If you were hoping to visit Hawaii this fall, plan your trip for a few weeks out — since Hawaii’s governor has asked travelers to delay non-essential travel to the state until the end of October.
After Governor David Ige’s plea last month, which he said was needed to deal with late-summer surge in COVID-19 cases, visitors did indeed stay away and new cases have dropped off significantly. When you do go, you’ll find the among the few new restrictions are proof-of-vaccination requirements to eat or drink at indoor establishments on Oahu and Maui. Also, if you are planning on traveling with extended family, Maui is not the best option now, since they have limited the size of private gatherings — as noted below.
Otherwise, requirements to enter remain as they have been for the past three months: Anyone fully vaccinated in the United States or its territories may travel to Hawaii after a full two weeks since their last vaccine. Travelers to Hawaii who were not vaccinated in the US must present a recent negative COVID-19 test to avoid quarantining upon arrival. All travelers must also enroll in the Hawaii Safe Travels program, described below.
All inter-island travel restrictions were ended earlier in the summer. However, as the Delta variant creates higher rates of new daily infections in Hawaii, limitations on size of social gatherings have been reinstated, as noted below.
If you don’t want to wait until October to travel and do want to respect Hawaii’s efforts to get its COVID-19 situation under control, consider a host of fabulous islands in the US that you could travel to instead.
Who will be able to travel to Hawaii without a COVID-19 pre-test
Travelers who have been fully vaccinated in any US state are permitted to travel to Hawaii without pre-travel testing. Travelers are considered fully vaccinated on the fifteenth day after their second Moderna or Pfizer dose, or 15 days after one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Unvaccinated travelers, or those vaccinated outside of the US and its territories, who wish to travel to the Hawaiian islands and avoid a 10-day quarantine must receive a negative result on a COVID-19 test completed within 72 hours before travel. Hawaii only accepts PCR test results from an approved list of laboratories, pharmacies, and multiple airlines that fly to Hawaii. If your test result is not from one of those providers, it will not be accepted.
As in the mainland United States, foreign nationals from CDC-restricted countries are not permitted to enter Hawaii at this time.
What is the Hawaii Safe Travels program?
Hawaii launched the Safe Travels program to keep track of travelers and their health status. If you want to fly to Hawaii, you should create an account in Hawaii’s Safe Travels online portal. Then, fill out a travel questionnaire, including all minors as additional travelers on the same account. You do not need to upload a photo of yourself.
Vaccinated travelers will upload proof of vaccination onto their Hawaii Safe Travels account and enter their vaccine’s lot numbers and the dates of each vaccine. They should also bring their CDC vaccination card with them. Don’t even think of messing with those CDC cards, as that would be a felony.
Unvaccinated travelers will still need to take a pre-travel COVID-19 test. That test should take place 72 hours before your last leg of travel into Hawaii. Once you have your negative COVID-19 test results, log back into your Safe Travels account and upload your test results. Once Hawaii has verified those results, your account will show you as having a negative COVID-19 test result. Considering that tourists elsewhere have falsified test results, the verification process makes sense.
Twenty-four hours before you are set to travel, you’ll receive a health questionnaire. Log into your Safe Travels account to answer a few questions about how you are feeling now, any fevers, and so on. If your answers are satisfactory, you’ll receive a personal QR code. Print it out or send it to your phone, as it will ease the travel process.
Note: Be sure that the name on your CDC card or on the results of your COVID-19 test matches the name on your travel identification and your Safe Travels profile.
If you choose not to create a profile in the Hawaii Safe Travels program, you can still fly to the island — assuming you aren’t sick — but you will have to quarantine for 10 days on arrival and receive daily check-ins from health authorities. If you break that quarantine, you could be fined as much as $5,000 or even wind up in jail.
If you are asked to quarantine, you will have to specify the hotel or motel where you are quarantining, and you will not be permitted to self-isolate in a vacation rental. You will also not be able to rent a car until your quarantine period has ended.
What if I am partially vaccinated or have or recovered from COVID?
If you are only partially vaccinated, you will still need to present a negative COVID-19 test to avoid quarantine. Also, you may not receive your second vaccination in Hawaii. Vaccinations being made available on the islands are for Hawaii state residents only.
If you have had COVID-19: You may travel to the islands without a negative test, but with a positive molecular test that was taken no more than 90 days and no less than 11 days before departure. (The 90-day outer window is to ensure you still have antibodies that make you immune, while the 11-day window reflects the time it takes until you’re no longer contagious.) In addition, you need a letter from a medical provider indicating that you are now symptom-free and may travel, as per the regulations from the state of Hawaii.
What happens when I arrive?
In addition to getting the green light to travel through the Safe Travels program, you will have to show your photo identification and a QR code — either on your phone or printed on paper. You might as well have the QR code on your mobile as you should have it charged and ready for use. Officials at the airport may want to verify that they can reach you and may place a test call to your phone.
Once you have arrived in Hawaii with your your proof of vaccination or negative PCR test, or after having completed quarantine, you can now travel freely between islands. Also, while masks are still required indoors for anyone over five years of age, face coverings are no longer required outdoors — although they are recommended if you are in a large gathering.
As of August 10, social gatherings are once again limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Restaurants will have to obey the same group size limitations (10 indoors, 25 outdoors) with six feet between groups and masks worn at any time one isn’t eating or drinking. Note that in Maui, the private group size limitation is more strict: five indoors and 10 outdoors.
Beginning on September 13 on Oahu and September 15 on Maui, anyone visiting an establishment like a bar, restaurant, or gym will have to show their proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within the previous 48 hours to gain entry. The proof of vaccination or negative covid test must be presented alongside an ID that verifies you are the person who has been vaccinated or tested. Children under 12, who cannot yet be vaccinated, are exempt.
Can I travel between Hawaiian islands?
No pre-travel testing or quarantine is required for travelers between Hawaiian islands at this time.
A version of this article was previously published on November 6, 2020, and was most recently updated on September 27, 2021, with new information.