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Hawaii pushes back its reopening date to at least Oct. 15

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 9/17/2020 Andrea M. Rotondo
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

Planning a vacation to a reopened Hawaii has proven quite difficult as that reopening date has been a moving target. Hawaii officials had hoped to reopen the state on Aug. 1 to visitors with a valid negative COVID-19 test, then Sept. 1 and then Oct. 1.

Now the state has announced a “pre-travel testing” program, which is scheduled to launch on Oct. 15, Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced on Sept. 16.

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Pre-travel testing will allow tourists to avoid the mandatory 14-day quarantine if they have a qualified negative COVID-19 test no earlier than 72 hours before their flight arrives. Additionally, travelers arriving in Hawaii will have their temperatures checked upon arrival and must fill out a travel and health form. Travelers who don’t have proof of an approved negative test will have to quarantine for 14 days or until they can provide proof of negative test results.

“Together with the progress we’ve made, and continue to make, in the fight against COVID-19, this new leadership team gives us confidence that the time is right to launch our pre-travel COVID-19 testing program, which is an important step toward reviving our economy while continuing to protect public health,” Ige said in a statement.

The state announced yesterday that it’s considering allowing guests at some hotels to leave their rooms to explore the hotel if they wear a GPS monitor. The “Enhanced Movement Quarantine,” or “Resort Bubble,” program approved by Gov. David Ige, would permit visitors to leave their rooms to experience amenities at their hotel or resort during the mandatory quarantine period. Rule-breakers face a fine or possible jail time.

Related: Hawaii approves the potential use of ‘resort bubbles’ for quarantined travelers

An uptick in cases is what promoted Gov. Ige to announce on Aug. 6 that, beginning Aug. 11, the state brought back mandatory 14-day quarantines for some inter-island travel.

As of press time, Hawaii has over 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The highest number of cases are on Oahu. Over 100 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Visit TPG’s guide to all coronavirus news and updates

In This Post

a flock of birds flying over a beach: Hyatt Regency Maui. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Hyatt Regency Maui. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Will Hawaii push back its reopening date?

Gov. Ige has pushed back the date for Hawaii’s reopening of its tourism sector several times, with Oct. 15 being the date for the launch of the “pre-travel testing program.” You can theoretically travel to the islands now, but the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine will remain in effect before you can leave your home or hotel room.

At least outside any potential resort bubble program, in Hawaii, quarantine really means quarantine. You cannot leave your quarantine location unless you need to seek medical care. You may not visit public spaces, such as a pool, fitness center or restaurant during this period. And, you may not have any visitors — unless it’s a healthcare professional.

You might think you could head to Hawaii and skirt the self-quarantine. However, that’s a bad idea for all sorts of reasons. Tourists have been arrested for breaking quarantine early and car rental agencies are banned from renting a vehicle to anyone subject to this mandatory quarantine. Anyone who intentionally or knowingly breaks quarantine can be convicted of a misdemeanor. That could mean a fine up to $5,000 or jail time of up to one year.

Related: Why we love Hawaii

Should I book a trip to Hawaii?

There are two major obstacles for those hoping to get to Hawaii soon: the official date of the state’s reopening of tourism (which has already changed multiple times) and the ability to get the right type of COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival when that date comes. Both of these issues present very real barriers to pulling off a Hawaiian vacation in the coming months.

If the governor does push back the reopening date back yet again, you’ll have no choice but to either cancel your trip or comply with the mandatory two-week self-quarantine upon arrival.

However, since the date was only pushed back 15 days instead of a full month, and with the recent resort bubble news, it’s possible (though not guaranteed) that this date may stick.

If the governor doesn’t again push back the state’s reopening date, you may still be thwarted by test availability. Some parts of the U.S. still have a lag in reporting test results, which means you could make plans to visit Hawaii, take a COVID-19 test but not receive your results within 72 hours of arrival to the islands. Without negative results, you would be required to self-quarantine at least until negative results could be presented.

