After months of uncertainty, stay-at-home orders and mandatory 14-day quarantines, new Covid-19 testing requirements will soon make it easier for U.S. citizens to travel to Hawaii.
Last week, Governor David Ige announced that while all visitors are still required to fill out a travel health questionnaire and have their temperatures checked upon arrival, as of October 15, they’ll have the option to show proof of pre-testing instead of having to quarantine for 14 days. Note that only negative test results from “FDA-authorized NAAT Covid-19 tests, processed by a CLIA-certified laboratory” are being accepted and these must have been completed “no earlier than 72 hours prior to their flight arrival in Hawaii.”
The Hawaii State Department of Health website specifies CVS and Kaiser Permanente as trusted testing partners, though tests from other sources will be accepted if they meet required testing parameters. Ultimately it’s up to travelers to provide the proper test results to Hawaii health officials. And no, antibody tests will not be accepted.
Note that anyone who is unable to show negative test results will be required to quarantine for 14 days or as long as it takes your negative test results to be reported. Testing is not available upon arrival except for travelers with symptoms or temperatures over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Those visiting before the changes go into effect on October 15 will still be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival regardless of which Hawaiian Island you fly into—Oahu, Maui, Kauai or Hawaii Island (the Big Island). As far as inter-island travel is concerned, a mandatory 14-day quarantine is still in effect, except for those who originally arrived on Oahu. It’s not yet clear if this policy will be extended beyond its September 30 end date or if things will change as a result of the October 15 reopening.
How to safely visit Hawaii
Things change quickly so keep an eye on the Hawaii tourism board’s Safe Travels website for updates and check the Special Alerts and Notices page to make sure your hotel will be open, as many are currently closed. As of July 31, all bars on Oahu are closed, though most restaurants have reopened as per the CDC guidelines for indoor and outdoor eating.
Some attractions are open on a limited basis or may want to see proof you’ve quarantined, while others, like the Polynesian Cultural Center, are slated to reopen in 2021. Many of Hawaii’s parks, beaches and trails reopened September 10, though you’re only allowed to go to the beach solo or hike in groups of two unless you’re going with others who are members of your immediate family unit.
In the spirit of safety and doing what you can to prevent the spread of Covid-19, here are some social distance activities you can do on each of the main islands. Just remember to wear your mask—over your mouth and nose—stay at least six feet away from anyone outside your group and follow the rules set by each site or attraction you’re visiting.
Visit Hawaii’s historic neighborhoods
The Hawaiian Islands are home to a number of historic neighborhoods that are great for a socially distanced stroll around town.
Oahu: Head to Haleiwa, about an hour’s drive from Waikiki on the North Shore, to see local art galleries, watch the surfers take on some of the best waves in the world and taste local delicacies from one of the many roadside shrimp or food trucks.
Kauai: Old Kapa’a Town is a charming spot about a 20-minute drive from Lihue, just above Wailua along the east coast. Grab some shave ice—Hawaii’s version of a snow cone—at Wailua Shave Ice, shop for souvenirs, learn how to play the ukulele at Kamoa Ukulele Company or grab some local grub at the Pono Market.
Maui: Learn about the island’s whaling history in Lahaina, once the capital of the Hawaiian Islands and now a town on the National Registry of Historic Places. Keep an eye out for humpback whales if you’re visiting November through May when they migrate, and consider the Pacific Whale Foundation’s eco-friendly whale watching cruise for a closer look at these majestic creatures.
Hawaii Island: See why Hawaiian royalty once used Kailua-Kona as their retreat. Pay a visit to Hulihe’e Palace, a museum showcasing artifacts from the days of King Kalākaua and Queen Kapi‘olani. Stop by the Hilo Farmers Market to pick up some locally grown fruits, veggies and flowers or to shop for souvenirs for loved ones back home.
Enjoy the great outdoors, Hawaii style
Being outside in Hawaii is a real treat, whether you’re into hiking, cycling, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding or horseback riding.
Oahu: While iconic Diamond Head State Park is closed, other scenic spots like Waimea Bay Beach Park on the North Shore and the Waahila Ridge Trail in Manoa Valley are open to hikers who social distance. If you have your heart set on horseback riding, Gunstock Ranch in Kahuku is open, while Kualoa Ranch will reopen September 25 with temperature checks, social distancing and mandatory mask-wearing.
Maui: The Valley Isle’s legendary Haleakalā National Park is partially reopened, though crater trails and visitor centers remain closed. Bike Maui offers memorable rides down Hawaii’s most impressive dormant volcano and is reopening October 15 with Covid-19 safety measures in place. All bikes, helmets and other gear will be sanitized, while guests are expected to wear masks, social distance, have their temperatures taken and answer health questions before the tour begins. Mākena Beach State Park is now open, but only if you lounge and swim with those in your immediate family group and stay at least six feet away from others.
Kauai: Waimea Canyon State Park on Kauai is open, as is Poipu Beach. Feeling adventurous? Try your hand at kayaking or stand up paddle boarding along the mighty Wailua River on the eastern side of the island.
Hawaii Island: Hāpuna Beach State Park is open, while Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is mostly reopened at this time, though the Thurston Lava Tube and all visitor centers remain closed until further notice.
Hit the links
While many of Hawaii’s 75 golf courses are still closed at the moment, some of the most popular ones have remained open, though golfers must adhere to special rules like social distancing and wearing a mask whenever they’re in clubhouses and pro shops. Among other rules specific to each golf course, rental clubs are generally not available and showers and locker rooms are closed until further notice, holes have been modified to allow for fewer touch points and golf carts are sanitized after each use. Single rider golf carts can be rented, though you’re only allowed to share if it’s with one other person from your immediate family—walking is highly encouraged as an alternative. As of this writing, Princeville Makai Golf Club and Poipu Bay on Kauai are open, as are Kapalua Bay Golf Course on Maui, Ko Olina Golf Club and Hawaii Prince Golf Club on Oahu and Mauna Kea Golf Course and Hapuna Golf Courses on Hawaii Island.