72 Hours Inside a Kauai Resort Bubble: My Vacation After My Vacation

Can one consider quarantining a vacation? I found myself pondering this question before embarking on our holiday travels to visit family on the Mainland. We had acquiesced to the fact that we’d be required to tack on to the end of our trip a 10-day quarantine at home. Fortunately, during our travels, Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami’s Enhanced Movement Quarantine (EMQ) proposal was green-lit by Governor Ige, and we were presented with an entirely new opportunity — enter “The Resort Bubble.”

Kauai’s COVID Resort Bubble

Kawakami’s non-traditional quarantine approach allows trans-Pacific travelers an option to pre-test 72 hours prior to arrival to Kauai, spend 72-hours in a “Bubble Resort,” test negative a second time, and then be free to enjoy all that Kauai has to offer, or for us, residents, be free to go home. In all, there are six Bubble Resorts. We immediately chose Timbers Kauai at Hokuala.

Timbers Kauai at Hokuala

The scenic coastline at Timbers Kauai at the Hokuala resort. (Hawai’i Life)

Resort Bubble at Timbers Kauai at Hokuala

Guests have free reign on the expansive 450-acre property, featuring a championship golf course, meandering trails, and freshwater lagoons. As Bret Robins, Director of Sales & Marketing, pointed out, “golf is a naturally socially distanced activity that is great for the whole family. You can even get a kick out of our new and innovative activity of Footgolf, which is a fun and unique twist to the traditional game.”

timbers kauai oceanfront golf course

The oceanfront golf course at Timbers Kauai. (Hawai’i Life)

We spent our three days leisurely roaming the property, enjoying the beautifully designed resort, experiencing true farm-to-table restaurant, Haulani’s, and traversing the casual trails on the resort’s courtesy bikes. Our three girls pruned their fingers to their heart’s content at the resort’s two pool areas. They enjoyed the lagoon-style pool with a plunge area, while I preferred the Zen of watching the line between where the infinity-edge pool ends and the Pacific ocean begins being broken only by ocean waves and whale spouts.

oceanfront pool timbers kauai

An infinity-edge swimming pool overlooking the sea at Timbers Kauai. (Hawai’i Life)

The Farm at Hokuala

I highly recommend a daily bike ride to peruse farmer Cody Meyer’s robust organic garden, The Farm at Hokuala, which provides the freshest produce possible to the resort’s kitchen and owners. I’m especially impressed after knowing what efforts my own COVID garden took to thrive. (I’m counting my potager garden of three abundant tomato plants, one green onion, and lots of flowers as a successful first endeavor.)

Any foodie “required“ to enjoy a 3-day stay will not be left unsatiated. One of the currently featured items, The Farm at Hokuala Kale Caesar, is perhaps one of the most tender kale salads I’ve ever encountered. A dish to be savored is Chef Zach Cummings’ Inamona Crusted Market Catch. A local-caught fish is encrusted within a local Kukui nut preparation, that I, in my decade of living on Kauai, had yet to experience.

Hualani’s Restaurant at timbers kauai

The view from Hualani’s Restaurant at Timbers Kauai. (Hawai’i Life)

Hualani’s Restaurant

Hualani’s Restaurant is open 7 days a week for guests, owners, and the public with a temperature check.

  • Lunch: 11am – 3pm
  • Happy Hour: 3pm – 5pm
  • Dinner: Tuesday – Saturday 5:30pm – 8pm
  • Bar: until 9pm
  • Live Music: Friday & Saturday 6:00pm – 8pm

Near Lihue Airport

Another factor in our decision was the resort’s near proximity to the Lihue airport. With an 11pm arrival after our 16-hour flight from Texas with three kids, we were thrilled to be whisked to our beautiful coastal-meets-transitional style 3-bedroom townhome within about 5 minutes by our resort driver, Chad. The posh accommodations were made even more lovely by being greeted the following morning by the sweeping coastline views from the residence’s ocean bluff perch.

Timbers Kauai at Hokuala oceanview townhome

Inside an oceanview townhome at Timbers Kauai resort at Hokuala. (Hawai’i Life)

Timbers Kauai at Hokuala graciously provides a delicious cooking starter kit of assorted breakfast foods, ingredients, and beverages.

