After seven months of shutting out travelers with mandatory quarantines and failed attempts at reopening this summer, Hawaii has officially restarted travel with new testing requirements.
Hawaii launched its new and long-awaited pre-travel testing program on Oct. 15, allowing travel from the mainland to the islands to resume. It allows travelers to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantines by providing a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before departure. Negative test results must be uploaded or printed and on hand upon arrival in Hawaii or travelers will not be able to bypass mandatory quarantine.
But as you dig in, you’ll find your next trip to Hawaii will be more complicated. Not just any test will do to get you into Hawaii. Some of the most popular Hawaiian islands are requiring another test sometime after you land. And with inter-island travel restrictions still in effect, hopping between islands may be difficult – if not impossible.
Even as Hawaii reopens for travel, the rules keep changing and much is still uncertain for travelers. Here’s what you need to know for traveling to Hawaii right now.
Steps for Flying to Hawaii
Step 1: Register
Once you’ve booked flights, all adults 18 and up will need to register for Hawaii’s Safe Travels program. This is where you’ll fill out a health form prior to arrival and upload your COVID-19 test results.
Children under the age of 18 must be registered under an adult’s Safe Travel form.
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Step 2: Get a COVID-19 Test
Hawaii is now allowing travelers to bypass quarantine if they present a negative COVID-19 test. The COVID-19 test must be an FDA approved NAAT test from a CLIA-approved laboratory taken no more than 72 hours before your final flight to Hawaii departs.
That sounds like a mouthful. But for now, it means that Hawaii will only accept tests from their designated Trusted Testing and Travel partners. Currently that includes: AFC Urgent Care Portland, Bartell Drugs, Carbon Health, CityHealth Urgent Care, Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii, Color, CVS Health, Diagnostic Laboratory Services (Hawai‘i), Discovery Health MD, Hawai‘i Pacific Health, Kaiser Permanente, Minit Medical, Quest Diagnostics, Urgent Care Hawaii, Vault Health and Walgreens.
Several airlines have launched their own testing programs for flights to Hawaii, and the state has confirmed that these tests will suffice, too.
You’ll need to find one of these partners nearest you or order an at-home test (from Vault Health) and get a COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to your final flight to Hawaii. Let’s say you’re on a flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL). You’d need to take your test no more than 72 hours before your flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu is scheduled to depart.
Step 3: Upload Your Test Results Before Boarding Your Flight to Hawaii
Once your results come in, just upload them to your Safe Travel account. Then make sure to fill out the health questionnaire 24 hours prior to departure. Once both of these things are done, you will receive a QR code needed for boarding your flight and entry into Hawaii. You must have your COVID-19 test results prior to boarding.
Make sure to keep a printed copy of your negative COVID-19 results just in case you are asked to present them at your hotel.
What if Your Results Don’t Come Back in Time?
As of November 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 Hawai‘i. If your test results do not come back before you board the final leg of your trip, you will be required to quarantine for 14 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 gets 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 the 14-day quarantine if your flight ultimately gets delayed.
Does everyone need to take a test? Even my kids?
All travelers 5 years and older are required by Hawaii to present a negative COVID-19 test.
Hawaii Travel Restrictions for Other Islands
As the state geared up to welcome tourists this month, several popular islands started expressing misgivings about restarting travel without additional testing requirements.
Even as tourists head for Hawaii today, some of those details haven’t been ironed out. Some islands will require a second test after arrival. And there are still questions surrounding inter-island travel.
Hawaii, aka The Big Island: All passengers arriving at Kona International Airport (KOA), Hilo International Airport (ITO), and Waimea-Kohala Airport (MUE) on the Big Island will be required to take a rapid antigen test upon arrival. These tests are free to travelers, as they’re paid for by the island’s CARES Act funding. Anyone who tests positive will be required to take another PCR COVID-19 test and self-quarantine until those results come in, in approximately 36 hours.
Kauai: Kauai County has set up secondary testing, but it’s voluntary. Kauai is asking travelers to take a second COVID-19 test 72 hours after arriving, offering gift cards or other freebies to incentivize it. But it’s unclear whether that’s within 72 hours of arrival in Kauai or Hawaii as a whole.
Maui: Maui is also setting up a voluntary program for a second test, but the details remain unclear. Maui plans to ask travelers to volunteer to take a second COVID-19 test 48to 72 hours after arrival, again offering incentives to those who consent to a test. It’s unclear if this means 72 hours after arrival to Hawaii or specifically the island of Maui.
Oahu: As the home of Honolulu (HNL) and the major entry point for Hawaii, there are currently no additional requirements beyond the initial COVID-19 test for entry into Oahu.
Lanai: There are currently no additional requirements beyond the initial COVID-19 test for entry into Lanai.
Molokai: There are currently no additional requirements beyond the initial COVID-19 test for entry into Molokai.
What Happens if You Test Positive in Hawaii?
If you take a second COVID-19 test on an island that requires it and you test positive, you will be required to quarantine at a hotel until you’ve recovered – at your own expense.
What if I want to travel to multiple islands?
While travel to the islands can resume with a test, many of the state’s restrictions on inter-island travel remain in place until at least Nov. 30. And that could further complicate your next trip to Hawaii if you want to visit several islands.
Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island still require a 14-day quarantine for arrivals from any other island, as do Lanai and Molokai. If you’re staying less than 14 days, you’ll have to quarantine for the length of your stay.
But Kauai and Maui have set up yet another pre-travel testing program for inter-island travel, once again allowing you to bypass quarantine if you present a negative COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours before your flight to either island.
There are currently no inter-island travel restrictions for Oahu.
While it’s welcome news after being closed to travelers for so long, there’s no denying it’s complicated to get into Hawaii right now. The rules and requirements have changed frequently, and individual islands have different policies. It will take some time for these entry requirements to solidify – and to tell if they work in keeping COVID-19 cases down.
If you book a trip to Hawaii, make sure your trip is fully refundable. And make sure you’re ready to be flexible in case things change.