Hawaii Will Reopen To Visitors On October 15 (With Testing)

Filed Under: Travel

It looks like Hawaii plans on welcoming back visitors with pre-travel testing as of next month. This comes after the timeline has been delayed several times.

Hawaii’s current 14-day quarantine

In late March Hawaii introduced a 14-day quarantine for anyone coming to the state. This has been extended several times, and up until now we knew that these restrictions applied through at least October.

Up until this point there has been no option to get tested to avoid the 14-day quarantine, meaning that Hawaii has been off limits to a vast majority of visitors, since you’d need to quarantine for two weeks before you can even start your vacation. Furthermore, Hawaii has been enforcing its quarantine more strictly than some other states (though arguably not strictly enough, given the spike in cases).

Hawaii has been working towards allowing visitors to skip the 14-day quarantine by producing a negative coronavirus test result that was taken less than 72 hours before arrival in Hawaii. This is supposed to apply both to residents and visitors, with no option to get tested on arrival to avoid the quarantine.

Requiring pre-travel testing is no perfect solution — research suggests that pre-travel coronavirus testing would prevent 80-90% of potential cases from visitors.

Hawaii has required a 14-day quarantine for travelers

Hawaii will finally reopen on October 15

Hawaii Governor David Ige has just announced that Hawaii will launch its pre-travel testing program as of October 15, 2020.

With this new procedure:

  • Travelers will need to get tested no earlier than 72 hours before their flight arrives in the state
  • Testing will need to be done with an FDA-approved nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), performed using a nasal swab
  • Proof of a negative result from a CLIA certified laboratory must be shown
  • Travelers will also have their temperature checked upon arrival, and will need to fill out a travel and health form
  • Passengers unable to provide proof of an approved negative test will be required to quarantine for 14 days, or until they can provide negative test results
  • There will be no option to get tested upon arrival

In many ways, Hawaii’s solution is more tourist-friendly than the policies we’ve seen in other places. Getting both tested and getting results less than 72 hours before arriving in Hawaii can be challenging. But you don’t actually need test results to board your flight.

Rather you could still travel to Hawaii and simply quarantine until you get results, whether that’s hours or days later.

Hawaii will welcome travelers with pre-travel testing

Coronavirus in Hawaii

Initially Hawaii was doing a good job managing coronavirus cases, with single digit cases most days. That changed in late July — despite strict travel restrictions, Hawaii saw a huge spike in cases, topping out at 354 cases in a single day on August 13.

Fortunately cases are starting to decrease once again, but the state isn’t back to where it once was. This decrease comes after Hawaii introduced new measures to stop the spread of coronavirus, including a mandatory 14-day inter-island self-quarantine for those arriving from select islands.

Understandably Hawaii is in a challenging spot — the state’s economy relies heavily on tourism. Balancing that with minimizing cases and keeping people safe is tough.

Still, in many ways Hawaii has experienced the worst of both worlds — the state has remained closed while there has still been a significant spike in cases. Best I can tell, it doesn’t look like hospital and ICU capacity has even been increased much in the past several months to prepare for an eventual spike in cases.

Hawaii’s isolation from other states is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the state can more easily keep people out and enforce restrictions, though on the other hand it’s harder for resources to be shifted to Hawaii, given its distance from the mainland.

Hawaii has added restrictions on inter-island travel

Bottom line

Hawaii plans to allow travelers to skip a 14-day quarantine with pre-travel testing as of October 15, 2020. The test needs to be taken within 72 hours of when you arrive in Hawaii. The good news is that if you don’t get your test results in time, you can simply quarantine until you do get the results, rather than having to do so for the entire 14 days.

I’d note that while Hawaii has now published a reopening date for tourism, who knows if it will actually stick. It does seem more certain than in the past — in the past officials simply said Hawaii wouldn’t welcome tourists prior to a certain date, while now officials are saying that visitors will be welcomed as of a certain date.

What do you make of Hawaii reopening to visitors without a quarantine, and do you think the timeline will stick?

  1. I hope people skip Hawaii and pick other places in the world to travel.

    Hawaii really bailed on the rest of the USA – and they keep wanting to be treated like it.
    Did a lockdown, (which, of course, did nothing)
    And really stuck their nose at the rest of the country.

