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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
Planning a vacation to a reopened Hawaii has proven quite difficult.
Not only has the reopening date has been a moving target for months, it remains unclear — even two days before the scheduled reopening date of Oct. 15 — where travelers may have to quarantine upon arrival.
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Here’s what we know about traveling to Hawaii, and what you need to prepare.
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Hawaii is finally reopening Thursday, Oct. 15 to U.S. travelers only
Hawaii is reopening for U.S. travelers on Oct. 15. As of this time of publication, international travelers from CDC-prohibited countries are still banned from entering Hawaii.
Hawaii officials originally hoped to reopen the state with a valid negative COVID-19 test in August, although the reopening date was pushed back three times due to spikes in COVID-19 infections.
The state also planned to launch a pre-travel testing program, which requires all visitors to take a nucleic acid amplification test such as a PCR test before arrival in order to avoid entering a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
Visit TPG’s guide to all coronavirus news and updates
Hawaii, the Big Island
However, the state of Hawaii allowed individual islands to decide whether or not they would participate in the state’s pre-approval program; opting out would mean that a mandatory quarantine will still be enforced on all entering travelers.
The Big Island opted out, so any visitors arriving at the eponymous island of Hawaii will still need to follow a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine. Indeed, local mayor Harry Kim said on Oct. 12 that the island would require a two-test entrance: Travelers who participated in the state’s pre-arrivals testing program would have to take a second, free rapid antigen test at the airport upon arrival in Honolulu. That includes those folks traveling on from the Big Island to other Hawaiian Islands. A ban on inter-island travel without quarantine is not set to expire until Oct. 31, 2020.
Travelers who fail the test would be given a follow-up PCR test, and required to quarantine at their booked lodgings either until the test results come back negative, or they recover from COVID-19. Transit passengers will still be required to test negative and quarantine before they are allowed to travel onwards.
Meanwhile, Kauai’s Mayor Derek Kawakami voiced concerns about the efficacy of a single pre-arrival test. Kawakami still plans to institute a Kauai-wide requirement for a second confirmation test once travelers have been in Hawaii for a few days, although his initial mandate was quashed by Hawaii Gov. David Ige.
As of Oct. 13, even local Hawaii media outlets are unclear on the exact requirements. “What’s not totally clear is exactly how all of the counties are going to implement — if they implement — a post-arrivals testing, said Major General Kenneth Hara, incident commander for Hawaii’s coronavirus response.
Hara spoke Monday, Oct. 12, before the House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness. At the briefing, Hara also said that Gov. Ige has empowered individual Hawaiian counties to implement post-arrival supplemental testing to the counties as they see fit, with local government responsible for footing the bill for additional precautions or tests. This could mean that Kauai visitors may well find themselves on the hook for producing a second negative COVID-19 test after a few days on the island, at their own expense.
Related: Hawaii approves the potential use of ‘resort bubbles’ for quarantined travelers
Maui so far has decided to allow visitors to skip quarantine with a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Maui’s plans are still being finalized, but they’ve also asked to implement a voluntary test 72 hours after arrival in Maui County.
What do I need to do to qualify for pre-approval testing?
U.S. travelers must complete the following steps before entering Hawaii’s participating islands:
- All U.S. travelers 18 and older must register through the mandatory Hawaii Safe Travels online program
- Within 72 hours of departure time, each traveler 5 or older must undergo an approved COVID-19 test with negative results through Hawaii’s trusted testing and travel partners
- 24 hours prior to departure, complete the health questionnaire on your Safe Travels account
- Comply with all social distancing and mask requirements during travel, including in-flight
- All incoming Hawaii travelers must pass thermal temperature checks and facial-imaging technology upon arrival
- Produce the Safe Travels QR code to local officials upon arrival in Hawaii
Pre-travel testing will allow healthy tourists to all islands except the Big Island to avoid the mandatory 14-day quarantine if they have a qualified negative COVID-19 test no earlier than 72 hours before their flight arrives. Additionally, travelers arriving in Hawaii will have their temperatures checked upon arrival and must fill out a travel and health form.
