What are the requirements for flying into and visiting Hawai‘i?
If you’re vaccinated, you are welcome in with no restrictions. (More on that below.) Unvaccinated visitors from the U.S. mainland are allowed to avoid quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to the departure time of the final leg of their flight to Hawai‘i. (International visitors, except for those from Japan and Canada are not allowed in yet.) Test must be administered by a “trusted partner” (more on that shortly).
If, by chance, your test results are not available by the time you depart that final leg, you will have to be quarantined in your hotel room for 10 days, so don’t fly if you don’t have your negative results in hand.
All the latest updates from the state can be found at https://hawaiicovid19.com/
Flying is the only way to reach the Aloha State for the time being.
What are the steps I need to take to avoid quarantine in Hawai‘i?
- Find and book your flight to Hawai‘i.
- You’ll need to create and register an account with Hawai‘i’s Safe Travels program. This is part of the state’s efforts to verify all travelers to Hawai‘i. Each adult (18+) will have to create their own account—any minors in your party can be added to an adult account. Here you’ll enter all your contact information and trip details.
- Within 72 hours before your final flight leg departure, you’ll need to take an approved COVID-19 test (an FDA-authorized nucleic acid amplification test [NAAT], to be precise).
- Make sure to scroll to the list under the heading of DOMESTIC TRANS-PACIFIC TRUSTED TESTING PARTNERS.
- Twenty-four hours before your flight, go to the Safe Travel website and fill out the medical questionnaire. Tap the Document option and upload a PDF of your test results. (A screen shot won’t do. It has to be in PDF form.) You’ll get an email from the Safe Travels program containing your unique QR code—you can print this out or have it ready to be scanned directly from your smartphone. (We recommend having a printout for a backup.) You will present the QR code or printed test results to officials upon landing in Hawai‘i, plus maybe get another temperature check. If your health info checks out and you have less than a 100.4 ºF temperature, you’re free to be safe and explore Hawai‘i.
Do any airlines/airports provide testing?
California residents have the most options for testing at airports.
- United Airlines provides same day tests for flights out of San Francisco for their customers (for a hefty $225).
- If you’re leaving out of Oakland, San Jose or Sacramento, the airports will test you in advance for free.
- There’s also an at home kit available for $220 ($40 with insurance) that allows you to take the test at home and drop it off at one of several locations in California, getting you the results the following day.
- Note that while the regular PCR test is free, it does cost $20 for the information to be included in your Hawaii travel documentation. Also, to get the expedited/24-hour test results, you’ll need to pay $120. (But the regular PCR test is listed as free.)
- Alaska Airlines will provide tests for passengers to Hawaii once registered through their website.
- Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest, Alaskan and United also have a pre-clear program that allows you to bypass the lines when you land in Hawai‘i.
Why are rapid tests so hard to find?
Because the the largest maker of rapid tests, Abbott Labs, actually destroyed much of their inventory and laid off their workers in June and July, thinking that things were winding down and there wasn’t a demand for their rapid tests anymore according to press reports. Now they can’t ramp up quick enough or make them fast enough.
Do I still have to get tested if I’ve already been vaccinated?
Not anymore. Now anyone who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (and received the vaccine in the U.S.) does not need to have a negative COVID-19 test and can avoid the quarantine (though there are rumblings about scrapping this plan with the recent spike in cases, but nothing so far). This means two shots of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of Johnson and Johnson plus 15 days after the last dose.
You’ll need one of the following accepted documents that as proof of vaccination:
- A CDC COVID-19 vaccination card
- VAMS (Vaccine Administration Management System) printout or certificate
- DOD DD Form 2766C
- A SMART Health Card with your vaccine record (which can be uploaded via CommonPass)
- Proof of vaccination (the original document) provided by a medical provider or authorized COVID-19 vaccination administrator.