Related: Getting a coronavirus test for travel is not always possible

Register with Hawaii’s Safe Travels system

If you decide to travel to the state and adhere to the self-quarantine, you’ll need to register with Hawaii’s Safe Travels system. Do this at least 72 hours before arrival. Although you don’t have to register, it will speed your exit from the airport because you will be asked to show your registration confirmation page.

Once you’re in quarantine, you need to check in on the app daily to report the condition of your health. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the continued use of this app in some form in the future — even after the self-quarantine rule expires.

Related: What it’s like to fly in the U.S. right now

Flight schedules have been reduced

As you would imagine, the 14-day self-quarantine requirement has done what it was designed to do — convince travelers to stay home and avoid Hawaii in the short term. According to data provided by the Hawaii Vacation & Convention Bureau (HVCB), travel to Hawaii is down more than 90% when compared to 2019 numbers.

This decline in passengers led airlines to suspend some flights between the mainland and the Hawaiian Islands.

a little girl sitting in a chair: Island-hopping on Southwest. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Island-hopping on Southwest. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

You’ll have to wear a face mask

On April 17, the governor of Hawaii issued an order requiring face masks in Hawaii. So, if you are planning a trip to the islands, expect to pack a selection of those masks, too.

Related: Does my child need to wear a face mask while traveling?

a resort near the water with Diamond Head in the background: Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head Crater. (Photo by okimo/Getty Images) © The Points Guy Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head Crater. (Photo by okimo/Getty Images)

Hotels are starting to reopen

While some hotels closed at the start of the pandemic, many popular hotels across the islands are starting to reopen, including some of TPG’s favorites like The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, which has availability after Oct. 1 and the Grand Hyatt Kauai that has availability starting on Nov. 1.

a group of people in a pool of water: (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

If you’re planning on a visit to Hawaii soon, check and double-check to make sure your resort of choice is open for your dates.

Related: TPG readers reveal their favorite points hotels in Hawaii

Can you eat out?

Restaurants in Hawaii reopened in early June, but local reports noted that customers have been charged “service fees,” so just be prepared for some changes since your last visit. Bars are not open on the islands at this time.

Related: These are the best times to visit Hawaii

Are attractions and activities open?

Many attractions are closed on the Hawaiian Islands.

On May 6, the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks announced the reopening of select state parks and monuments.

a view of a beach: Kaanapali Beach, Maui, Hawaii © The Points Guy Kaanapali Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Kaanapali Beach on Maui. (Photo by ejs9/Getty Images)

Will passengers be tested upon arrival in Hawaii?

A growing number of destinations, such as Alaska, Austria and Iceland, are leaning into COVID-19 testing upon arrival as an alternative to a 14-day quarantine.

That option was discussed during a May 14 Facebook Live hosted by the governor of Hawaii, along with state epidemiologists Dr. Park and Dr. Desmond. This group stated that the rapid COVID-19 tests take from five to 13 minutes to conduct, and weren’t currently a viable solution to use on arriving tourists to Hawaii due to a few limitations in application.

Hawaii typically has 30,000 visitors arrive per day during normal times, which the trio of Hawaii officials stated would be a prohibitive number of tests to conduct given that one machine could only handle about three tests per hour. There were also concerns raised that the test, even if it works perfectly, only gives you a snapshot in time and may not tell you if you were incubating the virus.

Related: Alaska changes its travel and quarantine rules for visitors

Bottom line

For most travelers, it is still not yet time to visit Hawaii because of the restrictions in place to stop the spread of coronavirus, but it’s possible that things may start to change as we get into the fall months. However, nothing is guaranteed until it happens, so keep that in mind as you plan any potential trips.

TPG will follow Hawaii’s path to reopening and let you know as rules relax and visitors are once again welcome to visit the islands.

Additional reporting by Victoria M. Walker and Summer Hull

Featured image courtesy of Timur Alexandrov/EyeEm/Getty Images

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.


Video: Kauai Gets 'Resort Bubble' Program Approval to Allow Quarantined Visitors to Use Facilitie (Travel + Leisure)

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