As the nation slowly begins to open back up, thoughts of freedom and vacations may be dancing in your head. As more and more of us become vaccinated, we can all start to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. My family has always taken an annual (or even bi-annual) trip to Hawaii, and as things have opened up, we set off for the islands this past week. If you're preparing to head to the Hawaiian Islands, there are a few things I wish I had known that would have made my trip run smoother.
First thing: Register on Hawaii's Safe Travel's Website. This is your travel dashboard for all your COVID-19 testing and approval to skip the quarantine.
Prepare for Testing.
Before you jet off, the State of Hawaii will require you to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, within 72 hours of your flight. Timing these tests to be within the window of time allotted can be tricky. Before you do anything, check out the list of Travel Partners with which you can get your COVID test. It MUST be one of these providers or you'll be rejected. Rejection means you'll have to quarantine for 10-days after you arrive on the islands. I don't know how long you usually take vacations, but that will pretty much guarantee your time on the island is spent in a hotel room the whole time.
My advice: Make an appointment with Walgreens, as they have some of the fastest turnaround times for tests. I had my nasal swab done and 2 hours later my negative results were e-mailed to me. Do this two days before you leave, so you're within your 72-hour window. Once you get your negative results, upload the PDF to the Safe Travel's website so it's ready to go on departure day.
Note: As of writing this article the island of Kauai is not offering exemptions for negative-testing travelers. Quarantine is currently still required for any incoming fliers. 3/29/2021
Arriving May Take Longer
Once you arrive in Hawaii, be ready to wait in line as they screen you to enter the island. You'll have received a QR code from your Safe Travel account. You'll be screened by county health officials, who will check your test and ID to clear you for vacation. So if you've got to use the bathroom, do it right after you get off the plane. You could be in line for a while.
Interisland Travel is (Somewhat) Easier
While I visited the Hawaiian Islands, we stopped in Oahu first, and then flew to Maui for the second half of our trip. The state is requiring testing to travel between the islands. Make your appointment for the next COVID test early, so you don't waste precious vacation time chasing down an open testing slot. On Oahu, there is a really convenient testing site right at the airport that the National Kidney Foundation of Hawaiʻi’s Consortium is running. The test results come back in a few hours, so there's peace of mind that you can travel to your next destination without any hiccups.
What About Being Vaccinated?
As of yet, the Governor of Hawaii has not exempted vaccinated individuals from the testing requirements to avoid quarantine. The last update from the state was that they may begin a vaccine passport program in May 2021. I brought my vaccination card with me just in case, but so far it doesn't look like that will be an effective exemption option for some time.
Items to Note
If you travel to the Big Island of Hawaii, you may be tested upon arrival. They require the negative test results to get to the island, and they are doing random sampling of arriving travelers at the airport. Anyone in your group of travelers over the age of five must take part in the pre-travel testing. Remember, ONLY get your pre-travel COVID-19 test from a contracted partner of the State of Hawaii Safe Travel program.
Once you've taken care of these testing rules, you can run off into the rainbow-tinted sunset to enjoy the beaches, warm weather, and beauty that Hawaii has to offer (that is, with your mask on). Aloha!