The unprecedented challenge of COVID-19 is disrupting many parts of our society, and it makes sense to ask yourself what it means for an upcoming trip to Hawai‘i, if you are in the lucky position of planning one.
- Mandatory for your trip: the Safe Travels Application
- Before you arrive: the pre-travel testing program
- Upon arrival: How to bypass quarantine restrictions
- After you arrive: island-specific restrictions
- Where should you wear a mask?
- Our speculation: what can we expect in the coming months?
- COVID-19 travel resources for Hawaii
The information on this page is primarily meant for people with concerns about traveling to Hawaiʻi. While we cannot give you definitive answers, we can provide you with up-to-date information about the current status of the Coronavirus in Hawai‘i, and discuss some potential impacts on your vacation plans.
Disclaimer: While we are keeping a close eye on the situation in Hawaiʻi to aggregate all travel information into one coherent resource we are not an official resource. Please consult any of the official links we supply below for the most up-to-date information.
The Safe Travels Application
Safe Travels is the mandatory online application form all travelers entering Hawaiʻi must complete. It collects travel and health information in order to protect the health and safety of visitors and residents alike.
The use of this app is mandatory for both interisland and trans-Pacific travelers.
The app replaces and streamlines the visitor arrival process, you can find the Safe Travels application at https://travel.hawaii.gov.
How does the Save Travels app work?
Everyone traveling to Hawai‘i needs to create an account on the travel.hawaii.gov website and fill in their trip details before they travel. Then, 24 hours before your flight is scheduled to depart, you will be prompted by email and/or text to complete the Travel Health Questionnaire. After completing the questionnaire you receive a QR code. Make sure to save this QR code to your phone, as showing it at the airport will significantly speed up the arrival process.
The following video outlines all the steps you need to take to before traveling to Hawai‘i:
The Pre-Travel Testing Program
The pre-travel testing of passengers — both residents and visitors — allows those with a negative result to avoid the state’s 10-day mandatory quarantine for the islands of O‘ahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Hawaii.
Important: starting January 5, 2021, Kaua‘i allows visitors to skip quarantine under very specific conditions. Read more details here.
Important #2: travelers wishing to bypass the 10-day mandatory quarantine must have their COVID-19 test results – from a trusted testing partner – prior to departure for the State of Hawaiʻi. If test results are not available before boarding the final leg of the trip, the traveler must quarantine for 10 days or the length of the stay, whichever is shorter.
Additional testing is required for people flying to the Big Island, and pre-travel testing can in some cases also be used to skip the quarantine required for interisland travel. Read more below:
- Pre-travel testing program outline
- Additional testing requirements for the Big Island
- Additional requirements for Maui
- Interisland travel and the pre-travel testing program
Outline of the pre-travel testing program (for transpacific domestic flights)
While the details of the pre-travel testing program unfortunately keep changing, the following is a current outline of what travelers can expect:
- All arriving travelers will be required to use the Save Travels app. This app will also allow you to upload your pre-travel test results.
- The state of Hawaiʻi ONLY accepts test results from trusted testing and travel partners. You can find an up-to-date list of these partners at https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel-partners/.
- The test has been taken within 72 hours from the final leg of your flight arriving to Hawaii. If you have a multi-city itinerary, it’s the departure time at the last city before arriving at a Hawai‘i airport. Travelers themselves will be responsible for the cost of the test.
- ! Important ! travelers wishing to bypass the 10-day mandatory quarantine must have their COVID-19 test results – from a trusted testing partner – prior to departure for the State of Hawaiʻi. If test results are not available before boarding the final leg of the trip, the traveler must quarantine for 10 days or the length of the stay, whichever is shorter (more info).
- The 10-day quarantine will remain in place for transpacific travelers who choose not to get pre-tested. Taking a test on Hawai‘i will not help you reduce your time in Quarantine (hence the name “pre-travel”)
- If you have technical problems with the Safe Travels app you can contact the travels service desk at +1-855-599-0888 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. HST.
Important: extra test requirements for travelers arriving on the Big Island
All travelers arriving on the Big Island will be administered an antigen test upon their arrival. This arrival test is a rapid-response COVID-19 test and will be administered free of charge upon arrival at any of the three Hawaiʻi Island airports: Ellison Onizuka International Airport at Keahole, Waimea-Kohala Airport, and Hilo International Airport.
