oldest and most beloved local businesses, Rainbow Drive-In has expanded its locations to five across the island of Oʻahu, and is looking to keep the family-run diner going for many, many more years to come.

LISTEN: Have Aloha Will Travel Episode 70

4. Halemaʻumaʻu’s Lava Lake Returned

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Photo: Courtesy of USGS

After a brief hiatus in its eruptions, Halemaʻumaʻu Crater saw numerous happenings throughout the year 2021, leading to some exceptional videos and photography of the newly refilled lava lake. Visitors to Hawaiʻi Island can once again enjoy the natural spectacle by visiting the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, where Halemaʻumaʻu Crater is located.

SEE: These 10 Photos Truly Show the Awe-Inspiring Power of the 2021 Kīlauea Eruption

5. Hanauma Bay Launches a Online Reservation System

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Photo: Getty Images

Launched on April 26, 2021, an online system was put into place to limit the number of visitors and locals that could enter the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. One of Hawaiʻi’s first steps in combating over-tourism, this measure was put into place to keep our natural wonders beautiful, and to make sure future generations can enjoy them for decades to come.

READ MORE: Hanauma Bay on Oʻahu Launches Online Reservation System

6. The Fate of the Haʻikū Stairs was Decided

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Photo: Getty Images

The future of the Haʻikū Stairs, also referred to as the Stairway to Heaven, was met with a unanimous decision in favor of its removal. Although the stairway has been off-limits to the public since 1987, countless trespassers and thrillseekers have climbed to the top of this perilous staircase for years, and Honolulu officials had had enough.

7. Lifeguards Now Working Longer Hours on Oʻahu

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Photo: Getty Images

Hawaiʻi’s lifeguards are some of the best in the nation—so it’s comforting to know that they will be on duty longer to keep our visitors and local residents safe. Beginning on July 11, their hours changed to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., extended from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Of course, you can help make their jobs easier by staying out of the water if conditions are looking too rough for you. Always remember, when in doubt, don’t go out.

READ MORE: Lifeguards Now Working Longer Hours on Oʻahu

8. A Blizzard Happened

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Photo: Getty Images

You read that right, a blizzard. While Hawaiʻi didn’t receive too much bad weather in 2021, that all changed in the first week of December. Every Hawaiian Island was besieged by flooding rainfall, heavy winds and—on the Big Island—a blizzard. Of course, heavy snowfall only occurred on the summits of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, but how often do you see a blizzard warning in the state of Hawaiʻi?

READ MORE: High Surf, Blizzard Watch and More as Cold Front Moves Through Hawaiʻi

Categories: Arts + Culture, News