Hawaii Plans To Exempt Vaccinated Travelers From Testing (Update)

Filed Under: Travel

If you’re considering traveling to Hawaii anytime soon, there are a few updates regarding testing and vaccination. There have been discussions about these changes for quite a while, but I wanted to provide an update to account for the latest info.

Hawaii eliminating inter-island testing for select vaccinated travelers

Hawaii Governor David Ige has announced that as of May 11, 2021, Hawaii will exempt vaccinated travelers from the testing requirement for inter-island travel. Previously travelers between islands needed to get tested (with some exceptions), so this is more convenient for regional travelers.

However, there’s one major catch — you need to have been vaccinated in Hawaii in order to take advantage of this exemption. In other words, this isn’t useful for most people coming from outside the state.

What’s the logic for only exempting those who have been vaccinated in Hawaii? This comes down to the issue of Hawaii being concerned about people faking vaccination certificates, and the state can only verify who has been vaccinated within the state.

Hawaii is exempting select inter-island travelers from testing

Hawaii plans to exempt transpacific vaccinated travelers from testing

On April 9, 2021, Hawaii Governor David Ige issued an Emergency Proclamation. Among other things, this calls for fully vaccinated transpacific travelers (including those coming from the mainland) to be exempt from the state’s testing or quarantine requirement. Travelers would simply have to upload proof of their vaccination to the state’s Safe Travels portal prior to departure to Hawaii.

The major catch is that while Governor Ige has shared his desire for this to happen, it’s not yet available, and it’s up to the Director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to approve this.

We had been told to not expect this change to take place until the summer, and now now Hawaii Lieutenant Governor Josh Green has stated that Hawaii plans to eliminate its testing requirement for vaccinated transpacific travelers somewhere around the July 4 holiday, though an exact date hasn’t yet been decided on.

Currently in order to skip the mandatory quarantine in Hawaii, travelers need to get a negative coronavirus test no more than 72 hours prior to their Hawaii-bound flight.

This update from Hawaii follows the US CDC recently announcing that it’s safe for vaccinated people to travel. Not only are vaccinated people almost entirely protected from being hospitalized due to coronavirus, but they’re also much less likely to spread it to others.

Hawaii could eliminate its testing requirement for vaccinated travelers

Maui plans to add double testing requirement

While the state of Hawaii overall is looking to ease its testing requirement by exempting vaccinated travelers, Maui will require travelers to get double tested.

Mayor Michael Victorino has stated that Maui plans to require a second rapid test upon arrival for those arriving from the mainland, in addition to the test required no more than 72 hours prior to travel. This new testing requirement will be added as of May 4, 2021.

Fully vaccinated people may skip the post-arrival test, and that includes those who can present their original CDC vaccination card, or a certification of vaccination downloaded from the CDC’s Vaccination Administration Management System (VAMS).

As Mayor Michael Victorino describes the decision to introduce a second test:

“This secondary test has been designed to determine if visitors and returning residents are contributing to the large rate of COVID-19 here in Maui.

We’ve been working on it and I think we have it pretty much up. Now it’s a matter of getting the machinery, the personnel trained and all of that.”

This seems like a strange time to institute a policy like this, especially as we start to see widespread vaccination, and hopefully within a couple of months coronavirus cases and deaths will have decreased exponentially.

I can’t even begin to imagine what lines would be like upon landing in Maui if passengers have to get tested.

Maui plans to add a double testing requirement for travelers

Bottom line

Hawaii will be making some changes to its testing requirement for vaccinated travelers, though it’s a mixed bag:

  • As of May 4, Maui plans to introduce testing on arrival for those coming from the mainland, though will exempt vaccinated travelers from this
  • As of May 11, those vaccinated in Hawaii will be able to skip testing for inter-island travel
  • Hawaii plans to eliminate the testing requirement for all vaccinated travelers as of this summer, sometime around July 4, though an exact date hasn’t yet been agreed upon

I’d say on balance this probably isn’t great news for travelers to Hawaii, since it looks like a vaccine from outside of Hawaii won’t get you any testing exemptions in the next couple of months.

What do you make of Hawaii’s policy updates for vaccinated travelers?

Comments
  1. This is such a money grab! I wonder how much of a kickback the State of HI gets from their trusted testing partners?

    I am going at the end of May and will have been fully vaccinated for over a month by the time I travel. It’s just ridiculous to still have to pay $120 pp for a test from a designated partner and have to scramble to do it in the 72 hour window prior to departure.

    How do we not have cheap rapid testing at this point in time? There should be rapid 15 min testing for under $20 available at all airports.

