After months of teasing travelers with re-opening dates only to be delayed, Hawaii officially restarted travel in mid-October. But getting in isn’t as easy as you may hope.
Hawaii ditched its mandatory quarantine for travelers so long as they present a recent negative COVID-19 test – welcome news for anyone hoping to return to the islands.
But scan through the Hawaii State Department of Health regulations, and working out exactly what will be required to enter isn’t easy. Worse yet, the restrictions continue to change.
As of Nov. 24, Hawaii now requires travelers to upload their negative test result before departure. Haven’t gotten your COVID test back in time? You’ll be required to quarantine for 10 days when you arrive.
What does it all mean? We’ll break it down to make sure you’ve got it all squared away for your next trip to Hawaii – whether it’s next month or next year.
What are the travel requirements for Hawaii?
Hawaii is now allowing travelers to come to the state and skip a 14-day quarantine if they present a negative COVID-19 test. But not just any COVID-19 test will do.
The COVID-19 test must be an FDA approved NAAT test from a CLIA approved laboratory taken no more than 72 hours prior to your final flight to Hawaii.
But that’s not all: Results also must be uploaded to Hawaii’s Safe Travels account prior to departure. That’s a change, as Hawaii previously allowed travelers who hadn’t received a test result yet to fly to Hawaii and quarantine upon arrival until the results come in. Now, they’ll be required to quarantine for 10 days – or may even be denied boarding.
When you upload your results you will get a QR code that will be used upon arrival in Hawaii. Travelers will also need to fill out a travel and health form and may get their temperatures checked upon arrival.
What kind of test do I need? And where can I get tested?
Hawaii states that you need an FDA approved NAAT test from a CLIA approved laboratory. So what does that mean?
There are a lot of technical requirements, which we’ll get into shortly. But for now, Hawaii has made it quite simple.
Hawaii is currently requiring you to present a test from one of its Trusted Testing and Travel Partners. Any other test will not do. Luckily, the list of approved options is long and continues growing.
Hawaii’s approved testing partners are American Family Care (AFC), American Samoa Department of Health, Atlas Genomics, Bartell Drugs, Capstone Clinic, Carbon Health, CityHealth Urgent Care at Oakland Airport, Clarity Lab Solutions, Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii, Color, Costco/AZOVA, CVS Health, Diagnostic Laboratory Services of Hawaii, Discovery Health MD, GoHealth Urgent Care, Hawaii Pacific Health, Kaiser Permanente, Minit Medical, National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii’s Consortium, S&G Labs Hawaii LLC, University of Washington Medicine, Urgent Care Hawaii, Vault Health, Walgreens, WestPac Labs, and XpresCheck.
A handful of airlines are also offering COVID-19 testing for passengers headed to Hawaii through some of these approved partners, including Alaska, American, Hawaiian, and United. And Hawaii has confirmed that these tests will also pass muster.
But Hawaii has laid out exactly what it requires from tests. So let’s back up a bit.
There are three main types of testing for COVID-19: molecular diagnostic, rapid antigen, and antibody testing. Antibody testing only confirms whether you previously had COVID-19 – not whether you’re currently infected. And that’s not an approved diagnostic test.
The NAAT testing Hawaii requires stands for “nucleic acid amplification test.” This is a molecular diagnostic testing method that amplifies the DNA of the virus. This is the most accurate type of testing – and can take the longest for results. And yes, the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests you see everywhere do satisfy these requirements. Watch our YouTube video and see what it’s like for yourself.
Getting an approved test
Hawaii’s Department of Health spells out everything surrounding its testing partners. You’ll need a test from one of these partners, which the department details on its website:
AFC Urgent Care: COVID-19 tests are available at clinics on the AFC Urgent Care website. Schedule in advance to guarantee appointment availability. A printed version of results is provided prior to leaving the clinic. Information and costs can be found at afcurgentcareportland.com/traveling-hawaii.
Carbon Health: Carbon Health offers COVID-19 tests at dedicated sites with results delivered within two hours. Registration instructions and costs can be found at carbonhealth.com/alaska-airlines-to-hawaii-rapid-covid-testing.
CityHealth Urgent Care: CityHealth Urgent Care and its team of expert clinical staff and infectious disease physician consultants offer testing utilizing state-of-the-art Abbott Lab instrumentation for results in 15 minutes. Information and costs can be found at bayareacovid19testing.com.
Color: Color supports the nation’s first COVID-19 testing program for airline passengers. Information can be found at color.com/united-airlines-testing-program.
CVS Health: Beginning Oct. 10, travelers may schedule an appointment up to two days in the future at select CVS Pharmacy drive-through locations. Pre-registration is required. Registration instructions and costs can be found at cvs.com/selfpaytesting.
