What you need to know about traveling to Hawaii this summer

WAIKIKI, HI - APRIL 27 - Tourists on the beach front at sunset on Waikiki beach April 27, 2014 in Oahu. Waikiki beach is beachfront neighborhood of Honolulu, best known for white sand and surfing.
Tourists are returning to Hawaii as restrictions ease across the state © Jeff Whyte/Shutterstock

Hawaii is reopening to tourists, with the vaccine rollout and gradual easing of restrictions bringing an increase in visitors to its beaches, coral reefs and national parks. If you're planning a vacation to the Aloha State this summer, here's what you need to know about the islands' rules on reopening, and the pre-testing requirements to get in.

Can I travel to Hawaii?

Hawaii is currently closed to much of the world, but tourists from the US and approved destinations including Japan, Canada, South Korea and Taiwan are permitted to travel to Hawaii – provided they participate in the state's pre-testing program.

Kapalua beach bay, Maui, Hawaiian Islands
Hawaii's beaches are open to visitors © arkanto / Shutterstock

What are Hawaii's entry requirements?

Hawaii reduced its mandatory hotel quarantine from 14 to 10 days back in December. Visitors aged five-years and older from the US, Canada, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan can bypass quarantine if they present a negative PCR result from a test taken from an approved provider, no more than 72 hours before departure.

Travelers must also register their trip details online through Hawaii's Safe Travels program and upload their test results before boarding their flight. At present, travelers flying domestically within the US to Hawaii are not required the get a test before returning to the mainland US - something required by the CDC when returning from international travel. 

If you're traveling to Maui, you'll need to take a second test upon arrival at Kahului Airport. The test is free of charge and the results are typically available within 15 to 20 minutes. Travelers arriving at other islands may be chosen at random to take a second test but this will be free of charge and you won't have to wait long to get your results.

Hiking couple walking on Kilauea Iki crater trail on Big Island
Hawaii is launching a system to help vaccinated travelers skip pre-travel testing © Maridav/Shutterstock

Do vaccinated travelers need to be tested?

For now, vaccinated travelers must complete the pre-testing requirements to enter Hawaii. On June 4, Hawaii’s governor David Ige announced the end of restrictions on inter-county travel, effective on June 15. After that date, residents who were fully vaccinated in Hawaii will be able to bypass quarantine while traveling between islands without a pre-travel test. This decision comes as the state approaches a 55% vaccination rate. 

When the vaccination rate reaches 60%, those who have been vaccinated in the US and are traveling domestically will be able to skip testing and quarantine with proof of vaccination through the state’s Safe Travels program. When the state hits a vaccination rate of 70%, all restrictions on travel will be lifted. 

“The easing of travel restrictions is a direct result of our robust vaccination rate, and a community that sacrificed and did what it had to do over the past year and a half to stop the spread of COVID-19. We need to push hard now so we can get to the point where Safe Travels is no longer needed to keep the people of Hawaii safe,” Ige said in a statement.

What COVID restrictions are still in place?

Hawaii dropped its mask mandate for people outdoors on May 25, though large groups should still wear masks outside, and they are required for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people indoors.

Across the state, life is gradually returning to its pre-pandemic days. People can meet with friends, visit museums and eat out. Non-essential shops and movie theaters are open at 100% capacity in Oahu and 50% everywhere else. Museums, cultural attractions and zoos are open at 50% capacity for indoor areas. Hotels, B&Bs and guest houses are open across the state with some COVID-19 guidelines in place.

Morning light on the Waimanu Valley, hawai'i
Hawaii's national parks are taking a phased approach to reopening ©Mavrick/Shutterstock

Hawaii's restaurants are open for takeaway and delivery service with some places promoting outdoor dining this summer. In Oahu, restaurants are open for indoor dining at full capacity, while across the state indoor dining is permitted at 50% capacity. Beaches are open with some restrictions, while hiking trails are open with group limits set at five people on Maui, 10 on Oahu, and up to 25 people on the Big Island and Kauai. Social distancing guidelines are in place on trails and visitors must wear masks.

National parks are gradually opening, though not all services and facilities are up and running. Check ahead before planning a visit to see the latest rules.

What can travelers look forward to?

Those who get to travel to Hawaii will find picture-perfect beaches, crystal waterfall pools and spectacular sunrises and sunsets. It is perhaps unsurprising it's consistently found at the top of the annual happiest states survey. Life is Hawaii is pretty much lived outdoors and encounters with nature are infused with the traditional Hawaiian value of aloha ʻaina – love and respect for the land.

Mindful travel is a big focus with Hawaii this year as it welcomes tourists back with tourism partners and volunteer organizations across the state coming together with an initiative called Malama Hawaii, which encourages visitors to give back to the destination. In some cases, volunteers receive a free extra night from participating hotels for volunteering.

The best beaches in Hawaii

"Volunteer projects range from reforestation and tree planting to self-directed beach cleanups, ocean reef preservation, and even creating Hawaiian quilts for kupuna (elders)," a spokesperson for the Hawaii tourism board told Lonely Planet. "By making a positive impact, visitors will have a more enriching travel experience and can even enjoy a free extra night from participating hotels." More than 80 hotel partners across the state have committed to Malama Hawaii and each hotel is managing its own promotion and volunteer project. You can learn more about it here.

Further information on Hawaii's entry requirements are available on its website.

This article was first published on October 15, 2020 and last updated on June 8, 2021

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