Hawaii is currently restricting travel to its islands. At the start of the COVID pandemic Hawaii closed its borders as much as it could, but now it’s possible to enter without quarantine if you have a valid COVID test. At the moment, one cannot simply jump on a plane to Hawaii, you have to follow their rules. We made this post to inform y’all of the steps required to enter and to prevent unnecessary stress.
This post may also be applicable to those of you who booked the recent Tokyo fares. There is a high probability that Japan will follow Hawaii’s lead on health screening protocols for entering islands once the country opens up after the Olympics. We will update more on Japan in later posts.
Hawaii has a website for registering your COVID test and personal information. If you don’t do these steps, you will either be forced to quarantine on arrival or you may be turned away at the airport. By far, the most important step you take is to get a proper COVID test within 72-hours before your flight departs. Here are the steps we took when we went on our trip to Honolulu in March 2021.
- Create an account on Hawaii’s Safe Travels website.
- This is what is shown when you login to your account. Start with the plane icon on the left. After you book your flight and hotel, here is where you enter in your itinerary. A whole family can be set up under one account, but as adults it was easier for us to keep it separate.
- You need to get a COVID test at a maximum of 72 hours before boarding your flight. Normally this includes connections, but if it is an overnight layover or different airline, keep it 48 hours to be on the safe side. The Safe Travels website has a list of providers that the state will accept, do not deviate from this list. The state of Hawai‘i will ONLY accept Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) from a certified Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) lab test results from TRUSTED TESTING AND TRAVEL PARTNERS.
- We got our tests at Walgreens as it was the most convenient and on the approved list of providers that Hawaii accepts.
- Make sure to choose the correct test type. Rapid Diagnostic Test (ID NOW) is accepted by Hawaii but is not available at every Walgreens location, otherwise choose the PCR test.
- If you do not already have a Walgreens account, make one. Choose a time and date that will work for you and your vacation. The appointments are spaced out every 15 minutes, a whole family cannot get an appointment at the same time – I mean, y’all can all go in one car, but the reservation system won’t see it that way. At appointment time, drive up, received the swab from the pharmacist, and stick it up your nose yourself. It does not need to go up too far and only 15 seconds per nostril. Return the swab back and wait – like one hour. The result from our ID NOW was between 1-2 hours, notified by email.
- You will receive a test result email. Download the PDF test result attachment. Upload this to the Hawaii Safe Travels portal prior to boarding.
- Within 24 hours of flight departure, you will receive a reminder for the health questionnaire. It basically asks if you are experiencing the usual COVID symptoms. You will receive a QR code after completion – SAVE THIS CODE. We took a screenshot, but you can also print it out if you want a physical copy. This is your ticket onto the islands.
- Grab some snacks, get on the plane wearing a mask, while you and 300+ other people fly over the Pacific. Upon disembarkation, get in the “I have a QR code” line because you’ve made it this far down this post and know what needs to be done. Take off any jacket and wait outside to be cleared. It will not look like the picture below, as the whole plane will be dumped out into the terminal breezeway at one time. It’s a PokéStop at least, and hopefully you get the one that overlooks the Japanese culture garden.
- At the end of the exit queue there will be a final security checkpoint and they will scan your QR code. This took us less than 30 seconds. Double check your Safe Travels account before leaving, you will need this QR code later.
- You’re free! Hopefully you planned well in advance and don’t end up with a U-Haul for a rental or a $60 Uber to get to Waikiki. But you are not quite done yet. If you are checking in at a hotel, the front desk will ask for your Safe Travels exemption. Your hotel will want proof that you’ve been screened and that you are exempt from quarantine. The important part are the green check-marks, not the QR code – see below.
We recommend Bellows Air Force Base beach (weekends only), eating any and all acai bowls you can get, and Momosan Waikiki. You can try a traditional Japanese breakfast or you can get an authentic Japanese Royal Host type egg breakfast. Hey, the lines will be way shorter than Egg’s N Things.