Traveling to Hawaii During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Big Island Guide Travel Guide

Hawaii is Planning to Reopen to Visitors on September 1, 2020

(Article Updated July 30, 2020)
**Note** This is a preliminary plan and dates may change, they have already been delayed from August to September by increasing case numbers on the mainland and reduced test availability.

First of all, if you are considering visiting Hawaii, welcome! We know that it is a little scary to travel with so many unknowns, but this article should help fill in some of what to expect. Hawaii has been very cautious in our handling of Coronavirus prevention and we continue to work hard at keeping our community safe while opening our doors to visitors. As a well loved international travel destination, Hawaii is known for the Aloha Spirit we extend to visitors from around the globe. With current health concerns and the resulting travel restrictions, visitors have not been able to easily experience the wonder of a Hawaii vacation. In March, the Governor enacted a 14 day quarantine on all visitors arriving in the state in an attempt to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. While this quarantine is still in effect, visiting Hawaii is about to get easier. Starting on September 1st, Hawaii is planning to allow out-of-state travelers who test negative for Covid-19 to enter Hawaii without having to quarantine. Please postpone your trip until after September 1st and make sure to get your test before you come.

Government Mandates for Flights into Hawaii

The state has decided to keep the mandatory 14 Day Quarantine for mainland and international travel in place, but starting September 1st, Hawaii will allow out-of-state travelers to “test out” of the quarantine. Those travelers who test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours before arriving, fill out the required paperwork, and clear a temperature test upon arrival, will be allowed to enter Hawaii without having to quarantine. Hawaii is requiring an FDA-approved PCR test from a CLIA-certified laboratory for entry. You can call your local doctor and ask for your best option to obtain a test, many medical facilities and some pharmacies are offering them. Please plan ahead as testing availability and timing is different everywhere. Testing will not be available at the airport or once you arrive, you must test at home no more than three days before traveling. If you travel to Hawaii without a pre-arrival test, you will be subject to the 14 day quarantine following arrival.

Here is a link to the Hawaii Tourism Authority Information on this topic.

If you are planning to island hop during your trip, you will need to do the initial test when flying into the state, but as long as you are not showing signs of illness, you will not need a second test to go to an additional island. Hawaii lifted the inter-island travel quarantine on June 16th, so local travel between the islands has resumed, requiring just a temperature check and health form that travelers must fill out before departure.

What Rules are in Place when you get to Hawaii

Hawaii’s mandates are all about slowing the spread of Covid 19. Governor David Ige has updated the state of Hawaii Covid status to the third phase “Act with Care” this allows most of the economy to reopen and loosens restrictions on most businesses and activities, while asking people to act responsibly to slow the spread of the disease. All low and medium risk businesses have been allowed to reopen across Hawaii, with mask and social distancing guidelines in place.

The primary things to know for the visiting public are the requirements to social distance from anyone not in your immediate household, to wear masks in public spaces, to wash hands and use hand sanitizer when entering stores, and to keep group gatherings at less than ten people. Masks are 100% required to enter stores, shops, restaurants, and all businesses, but are not required when sitting at a table actively eating or drinking, when exercising, when at the beach or when walking outdoors. If you’re coming to visit, please be respectful and wear your mask whenever possible. Please don’t fight this simple request, as Hawaii has a much different culture than you are likely coming from. Please understand that most families (Ohana) here live in larger, multi generational groups. This means we must be particularly cautious so that our elders (Kapuna) are not exposed. We have watched as other parts of the country fight over this simple issue, and we would prefer not to have those problems brought here. We are opening our doors to you, but we ask that you please help us keep everyone safe.

• For the most up-to-date information from Governor Ige – Click Here
• For information about the 14 day quarantine – Click Here
• For information specific to Hawaii County (the Big Island) – Click Here

14 Day Quarantine Information

The quarantine means that visitors must remain in their rooms for most or all of their vacation, therefore travelers are strongly urged to wait until after Sept 1st to travel and get a COVID-19 test to “test out”. The quarantine orders are strict and are being enforced by local law enforcement. For those flying to Hawaii before September 1st or, without a test, what does the 14-day self quarantine mean?

• You must provide your lodging and contact info to the authorities
• You must proceed directly from the airport to your lodgings with no stops along the way
• You must stay inside your lodging/hotel room for the entire 14 days
• You are not allowed to use shared facilities such as pools, spas, gyms, restaurants, or bars
• You must get someone to deliver food and necessities to your door or order room service or delivery
• You can not go outside or to public places such as grocery stores, shopping centers, or local attractions
• You can not have visitors inside your lodging
• You can only leave your lodging for emergency reasons or to receive medical care
• You will be monitored to check on your health and your location regularly
• Violating the rules can land you in jail, get you expelled from the state, or get you a $5,000 fine

Hawaii Covid-19 Infection Situation

The good news is that Hawaii’s infection and death rate is among the lowest in the country and we have effectively been using social distancing, mask wearing, and general safety measures to keep our numbers low. The end of July saw an uptick in our case numbers and the mayors of Maui and Oahu are considering reinstating a few restrictions such as closing bars and limiting gathering size. As of July 30, 2020, the State of Hawaii had 1842 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 25 deaths and the Island of Hawaii had 116 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no deaths on the Big Island.