    I hope that behavior is punished by travelers, not rewarded.

  2. but but but if they don’t block middle seats people will get the rone while on the airplane and then become a super spreader and then die. SAD!

  3. @Dean what a hilariously ridiculous statement. Not sure if you’re aware, but it’s a remote chain of islands. If they had a serious outbreak, they would have been utterly screwed. Hospitals there do not have nearly the capacity or the supply of doctors for a mass outbreak. All islands across the world had to lock down.

  4. A few corrections to other comments. I am in Hawaii for a 2nd time since the pandemic began, to help out a friend. Long story, but update. In May to June Hawaii’s lockdown was able to drop daily cases from 20-30 a day to 0-4 cases per day for a reasonable amount of time. Then people relaxed, started meeting again, and cases went up. Way up. Lots of reasons, and I will leave it at that. The lockdown worked until folks got lockdown fatigue.
    It is still wonderful here, and people are again being responsible. Less activity. Masks. More careful again. I think they thought they had conquered the spread. Sadly, like the mainland, not.
    And one of the proposals now is to have a test in the 72 hours before you fly, and again after arriving in Hawaii to avoid the 14 day quarantine. For us waiting 14 days and working from home, then helping our friend, worked well enough. But we would have gotten tested to avoid that if we could have.
    You may have different views, but to demean Hawaii for well-intentioned efforts? I can’t agree with that approach. I won’t miss you if you don’t come. Still amazing here, and best enjoyed by people open to it.

  5. They’ll probably delay this again. Seems like Ige has no real plan in place so he will just delay, delay, delay.

    I am more confident booking a trip to French Polynesia than Hawaii.

  6. They haven’t learned from the Caribbean: I have friends in the Bahamas and they were doing fine (zero deaths and a handful of cases) until they decided to accept Americans again. Now 81 are dead with more every day, many more have lifetime pulmonary scarring, hospitals are having difficulty coping with the infection, the Country has a massive bill to buy medicines and medical equipment (all imported), curfews are necessary to avoid an even worse crisis, and the tourists are largely gone. The country is in far worse shape now than if they had just remained closed — the cost of the infection far outstripping the meager income from reopening to Americans.

    Not learning from others is plain dumb.

  7. @Sally – You will notice that the rich Caribbean places (French islands, Anguilla, etc) are not letting in Americans anytime soon.

    The other ones have no choice but to accept American $. Sad reality they cant afford to stay closed to their main source income even when its costing lives.

  8. Since Hawaii is so reliant on tourism why don’t they invest in a program that provides rapid results testing. While it would be expensive it would allow safe opening of tourism.
    Anyone who has visited Hawaii especially Honolulu airport will realize that it is way, way behind in infrastructure. Yes the airport is pretty,but TSA lines and other aspects are horrible. Simply not designed for the number of passengers that it normally gets (pre Covid). It has had plans for improvement but the slow moving bureaucracy that is a permanent way of its political system in Hawaii has prevented executing in a productive timely manner. Same for roads and public transportation. Please don’t confuse this with a relaxed way of life by people in general. That is wonderful. I’m talking about politicians that simply do not relate to working people despite their good intentions and words.

  9. This is the POOOOOREST plan I have seen.

    Hawai’i if you are listenin, here goes nothing:

    you need to work with a Korean company that is developing rapid tests. Make everyone landing into your airports take a test. LET them wait for 5-6 hours for the result.
    This is in addition to getting on board a plane.

    this is a two factor test, similar to two factor authentication.
    You take a test
    negative gets you on a plane.
    you land
    you take another test
    negative gets you outside.
    positive gets you 14 days quarantine/hospital observation at the travelers cost.

    This will bring those who are serious to come to HI.

    If you do what you are proposing. You will cause a spike in case, thereby shutting down again and again.

    Create a robust plan and let people in slowly.

    I would start with creating a bubble with Japan. Japanese folks are able to travel and by creating just a bubble with them, will create better results.


  10. To all of you saying “Hawaii, just work with a Korean company to get a test”

    I tell you “Just go buy Charmin and Purell in the height of the hoarding days”

    Easy to say. Hard to do

    I’m sure Hawaii is trying to do just that
    And is being out bid by other governments, corporations, and entities.

