Unlocking the World

Travel to Hawaii during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

CNN staffUpdated 4th January 2021
Hawaii is like nowhere else in the United States
Editor's Note — Coronavirus cases remain high across the globe. Health officials caution that travel increases your chances of getting and spreading the virus. Staying home is the best way to stem transmission. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on January 20.
(CNN) — If you're planning to travel to Hawaii, here's what you'll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The basics

Hawaii reopened to visitors from within the United States and a small number of countries in October, but visitors must provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test.
Starting January 26, all air passengers entering the United States must present a negative test. See below for details on which tests types are approved specifically for the state of Hawaii.

What's on offer

Spectacular surfing, sandy beaches, traditional Pacific culture and rugged volcanoes -- including the ongoing eruption of Kilauea. Hawaii's geographical position and proud history make it unlike anywhere else in the United States.

Who can go

Travelers from the United States, Canada and Japan are allowed entry. The 10-day quarantine can be bypassed on most islands by following testing rules (see below).
All tourists must also complete a Safe Travels Hawaii form and undergo a health screening on arrival.
Beyond those countries, Hawaii is following CDC guidelines, meaning those who have been in the European Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Iran, Brazil and China in the past 14 days will be denied entry. Travelers from all other countries must undergo a 10- day quarantine. Check the Hawaii Guide website for details as the situation evolves.

What are the restrictions?

Hawaii's travel restrictions are evolving rapidly.
Currently, all travelers must either undergo a 10-day quarantine, or -- if traveling to any island other than Kauai -- can avoid quarantine by presenting a negative test from a "trusted partner," a list of which can be found on the Hawaii Covid-19 website.
For air travelers entering Hawaii from abroad, getting a specific type of test -- a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) -- from one of Hawaii's approved Trusted Testing Partners will be particularly important because some tests accepted under the new US testing requirement going into effect on January 26 would not allow travelers to bypass Hawaii's quarantine.
Test results must be uploaded to the Safe Travels Hawaii site before your flight to the islands. Showing a negative test on arrival in Hawaii is no longer sufficient and will incur the 10-day quarantine.
As of January 5, visitors who have been in the state of Hawaii for more than three days may visit Kauai without quarantining by complying with a number of measures including a test more than three days after arriving in the state but within 72 hours before traveling to Kauai.
Kauai also announced a shortened three-day quarantine option for travelers arriving from out of state who participate in a new "resort bubble" program.
Registration with Safe Travels Hawaii as soon as flights are booked is mandatory for all travelers older than 18. The form will generate a unique QR code which must be scanned on arrival. Negative tests must be uploaded here, and a questionnaire must be completed 24 hours ahead of travel.
The Safe Travels program randomly invites travelers to participate in a voluntary secondary test 3 to 4 days after arrival.

What's the Covid situation?

With more than 24,000 cases and more than 300 deaths as of January 20, Hawaii has seen relatively low Covid numbers compared with other US states. Strict lockdown measures were put in place in March to ensure that the islands were not overwhelmed. Cases have fallen since August, but rose toward the end of 2020.

What can visitors expect?

Restrictions vary by island, although there is a statewide mask mandate -- they must be worn whenever out in public.
Oahu has implemented a four-tier system of restrictions. Currently, it is in Tier 2 (the second most restricted). This means social gatherings of no more than five people are allowed. Restaurants, helicopter tours, museums and attractions can operate at 50% capacity. Bars and nightclubs remain shut, and there is a maximum of five people per table in restaurants.
Maui, Molokai and Lanai -- all in Maui County -- allow for gatherings of up to five people. Beaches and Maui County Parks are open.
On Hawaii Island, indoor and outdoor gatherings of 10 people are permitted as long as masks are worn and social distancing rules followed. Beaches reopened in September.
Kauai has recently amended its quarantine rules (see above). It is currently in Tier 4, meaning gatherings of 10 people are allowed indoors and 25 outdoors. Restaurants and bars are open but limited to 50% capacity indoors.

Useful links

Our recent coverage

What's it like traveling to Hawaii right now? CNN's Brekke Fletcher wrote about her experience here. For vacation tips, have a look here, and if you're a closet beach hater, here are some ideas of what you can do. Or have a look at the cats of Lana'i, where 600 of them are living their best life.