Hawaiian vacations are about to get even more relaxing. Last week Governor David Ige announcement that the state will end both its travel quarantine requirements and the Safe travels program, meaning there will be no vaccination or COVID-19 testing requirements for domestic arrivals from March 26. (Travelers arriving from foreign countries will still need to continue to follow U.S. government guidelines. testing requirements.)
Currently, Hawaii requires a mandatory five-day self-quarantine with exceptions for those who are fully vaccinated (boosters are not necessary) or who show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test from a authorized partner within 72 hours of departure of the last leg of their flight. For either option, travelers must upload documents to the Safe travels site before departure, in addition to having a hard copy in hand upon arrival (digital vaccination records via AZOVA, CLEAR and CommonPass are approved for this).
The Safe Travels program, which launched in October 2020– remains in effect for those arriving until March 25. After that, getting to Hawaii will be as easy as crossing any other US state border without any pandemic age checks.
“We launched the Safe Travels program to protect the health, lives and livelihoods of Hawaiians,” Ige said in a statement. But with the virus ebbing across the state, those protections are no longer needed. “Right now, we’re seeing a drop in the number of cases and the hospitalizations are going down,” Ige said.
Travelers have long been drawn to the islands’ approach to the pandemic. “People feel comfortable going to Hawaii because of the heightened precautions they’ve taken,” said travel specialist Hannah Cote of Legacy Travel, Inc. “Given how strict they’ve been and how seriously they took COVID I think people are confident they did everything they could to protect people coming to the islands.”
Some of these protective measures will continue, including in the form of indoor mask requirements, as Hawaii remains the only US state with a mask mandate in place– and there is no indication that it will be lifted anytime soon, even partially. “We are aware that we could take an ad hoc decision and try to decide on a case-by-case basis,” Ige told the Honolulu Star-Announcer Friday. “But we think it would be better to have the warrant or to drop the warrant.”
Even during its strictest measures, travelers viewed Hawaii as a pandemic-era paradise, perhaps because of its outdoor offerings. Travelers came in such numbers last summer that Ige published a plea in August 2021 so that they wouldn’t visit as the state’s hospitals and intensive care units were filling up. With things now under control, the easing of restrictions will attract even more visitors to the islands. This means travelers should plan ahead.
“Hawaii is busier than ever,” Cote says. She suggests working with a Hawaii travel expert to help manage demand. “Restaurant reservations are essential, with some of the most popular and sought-after restaurants filling up six months in advance.” It’s also a good idea, according to Côté, to plan well in advance (now for fall and winter trips) to secure seats on tours and get better rates on hotels.
In anticipation of the increased interest, airlines are also adding more flights to Hawaii. More recently, Delta announced last month three new Hawaiian routes to launch at the end of the year, with Atlanta to Maui and Detroit to Honolulu, both starting November 19, and John F. Kennedy of New York to Honolulu starting December 17.
But even with increased air capacity and plenty of hotels to choose from, tourists should still expect crowds. “Pack your patience and plan for everything to be busy,” Côté says. “Hawaii’s popularity will only grow.”