Test results should be ready within 15-20 minutes, and those testing positive for COVID-19 at the arrival test will be required to take a subsequent PCR test immediately and will be required to self-quarantine while awaiting the results of this test, which can be expected within 36 hours. There will be no additional quarantine measures imposed should the rapid test result be negative.
Read more about the arrival testing program on the county of Hawaiʻi website.
Important: additional requirements for all (inter-island and transpacific) travelers to Maui
Starting January 19, 2021, Maui County will require all arriving passengers to have uploaded the AlohaSafe COVID-19 exposure app or other Google-Apple exposure notification (GAEN) system to their mobile phones. Failure to do so will result in a mandatory 10-day quarantine. For information about AlohaSafe and links to download, go to https://www.alohasafealert.org/.
The new rule applies to both arriving transpacific as well as inter-county passengers and is in addition to existing statewide Safe Travels Program requirements.
Additionally, inter-county passengers must now have their negative test results prior to arrival; Maui County will no longer accept negative test results received post-arrival.
Pre-travel testing for interisland flights
A partial inter-county travel quarantine is currently in effect for all interisland travelers, except for those arriving on the island of O‘ahu.
For travel within Hawai‘i, people can bypass quarantine for Maui and Hawai‘i counties by getting a pre-test 72 hours before departure. Hawai‘i island also offers a second option of a post-arrival test, but travelers must remain in quarantine until a negative test result is received.
Only test results from trusted testing partners approved by the state Department of Health will be accepted. The growing lists for trans-Pacific and interisland pre-travel testing, including registration instructions and costs for both trans-Pacific and inter-county travel, can be found at https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel/faqs/. Visitors can also email [email protected] or call 1-800-GOHAWAII.
Quarantine Restrictions for Hawaii
On February 12th Governor Ige issued the eighteenth supplemental proclamation, which includes mention of an anticipated new exception for vaccinated travelers that will become effective only upon approval by the director of the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency. Read more details below:
- How to self-quarantine
- Interisland travel quarantine restrictions
- Trans-Pacific (out-of-state) travel quarantine restrictions
Upon arrival, visitors are required to self-quarantine in a designated location in their residence. Visitors will self-quarantine in their hotel room or rented lodging. Self-quarantined individuals may only leave their designated location for medical emergencies or to seek medical care. Failure to comply with all rules and protocols related to quarantines is punishable by fines of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.
See the Hawaii Tourism Authority website for more information on who should quarantine and how.
Inter island travel quarantine restrictions
The partial interisland quarantine has been reinstated but can be avoided by using a pre-travel test.
Gov. Ige has reinstated the interisland travel quarantine for travelers arriving to the counties of Kauai, Hawai‘i, Maui and Kalawao – it does not include interisland travelers arriving on O’ahu. The period of self-quarantine will begin immediately upon arrival and last 10 days or the duration of the person’s stay on the island, whichever is shorter.
Interisland travelers are required to use the Safe Travels app in order to travel to a neighboring island.
Trans-Pacific travel quarantine restrictions
Trans-Pacific travelers with a negative COVID-19 pre-test can visit Hawai‘i without having to quarantine. Read more about the pre-travel program above.
Trans-Pacific travelers are required to use the Safe Travels app in order to travel to Hawai‘i.
Specific Restrictions for Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii Island
To keep their residents and visitors as safe as possible our islands all have different challenges to deal with when trying to control the spread of COVID-19. For visitors this means that they still are bound by some more local restrictions about where they can go and what they can do, even after they have completed their potential 10-day quarantine.
The COVID response of the different counties of Hawai‘i exists mainly of a patchwork of emergency rules, orders, and proclamations. Some of these are universal for all of Hawai‘i, for example the requirement that people must wear facial masks when entering places of business, others differ between counties. Below we keep an up-to-date list of measures and emergency orders on a per-island basis, and link you to the most relevant official resources.
- O‘ahu local restrictions
- Maui local restrictions
- Big Island local restrictions
- Kauai local restrictions
You can find the orders and rules for all counties in the state here. Highlights on a per-island base are summarized below.
O‘ahu local Restrictions
You can find out more specific information about the COVID-19 response from the city and county of Honolulu at the Frequently Asked Questions section on the OneOahu website.
O‘ahu Reopening Strategy
The City and County of Honolulu has a new framework for reducing the spread of COVID-19 on O‘ahu, with criteria set for loosening and tightening restrictions on businesses and activities to keep the residents of Honolulu healthy.