Discovery Health MD: Beginning Oct. 12, individuals traveling to Hawaii may schedule testing online with same-day and next-day results at designated testing sites. A limited number of walk-ups can be accommodated. Information can be found at discoveryhealthmd.com/covid-19-services/test-to-fly.
Kaiser Permanente (members only): Kaiser Permanente members may schedule a test online, or contact the appointment call center or nurse advice line in their home region for scheduling instructions. Kaiser Permanente members returning home to Hawaii may call the Away-from-Home Travel Line at 951-268-3900 for scheduling instructions. Information can be found at kp.org/travel.
Quest Diagnostics: Individuals may order and schedule the company’s COVID-19 Active Infection Test online and select from more than 500 Walmart drive-thru pharmacy locations for a nasal swab test. Ordering instructions and costs can be found at questcovid19.com/hawaii.
Vault Health: At-home tests with real-time audio-visual supervision are available with Vault Health, the first FDA-authorized saliva test. Tests are mailed with accurate results in 72 hours or less. Information and costs can be found at learn.vaulthealth.com/state-of-hawaii.
Walgreens: Testing is available at no cost to eligible individuals who meet CDC criteria. All drive-thru testing locations operate outdoors and patients do not leave their vehicles. Appointment required. Information can be found at walgreens.com/covid19testing.
What about the timing requirements?
The real challenge here is getting a test back in time.
Hawaii requires a negative COVID-19 result from a test taken no more than 72 hours prior to the time your flight to Hawaii departs. If you have a multi-city itinerary, it’s based on the departure time at the last city before arriving at a Hawaii airport. And that’s no sure thing, as testing backlogs in the U.S. have led to long delays in getting a test result. Waits of seven days, 10 days, even 14 days seem to have become the norm over the summer and into the fall. Many of the trusted travel partners are promising results within 72 hours. But check their website for timing or call to make sure you will receive your results in time.
What’s more, you now need your test results back before your flight to Hawaii departs. That gives you a very narrow window to take a test within 72 hours of your flight to the islands and ensure you get it back before leaving for Hawaii.
Because you’re getting tested for travel, keep in mind you may have to pay out of pocket. The cost will vary but plan to pay roughly $90-$250. Check with your health insurance provider before scheduling a test to see if it’s covered.
Thrifty Tip: Have a Health Savings Account (HSA)? Use it to pay for your test!
Walgreens and CVS – both approved partners for entering Hawaii – are offering free COVID-19 PCR testing, but the time it takes to get results will vary. If you live in a metropolitan area and the location tends to be busy, your wait to get results may be longer. If you’re in a smaller city or rural area, results could come in as little as a few hours.
What if my results don’t come back in time?
As of Nov. 24, you need to upload their negative COVID-19 test results to your Safe Travels Hawaii account prior to departure. Or you can print out the negative test result prior to departure and have it in hand on arrival to Hawaii.
If your test results do not come back before you board the final leg of your trip, you will be required to quarantine for 10 days or the length of your stay, whichever is shorter. Travelers will not be able to exit quarantine upon receiving test results. Self-quarantine violators will be fined, arrested, and prosecuted.
What if Your Flight is Delayed?
As long as you take your test within 72 hours of when your final flight to Hawaii is scheduled to depart, you will not be subject to a 14-day quarantine in the event of a delay by the airline.
Do children need to get tested?
It depends on how old they are. All travelers 5 and older need to take a test. Children younger than 5 do not.
Are all islands allowing travelers to skip quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test?
No, Kauai is requiring travelers to quarantine for 10-days with a few exceptions. Travelers that have been in the state of Hawaii for at least 72 hours before departing for Kauai can take a pre-travel COVID-19 test from one of the State of Hawaii’s Trusted Testing and Travel Partners to be exempt from the quarantine.
Out of state travelers have an option to shorten the quarantine to three days. They must take the pre-arrival COVID-19 test required by the state of Hawaii. Then travelers must stay at an approved Enhanced Movement Quarantine (EMQ) “resort bubble” hotel for three days. After three days guests must take a post-travel COVID-19 test.
For more details visit the County of Kauai website.
Do you need to print out your test results?
When you upload your results to your safe travel account and you will get a QR code for entry when you arrive. However, your hotel or accommodations may ask to see your results. Having them printed and easily accessible on your phone will be helpful.
Hawaii says it’s ready, and travelers have already made their way to the islands with test results in hand.
And while those testing requirements for Hawaii seem daunting at first glance, they’re fairly straightforward and quite similar to what many other destinations have implemented while resuming travel.
But the requirements keep changing as COVID-19 cases on the mainland continue to grow – and more changes may be just around the corner, so stay tuned for future updates.