Travelers who don’t have proof of an approved negative test must quarantine for 14 days or until they can provide proof of negative test results.
The Big Island is an exception
Due to Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim opting out of the program, any traveler visiting the Big Island will have to self-quarantine for 14 days, even if they provide a negative COVID test.
What does mandatory quarantine entail?
If you visit the Big Island, Hawaii’s current mandatory 14-day self-quarantine will remain in effect before you can leave your home or hotel room. The state is serious about minimizing risk; this isn’t one of the island destinations where you can roam freely at your property of choice.
Beyond potential resort bubble programs which grant a little bit more freedom, travelers are not allowed to leave their personal quarantine space, such as a hotel room or Airbnb, unless they are seeking medical care. All public spaces, including any on-site resort pool, fitness center or restaurant, are off-limits during this period, which means delivery and room service only. Visitors are also not allowed, unless it is a healthcare professional specifically checking on your health.
If you’re thinking of skirting self-quarantine, it’s a bad idea for multiple reasons. Beyond mere selfishness, consequences thus far have included tourists being arrested for breaking quarantine early. Furthermore, car rental agencies are banned from renting to anyone subject to mandatory quarantine regulations. Anyone who intentionally or knowingly breaks quarantine can be convicted of a misdemeanor. That could mean a fine up to $5,000 or jail time of up to one year.
Related: Why we love Hawaii
Should I book a trip to Hawaii?
If you’re entering Hawaii from the mainland or a foreign country, the biggest challenge will be getting the right type of COVID-19 test result — a nucleic acid amplification test such as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test — within 72 hours of your time of arrival. While testing has gotten easier, it still has proven tough to consistently receive test results in a timely manner.
Both of these issues present very real barriers to pulling off a Hawaiian vacation in the coming weeks, especially for East Coast visitors whose travel itineraries will take much longer than West Coast travelers.
Related: Getting a coronavirus test for travel is not always possible
If you don’t have those negative test results in hand, you likely will be required to self-quarantine at least until the results come out.
What if I want to travel between Hawaiian islands?
Inter-island travel requirements are even less clear despite the impending reopening date. As of Monday, Oct. 12, Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim is still working on ways that visitors from other Hawaiian islands could bypass the current two-test requirements and still avoid quarantine, but no details are known yet.
testing facilities approved by Hawaii
As of this week, Hawaii has approved the following list of testing partners for the pre-arrival approval program. You may have to pay out of pocket for the voluntary COVID-19 test, so be sure to check with your insurance provider before proceeding.
- AFC Urgent Care in Portland, Lake Oswego, Beaverton and Oregon City: $199 for the Rapid RNA Molecular test
- Carbon Health in Seattle; $135 for the Abbott ID Now rapid test
- Color is working exclusively with United passengers flying out of San Francisco (SFO)
- CVS Health testing is available in 35 states and the District of Columbia; $139
- Discovery Health MD is available to passengers flying through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
- Kaiser Permanente is only available to members of this health plan
- Quest Diagnostics has made the COVID-19 Active Infection Test available online, and can be picked up from 500 Walmart drive-thru pharmacy locations for a nasal swab test; $119 plus $9.30 physician fee
- Vault Health is an FDA-authorized at-home saliva test with real-time audio-visual supervision
- Walgreens is providing COVID tests at drive-thru locations, so you don’t need to leave your vehicle; There is no cost for anyone meeting the CDC criteria for testing
Airlines and airports offering testing to Hawaii
Multiple airlines, including United, Hawaiian, Alaska and American, have developed a testing system available to travelers flying to Hawaii from certain hub airports, or via an at-home kit.
Alaska Airlines will partner with Carbon Health to offer rapid COVID-19 testing at its pop-up clinics across the West Coast, starting Oct. 12 at 220 Sixth Avenue North in Seattle. Guests could make an appointment with Carbon Health starting Oct. 8, with priority testing for Alaska Airlines flyers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. PDT. Test results will be ready within two hours at a discounted cost of $135. More information, including how to schedule an appointment, is available at alaskaair.com/hawaii-bound.