  2. This just sounds nuts. I just got back from the Bahamas and it was a nightmare with that process. I had to do a COVID test to apply for a visa. Had to pay $60 for the visa but at least it included some insurance in case you came up negative they would pay for hotel and meals.

    I didn’t get the visa until less than 2 days before leaving and that was with constant emailing and calling some # in Bahamas. Then had to take another COVID test asap upon getting to the hotel. Then had to do another test on Day 5. I would have had to do another one if we stayed a day longer to enter the USA.

    At least the hotel paid for all the subsequent COVID tests. I doubt 2021 will be any easier to travel which is disappointing in light of all the mass vaccinations. Something tells me these vaccines aren’t as effective as the government is telling us if they are still making all of these hassles even though you’ve been vaccinated.

  3. Hey Chris, I’m an active duty military officer stationed in Hawaii. Under your proposal how am I to travel back to the mainland to see my recently widowed mom?

  4. @CHRIS

    In their defense, they weren’t Americans until is was convenient for us to overthrow their kingdom and claim them as ours

  5. I’ve been a resident of Hawaii over 30 years. I get the aina, aloha, kapuna, kokua, everything that goes with the respect of the islands. However, Hawaii makes the rules and then changes them when people comply with them. People spend tons of money to get here and they comply with the rules only to non-compliant once again and more hurdles to jump through.

    One day Hawaii will get back to the norm or comply but it won’t go without the loss of tourism, which the islands thrive on. The more people complain about the hassles of getting to here the people are apt to go elsewhere.
    I also don’t agree with those people who say the island is mistreated by the tourists, that’s BS I see plenty of mistreatment of the island by the locals. You have ugly people everywhere.

  6. I paid $170 to get tested for my March trip. Was fully vaccinated in January. I booked tickets to go back in June, but also have tickets to Iceland & Greece. Was waiting to see what travel restrictions would be like. Having to jump through that hoop again makes me significantly less likely to go to Hawaii.

    Though it probably won’t stop other people from coming. When I try to book a car for June, it just says “no cars available.”

  7. My body has natural anti-bodies from COVID sickness, why would I poison it with an emergency authorized “vaccine”?

    Hawaii’s loss.

  8. It’s perfectly reasonable — and most of all, wise — to only lift the requirements for those whose vaccination status can be CONFIRMED by the state. Look at all the knuckle-dragging anti-vaxx loons right here who would cheat and create/obtain some fraudulent “proof” of vaccination. These people cheat, these people lie, these people can NOT be trusted. Unless we have a verifiable, secure, counterfeit-proof vaccine passport of some kind (which the anti-vaxx loons all oppose, of course) then people can’t be trusted (and they’ll be along any second to scream about how unfair vaccine passports are). Period. That’s why we, the sensible, rational folks who have and will be vaccinated, need to press for that. ASAP.

    It’s not complicated. Get on board for a secure, fraud-proof vaccine passport system, or stay home in your cabin off the grid up in the backwoods. (Cue the Dueling Banjos Theme…).

  9. @Steve. Nobody is requiring you to get a vaccine (aka not poison). You can always get tested to prove you are not actively poisoned with the virus. Or, don’t go to Hawaii. Hawaii doesn’t care what you do. They do care about maintaining their limited healthcare capacity.

  10. With beautiful Greece wide open, and $600 roundtrip athens fares this summer, Hawaii govt can continue screwing its people.

  11. I had my second shot in feb, by the time I’m allowed to go anywhere with minimal restrictions I’m going to need a third shot.

  12. Meanwhile, plenty of states in the mainland are actively working against a standardized vaccination database.

  13. Look, I get they are concerned. But at the end of the day they need tourist dollars. It seems like enough people are already okay with paying top dollar and going through the hoops to visit. But its ashamed. I think Hawaii should open it up to vaccinated travelers as a way to encourage those with vaccine hesitancy. If those who refused to get vaccines saw they could go to places easier, there is an incentive. What is the incentive now? Hawaii is beautiful. But there are many beautiful places to go to that will actually pay for you and arrange for you to get COVID tested. I am absolutely convinced the goal here is not about COVID but rather to discourage people from going since over tourism as been such a problem there. I would personally rather go where I am welcomed as a vaccinated traveler.

  14. Never understood the obsession with Hawaii when the virgin islands are a lot closer for most of the country and can be done both cheaper or nicer than hawaii offerings. Luckily for me most people havent figured this out yet. Its about time people realize how big of a joke these “testing” requirements are, its a pure money grab plain and simple. Sad thing about the money grab to is i bet most of the money is just kickbacks to individual elected officials and the money is not being put to good use in the community but that is what i expect when it comes to government officials.

