Family Flies Home After Hawaii Rejects Negative Covid Test. When They Landed, Hawaii Said Oops.

Hawaii requires anyone arriving in the islands to quarantine for 14 days unless they bring a negative Covid-19 test from a trusted partner with them. It has to be a nucleic acid test from a trusted partner taken within 72 hours of departure. The types of available tests, and which providers qualify can be confusing. For instance the partner American Airlines uses for testing isn’t on the list, but American itself is a partner so the partner of a partner is fine.

CVS Pharmacy is a trusted partner for Hawaii, and one San Diego family got their CVS test prior to travel. They arrived in Hawaii, presented their negative results, and were sent to quarantine anyway.

Hawaiian health officials did not accept their tests and said that her family was instructed to quarantine for 14 days in their room at their resort.

“[The resort staff said] if we see you out at all we’re going to call the Hawaiian Police Department and you will go to jail,” she told ABC10 News. “I didn’t pack much of anything for my son. I had some diapers and some things but I was thinking I was going to buy all that stuff in Hawaii.”

Facing the prospect of 14 days of quarantine, they decided to fly home. Hawaii allows people to leave rather than quarantine because as much as they need tourism dollars they don’t much like tourists.

Once the family arrived home in California, they received an email:

[Hawaiian health officials] reread our COVID tests and they actually are valid and we could be immediately released from quarantine.. “Aloha, your COVID test has been read and you have been released from quarantine.”


Since the beginning of the pandemic I’ve written that one of the biggest challenges in the face of travel is regime uncertainty. A destination needs to be open so that there’s something to do once you get there. But that’s not enough. The rules need to be clear, and there needs to be confidence they’ll be applied correctly and won’t change on a dime.

Right now it’s tough to know not just the course of the virus, but what rules will be when it comes time to travel. You might buy a ticket and a destination closes as the travel date approaches, or their rules for entry might change. A new quarantine requirement might be imposed by someone’s home state, so they’ll have to isolate themselves for two weeks on their return.

Specific rules keep changing and that makes it nearly impossible to plan ahead, and even to travel when the departure date arrives because rules may change during a trip. Hawaii’s rules have changed every single time they’ve announced a plan for re-opening. And now they’re not even managing the rules they do have consistently so that people have confidence they can rely on the rules once they land.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] No Covid-19 restrictions on travelers have been more erratic than Hawaii’s. The state’s planned re-opening date got shared and then pushed back several times. Communication around what tests would be accepted to avoid quarantine was poor. Even the state itself has gotten this wrong, sending a family into quarantine even with proper negative tests. […]


  1. Born and raised in Hawaii, it saddens me to hear how locals feel about tourists. But today I agree that people should just stay home because infections are spreading. When the time comes that I can visit my family again, I hope I am treated with aloha spirit!

  2. WL Costa makes a good point. We need Hawaiian Lives Matter marches in all US cities every day until Biden frees Hawaii! Break out those genuine Hawaiian shirts, leis and loud drums. No Poi – No Peace! Hawaiian Lives Matter!

  3. My wife and I did the covid test on Tuesday at cvs,, got the results back in a couple of days and flew to maui on friday. Yes, a lot of businesses are closed and some restaurants only offer dinner, but that is not why we come to hawaii! We go hiking, snorkel, barbeque, etc. We’ve been coming for over 25 years and the only thing missing is large crowds. Haven’t encountered any hostile people or business owners. If you’re planning on coming, just make sure to get your covid test as close to the 72 hour window as possible and fill out the safe travels hawaii info online. Maholo!

  4. As much as I love Hawaii and the culture, I’ve chosen to sell my property for the lone reason the ALOHA a large majority preach, they should actually practice. For 30 plus years I have traveled to and from the Islands and the hate that is displayed is sickening. This is A State in our own country but you would think that you were in another country. Sad!

  5. I lived in Hawaii for 5 years back in the 1980’s when I was stationed there with the military. The locals hate tourist and really anybody who is not local. I bet the people who live in Hawaii are loving this and I can’t much blame them

  6. Hawaiians are the most xenophobic and racist people on earth and truly hate outsiders. Only Aloha to each other. I hope no one ever visits and their economy goes bankrupt. Hawaii would be so much better without electricity, medicine, doctors, roads, cars, clean water. Stay Pono kanaka

  7. Seriously!!! How much of all these COMMENTS carry systemic BIAS! And the editor that put this article together is the worst also for pointing it out. On EVERYONES part of this article: the family involved, the person looking over their results, the agents handling their actions, the people adding their “OPINIONS” these are all geared by people’s emotions- Anger- petty issues of their own to add to an already past problem that had gotten bigger from cause an affect—— has anyone ever thought that maybe a certain tone was used when this family talked to authorities— if one is aggressive—THEN THATS WHAT YOU GET IN RETURN—- if one used patience, Tolerance, kindness and love—- then that’s what you get in return….

