Travel to Hawaii during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

If you’re planning to travel to Hawaii, here’s what you’ll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The basics

Hawaii reopened to visitors from within the United States and a small number of countries in October, but visitors must provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test result.

All air passengers entering the United States must now present a negative test result. See below for details on which tests types are approved specifically for the state of Hawaii, including for Americans arriving from other states.

What’s on offer

Spectacular surfing, sandy beaches, traditional Pacific culture and rugged volcanoes — including the ongoing eruption of Kilauea. You can get daily updates on volcanic activity from the US Geological Survey here.

Hawaii’s geographical position and proud history make it unlike anywhere else in the United States.

Who can go

Travelers from the United States, Canada, Japan and South Korea are allowed to bypass Hawaii’s mandatory 10-day quarantine on most islands by following strict pre-travel testing rules (see below).

Beyond those countries, Hawaii is following CDC guidelines, meaning those who have been in Brazil, China, the European Schengen Area, Iran, Ireland, South Africa and the United Kingdom in the past 14 days will be denied entry. Travelers from all other countries must undergo a 10-day quarantine. Check the Safe Travels Hawai’i site for details as the situation evolves.

All tourists must also complete a Safe Travels Hawaii form and many will need to undergo a health screening on arrival.

Several airlines — including Alaska Airlines, United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines — have created preclearance programs allowing passengers on many flights to show their test results before departure and bypass the airport document screening process in Hawaii.

Travelers on select flights on Delta Air Lines and United Airlines from Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL) can enroll and use CLEAR’s Health Pass to securely link their test results to their verified identity before traveling.

What are the restrictions?

Hawaii’s travel restrictions are evolving rapidly.

Currently, all travelers must either undergo a 10-day quarantine or — if traveling from a handful of countries (listed above) to any island other than Kauai — avoid quarantine by presenting a negative test from a “trusted partner,” a list of which can be found on Hawaii Covid-19 website.

For air travelers entering Hawaii from abroad, getting a specific type of test — a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) — from one of Hawaii’s approved Trusted Testing Partners will be particularly important because some tests accepted under the new US testing requirement that went into effect on January 26 would not allow travelers to bypass Hawaii’s quarantine.

Test results must be uploaded to the Safe Travels Hawaii site before your flight to the islands. Showing a negative test on arrival in Hawaii is no longer sufficient and you will incur the 10-day quarantine.

There is a mandatory contact tracing requirement for all travelers from both the mainland and interisland to Maui. All travelers to Maui have to download the AlohaSafe Alert app on their mobile phones. If you don’t, you’ll have to go into a mandatory 10-day quarantine.

Visitors who have been in the state of Hawaii for more than three days may visit Kauai without quarantining by complying with a number of measures including a test more than three days after arriving in the state but within 72 hours before traveling to Kauai.

Kauai has a shortened three-day quarantine option for travelers arriving from out of state who participate in a”resort bubble” program.

Gov. David Ige has approved a request from Kauai Mayor Derek S. K. Kawakami to rejoin the state’s Safe Travels Hawaii program. That would would make it unnecessary for Kauai’s out-of-state visitors to stay in a resort bubble or spend time on another Hawaiian island to get a quarantine exemption. The new plan becomes effective April 5. Until then, visitors must still follow the current system.

Registration with Safe Travels Hawaii as soon as flights are booked is mandatory for all travelers older than 18. The form will generate a unique QR code that must be scanned on arrival. Negative tests must be uploaded here, and a questionnaire must be completed 24 hours ahead of travel.

The Safe Travels program randomly invites travelers to participate in a voluntary secondary test three to four days after arrival.

What’s the Covid situation?

With only about 28,000 cases and 447 deaths as of March 12, Hawaii has seen relatively low Covid numbers compared with other US states. Strict lockdown measures were put in place in March 2020 to ensure that the islands were not overwhelmed.

What can visitors expect?

Restrictions vary by island, although there is a statewide mask mandate — they must be worn whenever out in public.

Oahu has implemented a four-tier system of restrictions. It’s now in Tier 3 (Tier 4 is the least restrictive).

This means increased numbers in social gatherings are allowed — from no more than five people previously, to now no more than 10. Other new relaxed allowances:

— Groups of 10 people are allowed in restaurants regardless of household or living unit, and the capacity limit of 50% of legal occupancy is gone.

— Commercial recreational boating is allowed up to 50% capacity.

— Helicopter tours are allowed with groups of up to 10 people.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced some Tier 3 modifications for Oahu on March 11, effective immediately through April 30. Among them:

— Bars will be allowed to reopen and operate under the same conditions as restaurants. The 10 p.m. curfew will be lifted and bars will be able to serve alcohol until midnight.

— The helicopter tour category is expanded to include plane tours and skydiving.

Maui, Molokai and Lanai — all in Maui County — allow for gatherings of up to five people. Beaches and Maui County Parks are open.

On Hawaii Island, outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people are permitted as long as masks are worn and social distancing rules followed. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people. Beaches reopened in September.

Kauai has amended its quarantine rules (see above). It is currently in Tier 4, meaning gatherings of 10 people are allowed indoors and 25 outdoors. Restaurants and bars are open but limited to 50% capacity indoors.

Useful links

Hawaii Trusted Travel Partners

Safe Travels Program

Hawaii Covid-19 Travel News and Headlines

Our recent coverage

What’s it like traveling to Hawaii right now? CNN’s Brekke Fletcher wrote about her experience here.

For vacation tips, have a look here, and if you’re a closet beach hater, here are some ideas of what you can do. Or have a look at the cats of Lana’i, where 600 of them are living their best life.