The framework includes four tiers (tier 1 through 4), with tier 1 being the most restrictive and tier 4 the least restrictive. Tiers are based on the level of community spread of COVID-19 within Honolulu, as determined by two specific criteria: The number of daily cases reported, using 7-day averages over two to four week periods; and the positivity rate, using 7-day averages over two or four week periods.
O‘ahu is currently in Tier 2 (but likely to go to Tier 3 Thursday March 25th).
Read more about the allowed activities, openings, and group sizes for each tier on the One O‘ahu website:
Maui Local Restrictions
The most up-to-date information about the COVID restrictions on Maui can be found on the Maui county website here and here. Some relevant rules for visitors, taken from the Public Health Emergency Rules for Maui County (last amended January 19th), are:
- Indoor and outdoor social gatherings are limited to no more than 5 people. Face coverings are required, and physical distancing of at least six feet between separate groups must be maintained (rule 4).
- Beaches and county parks are open (rule 8).
- Transient vacation rentals can be rented if you are not subject to the 10-day quarantine. See the following list of hotels that are approved quarantine locations (rule 11).
County of Maui COVID-19 Call Center
Maui County has set up a call center to answer questions relating to COVID-19. The call center will operate during normal business hours from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and is reachable at (808) 270-7855.
Big Island Local Restrictions
The latest update on COVID restrictions on the Big Island was the sixth Supplementary Emergency Proclamation, which extended Emergency rule 14 until April 12, 2021. You can find all emergency rules, together with other COVID-19 related news for Hawaiʻi County, on their website.
In short, indoor or outdoor social gatherings of groups up to 10 people are permitted. Face coverings in public spaces are required, and physical distancing of at least 6 feet between separate groups must be maintained. Members of a single residential or family unit who share the same address are not restricted by the 10 people limit.
For more in-depth information see the county of Hawaiʻi COVID resources page.
Kauai Local Restrictions
- Under Emergency Rule 12, short term rentals, transient vacation rentals and homestay operations may reopen. No person that is subject to the mandatory self-quarantine is allowed to stay in these operations, unless they are the owner of the property.
- According to Emergency Rule 13, indoor gatherings of groups of up to 10 persons are permitted and outdoor gatherings of groups of up to 25 persons are permitted. All gatherings are also subject to requirements to maintain physical distancing, wearing face coverings and complying with other requirements of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The “Resort Bubble” program (from January 5, 2021)
Starting January 5th 2021 Kauai offers a pre- and post-travel testing program for intercounty visitors and allow newly arriving visitors to stay in “resort bubble” hotels. Travelers who participate in this program will be able to enjoy resort amenities and visit the pool for the first three days of their vacations, until they are eligible to take their post-travel test. Once the post-travel test shows they are COVID-free, they are released from quarantine.
Important: to participate in this program you must arrive to Kauai from another Hawaiian island.
The new rule will allow travelers to Kaua‘i, who receive a negative pre-travel test and stay in an approved Enhanced Movement Quarantine (EMQ) “resort bubble” property, to take a post-travel test three days after arrival and be released from quarantine with a negative post-travel test result. The currently approved EMQ “resort bubble” hotels on Kaua‘i are (source):
- The Cliffs at Princeville
- Hilton Garden Inn Kaua‘i Wailua Bay
- Ko‘a Kea Hotel & Resort at Poʻipū
- The Club at Kukui‘ula
- Timbers Kaua‘i Ocean Club & Residences at Hoku‘ala
- Kaua‘i Marriott Resort at Kalapaki Ba
- Hanalei Bay Resort
- The Point at Poipu
To qualify for this program travelers must:
- Take a pre-travel test within 72 hours before traveling to Kaua‘i and receive a negative test result.
- Stay at an approved EMQ “resort bubble” property.
- Take a post-travel test more than 72 hours after arriving on Kaua‘i and receive a negative result.
For more information see this facebook post by the County of Kauai or this press release, but as details are likely to change we recommend you get in touch with any of the above mentioned resort bubble hotels for details on staying with them under the resort bubble program.
When are you required to wear a mask?
All islands: visitors and residents are encouraged to wear a non-surgical face mask or covering of the nose and mouth while in businesses of any kind, and while waiting to enter these businesses. The face mask requirement applies to both business employees and customers.
extra requirements for O‘ahu: ALL individuals are mandated to wear face coverings while outdoors in public spaces when it is not feasible to maintain a physical distance of 6 feet from persons who are not members of the same household.
