5 things to know about visiting a reopening Hawaii

Jul 1, 2020

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When 2020 started, there were likely very few people who expected that the year would bring with it so many restrictions on international travel — and even restrictions on travel between different states. It’s fair to say that 2020 has been … full of some very challenging curveballs.

There’s no crystal ball to display where we are heading next, but it feels like a safe bet that international travel restrictions and limitations for U.S. residents due to COVID-19 aren’t going away anytime soon. Given that likely outcome, and the reality that Hawaii is a popular, spectacular domestic travel destination in any month of any year, there’s much anticipation surrounding Hawaii’s announcement to allow tourists to skip an otherwise mandatory 14-day quarantine by arriving with a negative coronavirus test result in hand.

Beginning Aug. 1, it will be possible to enter Hawaii and, with the required negative COVID-19 test, immediately begin to enjoy all that the islands have to offer. While there are still some unknowns, here are five things we know about how to enter Hawaii beginning Aug.1.

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(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

There will be no testing on arrival

Unlike some destinations, such as Alaska, that are offering coronavirus testing upon arrival at the airport, that’s not the plan for Hawaii. You will need to bring your own negative test result based on a test taken before going wheels-up to the Aloha state or be subject to the stringent 14-day quarantine.

This difference in how testing is managed is likely the case, at least in part, because the number of tourists arriving in Hawaii is exponentially higher than Alaska. As a result, the testing workload would be quite high in Hawaii if testing upon arrival was an option. There’s also the reality that with a greater number of people being tested on arrival, there will likely be more people who will ultimately test positive to manage.

Related: Do you need a negative coronavirus test to fly?

A specific type of test will be required

There’s still an understandable amount of confusion out there over coronavirus testing specifics. There are nasal swab tests, blood tests, rapid tests, PCR tests, antigen tests, antibody tests, etc.

To visit Hawaii, the state anticipates requiring an “FDA-approved PCR test from a CLIA-certified laboratory.”

So what does that mean?

Well, a PCR test is testing for the presence of an active infection, as opposed to an antibody test that is testing to see if you had the virus in the past and now have antibodies. A PCR test is generally considered the most reliable type of test, though it can miss a brand-new infection or is subject to error due to a poor swabbing process.

Related: I tested positive for coronavirus antibodies — now what

There’s the reality that getting a PCR coronavirus test — and results — within 72 hours of travel isn’t simple in all areas of the U.S., especially in less urban places that are experiencing a surge of cases, which can lead to a temporarily diminished supply of tests and a backlog of up to seven to 10 days to get your test results.

Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor, Josh Green, among others, have said that Hawaii is working with CVS and other partners to create a nationwide system for managing and verifying test results. Of note, CVS has begun to offer drive-thru coronavirus testing at some pharmacies across the country, but this is not yet universally available.

Related: State-by-state guide to coronavirus reopening

Tourists will need to pay for their test

Since testing is required before arrival to Hawaii, this is likely not surprising, but to be clear, visitors to Hawaii will have to pay for their coronavirus tests. While the price for testing varies dramatically and may be covered by insurance in some instances, expect to pay around $100 to $150 when opting for self-pay.

That may not sound like a huge expense relative to a trip to Hawaii, but if you multiply out by multiple family members, it may become a very real investment.

Related: Points and miles guide to visiting Hawaii

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Related: One family’s experience traveling in the age of coronavirus

Interisland travel is exempt

There is some good news if you plan to island-hop in Hawaii. Your negative coronavirus test will only be required upon your first entry into Hawaii from the mainland or another country and won’t be required when you go from say Oahu to Kauai. Hawaii’s 14-day mandatory self-quarantine for interisland travel was lifted on June 16, so you should just need one test before you arrive — not another test every time you fly from island to island.

Kauai (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Kauai (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

However, you will need to complete a Traveler Health Form before boarding a plane for an interisland flight

Related: Island hopping via Southwest Airlines

Additional documentation is required

It’s not just the all-important negative coronavirus test you’ll need to fly to Hawaii without a quarantine.

While the exact specifics may change as Hawaii rolls out its alternative to a 14-day quarantine, as of now you’d have to complete and print the Travel Declaration Form, or complete that information via the Hawaii Safe Travels System site. That site is also what you would check into daily if you were completing a 14-day self-quarantine as is required for all visitors to Hawaii as of today.

In addition to all the paperwork and testing results, you’ll also still have your temperature checked upon landing in Hawaii to ensure you are under 100.4 degrees. If you aren’t at or below that temperature, you’ll receive a medical assessment by paramedics stationed at the airport.

Related: What it’s like to fly in the U.S. right now

Bottom line

Hawaii is magical and may well be in high demand as those in the U.S. scramble to rebook travel plans to places that will allow those from this country to visit. However, Hawaii is remote and rightfully concerned about importing additional coronavirus cases from the mainland, especially as some states experience a surge in cases.

While requiring recent negative PCR coronavirus tests will likely reduce — not eliminate — travel-based cases, there is the very real reality that getting a test result within 72 hours of travel isn’t a simple prospect in all parts of the country at this point. With no testing on arrival alternatives available at the airport, we’ll keep a close eye on additional information that becomes available from Hawaii as it moves toward the Aug. 1 reopening date.

Featured image by M.M. Sweet/Getty Images

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