Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Hawaii right now

Yesterday

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Since the world turned upside down, planning a vacation to Hawaii has proven to be a challenge.

For months, the only way 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 U.S. as a whole dealt with a lack of reliable, rapid testing.

Then, the islands began to introduce their own policies about reopening. Maui, for example, has just changed its requirements for travelers (more on that below).

Hawaii finally introduced a pre-travel testing option in mid-October. By December, the quarantine period in Hawaii for travelers who did not use the pre-arrival testing option was reduced from 14 to 10 days, following the adjusted CDC guidance.

But now, it appears that Hawaii is close to exempting fully vaccinated travelers from having to quarantine.

 

Disney’s Aulani Resort. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

There are reports that Hawaii could soon announce a system for allowing travelers who are vaccinated to travel to and around Hawaii without any quarantine.

It’s a lot of information to keep track of — and it changes often. So, here’s the latest about traveling to the Aloha State right now and what you need to prepare for a successful trip.

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In This Post

The latest

Hawaii could start loosening restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers as soon as May 1, according to reports. Lt. Gov. Josh Green said on April 12 that he had recommended that fully vaccinated travelers skip testing and quarantine requirements.

The state may also roll out a vaccine passport by May 1, which would verify COVID-19 vaccine status.

More testing required for Maui

Travelers to Hawaii already need to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test to enter, but now Maui is adding an additional layer of testing. Travelers to Maui will soon be required to take a second COVID-19 test upon arrival, according to new public health guidelines.

Mayor Michael Victorino said the new rules were supposed to go into effect on April 9, according to Maui Now, but the requirement may not actually be official until the end of April, he said. Travelers will not have to pay out-of-pocket costs for the additional COVID-19 testing.

Hawaii has reopened to US travelers

(Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)

Hawaii reopened to U.S. travelers on Oct. 15. International travelers from CDC-prohibited countries are still banned from entering Hawaii. However, travelers from Japan have a pre-travel testing option via approved testing providers that went into effect on Nov. 6, 2020. Travelers from Canada are also eligible for this program.

The state’s pre-travel testing program requires all visitors to take a nucleic acid amplification test, such as a PCR test, from an approved testing partner within 72 hours and obtain results before departure to Hawaii. That’s the only way to bypass the state’s mandatory 10-day quarantine.

Additionally, some transpacific travelers participating in the Safe Travels program will be randomly selected to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival. The tests, which are administered by the state, will be given to approximately 25% of the passengers at all three airports at no cost to travelers.

Hawaii, the Big Island

Travelers to the Big Island who participate in the state’s pre-arrival testing program to avoid a mandatory 10-day quarantine will still have to take a second, free rapid antigen test at the airport upon arrival. A second negative result will allow the traveler to bypass mandatory self-isolation.

Currently, only the Big Island requires a second test upon arrival to avoid quarantine.

Kauai

Kauai wants to opt-in once again to the state’s Safe Travels program, which would allow travelers who meet the criteria of the statewide program (more on that below) to be exempt from a 10-day quarantine period.

Hawaii News Now reported recently that the state could launch a vaccine passport system that will allow travelers who have been fully vaccinated to skip mandatory quarantine requirements.

According to Lt. Gov. Josh Green, the program will begin with the state’s essential workers but could include travel from the mainland by May 1, 2021.

Related: Here’s what it is like to visit a reopened Hawaii

Kauai initially opted out of the state’s pre-travel testing initiative and established its own rules for entry. Travelers could either spend at least 72 hours on another island before traveling to Kauai, where they would have to take a test from one of the island’s testing partners. The other option is participating in the “resort bubble” system, which allows visitors to take a test before entering the state of Hawaii and then spend at least three days at an approved resort before being able to “test out” of quarantine.

Now, as reported by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the island wants to rejoin the statewide “Safe Travels” program as soon as April 5, 2021, which would bring Kauai’s policies in line with the other major islands. Travelers would have to adhere to the protocol outlined in the program (see below for more information) but would be allowed to travel directly to Kauai without having to quarantine if they present proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test from an approved travel partner taken within 72 hours of departure.

Related: Hawaii approves the potential use of ‘resort bubbles’ for quarantined travelers

Maui

Travelers to Maui will soon be required to take a second COVID-19 rapid test upon arrival. This new rule should be fully rolled out by the end of April and travelers won’t have to foot the bill for the additional testing.

If you’re headed to Maui, you will also be required to participate in mandatory contact tracing by downloading an app on your phone.

Children under the age of 5 who are traveling with a parent or guardian who has tested negative for COVID-19 are exempt from quarantine and post-arrival testing.

Oahu

A second test is not required for travelers to Oahu.

What do I need to do to qualify for pre-arrival testing?

If you decide to travel to Hawaii, you’ll need to register with Hawaii’s Safe Travels system. It would help if you did this at least 72 hours before arrival, as it will speed up your exit from the airport since you’ll be asked to show your registration confirmation page.

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 10 days.

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.
  • The negative test result must be in hand when boarding your final flight leg to Hawaii.
  • 24 hours before 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 for local officials upon arrival in Hawaii.

What does mandatory quarantine entail?

(Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)

Hawaii’s current mandatory 10-day self-quarantine remains in effect for anyone who does not follow the pre-travel testing requirements. And this isn’t a destination 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 resort bubble programs that grant a tiny 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, unless they seek 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 this person is a health care professional specifically checking on your health.

