Fair warning, Hawaii is again packed with tourists

Mar 24, 2021

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.

Fair warning if you are headed to Hawaii. Business is booming once again, and you won’t get the hotels, beaches, pools and hikes to yourself anymore.

On Saturday, March 21, for example, according to Hawaii News Now, Hawaii saw 28,000 arrivals – that’s the highest number since the pandemic began in earnest a year ago.

For more TPG travel news and tips delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our free daily newsletter.

Hawaii beach on the Big Island in March 2021. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

I’m just back from a quick vacation to Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii. Unlike in January when I was in Kauai, it was packed with spring breakers and other tourists. The contrast couldn’t have been greater. I nearly had Kauai to myself when I was there checking out its resort bubbles earlier this year. I honestly thought that I’d see similar empty streets and hotels when I went back to Hawaii in March. It was the complete opposite. Waikiki especially was packed.

Related: 10 reasons to visit Timbers Kauai

Hilton Waikiki Village March 2021. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

I stayed at the Hilton Waikiki Village, where check-in lines were over an hour.

The line for Starbucks at Hilton Waikiki Village in March 2021. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

The line for Starbucks was 45 minutes!

During my stay at Beachcomber Waikiki by Outrigger, the hotel appeared fully booked. The hotel did do a good job with social distancing, even requiring reservations for the pool and limiting the attendance to eight guests. Everyone was wearing masks.

Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger in Oahu, Hawaii, in March. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

The streets around the hotels were full of visitors and restaurants that were open were full. In fact, I had trouble getting dinner reservations on a random Tuesday night.

Waikiki street scene in March 2021. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Many of the activities I did were totally sold out, including the popular Kualoa Ranch and its Jurassic Valley and ATV tours on Oahu. Be sure to make advanced reservations if you are planning a trip to Hawaii.. no matter which Island you plan to visit.

Local reports also suggest many tourists aren’t wearing masks and state leaders are trying their best to educate arrivals that masks are required.

Jay Talwar, chief marketing officer for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau told TPG:

“As we looking forward to welcoming more travelers during the upcoming spring and summer months, we’re asking visitors to join our efforts to help keep Hawaii safe, which includes participating in the Hawaii Safe Travels program as well as following our state mandate to wear a mask or facial covering in public at all times. Doing so will help malama (care for) Hawaii and our island communities.”

In my experience, mask compliance was very good. I’d be lying, however, if I didn’t admit to being uncomfortable among the large groups, especially after a year of social distancing.

Interestingly, Hawaii tourism officials say hotel occupancy and home rental rates in February were down substantially year-over-year as coronavirus continues to impact the islands. That may change for March. There is also a lot less inventory on the market which makes the hotels that are open more crowded.

Seattle Airport, March 21, 2021. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

The other note I would add is that flights are full again. During my time flying over the past year, only the past few weeks have I seen serious crowds again at airports across the country. Seattle was seriously mobbed. The flights to and from Hawaii were also full again. Thankfully, I was flying Alaska Airlines, which is still blocking middle coach seats in its premium class cabin.

Boarding for flight to Hawaii in Seattle on March 11, 2021. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
Honolulu Airport. March 18, 2021. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

I really thought the hoops visitors have to jump through to go to Hawaii would have kept the crowds away. Apparently, tourists have figured out how to get tested and fill out the safe traveler forms in order to make the trip. Spring break season is also contributing to the surge of visitors. The increasing numbers of folks with vaccinations are also boosting crowds. That, and the fact many international destinations remain off-limits for Americans.

Related: I spent 3 days quarantining in Kauai’s resort bubble

We’ve covered the full run-down of what you need to know prior to visiting Hawaii, and despite the crowds and the prearrival testing requirements, I still recommend visiting Hawaii. Just be prepared for the crowds and for the idea you won’t have the islands to yourself.

Featured image by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.