Hawaii again welcoming visitors; Here’s everything you need to know
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
Since the world turned upside down, planning a vacation to a reopened Hawaii has proven quite difficult.
For months, the only option to enter Hawaii was with a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Then a reopening date with an option to test before travel to avoid the quarantine became a moving target as the islands battled a COVID-19 surge and the country as a whole dealt with a lack of reliable, rapid testing.
Next, the different islands began to have their own thoughts and rules surrounding the reopening.
Finally, Hawaii reopened on Oct. 15 with a pre-travel testing option.
Here’s what we know about traveling to Hawaii, and what you need to prepare for a successful trip.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our free daily newsletter.
Hawaii reopened to U.S. travelers only on Oct. 15
Hawaii reopened to U.S. travelers on Oct. 15.
As of this time of publication, international travelers from CDC-prohibited countries are still banned from entering Hawaii. That said, Hawaii is reportedly in talks with Japan to develop a reopening plan for travelers.
The state has launched a pre-travel testing program, which requires all visitors to take a nucleic acid amplification test, such as a PCR test, from an approved testing partner within 72 hours before departure to Hawaii. However, not every island in Hawaii has the same rules once you arrive.
Hawaii, the Big Island
Travelers to the Big Island who participate in the state’s pre-arrivals testing program to avoid a mandatory 14-day quarantine will have to take a second, free rapid antigen test at the airport upon arrival. A second negative result would allow the traveler to bypass mandatory self-isolation.
Currently, only the Big Island will require a second test upon arrival to avoid quarantine.
Kauai will offer a voluntary second test three days after arrival, though it is not currently required. Passengers arriving in Kauai and Maui can bypass the 14-day quarantine period by taking a PCR test no later than 72 hours before departure and receiving a negative result.
Maui’s plan is currently identical to Kauai’s in that a free voluntary test will be offered three days after arrival on the island. In addition, those who fly to Maui from another county can bypass quarantine by submitting a negative PCR test result.
What do I need to do to qualify for pre-approval testing?
U.S. travelers must complete the following steps before entering Hawaii’s participating islands:
- All U.S. travelers 18 and older must register through the mandatory Hawaii Safe Travels online program
- Within 72 hours of departure time, each traveler 5 or older must undergo an approved COVID-19 test with negative results through Hawaii’s trusted testing and travel partners
- 24 hours prior to departure, complete the health questionnaire on your Safe Travels account
- Comply with all social distancing and mask requirements during travel, including in-flight
- All incoming Hawaii travelers must pass thermal temperature checks and facial-imaging technology upon arrival
- Produce the Safe Travels QR code to local officials upon arrival in Hawaii
Pre-travel testing will allow healthy tourists to avoid the mandatory 14-day quarantine with some exceptions if they have a qualified negative COVID-19 test no earlier than 72 hours before their final flight to Hawaii departs. Additionally, travelers arriving in Hawaii will have their temperatures checked upon arrival and must fill out a travel and health form.
Travelers who don’t have proof of an approved negative test must quarantine for 14 days or until they can provide proof of negative test results.
What does mandatory quarantine entail?
Hawaii’s current mandatory 14-day self-quarantine remains in effect for anyone who does not follow the pre-travel testing requirements. The state is serious about minimizing risk; this isn’t one of the island destinations where you can roam freely at your property of choice.
“Hawaii is our home,” said Jeff Helfrick, Vice President of Airport Operations at Hawaiian Airlines. “So it’s important not only that we take care of our island home, but also that we do it right.”
Beyond potential resort bubble programs that grant a little bit more freedom, travelers not cleared via the pre-travel program are not allowed to leave their personal quarantine space, such as a hotel room or Airbnb, unless they are seeking medical care. All public spaces, including any on-site resort pool, fitness center or restaurant, are off-limits during this period, which means delivery and room service only. Visitors are also not allowed unless it is a healthcare professional specifically checking on your health.
Tourists have been arrested for breaking quarantine early. Car rental agencies are banned from renting to anyone subject to mandatory quarantine regulations. Anyone who intentionally or knowingly breaks quarantine can be convicted of a misdemeanor. That could mean a fine of up to $5,000 or jail time of up to one year.
Related: Why we love Hawaii
What if I want to travel between Hawaiian islands?
Beginning Oct. 15, you’ll have more options to avoid quarantine when traveling between the Hawaiian Islands.