  15. Proof how dumb politicians can be….may goodness, let’s destroy our economy because we cant trust vaccine certificates. You can’t make this stuff up.

  16. Is this correct as it stands now. I’d have to have 2 negative COVID tests to go to Kauai then HNL. Both 3 nights?

  17. @Nick If you are going to Kauai first, you do not need a Covid test to go to HNL. However, if you go to HNL first (for 3 days), then LIH, you would need to be tested again before your interisland flight.

    If you fly from the continental US and only connect at HNL before heading to LIH, then you don’t need another test.

  18. @Nick

    And of you were coming from an international destination other than Japan or South Korea, you’d have to test THREE times. Once to enter the US; once to enter Hawaii; and once to enter Kauai… even as a Hawaii resident.

  19. @NK3 thanks again! You also helped clarify some things for Mexico two weeks ago, and it was flawless advice. No issues whatsoever! We are going to LIH first for three nights, quick stop in HNL (with southwest). After 3 nights in LIH then 3 nights in HNL. So one test 3 days before departure from LGB sounds great!

    @Always Flying Somewhere. I appreciate the assist!

  20. If the vaccines work, why doesn’t everyone in charge behave like it works ? That’s why we have vaccine hesitancy in this country.

  21. Right now I think a vast number of domestic us travelers are thinking hey let’s go to hawaii, its still domestic and the place everyone here thinks of as paradise. It’s looking already pretty crowded in Waikiki with lines out of many restaurants. My thing has always been to not go where everyone wants to go. So I mind as well wait. It’s not like I’ve never seen beautiful beaches and oceans elsewhere.

  22. ME AND MY GIRLFRIEND FLEW DFW-HNL-LIH ON 4/11/2021. I CAN REPORT THAT HNL IS A ZOO WITH INBOUND TRAVELERS ARRIVING AND THE VERIFICATION OF THE NEGATIVE COVID 19 TEST UPLOADED TO THE SAFE TRAVELS PORTAL TAKES ANY WHERE FROM 30 MINUTES TO 1 HOUR. THERE IS NO “SOCIAL DISTANCING” IN THE LONG LINES THAT ONLY GROW LONGER AS ADDITIONAL FLIGHTS ARRIVE WITH 150 PLUS PASSENGERS ONBOARD. MY ADVICE IS THAT IF YOU CAN FLY DIRECTLY TO THE ISLAND YOU ARE VISITING AND AVOID HNL AS A CONNECTING POINT, THEN DO SO.

  23. Kauai is currently participating in the Hawaii Safe Travels program, so a test 72 hours prior to your flight departure will work just fine even if you are connecting in HNL to go to Big Island or Kauai. Maui on the other hand is different so research carefully. I can report that flights to Hawaii are full, there is lots of tourism going on and places are opening up at least on Kauai. If you want to eat out, get your reservations booked at any resturants that will take them. Otherwise, they will turn you away. In Princeville and Hanelei, the road is closed 6 days a week due to a massive mudslide. They only open the road to one-way traffic at the moment at certain time of the day which are published on the HI DOT website. If you are staying in Princeville, you are fine. But if staying in Hanelei be aware as you movement will be severely limited.

  24. @JOHN PHILLIPS

    You had to be in the zoo despite your final destination of LIH?

    Assuming we would be in the zoo to if doing LGB – HNL – LIH , 50 minute stop in HNL? On Southwest. Or we would avoid the zoo as we are simply changing planes?

  25. @Nick I could not have had a more different experience to @JOHN PHILLIPS. When I flew in to HNL 4 weeks ago, I walked right up to a podium, and my SO and I were through in less than 2 minutes. The whole process of getting off the plane, walking through the terminal to the checkpoint, and going through the verification process was so quick that we still had to wait 5 minutes for our bags to arrive. So it sounds like it can vary a lot, likely depending on the time of day, carrier, etc.

    Great to hear the trip to Mexico went well. I am going to SJD in a couple weeks!

  26. As I said in a prior post, let’s start testing the people who reside in Hawaii and want to come to the mainland. Especially if it’s Ige, or better yet, let’s just lock him up for 10 days whether he’s vaccinated or not. Don’t forget if Hawaiians come to the mainland, they’ve gotta get their vaccine at a trusted lab where we tell them, and the fee will be $300. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

  27. I’d take a gazillion Covid tests and endure 7 hrs on an a321neo that holds 198 passengers. It will be worth it. I heard the big island is amazing. I rented a Jeep Wrangler and will be driving my father into a volcano. Cant wait.

