What to Know About Traveling to Hawaii Right Now

The situation in Hawaii continues to change.

Oahu, Hawaii | Unsplash/Drew Farwell
Oahu, Hawaii | Unsplash/Drew Farwell

Wondering if it’s a good idea to travel to Hawaii right now? Think it over carefully. More than 60% of Hawaii’s population is fully vaccinated, but according to the state’s department of health, Covid cases have surged an incredible 168% between July 26 and August 8, with medical staff being flown in from the mainland to help with the surge in local hospitals. And earlier this month, Hawaii re-imposed Covid restrictions that limit social gatherings to no more than 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors.

Hawaii has long struggled with overtourism, and the recent onslaught of visitors during the pandemic has residents and officials seriously concerned. Some islands have put restrictions in place to tamper the wave: Oahu is developing a tourism management plan that might cap the number of people allowed to enter, while Maui imposed a new 3% hotel tax. But on August 23, Governor David Ige spoke transparently, pleading with tourists to reconsider visiting the islands until at least late October.

"Certainly our call to reduce travel to the islands for only essential business will have an impact on the numbers who come here. But I also would like to point out that our hospitals are at capacity, our ICUs are full," he said. "I do know that that's a risk, but I believe that as a community, that's a risk we have to take, to discourage travel to the islands until we can get to a better place with our health care facilities."

He added that “visitors who choose to come to the islands will not have the typical kind of holiday that they expect to get when they visit."

If you’re still dead set on traveling to Hawaii, stay informed and be extra respectful. Kylie Shmida, Director of Experience at the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, said it best when we asked her for input on traveling during the pandemic. “Keeping the harmony that is part of Hawaii’s charm is important to us,” she said. “We greatly appreciate travelers who are respectful of current guidelines and have made it a priority to stay up to date on the island’s current regulations.”

So now, onto those guidelines.

Do I have to quarantine in Hawaii?

Not if you are fully vaccinated. As of July 9, Hawaii ended its pre-travel testing and quarantine requirement for certain domestic travelers. Fully vaccinated travelers from the US and its territories do not have to quarantine for 10 days, or provide a negative Covid test result, upon arrival.

How do I show proof of vaccination?

Before arrival, your vaccination records must be uploaded to the Safe Travels Hawaii portal. You also need to have a hardcopy in hand upon arrival; alternatively, they’ll accept vaccine records that are digitally validated by Digital Health Pass Partners (AZOVA, CLEAR, and CommonPass). 24 hours prior to departure, answer the health questionnaire on your Safe Travels account.

Do I have to quarantine if I’m not vaccinated?

If you are not vaccinated, you can bypass Hawaii’s quarantine requirements by having a negative Covid test result no more than 72 hours before the final leg of your trip. Without a negative test result or vaccination card, visitors must quarantine for 10 days upon arrival.

Are there any other Hawaii entry requirements?

At Hawaii airports, there will be temperature checks for all incoming visitors via thermal temperature screening and facial-imaging technology. Your photo is temporarily retained if your temperature is 100.4 degrees F and above, to help with identification and additional assessments.

Additionally, different islands have developed their own precautionary measures. Mauirequires visitors to download the AlohaSafe app before visiting the island. Failure to do so will result in a 10 day quarantine.

Maui is also strongly encouraging all visitors to take a free, voluntary Covid test 72 hours after arrival, and you can sign up for that here.

Kauai is also asking visitors to undergo a Covid test three days after arrival. If you do so you will be handsomely rewarded with a Kokua Kauai Card, which provides discounts at participating businesses.

Anything else?

Keep a mask on you: they’re still mandatory indoors throughout Hawaii, and encouraged for large gatherings outside.

Beaches are open, as are parks. Maybe try hiking to a waterfall in Honolulu. Or snorkeling with manta rays underwater. It’s one of the best places in the world to frolic in seclusion.

And though the state website still says that once 70% of the state is vaccinated, travel restrictions will be lifted, that will likely no longer be valid as Covid cases rise. Stay tuned, and keep an eye on the news.

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