Those traveling to Oahu from another Hawaiian Island do not have a 14-day quarantine or current testing requirement. However, those traveling to Kauai, Hawaii (Big Island), Maui, Lanai and Kalawao (Molokai) have been subject to a 14-day quarantine. Effective Oct. 15, those island hopping to Kauai or Maui will have the ability to participate in pre-travel testing done at an approved partner up to 72 hours before travel. This is virtually the same requirement as those coming from the mainland to Hawaii. This sort of program for inter-island arrivals to the Big Island is still being worked out.
If you just have a layover in Honolulu then the negative test result you took to enter Hawaii before travel is good through to your final destination. However, if your break in Honolulu is more than a layover, then you are subject to new inter-island testing or quarantine requirements.
Testing facilities approved by Hawaii
As of this week, Hawaii has approved the following list of testing partners for the pre-arrival approval program. You may have to pay out-of-pocket for the voluntary COVID-19 test, so be sure to check with your insurance provider before proceeding.
- AFC Urgent Care in Portland, Lake Oswego, Beaverton and Oregon City: $199 for the Rapid RNA Molecular test
- Carbon Health in Seattle; $135 for the Abbott ID Now rapid test
- Color is working exclusively with United passengers flying out of San Francisco (SFO)
- CVS Health testing is available in 35 states and the District of Columbia; $139
- Discovery Health MD is available to passengers flying through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
- Kaiser Permanente is only available to members of this health plan
- Quest Diagnostics has made the COVID-19 Active Infection Test available online, and can be picked up from 500 Walmart drive-thru pharmacy locations for a nasal swab test; $119 plus $9.30 physician fee
- Vault Health is an FDA-authorized at-home saliva test with real-time audio-visual supervision
- Walgreens is providing COVID tests at drive-thru locations, so you don’t need to leave your vehicle; There is no cost for anyone meeting the CDC criteria for testing
Airlines and airports offering testing to Hawaii
Multiple airlines, including United, Hawaiian, Alaska and American, have developed a testing system available to travelers flying to Hawaii from certain hub airports, or via an at-home kit.
Alaska Airlines will partner with Carbon Health to offer rapid COVID-19 testing at its pop-up clinics across the West Coast, starting Oct. 12 at 220 Sixth Avenue North in Seattle. Guests could make an appointment with Carbon Health starting Oct. 8, with priority testing for Alaska Airlines flyers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. PDT. Test results will be ready within two hours at a discounted cost of $135. More information, including how to schedule an appointment, is available at alaskaair.com/hawaii-bound.
If you’re flying on American Airlines from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Honolulu (HNL) or Maui (OGG), you’re eligible to take a $129 at-home nasal PCR test administered by LetsGetChecked, an in-person test at a CareNow urgent care location or a preflight rapid test at Dallas administered by CareNow.
Beginning “around Oct. 15,” Hawaiian Airlines will partner with Worksite Labs to provide drive-through COVID-19 PCR testing near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
Worksite Labs will offer the Droplet Digital PCR shallow nasal swab test for $90, with results within 36 hours, or $150 for “day-of-travel express service.” For now, the service will only be available near LAX and SFO, though Hawaiian expects to roll it out to other U.S. gateways soon.
Passengers on Hawaiian can also order a $150 mail-in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) saliva test online through Vault Health. The test kit, which is available for travelers of all ages including children, will be express mailed overnight to guests who will self-collect their sample with assistance from a testing supervisor in a video call. The kit is express shipped overnight to a lab, which will process and analyze the sample and provide travelers their results electronically within 24 hours of receiving the sample.
United is offering Hawaii-bound passengers rapid testing at San Francisco International Airport from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily, with results in 15 minutes. Travelers can make reservations before they arrive and the service costs $250.
Alternatively, United flyers heading to Hawaii can opt for an $80 mail-in test from Color. The airline recommends that travelers begin the process 10 days before their travel, and collect a sample no more than 72 hours in advance of their trip before returning it via overnight mail or a dropbox at SFO. Results will arrive via email and text within 24 to 48 hours.
Some U.S. airports are also offering COVID-19 testing. Tampa, Hartford, Newark, New York-JFK and others offer on-site testing. Oakland Airport also offers preflight testing that, unlike most programs, comes with no out-of-pocket cost for those heading to Hawaii.
What is the airport testing process like?
As mentioned above, San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is offering United’s Hawaii-bound passengers with an option to take an approved rapid test at the airport before heading to Hawaii.
Your trip will need to originate from SFO, and you’ll be billed $250. At SFO, the testing site is in the International Terminal in Courtyard A on the lower level below where you check-in for your flight or go through TSA security screening.
