Fair warning, Hawaii is again packed with tourists
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.
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
I stayed at the Hilton Waikiki Village, where check-in lines were over an hour.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650
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 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
- Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 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.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.