En español | As more Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19, they're itching to travel again — and for many, the Hawaiian Islands are at the top of their must-visit list.
But Hawaii has been hit hard by the pandemic, implementing more restrictions than nearly any other state. The islands are only just beginning to reemerge and welcome back the travelers that their tourism-based economies depend upon.
The good news: Starting July 8, when the state expects to have about 60 percent of its population vaccinated, travelers coming from other U.S. states will be able to forgo COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements by simply showing their vaccination card (you’ll upload it to the state’s Safe Travels site, explained below). When 70 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, all COVID-19-related travel restrictions will be dropped.
The state has also lifted COVID-19-related restrictions on travel between islands.
Some restrictions remain, including capacity limitations throughout the islands and a limit to the number of people allowed at social gatherings (25 indoors, 75 outdoors). The result: Tables at restaurants — which will be allowed to operate at 75% capacity starting July 8 — during peak meal times may be hard to come by, and activities like sunset cruises may have less space aboard.
The state still requires mask-wearing in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status, and asks people to socially distance on beaches. (Note that everyone, vaccinated or not, also still needs to wear a mask in airports and on planes and other public forms of transportation across the U.S.)
These limitations, though, needn’t dissuade you from visiting this summer — the islands are undeniably gorgeous and fantastic destinations. But a smooth trip will require careful advance planning, respect for local regulations and a little patience. Some tips:
Make reservations as soon as possible
Airfare sales and hotel deals may seem plentiful, but tourism is roaring back to the islands. Finding a rental car can be particularly difficult and pricey. Ride-booking options like Uber and Lyft are reduced and can come with waits when available. When I arrived in May, I had to ping-pong between the apps before securing a driver. As a result, I booked a ride back to the airport days in advance of my departure. My driver arrived on time, but after a friendly hello, the first thing he told me was how lucky I was to have secured a ride. Also, don’t wait until you arrive on Maui to make dinner plans or tour bookings. It will only increase your chance of waiting in lines and being disappointed.
Register on Hawaii's Safe Travels website
Each traveler should create his or her own account through the Safe Travels site in the days or weeks before departure, with a user name and password. (You’ll upload your COVID-19 vaccination information here later.)
Stay on top of evolving COVID-19 restrictions
Since reopening to U.S. travelers, the state of Hawaii has required what may seem like ever-changing updates and entry requirements. Check the latest rules, before and during your vacation, on the Hawaii Tourism Authority's website.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asks people to delay travel until they are fully vaccinated (two weeks after receiving your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two weeks after receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine).
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Plan to take a COVID-19 test
Currently, a pre-travel COVID-19 test, taken within 72 hours of departing on the last leg of your trip to Hawaii, is required to enter and bypass the state mandatory 10-day quarantine if you aren’t vaccinated. The COVID-19 test must be a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) and it must be administered by one of Hawaii’s Trusted Testing and Travel Partners. (There is no longer any pre-travel testing or other requirements needed for travel between the Hawaiian Islands.)
Complete the state's online health form and upload your test results
All travelers must complete a health questionnaire and submit their proof of vaccination (or negative COVID-19 test results, if they aren’t vaccinated) on Hawaii's Safe Travels website 24 hours before departure. Once you’ve answered the questions and uploaded your information, a QR code will be emailed to you.
Along with printing a copy for peace of mind, know your Safe Travels website password and practice accessing your account on your phone, tablet or laptop. And make sure it is charged — you’ll need to have it handy at the airport, and many hotels require guests to log into their account when checking in. Bring your paper vaccination card as well.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on June 22, 2021. It's been updated to reflect new information.