You can make a reservation before you arrive, but they were also allowing walk-ins at the time of writing.
We recommend reserving a slot ahead of time when possible to save you time while at the airport. While it won’t let you skip the line, it will save you time from having to fill out the questionnaire on the spot.
Allow extra time before your flight as you’ll need to wait for your turn, then 15 minutes or so for results and ultimately head back through security and to your departure gate.
Once registered and checked in, you’ll be given a packaged swab for your test and escorted to a screened-off area for a short virtual visit with a doctor.
You’ll be asked some standard questions — including whether you have you been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or if you have any symptoms.
From there, you head outside to the testing tent.
A healthcare worker will administer the test while on the other side of a plexiglass divider with holes for them to reach through to swab your nose. For those worried about the test itself — it’s not painful. You may feel a little discomfort, but it shouldn’t be anything unmanageable for the vast majority.
Then you’ll wait outside (they have socially distance chairs set up for those waiting) for your results.
If you test negative, you’ll be good to head back upstairs for your flight. If the test comes back positive, you’ll sit down to talk with the doctor via a virtual visit as they explain the results and answer any questions you may have. Then you’ll need to self-isolate in accordance to doctor and CDC recommendations.
All in all, the process is simple though the price tag is high at $250 per test.
Register with Hawaii’s Safe Travels system
If you decide to travel to the state, you’ll need to register with Hawaii’s Safe Travels system. Do this at least 72 hours before arrival, as it will speed your exit from the airport since you’ll be asked to show your registration confirmation page.
If you need to quarantine for 14 days, you’ll need to check in on the app daily to report the condition of your health if your trip is not a part of the pre-testing arrival plan. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the continued use of this app in some form in the future, even after the self-quarantine regulation expires.
Flight schedules have been reduced
As you would imagine, the 14-day self-quarantine requirement has done what it was designed to do: Convince travelers to stay home and avoid Hawaii in the short term. According to data provided by the Hawaii Vacation and Convention Bureau (HVCB), travel to Hawaii is down more than 90 percent compared to 2019 numbers.
This decline in passengers led airlines to suspend some flights between the mainland and the Hawaiian Islands.
However, with the reopening imminent, we expect airlines to add capacity back to their schedule as demand increases.
You’ll have to wear a face mask
On April 17, the governor of Hawaii issued an order requiring face masks in Hawaii in all public spaces and gatherings, including along beaches. So if you’re planning a trip to the islands, expect to pack a selection of those masks, too.
Hotels are starting to reopen
While some hotels closed at the start of the pandemic, many popular hotels across the islands are starting to reopen, including some of TPG’s favorites such as The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, Disney’s Aulani (Nov. 1) and the Grand Hyatt Kauai, which has also had availability starting on Nov. 1.
If you’re planning on a visit to Hawaii soon, check and double-check to make sure your resort of choice is open for your dates.
Should I book a trip to Hawaii?
There’s no question that Hawaii is a beautiful destination that is ripe for enjoying the great outdoors. As the pre-travel testing is put through its paces, much more will be known about the ease (or difficulty) in entering a reopened Hawaii.
The state has a limited number of pre-travel testing providers, though the list is growing and currently sits at 17. Note that some of the providers will not test children under 12, so do your research if you are traveling with children 5 or older who are required to test to avoid quarantine.
“Hawaii is ready,” said Hawaiian Airlines Jeff Helfrick.
“Hawaii has spent a lot of time and effort in preparing facilities, hotels, restaurants and setting up the beach chairs and all those kinds of things so that they are perfectly socially distant so that our guests can return. And while it probably won’t feel exactly the same, it’ll feel enough the same so that people will continue to love Hawaii and continue to make it a great vacation destination.”
Hundreds of thousands of would-be visitors have delayed or canceled trips to Hawaii during the pandemic. Now, they again have the opportunity to enter without quarantine as long as they can follow the testing procedures and present eligible negative results.
If your family plans to enter Hawaii without quarantine, be sure to triple check all documents, deadlines, test requirements, dates and timelines leading up to your trip. It also won’t hurt to familiarize yourself with airline, hotel and other travel cancellation and rescheduling policies in case something doesn’t go as planned.
- Airline COVID cancellation policies, a comprehensive list
- Hotel cancellation policies during the coronavirus pandemic
- Will travel insurance cover coronavirus-related changes?
Additional reporting by Victoria M. Walker, Katherine Fan and Madison Blancaflor.
Featured image of Honolulu by Timur Alexandrov/EyeEm/Getty Images
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.