Anyone traveling to Hawaii must continue to present a recent negative COVID-19 test in order to avoid quarantining upon arrival. On April 5, Kauai rejoined the state’s Safe Travels program, meaning those who present a negative test upon arrival do not need to enter a 10-day quarantine, or the shorter “resort bubble” alternative previously in place. Maui still mandates travelers download an exposure notification app, but it and all the other islands are eager for people to visit — provided they follow the steps below.
It’s important to note that proof of vaccination does not exempt travelers from the negative COVID-19 test requirement. 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
Anyone from the mainland US, Canada, Korea, and Japan who wishes to travel to the Hawaiian islands and avoid a 10-day avoid quarantine must 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 verification process makes sense. 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 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 have recovered from COVID or had the vaccine?
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.
Despite the CDC’s announcement that vaccinated people may travel, you are still required to present a negative COVID-19 test to avoid quarantining upon arrival on any of the Hawaiian islands — but a vaccinated traveler exemption is expected to be announced soon. Vaccinations are now being made available on the islands to state residents only. If you have had only one vaccine shot in your home US state, you may not receive your second vaccination in Hawaii.
When you arrive, each island county requires face coverings indoors and outdoors for anyone over five years old who is closer than six feet to someone not in their household.
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.
More significantly, all arrivals must download the Aloha Safe Alert app, which notifies you of potential COVID-19 exposure. According to the Maui County website, by alerting users to get tested, aid in contact tracing, and possibly quarantine, this app can “prevent additional spread.”
Kauai — Kauai now offers travelers the same option as other islands to skip quarantine if they have received a negative COVID-19 test from an approved provider within 72 hours of arrival. If you arrive in Kauai with a rapid or PCR, FDA-approved COVID-19 tests — but one that is not approved by the Hawaii Safe Travels program, you have the option to quarantine in a “resort bubble” for three days until they receive another negative test result. Once the resort verifies the negative test result, visitors are free to leave the resort and roam the island.
If you did not participate in the Safe Travels or resort bubble program, you 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. Violations could result in a penalty of up to $5,000 or jail time of up to one year. 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 in a commercial lodging, not a vacation rental, upon arriving. (Big Island residents may quarantine at home.) 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 April 13, 2021, with more information.