    Everyone has a bias but I know “kindness” “Tolerance” “patience” when I SEE it!! And you come to MY HOMELAND WITH passive agression, anger, and hateful Bias WHICH IS NOT ALOHA OR BEING PONO!! Then yeah —- stay away from the islands… go to CABO. Or MEXICO Where the water isn’t safe… or the Uk where parts of Italy only serve wine…. cause the Locals in Hawaii are not like the rest of you systemic bias people!!! And right NOW!! It’s safer to stay home anyway!! Well at least until the end of the year! Just don’t travel period!! Like fo’real!!

  8. We don’t want you here if you’re from mainland US. You overwhelmin our beautiful islands and show bo respect. Stay away you are not welcome here

  9. Wow, I travel 100-200k miles per year for fun and have enjoyed your blog for years, but your attitude toward locals in Hawaii is really disgusting to me. I was born and raised in Hawaii, and my family is still there. You show no empathy for people who want to protect themselves during a global pandemic, yes, even if that means they don’t get the much needed tourist dollars. They chose safety first, but why do you think you get to shit on their priorities just because it doesn’t align with your own privileged perspective? Hawaii does not exist for the pleasure of mainlanders. People actually have to live there, and it’s not easy to get the care or resources you need if the islands run out.

  10. I live here and understand people are bored and want to resume life as normal, but it’s not normal.

    So the best thing to do to avoid losing money, being frustrated, or unnecessarily spreading COVID, stay home or travel the mainland.

    You cannot expect us not to be concerned with the ‘I do what I want’ attitude we don’t ascribe to here in Hawaii. Use common sense and wait. Hawaii isn’t going anywhere, and it’s is a Pandemic, stay home stay safe and keep us safe too.

  11. Hawaii can solve this problem and make it right. So easy to contact the family, all expenses paid vacation!!!!! Take responsibility for your mistake and Aloha this family asap!

  12. @jason kanehoe that’s because Hawaiians are the most racist people in the world. They hate outsiders. They don’t realize they wouldn’t have electricity, plumbing, medicine, doctors, metal, etc without da main lan. . no wonder Hawaii has one of the worst education rates in da nation

  13. @ Tippe Morlan,
    Well said. Follow the guidelines, respect the culture, don’t leave trash everywhere, and take a test from an approved source. This is why we are longing for Japanese tourists to return. Japan shows more respect (overall) than mainlanders. I suppose it’s just a culture thing. We can get through this but gotta respect the science…. Aloha.

  14. I’m confused how a baby can avoid quarantine. According to the rules I’ve read, children under age 5 can’t be tested. Even if the adults have negative, the children aren’t exempt. I’m assuming from the statement that family needed diapers means that it likely stemmed from the children. There aren’t enough details here for a judgement call. I’ve had friends who have discussed going to Hawaii but put off since the kids aren’t old enough to take Covid tests.

  15. I had plans to go to Hawaii since 02/20 but gave up many times because of uncertainties with how the results will be accepted. That family must have had a bitter taste of how they were rejected although they followed the rules set by the state. Sucks.

  16. To all that think hawaii would not have basic utilities and homes i guess. U realize that hawaii was a separate nation before the overthrow right we had basic utilities and homes
    Right? Also the racism comes from years keeping the Hawaiian population under educated and taking their lands
    Then making hawaii a place for the rich and mostly white people to have a island playground
    But you just want us to shut up and serve you hmmmm

  17. So this family follows the rules that the State of Hawaii publicize? Then the State of Hawaii decides to do whatever it wants after the family arrives? Then all the Hawaiians are up in arms? Sorry, but if Hawaii does not want visitors, then stop telling the media/airlines to publicize that your state is open! Kinda, simple isn’t it? All of this racist name calling is not called for. I think Hawaiians need to get their government to stop the arrivals. Don’t blame visitors for your government doing the exact opposite of what you want!

    Mental note to self, don’t go to Hawaii anymore. Simple isn’t it?

  18. This family had the option of remaining in Hawaii until the test result came in, and also seeking a resolution to the open question of test validity. They made the decision to immediately return to their home city. You place inaccurate blame on Hawaii people, local lifetime residents and homeowners. We’re a welcoming community on a small archipelago in the Pacific and know that visitors also enjoy being here.

  19. Why all the hate from the locals? If you’re on the island, you either tested negative for covid, or you went through a 14 day quarantine. Either way, you’re in the clear. So what’s with this unfounded fear of bringing covid to the island?

  20. No hate, but there is some resentment. A very large number of visitors have Hawaii and refused to wear masks. Many have circumvented the quarantine requirement.
    Local people (I’m one) are generally supportive of these limitations – it’s part of the small community mindset.

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