You do not need to wear a face mask if you are exercising outdoors and able to maintain physical distancing – for example, while walking, jogging, hiking or swimming. If you are unable to wear a face covering due to medical conditions or disabilities, you are encouraged to instead wear an individual face shield.
What will happen in the coming months?
Tourism is an essential part of the Hawai‘i economy and our government is trying to find a balance that keeps our inhabitants safe while allowing more visitors to visit respectfully. With the the pre-travel testing program allowing travelers with a negative COVID-19 pre-test to visit Hawai‘i without quarantine, the state of Hawai‘i is in the process of carefully reopening.
Several things need to happen for the travel restrictions to be scaled back or completely lifted. The most important requirements are that local (community) spread of COVID-19 is well understood and under control, and that the occupancy of the local hospitals and ICUs is low enough to deal with an expected surge.
At the moment proof of vaccination is not a recognized exemption to the Hawaiʻi travel quarantine. However, as the state continues to evaluate the latest science it looks like such an exception may be created as early as spring 2021 (e.g. source).
Questions and answers about your future/current travel plans
The following frequently asked questions might be useful if you are planning a trip to Hawai‘i, or if you already have one planned and booked, but are considering to reschedule.
First of all, because COVID-19 is especially high-risk for seniors and people with compromised immune systems, people in those categories should minimize their exposure. The best way to minimize exposure is to stay at home which means you should seriously consider postponing your trip to Hawai‘i.
For the “young and healthy” it is a more complicated decision. Keep a close eye on updates from the resources we link below (including the CDC and the WHO) to find the most recent information on possible health risks so that you can make a decision based on facts.
For those people still considering going to Hawai‘i it is smart to keep in mind that your travel plans might get impacted by quarantines. This means that any bookings you make should ideally be refundable and/or that you should get CFAR trip insurance.
The answer to this question depends on the site you used for your booking and/or on the details of your travel insurance. A good place to start researching this question is by first having a look at the specific policies of the website you used for your booking:
- AirBnB cancellation policy re: the coronavirus (Coronavirus and extenuating circumstances policy)
- Booking.com information re: the coronavirus (under what conditions can you expect a full refund, etc.)
- Expedia resource on the coronavirus
You can also always try to get directly in touch with the hotel /vacation rental you have booked with to discuss your options.
Many airlines are giving out waivers to allow for more flexible travel arrangement for newly booked flights. These airlines include Hawaiian Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United, and more. Summarizing: if you are considering booking flights, get refundable tickets and make sure that you have good travel insurance.
Most tours here in Hawai‘i have a 48 hours cancellation policy so you should have no problem getting a full refund. Before booking any tour make sure to read the cancellation policy to be sure.
Travel insurance cancellation coverage policies offer full refunds only for a set of circumstances such as injury or illness, death, or natural disasters. Fortunately COVID-19 hasn’t made it to the ‘natural disaster’ status but that means you’d need buy extra coverage on your travel insurance if you want to have the freedom to cancel your trip for any reason.
Important: get travel insurance with CFAR coverage.
You have to check the fine print of your favorite travel insurance policy but most (if not all) will not cover cancellations due to a pandemic. The insurance you need to look for is the “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) trip insurance. This insurance typically covers up to 50-75% (depending on provider and plan) of pre-paid and non-refundable expenses and deposits if you want to cancel your trip (for any reason).
Note that there are conditions to CFAR insurance such as for example that your trip must be canceled within a certain number of days before the planned trip (usually two days). Make sure to familiarize yourself with the insurance conditions before choosing a policy.
Openings and closures are changing minute by minute so even while we work hard to keep our site updated we don’t advise going off of anything published online (our site included) right now. The best way to find the current status for tours and (paid) activities is calling them directly to find out their current status.
In general your chances of exposure are higher if you come into close contact with others, especially people you don’t know. For example, staying in a vacation rental carries lower risk than staying in a hotel.
The CDC published a useful guide with travel activities that are lower risk so you can protect yourself and others. Read the full guide here.
Please rely on facts, and not rumors, to get your information.
If you have any questions regarding the COVID-19 virus we recommend following frequently updated official resources:
- Sign up for email notifications from the Hawaii Department of Health
- Hawaii Tourism Authority updates
- Hawai‘i Department of Health dedicated COVID-19 website
- For great visualizations: the collaborative Hawaii data platform dashboard.
- Hawaii Department of Transportation
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
Featured image by eddygaleotti via depositphotos