Today is a big day for travelers to Hawaii.
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.
One big point of frustration for travelers up until now has been that even fully vaccinated people had to get tested prior to travel. Fortunately that has finally changed as of today.
Testing requirement ends for vaccinated travelers
As of today (July 8, 2021), Hawaii has ended its pre-travel testing requirement for vaccinated travelers. Only those who have been vaccinated in a state or territory qualify, so those vaccinated outside the United States will still have to get tested. This comes as Hawaii’s health officials believe the state has reached enough of a local vaccination level for residents to be protected.
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 makes things much, much easier, and I know a lot of travelers appreciate this change.
Restaurant capacity limits increased to 75%
Also as of today (July 8, 2021), Hawaii has increased restaurant capacity from 50% to 75%. This is fantastic news, because one major challenge for visitors to Hawaii has been how hard it has been to get any reservations. While hotels have been bookable to capacity, restaurants have only been bookable to 50%, so decent reservations booked out weeks (and in some cases months) in advance.
Hopefully restaurants are able to take advantage of these capacity increases without service being much worse, given the ongoing labor shortage we’re seeing.
Plans for all travel restrictions to be lifted
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. Similarly, we can expect dining capacity to increase to 100%, larger gatherings to be permitted, and mask regulations to at least be eased further.
When will Hawaii reach 70% vaccination?
As of now, roughly 58% of Hawaii’s adult population is fully vaccinated, while roughly 65% of Hawaii’s adult population has at least one shot.
It’s hard to say when exactly Hawaii will reach 70% vaccination (which is when all restrictions will be lifted), since the whole pandemic is kind of unprecedented in the United States during modern times.
The problem in general in the United States is that the vaccine distribution rate is dropping significantly. Even though Hawaii is offering some incentives to get people vaccinated, the state is seeing the vaccination rate drop every week. 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.
With the decreasing rate of vaccination, frankly I’d be surprised if we see Hawaii reach 70% vaccination before late August or September, though who really knows. It’s anyone’s guess how this plays out.
Hawaii has ended its pre-travel testing requirement for arriving vaccinated travelers as of today (July 8, 2021). Also as of today, dining capacity in the state is increasing from 50% to 75%, which should make it easier to get dining reservations.
Now we just have to wait for the state to reach 70% vaccination, at which point travel restrictions will be lifted. It will likely be several more weeks before that happens, though.
What do you make of Hawaii’s progress with lifting travel restrictions?
Ben, speaking of Hawaii, if you plan on visiting the big island anytime soon, you should check out the Fairmont Orchid resort, if you have not already. It is about a half-hour drive north of the Kona Airport. I saw that Tiffany reviewed the Fairmont Kea Lani in Maui a few years ago, which is the other Fairmont property in the Hawaiian islands, so I think reviewing the Orchid should round it out. My family...
Ben, speaking of Hawaii, if you plan on visiting the big island anytime soon, you should check out the Fairmont Orchid resort, if you have not already. It is about a half-hour drive north of the Kona Airport. I saw that Tiffany reviewed the Fairmont Kea Lani in Maui a few years ago, which is the other Fairmont property in the Hawaiian islands, so I think reviewing the Orchid should round it out. My family and I stayed there back in summer 2017, after we found a discount on the Costco Travel package for it, and it was gorgeous. As soon as you walk into the lobby and look straight ahead (beyond a small lounge area), you will be treated to a highly picturesque view, especially if you are there anytime between the afternoon and dusk. I won't spoil that further.
Dining was pretty good at the Fairmont Orchid, but I do wish there were a little bit more options. I fondly remember us watching the beautiful red-pink sunset while eating dinner at their Hale Kai restaurant one evening. I remember having a very tasty beef burger. I think we also shared poke. I don't remember exactly what we had for the rest of that dinner. Additionally, the Binchotan Bar & Grill was amazing. A steady stream of Japanese food that I could not stop eating, and right afterwards, I'm pretty sure that's the fullest I have ever felt. The other places were not bad at all, just kind of unremarkable. Exploring restaurants outside of the area is probably ideal if you plan to stay there for more than a couple days.
Additionally, Fairmont Orchid offers a great variety of activities to do, at least for my teenage self. Near the "core" there is a pool with interesting landscaping such as actual rocks (not just a simple marked concrete square / circular pit), along with a secluded hot tub nearby. Towards the south side there's a beach adjacent to a large lagoon area, which is the place for water activities (swimming, snorkeling, rowing, paddleboarding, etc.), and if you go further south, there is another beachy area and a small forest great for hammocking. We saw a total of six sea turtles, some while snorkeling and others from the shore. One night, we even saw a manta ray by the shore. Towards the north side, there's this very flat, open events area with a gazebo where they have a bunch of social / traditional events going on (weddings, 1-hour hula dance lessons, games, etc.). There is a golf course right near there and another strip of beach (albeit more rocky) with some very nice cabana-style chairs. I heard a lot of positive remarks particularly about the Spa Without Walls, although I don't remember if we actually went there or not. Same with the sunrise outrigger canoe trip, which we did run out of time to do. Nearby, just outside the resort, there's a day use picnic area and a cute little petroglyph park. Oh yeah, if you can, try to also find at least some time to get out of the resort and experience the Kailua-Kona area, the "old Hawaii" city of Hilo, the volcanoes, the waterfalls, the local farmers markets, and all the other things the big island has to offer while you are there. All in all, I really do feel like this experience, both the resort and the trip in general, was worth our money. After seeing your excellent reviews of all these resorts, I'm looking forward to potentially seeing a review of the Fairmont Orchid from you sometime in the future! I'm curious to see what you think of it!
The incongruous and the politically driven vaccination rules, globally, are quite frustrating. As someone whose job requires travel, even amidst the various lockdowns and travel bans, I am now fully vaccinated with the Astra Zeneca, Pfizer/Biontech, and the Sputnik jabs. A month since the second Sputnik jab, I have faced no unusual side-effects. However, clearly not recommended by most health professionals.
Why did you get multiple vaccines? Did some countries you need to travel to only recognize some subset of the ones you have?
That is correct. Therefore, there are a quite a few of us in journalism who have been fully inoculated with 3 or more vaccines.
"so those vaccinated outside the United States will still have to get tested"
YMMD United States....