  28. This is what we get in the US for failing to create a vaccine certificate – the CDC card was designed specifically to *NOT* be a credential/certificate – it was designed primarily as an appointment reminder card for second doses.

    I think New York is the only US state that has infrastructure in place to prove vaccination status on demand (via their Excelsior pass app). Singapore implemented it as an app update in their national ID card app.

    Every state is recording COVID vaccination in their state vaccine registries – we should be able to leverage these resources to keep ourselves safe and defeat COVID, rather than keep it circulating. Perhaps in a few months when its essentially only the unvaccinated dying in emergency rooms, they will come to grips with the reality of the pandemic.

  29. @NK3 great to hear as we will have our 3 year old with us too…
    SJD was definitely a zoo. Make sure you have your QR code for the Mexican COVID questionnaire (I simply screenshot ours). If you have global entry, the 2 viajero confiable kiosk were supposed to be useable, but were non operational. I simply walked up to the Mexican citizen desk, showed our GE cards and pointed to the non operational kiosk and were let right through. Probably saved 45- 1 hr.

  30. How many test do I need for
    Lax-ogg//ogg-koa//koa-hnl//hnl-lax
    If it is too much trouble, I will consider cutting down to just ogg

  31. Kauai has to be very stringent with Covid testing. The island does not have the medical personnel to handle a pandemic. Often you must travel to Honolulu for medical treatment. I don’t know about the other islands.p

  32. Can we stop with the, “The islands need the money from tourists!” to rationalize our privilege here? These are small ISLANDS. There isn’t the kind of healthcare infrastructure – let alone other places/space to go – if there is a larger outbreak. Furthermore, while some of the tourist dollars stay local, much of it goes to massive corporations that aren’t based in the Islands, and these companies don’t do enough to improve things like schools, roads, and other critical infrastructure projects, or to honor the Native Hawai’ians. It’s the same thing all over the Caribbean: foreign tourists come, spend money, and most of that money leaves the islands (usually going back to the States, in the pockets of major hotel chains, airlines, etc..,). Same thing where I am (Thailand) – the tourists come, stay mostly in major chains (like all the luxury American and French ones folks love to talk about here)…sure, these places hire locals, but the wages they pay them are exploitative. So, if you want to go to Hawai’i, follow their rules – otherwise, go elsewhere, but don’t try to rationalize your selfishness by gaslighting locals that they need you.

  33. Once covid spread is reduced (and assuming we don’t get some variant that evades the vaccine spreading in the US at high levels) there really is not much reason to test fully vaccinated people unless they have had known exposures or are showing symptoms. The unvaccinated people need to keep getting tested though.

  34. @Pan.

    You need a test 72 hrs before arriving on any of the islands from outside HI. You don’t need a test if going from one of the islands to HNL. From HNL to any other island you need a test.

  35. @Chris
    @Ralph8

    I speak Hawaiian. Don’t mess with dahui. You flew here I’m from here. Beat it kooks.

  36. I’m so over Hawaii. The state has made it clear how it feels about its fellow Americans and that they are just as happy to not take our travel dollars. I am fine with that. Over Christmas, I went to Tahiti. Much more beautiful islands and locals who are actually happy to see you, and excited when you even learn a few simple words in Tahitian (They all speak fluent Tahitian and French. Most speak English also to varying degrees). Also it is not just for show. I was invited into several local homes, given gifts, and made lifelong friends who I communicate with on Facebook and I am going back to see in November. Try to strike up a friendship with a driver or bartender in Maui LOL Even though it is far and expensive, I will make an effort to go annually. Unlike Hawaii, where it sometimes seems like every person who is 1/16th Hawaiian and knows how to say Aloha and Maholo seems to have a chip on his shoulder, and likes to complain about a monarchy that was overthrown over a hundred years ago, the Tahitians are open, friendly, and like sharing their culture. I don’t mean to knock all Hawaii locals or Hawaiians (I use two terms when one would be sufficient as unlike every other state, people get touchy that only indigenous Hawaiians even if only 1/16 Hawaiian be called Hawaiians), but there is a large group of residents who want to destroy the state’s biggest industry. I guess it’s back to pineapples and military bases. Hawaii maybe the cheapest Pacific Island option, but Tahiti and Fiji are both much friendlier with generally more calm clear water. So perhaps it’s a good thing Hawaii moves away from an industry the locals obviously resent. More likely the lowest common denominator will keep coming, and you will just chase out those who have a choice making you complain even more that all the tourists are cheap and with packaged tours. Many people will return, but there will also be many people who remember the way the state really feels about visitors and won’t. The aloha spirit is dead if it ever really existed in the first place.