Note that the document must clearly show:
- Traveler’s name and birthday (which must match the name on the traveler’s Safe Travels account and their official photo ID), Vaccine type (i.e., Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson)
- Date(s) vaccination was administered
- Lot number(s) for each shot
- Vaccination site or location
From here, the process of avoiding quarantine is the same—you’ll have to upload your vaccination documents to your account in the Hawaii Safe Travels program.
Two smartphone apps have been approved by the state to help keep all your documents together for avoiding quarantine and travel restrictions—Commonpass and ClearMe. These serve as something of a digital folder that keep all your documents related to traveling to Hawai‘i together. HOWEVER, you still must have an account and go through the steps in the Hawaii Safe Travels program. Bottom line—the Commonpass and ClearMe apps are not required to navigate the exemption process and we can’t say for sure if using one makes the process of entering Hawai‘i any easier.
Though they will accept a digital version of your vaccination document, it’s recommended that you bring the original, physical CDC vaccination card, VAMS printout or DOD Form DD2766C. (You might have to wait longer for an official to verify the digital version if there are any questions about its validity.)
Are there additional requirements?
If you are visiting Maui, expect to take a second, rapid test (paid for by Maui County) to confirm your negative status unless you possess a vaccine card. Expect longer delays before you are free to leave the airport. For Maui, you are also required to download an app called AlohaSafe Alert which is an anonymous contact tracing app that tells you if you have been exposed more than briefly to someone who has tested positive. The app maker says none of your personal info is involved. You will be required to show that you have downloaded the app before you are released at the airport.
Different islands are implementing certain restrictions, and it’s a moving target. On Oahu and Maui they will require that you show a vaccine card or negative test to enter:
- Restaurants and bars (takeout is exempt)
- Gyms and fitness facilities, including dance studios
- Bowling alleys, arcades and billiards halls
- Movie theaters
- Indoor portions of botanical gardens, zoos or other attractions
On Kaua‘i you can be fined for violating mask policies, meaning you have to wear a mask indoors unless you are actively eating or drinking or face a $250 fine, and restaurants face a $500 fine if they don’t enforce it.
What if my results aren’t available in three days?
The state claims they have made contracts with those testing sites to make sure that they will be done in three days. But again, if they fail, then don’t get on the plane. The state requires that you receive and print negative test results before you arrive. So even if you get negative test results an hour after you land or even during your flight, you will be forced to quarantine in your hotel room for 10 days or the length of your stay, whichever is shorter. This change came because the state wants to motivate all travellers to be Covid-free on the plane and they want to punish those that did not have a negative test result when they departed. The only silver lining is that most airlines have waived change fees.
If your negative results aren’t available before your last flight leg, don’t board or you’ll have to quarantine. And remember, you’ll be staying in the room, not wandering the grounds, so those 10 days will probably feel a lot longer.
What if I have children under 12?
Kids under 5 don’t need to be tested and many (but not all) of the testing sources above will test kids 5–12.
What if I want to visit more than one island (inter-island)?
If you’ve arrived to Hawai‘i and were able to avoid quarantine through vaccination or a negative COVID test, there are no longer any restrictions for inter-island travel. Feel free to island hop as you please!
What’s it like flying these days?
You have to wear your mask at all times in the airports and on the planes unless you’re actively eating or drinking. And speaking of the latter, don’t expect food service. Even first class could see a limited selection of both food and drink options. And it might be difficult to buy food in some airports because so many businesses there are closed. Some airports, such as Denver and Phoenix, seem busier than others we’ve seen and most businesses there are open. The smart money is to bring your own food in the form of sandwiches and other things that don’t need to be refrigerated. You’ll probably be able to get water in the plane, but that might be it.
What are the mask requirements in Hawai‘i?
Masks, or “face coverings”, must be worn when indoors in all public settings.
On May 25th, the governor announced residents and visitors do not need face coverings when outdoors.
Note that face coverings are defined as “a tightly woven fabric (without holes, vents, or valves) that is secured to the head with either ties or straps, or simply wrapped and tied around the wearer’s nose and mouth.”
Face shields (plexiglass/clear plastic shields, etc.) are not permitted as substitutes for face coverings.