Flights to Hawaii

Few flights have landed at the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport since late March of 2020, when the travel quarantine took effect. Delta Airlines maintained a four times weekly service to Kona from LA and several airlines offered a limited schedule of inter-island flights. With the recent news of the new visitor testing option, several Airlines have announced their plans to reinstate their Trans-Pacific flights between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii.

Hawaiian Airlines resumed service between Honolulu and Portland on July 1st, and will add daily service to San Diego and Sacramento on July 15th.
There will also be nonstop service between Honolulu and Boston, Las Vegas, New York, Oakland, Phoenix, and San Jose once the test out option is in place. In addition, Hawaiian Airlines will resume a direct flight between Kona and Los Angeles, increase inter-island flights, and provide weekly service to American Samoa at that time.

United Airlines is offering nonstop service between San Francisco and Kona four times per week as of July 1st and will increase that service to twice daily once the test out option is in place. They will also offer daily service between LA and Kona and four times per week service between Denver and Kona. Three flights will be offered weekly between San Francisco and Hilo as well.

Southwest Airlines will return to their full pre-Covid flight schedule once the test out option is in place. There will be a daily flight between Kona and Kahului, four daily flights between Honolulu and Kona, and four daily flights between Honolulu and Hilo. They will also offer once daily service between both San Jose and Oakland to Kona, as well as adding a new daily nonstop service between San Diego and Honolulu. They will also add more daily flights between Honolulu to Maui and Kauai.

American Airlines plans to resume flights in Septembert, but has not announced their schedule yet. Alaska and Delta Airlines have not announced their plans yet.

What’s Open In Hawaii Now

All low and medium risk businesses have been allowed to reopen as of June 15th. The following is not an exhaustive list of what’s open, but covers most of the businesses you may need while visiting. These classifications don’t mean every business in this category is open, just that they are allowed to reopen by the state.
Grocery Stores
Gas Stations
Transportation Businesses
Restaurants (limited capacity)
Bars & Night Clubs (limited capacity & hours)
Hotels and Motels
Vacation Rentals (for those not under quarantine)
Personal Care businesses
Gyms and Fitness clubs
Retail Stores
Most Tour and Activity Providers (limited capacity)
Most Beaches and Beach Parks
Healthcare services
Financial Institutions
Mail and Shipping
National and State parks are partially reopened

What’s Still Closed In Hawaii

Higher risk businesses such as indoor and outdoor event venues, public swimming pools, and road races are still not allowed to fully reopen.

Accommodations

Hotels and Motels are allowed to operate but, due to travel restrictions, most have chosen to remain closed during the quarantine period and are not accepting reservations until September. If you need further details, please contact the specific property directly. If you are traveling from outside the state before September, you will need to complete a 14 day quarantine. Hotel staff are being asked to monitor visitors for quarantine violations.

Short-term vacation rentals (such as VRBO/Airbnb/Private Condos) on the Big Island are allowed to host those who aren’t under quarantine. Local residents, inter island travelers and those who have completed quarantine, or tested out can stay in vacation rentals. Under the Governor’s Proclamation, if a guest breaks quarantine, the host can be arrested or fined as well as the quarantine breaker, whether or not they knew of the guest’s actions. So please do not come to Hawaii with the intention of breaking quarantine, it will put both you and your host in danger of legal action.

Attractions and Activities

Most visitor attractions and activities have limited availability or are not open yet and plan to wait until after September 1st to reopen. Call the specific business to see if they are operating.

Island of Hawaii Events

All large gatherings and major events have been canceled or rescheduled for later in the year (see the list below).

• Kona Brewers Festival – Canceled – Rescheduled for March 13, 2021
• Big Island Chocolate Festival – Postponed until May 2021
• Ironman 70.3 – Postponed until Nov 21, 2020
• Kuauli Pacific & Asia Cultural Festival – Changed to a virtual event on Sept 11-13, 2020
• Lavaman Waikoloa Triathlon – Canceled – Rescheduled for March 28, 2021
• Merrie Monarch Festival – Canceled – Rescheduled for 2021
• Ironman World Championship – Canceled – Rescheduled for Oct 2021

We will update this article when new information becomes available.

~ A Hui Hou

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