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 Hawaii, if you are in the lucky position of planning one.
- Before you arrive: the “Safe Travels” Application
- Before you arrive: the pre-travel testing program
- Upon arrival: quarantine restrictions
- After you arrive: island-specific restrictions
- A preview: 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 Hawai’i. While we cannot give you definitive answers, we can provide you with up-to-date information about the current status of the Coronavirus in Hawaii, and discuss some potential impacts on your vacation plans.
Disclaimer: While we are keeping a close eye on the situation in Hawai’i 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
The Safe Travels application collects required health and travel information as part of a multi-layered screening process operated by the state of Hawaii. Starting September 1st, 2020, the use of this app is mandatory for both inter island and trans-Pacific travelers. The app replaces and streamlines the current arrival process. Using it will save travelers time at the airport and speed up distribution of information to state and county officials, who work hard to keep all Hawaii visitors and residents safe.
The Safe Travels application can be found at https://travel.hawaii.gov.
How does the Save Travels app work?
If you are traveling to Hawaii you should create an account on the travel.hawaii.gov website and fill in your trip details before you fly. 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.
Travelers without smart phones or computer access can ask a friend or relative for assistance or receive assistance at the arrival airport. Travelers without email addresses will need to create one to comply with the conditions of quarantine. More details on the Hawaii ETS website and their Safe Travel FAQs.
The following video, published by the State of Hawaii on August 25th, outlines all the steps you need to take to before traveling to Hawaii:
Key features of the Safe Travels app include, as of August 29th, 2020:
- The ability to login using Email, Google or Facebook logins.
- A highly secured platform built on Google Cloud.
- The verification of passenger contact information before arrival to speed up their processing at the airport.
- Collection of health and contact information needed for arrival screening and public health monitoring.
- Creation of a QR code which airport screeners scan to review the traveler’s information for clearance or secondary screening.
- Automated generation of quarantine check-in reminders as emails and text messages.
New features and data elements will be added in future phases, as the Safe Travels process and State travel requirements evolve.
The Pre-Travel Testing Program (starting October 15th)
The pre-travel testing program is a way for out-of-state travelers arriving in Hawai‘i to avoid the quarantine requirements, provided that they can show a negative COVID-19 test result taken at most 72 hours prior to the arrival of their plane to Hawaii. Without this result, passengers arriving from out-of-state will be subject to the 14-day quarantine. No testing will be provided upon arrival at the airport.
While the exact details of the pre-travel testing program are still being worked out (see also this June 24th press release), the state has provided us with the following outline of what travelers can expect:
- The state of Hawai’i has agreements in place to facilitate the pre-travel testing program with CVS and Kaiser Permanente, new testing partners will be announced in the coming weeks (September 16th)
- The test needs to be a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) from a certified Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) lab.
- The test has been taken within 72 hours prior to the arrival of their plane to Hawaii, and the travelers themselves will be responsible for the cost of the test.
- If test results are not available by time of arrival in Hawaii, quarantine will be necessary until you can show a verified negative test.
- No commercial testing will be provided upon arrival at the airport.
- The 14-day quarantine will remain in place for those who choose not to get pre-tested. Taking a test on Hawaii will not help you reduce your time in Quarantine (hence the name “pre-travel”)
- Temperature checks will continue at airports across the state. Anyone with a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees or who is experiencing other symptoms will be required to undergo a secondary screening at the airport with trained healthcare staff.
- All arriving travelers will be required to use the Save Travels app.
- Everyone must wear facial masks in all Hawaii airports.
- All travelers of all are ages subject to the pre-testing requirement.
Quarantine Restrictions for Hawaii
With the recently reinstated (partial) inter-island travel restrictions and the announcement that, starting October 15th, trans-Pacific travelers with a negative COVID-19 pre-test can visit Hawaii without quarantine, the state of Hawaii is carefully balancing reopening for tourism.
Effective, Thursday, March 26, 2020, Governor David Ige has ordered that all persons entering the State of Hawai‘i should self-quarantine for 14 days or for the duration of their stay in Hawai‘i, whichever is shorter.
- How to self-quarantine
- Inter island 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
Partial Interisland Quarantine Reinstated (at least until September 30th) in response to the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases on Oahu.
