After several months of mandatory 14-day quarantines for anyone traveling to Hawaii, the island state lifted that restriction in mid-October, requiring instead a recent negative COVID-19 test. Although the island of Kauai will be reimposing the mandatory two-week quarantine as of December 2, the other islands are still eager to have you visit — provided you follow the steps below.
Hawaii’s caution is understandable — a state with a council dedicated to non-native plants and animals knows well the havoc that invasive entities can spell for an island, and few things are more invasive than COVID-19. Please read below for what you need to know to get yourself to paradise this winter.
You can travel to Hawaii with a negative COVID-19 test result
As of October 15, anyone from the US mainland and from Japan can travel to all the Hawaiian islands except Kauai, which instated more specific limitations in January, provided they receive negative results on a COVID-19 test completed within 72 hours before their travel to Hawaii. That test must be the more sensitive PCR test.
You should know that Hawaii only accepts 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. Test results must be uploaded into a personal profile you create through Hawaii’s Safe Travels program. More on the below.
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.
Before traveling, you need to take a 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 caution is understandable. At this point, you’ll be asked to upload a photo of yourself; a selfie is fine.
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 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 14 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.
What happens when I arrive?
In addition to getting the green light to travel through the Safe Travels program, visitors to Hawaii still need to pass temperature checks upon arrival. 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.
Lastly, depending on the island you are traveling to, you may need to follow up with another COVID-19 test. Also, if you plan to visit more than one island on your trip to Hawaii, you may be required to take a mandatory test again to visit the next island.
Can I travel to every Hawaiian island?
Oahu — Travelers landing in Honolulu (either from outside the state of Hawaii or from another island) who had a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before travel do not need to take an additional covid test upon arrival.
Maui — Travelers to Maui must have a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before traveling there from the mainland or another island. So if you landed on Oahu and spent a few days there, you will have to retest before traveling to Maui. You are also encouraged to voluntarily test 72 hours after arriving on the island.
Kauai — Effective January 5, 2021, Kauai offers travelers an alternative to skip the mandatory extended quarantine it had reimposed a month earlier. Now, people arriving from out of state have the option to quarantine in a “resort bubble” for three days until they receive another negative COVID-19 test result (this is in addition to the pre-travel test required of all visitors to the state). Once the resort verifies the negative test result, visitors are free to leave the resort and roam the island. Anyone wishing to stay outside of a resort will still need to quarantine for 10 days. Travelers from another Hawaiian island, who received a negative test three days after arriving there will not need to quarantine upon arrival in Kauai. Anyone who needs to travel for a critical reason can apply for a modified quarantine program. For a list of participating resorts, visit Kauai’s COVID-19 information page.
Island of Hawaii — Travelers to the Big Island from outside the state must have a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before traveling there. They are also required to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival, which is offered for free at the airport.
Travelers to the Big island from another Hawaiian island must either have a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before traveling or can go into quarantine upon arriving on the Big Island. They may break quarantine to take a test but must go back into quarantine until they receive a negative test result.
Lanai — Lanai imposed stay-at-home orders to its residents on October 27, and tourism travel to the island is currently on hold.
A version of this article was previously published on November 6, 2020, and was updated on January 7, 2021, with more information.