  37. If you are looking for long wide beaches with great surfing, I agree with you. If you value chalk white sand and clear warm shallow water then beaches on the outer islands of Tahiti win hands down.

  38. As irritated as I am (since I’ve been vaccinated for a long time), I actually like the Hawaii is delaying this. I’m heading there in a few weeks, and until we have the infrastructure to properly verify vaccinations for all 50 states, I’d rather not open up the possibility that everyone will just get one on Ebay for a few cents and then make the plane a virtual petri dish.

    What the world needs is to hold all the companies and sites that are “working on a vaccine passport program” (and have been since November 2020) to get those things into the wild. I understand why they’re complicated, but it’s a pretty straightforward interop project with all 50 state registries to make this work. And if a state failed to update their registry in a timely manner, then there should be accountability in government.

  39. My parents moved to Maui at the start of the pandemic. Michael Victorino and the politicians/police in hawaii have been an absolute eye opener for me in terms of just how cowardly and racist hawaiian politics really are.

    You could show Michael 100% proof that every single case in Hawaii right now was transferred within churches or prisons and he would simply look at you, smile and blame the evil Haole for all the problems caused.

    My parents house they were renting while they looked for one to buy had 3 broken down, beat up cars abandoned across the street from them. People would come smoke meth in them at night. One day while visiting them, I called the police non emergency line and asked if they could come do something about the cars.

    Later that afternoon I was out on a walk and saw a cop drive up to the cars. He parked his vehicle behind them, got out and stood behind the vehicles as cover so he could radar cars coming down the hill and pull them over.

    Because why help anyone when you can be huge goddamned cowards and milk tourists of their $$$$ because they were going 40 in a 35. It doesnt help that if you google “maui police chief” the top results are literally videos of the chief hitting and running a citizen’s motorcycle, looking right at the motorcycle, he just hit, and driving away. When interviewed later he said he didn’t see it, even though he was looking right at it, and of course Michael Victorino never had any comment because you’d have to be something other than a useless coward to make the town you’re the mayor of a better place.

    Michael Victorino, Chief Faaumu and the entire city council need to resign immediately if Maui ever wants to even begin to rid itself of the cancer it currently has.

  40. I spent $60 and 2 hrs at fedex kinkos yesterday getting all these Covid documents but ready for an amazing vacation on the big island. There are 90 empty seats on my return flight. That feeling of excitement waking up at 4AM effortlessly knowing you’ll be traveling to Hawaii today.

  41. You’re hearing a lot about exemptions now for people that have had the jab, but what about those of us that have already had COVID-19 and now test positive for naturally acquired anti-bodies? Are they going to be discriminated against by these new plans? Wake up as there are millions of people out there now who have no reason to get the jab because there own immune system has already done the job well.

  42. Mike

    Regarding your parents move

    Your msg made me cringe. I’ve been there for 30 years and your msg hit the nail right on the head.

    There’s definitely racism going on. At first it bothered me so badly but I got to the point to ignore it.
    I’m sorry their experiencing this island lifestyle. Regarding Victorino he’s horrible and only voted for because his son is a Major League Baseball player.

    The liberal politics aren’t going to change. Unfortunately it’s going to take a lot to change. Doubt it’ll ever happen.

    But I tell tourists who want to move there rent a house to vacation in and live like a local and see how it is. Much different then staying in a hotel.

  43. Travelers planning a trip to HI should be very careful to follow the testing rules to the letter. A friend got tested at an East Coast academic hospital, flew to Honolulu (apparently OK) and then to another island where she was told her test was not acceptable. No flexibility – she had to buy a separate direct round trip flight to LA to get an “approved” test so that she would be allowed to return. So check the list twice!

  44. Unhappy about Hawaii’s quarantine/vaccination rules? Do not visit the state… unhappy about the local politics and people… move. Whining gets you nowhere.

  45. @JD

    Got thru KOA in less than ten minutes yesterday. If you bring your CDC vaccination card no secondary Covid test. I left mine at home with my passport. It was smooth. No wait at AVIS. We arrived around 3pm

  46. JD — you are somewhat misinformed. Unlike other viruses in the past, you can become reinfected and more Importantly, spread infection to others still. Also you are not protected from new variants circulating from being sick previously. There is good evidence that the protection and minimization of spread conferred by the vaccines are better than the immunity conferred by infection. CDC recommends vaccination for this previously infected.

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