If you’re flying on American Airlines from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Honolulu (HNL) or Maui (OGG), you’re eligible to take a $129 at-home nasal PCR test administered by LetsGetChecked, an in-person test at a CareNow urgent care location or a preflight rapid test at Dallas administered by CareNow.
Beginning “around Oct. 15,” Hawaiian Airlines will partner with Worksite Labs to provide drive-through COVID-19 PCR testing near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
Worksite Labs will offer the Droplet Digital PCR shallow nasal swab test for $90, with results within 36 hours, or $150 for “day-of-travel express service.” For now, the service will only be available near LAX and SFO, though Hawaiian expects to roll it out to other U.S. gateways soon.
Passengers on Hawaiian can also order a $150 mail-in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) saliva test online through Vault Health. The test kit, which is available for travelers of all ages including children, will be express mailed overnight to guests who will self-collect their sample with assistance from a testing supervisor in a video call. The kit is express shipped overnight to a lab, which will process and analyze the sample and provide travelers their results electronically within 24 hours of receiving the sample.
United is offering Hawaii-bound passengers rapid testing at San Francisco International Airport from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily, with results in 15 minutes. Travelers can make reservations before they arrive and the service costs $250.
Alternatively, United flyers heading to Hawaii can opt for an $80 mail-in test from Color. The airline recommends that travelers begin the process 10 days before their travel, and collect a sample no more than 72 hours in advance of their trip before returning it via overnight mail or a dropbox at SFO. Results will arrive via email and text within 24 to 48 hours.
Some U.S. airports are also offering COVID-19 testing. Tampa, Hartford, Newark, New York-JFK and others offer on-site testing. Oakland Airport also offers preflight testing that, unlike most programs, comes with no out-of-pocket cost for those heading to Hawaii.
Related: You can now take a COVID test at the Tampa Airport
Register with Hawaii’s Safe Travels system
If you decide to travel to the state and adhere to the self-quarantine, you’ll need to register with Hawaii’s Safe Travels system. Do this at least 72 hours before arrival, as it will speed your exit from the airport since you’ll be asked to show your registration confirmation page.
Once you’re in quarantine, you need to check in on the app daily to report the condition of your health if your trip is not a part of the pre-testing arrival plan. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the continued use of this app in some form in the future, even after the self-quarantine reguation expires.
Related: What it’s like to fly in the U.S. right now
Flight schedules have been reduced
As you would imagine, the 14-day self-quarantine requirement has done what it was designed to do: Convince travelers to stay home and avoid Hawaii in the short term. According to data provided by the Hawaii Vacation and Convention Bureau (HVCB), travel to Hawaii is down more than 90 percent compared to 2019 numbers.
This decline in passengers led airlines to suspend some flights between the mainland and the Hawaiian Islands.
You’ll have to wear a face mask
On April 17, the governor of Hawaii issued an order requiring face masks in Hawaii in all public spaces and gatherings, including along beaches. So if you’re planning a trip to the islands, expect to pack a selection of those masks, too.
Related: Does my child need to wear a face mask while traveling?
Hotels are starting to reopen
While some hotels closed at the start of the pandemic, many popular hotels across the islands are starting to reopen, including some of TPG’s favorites such as The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua and the Grand Hyatt Kauai, which has availability starting on Nov. 1.
If you’re planning on a visit to Hawaii soon, check and double-check to make sure your resort of choice is open for your dates.
Related: TPG readers reveal their favorite points hotels in Hawaii
Hundreds of thousands of would-be visitors have delayed or canceled trips to Hawaii during the pandemic. But health concerns still abound, even with the Oct. 15 reopening date just around the corner. Be sure to triple check all documents, deadlines, dates and timelines leading up to your trip. It also won’t hurt to familiarize yourself with airline, hotel and other travel cancellation and rescheduling policies.
Additional reporting by Victoria M. Walker and Katherine Fan.
Featured image of Honolulu by Timur Alexandrov/EyeEm/Getty Images
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