Hawaii has become one of the most popular vacation destinations during the pandemic, as the state has been open to visitors in conjunction with pre-travel testing. I visited Maui in May, and had an incredible trip. The state has now outlined its plans for a full tourist reopening, including lifting of all travel restrictions. However, we’ll have to be patient, as the lifting of restrictions is based on vaccination rates in the state.
Let’s take a look at the three steps to getting all travel restrictions lifted.
Inter-island travel restrictions ending (as of June 15)
As of June 15, 2021, Hawaii will lift all inter-island travel restrictions, including for those who aren’t vaccinated.
For context, currently Hawaii requires inter-island travelers to either get tested within 72 hours of travel, or to quarantine for 10 days. There are some exceptions depending on the islands you travel between, but that’s the general rule.
Hawaii did recently start to exempt vaccinated travelers from these restrictions, but only those who have been vaccinated in Hawaii (which obviously excludes a vast majority of tourists). The reason only travelers vaccinated in Hawaii were excluded is because the state had no real way to track whether other vaccination documents were real or fake.
These inter-island travel restrictions have made a multi-island trip to Hawaii significantly more complicated. This will become much easier on June 15.
Testing requirements ending for vaccinated travelers (at 60% vaccination)
Once Hawaii reaches a 60% vaccination rate, those traveling between the mainland and Hawaii can present proof of vaccination in lieu of pre-travel testing. For the past several months, Hawaii has required all travelers from the mainland to get tested within 72 hours of travel, even if vaccinated.
The whole pre-travel testing process can be somewhat complicated and costly, given that the state only accepts results from select testing providers. This new system will make things much, much easier.
All travel restrictions being lifted (at 70% vaccination)
Once Hawaii reaches a 70% vaccination rate, all travel restrictions will be lifted. In other words, at that point the state won’t even require pre-travel testing for unvaccinated travelers. Presumably this would also be the end of other travel restrictions, like capacity controls on dining, mask mandates, etc.
When will Hawaii reach 60-70% vaccination?
The only concrete date as of now is June 15, which is when inter-island testing requirements will be eliminated. The other restrictions being lifted are purely based on vaccination rates.
As of now, roughly 52% of Hawaii’s population is fully vaccinated. That raises the question of when Hawaii will reach the 60-70% vaccination rate needed for more restrictions to be dropped. It’s of course hard to say when further restrictions will be lifted, since the whole pandemic is kind of unprecedented in the United States during modern times.
The problem in Hawaii — just as in other states — is that the vaccine distribution rate is dropping significantly. In Hawaii it’s now about half of what it was a month ago, and presumably it will continue to drop. Those who are motivated to do so have already gotten the vaccine, while others are either against the vaccine, or simply can’t be motivated to get it. On the plus side, there are plenty of people who got their first shot, and should hopefully get their second shot in the coming days and weeks.
The general goal seems to be that Hawaii reaches a 60% vaccination rate in early July, and a 70% vaccination rate in late July or early August. This matches an earlier goal that Governor Ige had set of lifting testing requirements for vaccinated travelers by somewhere around July 4.
Of course it’s anyone’s guess if that’s how things actually play out, as there’s no real way to know.
Hawaii has finally revealed a concrete plan to lift travel restrictions, based largely on vaccination rates in the state. Inter-island travel restrictions will be lifted as of June 15, testing requirements will be eliminated for vaccinated transpacific travelers as the state reaches a 60% vaccination rate, and all travel restrictions will be lifted as the state reaches a 70% vaccination rate.
What do you make of Hawaii’s plans to lift travel restrictions?