Instacart is available to deliver items from Costco.

  • PRO TIP: Order the day ahead of your arrival so food is delivered the first morning of your arrival.

The initial check-in was a breeze. Mele at the Front Desk assisted my husband and me with downloading the Aqua Quarantine Ally App on our phones and syncing it with our individual tracking bracelets. The bracelet is worn 24/7 during a Bubble Resort guest’s stay and is also a way to distinguish those “bubbling” from other guests and owners.

spacious kitchen at timbers kauai townhome

The kitchen inside a townhome at the Timbers Kauai resort. (Hawai’i Life)

  • PRO TIP: The Aqua app uses Bluetooth to track your location inside the containment Bubble. You’ll need to keep your phone nearby at all times. Make sure to keep your phone battery charged as the app is battery draining, don’t put it on “Low Battery Mode,” and don’t close the Aqua app on your phone.
kauai covid quarantine bracelet

Showing off a COVID-19 quarantine bracelet. (Hawai’i Life)

After our required 72-hour stay came to an end, we tested with Nurse Tanya from MoDo Mobile Doctor in the convenience of our townhome. Each test cost $200.

Throughout our stay at Timbers Kauai at Hokuala, the hours seamlessly slipped by, marked only by the occasional wintertime whale acrobats as mothers and their baby calves enjoyed the warm Hawaii waters. One afternoon, off of the Ninini Point Lighthouse, four spouts simultaneously crossed the ocean horizon, spraying into the sky. “The whales seem to love this place,” remarks Michael Young while concocting a late afternoon Mai Tai for one of the bar’s patrons. I couldn’t agree with the whales more.

gorgeous sky at timbers kauai resort

Sunset at the Timbers Kauai resort. (Hawai’i Life)

Step-By-Step EMQ Process

1. 72-Hour FDA-Approved Pre-Travel Test: For convenience, we used a concierge service that came to us. It actually was a less expensive option than had we all tested at an Urgent Care or other testing facilities. While there are less expensive options, we were hard-pressed to find any available appointment times at multiple testing sites that would work to meet Kauai’s 72-hour before travel stipulation. I highly recommend a concierge home-visit service provider. Just like a mobile notary, they come to you and get it done!

2. Flight: The second leg of our trip from LAX>Lihue was canceled 3 days prior to travel, so we rebooked on Delta out of Seattle>Lihue. After speaking to a few different people, it seems flight cancelations 2-3 days prior to travel happen, so expect to rebook. On our flight to Kauai, there were only 17 passengers. The Timbers Kauai’s driver said that the two previous nights had 56 and 104 passengers, respectively. Currently, there are two airlines with direct flights to Lihue from the Mainland: 1) Delta out of Seattle and LAX, and 2) United out of SFO and LAX. Southwest and Hawaiian are both flying inter-island from Oahu.

3. Arrival Process: After deboarding, we queued in the terminal hallway before going through the 2-step entry process. The first step involved an attendant looking at our travel QR codes and confirming our Timbers Kauai at Hokuala reservation. The attendant will call your resort to confirm you have a reservation. The second desk is staffed by the National Guard and Kauai Police Department. There they will confirm each individual’s EMQ arrival paperwork. After that, you’re free to gather your bags from baggage claim and depart the airport.

  • PRO TIP: Print all your travel documents (i.e. QR Codes, hotel reservation documentation, and EMQ paperwork) and keep them in a folder for the 2-step arrival process. I’m all about digital, but “old school” printed documents are helpful (and quicker to access) when you’re jet-lagged after a 6-hour flight trans-Pacific flight.

4. Check-In at you’re Bubble Resort location

5. Enjoy Your Time at the Bubble Resort

6. Test Negative and Enjoy Kauai (aka “home” for us)

Questions & More Info

If you have questions about the Bubble Resort process, ownership opportunities at Timbers Kauai at Hokuala, or want more information on other Kauai offerings, please reach out. I look forward to talking with you soon.


Lauren Pingree is a REALTOR Salesperson with Hawai'i Life. You can email her at [email protected].

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