Anyone who intentionally or knowingly breaks quarantine can be convicted of a misdemeanor — and tourists have been arrested for breaking quarantine.

Related: I spent 3 days quarantine with a tracking bracelet in Hawaii — Here’s what you need to know for Kauai

What if I want to travel between the Hawaiian islands?

(Photo by okimo/Getty Images)

People island-hopping to Maui can participate in pre-travel testing done at an approved partner up to 72 hours before travel and avoid the 10-day quarantine.

If you have a layover in Honolulu (HNL), then the negative test result you took to enter Hawaii before travel is valid through to your final destination. However, if your break in Honolulu is more than a layover, you are subject to new inter-island testing or quarantine requirements.

Related: Why we love Hawaii

Testing facilities approved by Hawaii

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.

Airlines and airports offering tests

(Photo by Madison Blancaflor/The Points Guy)

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

Alaska Airlines partners with a variety of providers, including Carbon Health and Costco (home saliva-based test). At Carbon, Alaska passengers can be tested from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. PST. Test results will be ready by the next business day (some results within two hours) at a discounted cost of $135 to $170.

More information, including how to schedule an appointment, is available at alaskaair.com/hawaii-bound.

Alaska Airlines passengers bound for Hawaii will no longer have to be checked upon arrival in Hawaii. Instead, those formalities will be done at departure. The gate agent will verify that your Safe Travel profile is updated and give you a wristband that will entitle you to skip airport arrival screening in Hawaii.

Note that your lodging and car rental company may still need to verify the QR code from your Safe Travels profile.

More information about the Hawaii Pre-Clear program can be found here.

American Airlines

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 DFW administered by CareNow.

More information about testing with American can be found here.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines partners with Worksite Labs to provide drive-through COVID-19 PCR testing in select cities, including Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco.

Worksite Labs will offer the Droplet Digital PCR shallow nasal swab test for $90, with results within 36 hours. Passengers on Hawaiian can also order a mail-in PCR saliva test online through Vault Health for $119.

More information about testing with Hawaiian Airlines can be found here.

United Airlines

Travelers flying on United Airlines to Hawaii can arrange for a mail-in PCR COVID-19 test. Travelers will receive results 24 to 48 hours prior to travel, and the cost is $119.

United offers Hawaii-bound passengers rapid testing at San Francisco International with results in 15 to 30 minutes for $250. Another option for those in San Francisco is drive-up testing administered by Color at a testing facility located at the United technical operations facility parking lot. Results are provided within 48 hours for $105.

Those departing Denver (DEN) and Newark (EWR) to Hawaii on United can also do testing at those airports for $200 per person.

More information about testing with United can be found here.

Air Canada and WestJet

As part of the governor’s latest announcement about travelers from Canada being eligible to avoid quarantine if test results are provided before departure, two Canadian airlines have agreed to help facilitate:

Air Canada and WestJet will be identifying testing entities in Canada, with the Hawaii State Department of Health’s approval, for purposes of the pre-testing program. Canadian residents should look to these Canadian-based carriers for the testing options in their country.”

What is the airport testing process like?

Some U.S. airports are also offering COVID-19 testing.

Tampa International (TPA); Bradley International (BDL) near Hartford, Connecticut; New York-Newark (EWR), New York-JFK and others offer on-site testing. Oakland Airport (OAK) in California also offers preflight testing that, unlike most programs, comes with no out-of-pocket cost for travelers heading to Hawaii.

Related: You can now take a COVID-19 test at the Tampa Airport

SFO is offering United’s Hawaii-bound passengers the option to take an approved rapid test at the airport before heading to Hawaii. You should make an appointment and register ahead of time.

Your trip will need to originate from SFO, and the testing site is in the International Terminal in Courtyard A. 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 whether you have been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or if you have any symptoms.
  • A health care worker will then administer the test while on the other side of a plexiglass divider.

Then you’ll wait outside 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 per doctor and CDC recommendations.

Should I book a trip to Hawaii?

There’s no question that Hawaii is a beautiful destination perfect for outdoor exploration. But, as we have already seen, things can change quickly for an island in the middle of the ocean with finite hospital capacity.

Recently, TPG had a reporter visit Hawaii, and she documented what it was like to visit a reopened Hawaii.

“Hawaii has spent a lot of time and effort in preparing facilities, hotels, [and] restaurants … 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,” said Jeff Helfrick of Hawaiian Airlines.

The state has a limited number of pre-travel testing providers, and 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.

Related: Getting a coronavirus test for travel is not always possible

Bottom line

Hundreds of thousands of would-be visitors have delayed or canceled trips to Hawaii during the pandemic.

Now, many travelers can enter Hawaii, except Kauai, without quarantine as long as they can follow the testing procedures and present eligible negative results before departure.

If your family plans to join the thousands of visitors again entering Hawaii each day without quarantine, be sure to triple-check all documents, deadlines, test requirements and timelines leading up to your trip. It also won’t hurt to familiarize yourself with airline, hotel and other travel cancellation policies if something doesn’t go as planned.

Related: 

Additional reporting by Chris Dong, Victoria M. Walker, Katherine Fan, Madison Blancaflor, Clint Henderson, Nick Ellis and Andrea M. Rotondo.

Featured photo of Honolulu by Timur Alexandrov/EyeEm/Getty Images.

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