The governor’s proclamation requires that businesses refuse admission or service to anyone who fails to wear a face covering, unless an exemption applies.
Once I’m in Hawai‘i, what should I expect?
Hawai‘i went seven months with virtually no visitors and at the beginning of the reopening, it was totally uncrowded. Numbers increased over the summer but have plunged since then and Hawai‘i is again uncrowded.
Nearly empty beaches are becoming common again these days.
I’ve heard that Hawai‘i doesn’t want tourists.
Well, that depends on who you ask. It’s true that having the islands all to themselves for so long has created a desire by some to keep it that way. Ask government workers in Hawai‘i who got a steady paycheck and had light duties what the shutdown was like, and they will say great, let’s keep it that way! But ask people people whose livelihood was based on tourism and they will have a different response. In late August the governor even urged visitors not to come, and he was countered by those in the visitor industry who pointed out that the current surge in case counts was driven, not by tourists, but by returning residents and community spread by more than a 20-1 margin. So in short—some here will embrace you with open arms and others… Not so much.
Regardless, Hawai‘i case counts have plunged back to pre-surge levels, the state has hit its target of 70% residential vaccination rate and the Governor said in an interview that he plans to once again encourage visitors to come this month and is actively working on a plan to to do so. (Just in time for our brand new audio tours, narrated by the author and triggered by your phone’s GPS.)
What will Hawai‘i be like once I arrive?
In addition to the guidelines for getting to Hawai‘i, we try to keep our finger on the pulse of everything going on in the islands. We have contacted companies in every corner of the visitor industry and have found some general guidelines to keep in mind:
- Rental cars have been the biggest issue visitors have encountered. When the state shut down in 2020, rental car companies dumped much of their fleet. When Hawai‘i reopened, it was to very small numbers at first. Even though visitor rates are half what they would normally be, rental car fleets were too small, creating a shortage and higher rates. The shortage has eased tremendously and cars much more reasonable than they were in the summer.
- Dining is what most visitors are also complaining about. Which ones are still closed due to the previous shutdown. Don’t count on getting that info online, it’s kind of a mess there. But our Hawaii Revealed app includes which reviewed restaurants are open and which are closed. A statewide mandate limiting seating to 50% means lines at many establishments.
- Reserve everything you can in advance. Many businesses are operating on limited days/hours and their services/tours fill up quickly. You may find yourself out of luck when attempting to book activities and dining spur-of-the-moment.
- Hand sanitizer and/or hand washing stations will be provided by many businesses, often at the entrance or by a roving crew member.
- Many tours will require a temperature check at check-in (boat tours especially).
- Expect any tour that previously included a meal to have a limited offering that is individually wrapped and never buffet-style.
- Although CDC guidelines say that vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks outdoors and for most indoors, it’s only guidance. Hawai‘i rules still say masks and social distancing will be required in all public spaces. As far as outdoor use is concerned, the governor at the end of April said “If you’re outdoors and can maintain physical distance, our current standards says that you don’t have to wear a mask outdoors.”
- Gear rentals (snorkel, scuba, bike, surf, etc.) will still be available through various outlets, such as hotel concierges. They promise enhanced cleaning of equipment.
- Valet parking may not be available.
So there you have it. Hawai‘i is open and you will find businesses hungry and eager to have you. The beaches are still the same (though less crowded), and the landscape hasn’t changed. Hawai‘i has missed you more than you could know.
Our Revealed guidebooks still make a great travel companion, but it’s not possible to update them yet because things are constantly changing. Our apps, however, will be updated constantly, and the changes will seamlessly get pushed to all our Hawaii Revealed apps.
Also, our new GPS driving tour apps are like having the author with you in the car, personally guiding you and telling stories and legends. (In fact, it’s even better than having him in the back seat because you won’t have to buy him a mai tai at the end of the day.)
Nothing in this blog is carved in stone. So many things here are a moving target and hard to predict. (Kind of like this whole pandemic has been as a whole, huh?) So as things change, we will update it all here.