Gov. Ige has reinstated the interisland travel quarantine only for travelers arriving to the counties of Kauai, Hawaii, Maui and Kalawao – it does not include interisland travelers arriving on Oahu. The period of self-quarantine will begin immediately upon arrival and last 14 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
Starting October 15th, trans-Pacific travelers with a negative COVID-19 pre-test can visit Hawaii without having to quarantine. Read more about the pre-travel program above
Gov. David Ige announced on June 24th all travelers arriving in Hawai‘i from out-of-state will be required to get a valid COVID-19 test prior to their arrival, and to show proof of a negative test result, to avoid the 14-day quarantine. The pre-travel testing program was scheduled to begin Aug. 1, but following a surge in both local and nationwide cases, the governor announced several delays to the launch of the state’s pre-travel testing program, which is now slated to begin October 15th, 2020.
Trans-Pacific travelers are required to use the Safe Travels app in order to travel to Hawaii.
Specific Restrictions for Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Hawai’i 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 14-day quarantine.
The COVID response of the different counties of Hawaii exists mainly of a patchwork of emergency rules, orders, and proclamations. Some of these are universal for all of Hawaii, 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.
You can find the orders and rules for all counties in the state here. Highlights on a per-island base are summarized below.
Oahu local Restrictions
Oahu is currently under a “Stay at Home, Work at Home” order through September 23, meaning that all non-essential businesses will be closed. You can read the latest order (amended on September 8th) here, and see all proclamations and special rules for Oahu here.
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. Shortly summarized:
- Under the amended Emergency Order, City parks, botanical gardens, trails, beaches, and community gardens will be open for the limited use of walking, running, biking, sitting, fishing, and other lawful activity, but only by oneself. No group use or group activities are allowed. Basketball and tennis courts, swimming pools, and playgrounds shall remain closed.
- State parks/trails and beaches are reopened for the above limited use as announced by the State Department of Land and Natural Resources consistent with this Amended Second Stay at Home / Work from Home Order.
- Regular park closure hours remain in effect and social gatherings of any type and any number of people are still prohibited, both indoors and outdoors. All other State or City restrictions related to COVID-19 must be followed, including, but not limited to, any applicable quarantine restrictions.
Maui Local Restrictions
The most up-to-date information about the COVID restrictions on Maui can be found on the Maui county website here. Some relevant rules for visitors, takes from the Public Health Emergency Rules for Maui County (amended August 26th), are:
- Indoor and outdoor social gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people. Face coverings are required, and physical distancing of at least six feet between separate groups must be maintained.
- Beaches and county parks are open.
- Transient vacation rentals can be rented if you are not subject to the 14-day quarantine. See the following list of hotels that are approved quarantine locations.
Big Island Local Restrictions
The latest update on COVID restrictions on the Big Island was Emergency Rule 11 published on August 25th (and amended September 2nd, url). You can find all emergency rules, together with other COVID-19 related news for Hawai’i County, on their website.
In short, indoor or outdoor social gatherings of groups up to ten people are permitted. Face coverings in public spaces are required, and physical distancing of at least six 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.
Another relevant restriction is that all county and state beach parks on the Big Island will remain closed through September 30th. These beach and coastal parks may be used for direct access to and from the ocean in order to engage in exercise, fishing, and gathering food, but the parking lots will be closed and you are not allowed to linger on the beach. You can read more about this in Emergency Rule 11.
For more in-depth information see the county of Hawai’i COVID resources page.
Kauai Local Restrictions
You can find the most recent information for Kauai in the Kauai COVID-19 webpage. All emergency rules and emergency proclamations for Kauai can be found on the Kauai COVID-19 webpage. Some highlights include:
- 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.
Kauai is also working on a “resort bubble” program, which would allow visitors to fulfill the quarantine requirement while being able to use resort facilities. This program is still being worked on but most likely will require visitors to wear a GPS tracking device to ensure they don’t leave the resort bubble while under quarantine.
What will happen in the coming months?
Tourism is an essential part of the Hawaii economy and our government is trying to find a balance that keeps our inhabitants safe while allowing more visitors to visit respectfully. With the recently (June 16th) abolished and then partially reinstated (August 11th) inter-island travel restrictions and the announcement that, starting October 15th, travelers with a negative COVID-19 pre-test can visit Hawaii without quarantine, the state of Hawaii 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.
Questions and answers about your future/current travel plans
The following frequently asked questions might be useful if you are planning a trip to Hawaii, 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 Hawaii.
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 Hawaii 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 Hawaii 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.
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