    My firm has a team full of full time experts who understand lab testing supply chains forwards and backwards.
    We can leverage our contracts as well (e.g. “we will buy 1,000,000 test kits, convert our vaccine purchases to your company, AND increase purchases if drug x by Y% over 3 years”

    You think Hawaii can out bid us? California? The Federal government? Other large governments? No

    Luckily, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel
    IF things go as planned we will have millions and millions of more tests by December. Possibly 5 to 10 million tests per day

    At that point almost everyone will be able to get a test.

    I think an October or November trip is risky. AnFebruary trip might be possible

  11. Being 5 hours away from the nearest land is definitely what contributed to Hawaii’s strict policies. Any hospital overcrowding is a disaster there with no option to ship patients to other cities/states. Please be respectful to the people of Hawaii and follow protocols. The islands remoteness is what makes it a tropical paradise but could also make it death trap if the virus spirals out of control there.

  12. It’s time those islands become INDEPENDANT again!
    Away from the US and there own country as it was.
    They ruin themselves relying on US Tourists that can’t travel or don’t follow rules, they could have had many Tourists from Asia, Europe and other Countries IF they would not be a state of the US!
    Too bad, they never understood that they are an independent Island F A R away from the US Mainland and have very different rules for Tourist from abroad, now they suffer and there economy too.
    All flights from Hawaiian Islands to Mainland USA needed to check the passenger if they would have permission to fly to the highly infected Mainland US or not, just connecting in Hawaii.
    The way they did is as Islands hours away from the Mainland, they could have made so much money with Visitors from less infected Countries than there own (Mainland people), but they chose the hard way!
    To me, unbelievable! Hawaiian could have started Charter flights from int. Destinations to get more people into the Island state and Japanese people could still get there and vacation and bring money onto the Islands Economy.
    They preferred to accept people from the Mainland, that’s how they became the state in wich they come into!
    Let’s hope they learned there lesson?

  13. Hawai’i : Even after the pandemic, it’ll continue to be Fly-Over Island for many of us. No need to waste time (and money) there, when Asia is just a few more flight hours away, offering more genuine experiences and better value.

  14. Yes Hawaii should create a travel bubble with Japan… the country that dragged mainland US into WW2, way to be a part of the United States Hawaii!
    And to Dean’s point, 70% of the US economy is consumer based. Don’t give consumers what they want and they won’t pay period.

  15. To those saying they just need to rapid test when people get off the plane…. you really think that’s how the virus works? You are exposed and a couple hours later test positive? Umm no.

  16. The point of leisure travel is LEISURE. Why would anyone go through Guri Signh recommendations just to get to Hawaii? Rapid testing before and after the flight is the POOOREST plan I heard all day. Unless rapid testing provides instantaneous results, then it’s no use. Waiting 6 hours in an enclosed building for the results is 6 hours of possible exposure to the virus. Either open it without restriction or keep it closed, it’s as simple as that. Economy or public health, choose which is more important then decide.

  17. I have a sentimental attachment, like many Americans, to romanticism of going to Hawaii, but, if we’re being honest, that Hawaii doesn’t exist anymore. Oahu is overpopulated, overdeveloped, has the worst homelessness in the country, and is unaffordable. Honolulu proper has more concrete and towers per capita than most mainland US cities. It’s all just very dated. Yes, some of the other islands in Hawaii, including the Big Island, offer a better experience, but Hawaii is a place where you’re either rich or just working to get by. There isn’t much of a middle-class with the extremely high cost of living. And the unions have killed the hotels in Honolulu. It is too expensive for what you get, especially when compared to S.E. Asia, Mexico or the Caribbean.

  18. The people who are complaining about required testing prior to arrival seem like the very ones whom Hawaii is most concerned about.

  19. Not sure why anyone would chose Hawaii over the virgin islands and surrounding areas but please keep overpaying for Hawaii so you keep tourist numbers down in the better places. Hawaii’s lockdown accomplished nothing.

  20. @Lucky – Incorrect, the test must be taken within 72 hour from when the flight that lands in Hawaii takes off.

    @Dean – You should speak with some of the locals. They are desperate for the restrictions to be lifted and to restart tourism.

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