Hawaii Will Allow Visitors Without Quarantine Starting October 15

In mid-March Hawaii’s governor asked tourists not to come to the islands and then on March 26 imposed a 14 day quarantine on all arriving visitors. They couldn’t legally ban people from coming, but they could impose public health restrictions.

The policy was motivated as much by fear and hostility towards outsiders as by coronavirus protection. They banned people from extending Airbnb rentals to tourists who had already been in the state for months, and were willing to pay to send people home. The state’s re-opening was continually pushed back.

We’ve seen re-opening dates of August 1, and September 1, and now Hawaii is saying that visitors will be able to travel to Hawaii without 14 day quarantine starting October 15. In liqu of quarantine passengers will have to present a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of arriving.

Muddled Policy Even Once Visitors Are Allowed To Skip Quarantine

The state stays they’re contracting with “CVS and Kaiser Permanente to offer the tests at the traveler’s expense” although it’s not clear what that even means, since:

  • Passengers are expected to get tested before traveling to Hawaii
  • And get tested at their own expense
  • There’s no indication that CVS or Kaiser are guaranteeing turnaround time for results

Although arrivals into the state with a negative Covid test will be permitted, there’s no indication yet when people will be permitted to travel between islands without quarantine (even with a negative test).

Meanwhile Kauai will offer those who are quarantining the ability to use resort facilities – they won’t have to stay inside their rooms.

This Should Have Been Allowed Months Ago

In some ways it’s odd that Hawaii is opening up now. While confirmed daily cases are off their peak, there’s more Covid-19 cases being reported daily than there were in mid-July and before that.

It’s amazing that it’s taking until October 15 to allow people to present a negative PCR test to avoid 14 day quarantine. It’s not as though Hawaii needed nearly six months to get a testing on arrival regime set up. They aren’t offering testing. They’re merely allowing people to get tested on their own and present results in lieu of the quarantine. Alaska adopted a similar policy in June.

Moreover 14 day quarantine is excessive, since it’s unlikely to either take that long for symptoms to present or for an asymptomatic patient to remain infectious for nearly that long.

The 14 day quarantine regime has been damaging, but mostly it points to a failure to have implemented alternatives. Meanwhile if negative tests are sufficient for entry starting in mid-October – even though they’re imperfect – they would have been sufficient for entry last month and the month before that.

Hawaii Should Be Offering Testing On Arrival

Given the importance of tourism to the economy, you’d have expected the state to offer testing on arrival. That can be difficult to scale, although we’re on the cusp of faster, cheaper and more available testing that circumvents labs. There’s risk to that approach, since the tests are imperfect, but the virus is also already spreading in Hawaii whether a small percentage of tourists arriving with the virus are missed by a test or not. They could have limited arrivals at least initially to Honolulu, or required shorter quarantine and a second test.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. I agree that Hawaii has handled this very badly. Local officials and politicians have devastated the economy, further impoverished a significant segment of the population and have not limited covid-19 spread in a significant way. And now they have come up with this likely unworkable testing requirement.

  2. Utterly clueless. Yet Hawaiians continue to vote D for more of the same stupidity, year after year. Sorry, but Hawaiians get exactly what they deserve.

  3. I disagree in principal that Hawaii has handled this badly, let us remember the history of the islands and the fact that they are islands sitting alone in the Pacific. The islands have experienced its share of “foreign” invasion of diseases and for the record it still plays in their minds. My wife has pure Hawaiian flowing through her veins and has shared many stories her mother had told her as a child. That coupled with years of doing work in the islands has made me understand the islands better. Having said that there is the economic part of this as well.

    I think we who criticize are more self serving than concerned about the islands wanting go to the islands as there is no where else to travel to, we too want to go to the islands and welcome this news. Finally do you really want to be in the first “wave’ of visitors ? Not sure maybe a month or so into this.

    If I offended anyone I apologize in advance, Maholo

  4. Translation: Gov Ige has run out of money and exhausted what he can bond or borrow from the Federal government. Suddenly, a state full of anti-tourism sentiment seems willing to compromise once Ige threatens to furlough state public worker union employees.

  5. We continue to hear from the Trump University Medical School graduates about how COVID isn’t such a big threat and it’s OK to just “open up.” How many have died or gotten sick across the South and West because simple, science-based controls which worked in the Northeast were ignored?? Hawai’i faces a much larger problem than any other state because it is an Island, 2400 miles from any additional medical help. Hawai’i was able to hold down the infection rate until July with the strict rules. Since things started opening up, even WITHOUT tourist traffic, the rates AND deaths have been growing. This October 15th plan is a fool’s errand and unless it’s significantly changed there will be more sick and more deaths. Hawai’i’s LIMITED medical facilities are close to being maxed out. If the COVID rate skyrocketted again (like in Alabama, South Caroline, etc), getting more medical help would be a major undertaking. For Hawai’i, tourism has been like the Opiate Crisis. And like opiate addicts, Hawai’i has been living on the opiate of tourism for decades. Now that the World has changed, Hawai’i’s government and businesses must work together to figure out the future. 30-thousand visitors/day is the past. Anyone who thinks just adding some tests is going to change that is lolo.

  6. I am with GhostRider on this one. Hawaii had to protect itself and with little to no consistency state to state and the abysmal Federal response they closed it down. I do agree they should have spent that time working out a “test on arrival” scheme though. Would have been wonderful if the world had worked together to create a unified solution for travel and safety.

  7. If they do this, and the “CVS and Kaiser Permanmente” details are worked out, I wonder if Kaiser members will actually get this for free, or at reduced cost. The listed $140 is still a small amount, but I figure our membership should be worth something for this 🙂


  8. Well said Ghostrider. I disagree with one point though. Being in the first month of arrival will have it’s rewards……Hawaii like it used to be, way less crowded and a renewal of the Aloha Spirit. A lot of people will be very happy indeed to see their livelihoods coming back!

  9. So many butthurt Rethuglicants are mad that Hawaii actually believed in scientific facts and tried to stop the virus unlike their idiot Orange God who has killed 200,000(and counting) Americans. Cry your manly tears, you babies.

  10. I think most people operated on the idea it would be just a few weeks, then we’d be past it, and life could resume. But it goes on and on and on and on and on. So hindsight can be really good. What we need is rapid testing and then the vaccine. There needs to be a way to stop people who are sick, but not people who are well.

  11. For those of us who are not able to utilize a hub airport with non-stop service to Hawaii, it will be difficult to provide test results that are no more than 72 hours from arrival in Hawaii. Due to an overnight connection our February 2021 flight(s) to OGG are boarded 25 hours prior to landing in Kahului. Unless we are able to get test results back in less than 48 hours then we would be boarding our initial flight without knowing our test results. Then there is what happens if a flight is delayed and what would have been OK is now outside of the 72-hour requirement. This plan is fraught with issues.

  12. Hawai’i : Even post-pandemic, it’ll be Fly-Over Island. No need to waste time (and money) there, when Asia is just a few more flight hours away, offering more genuine experiences and better value.

  13. @controller1. You don’t need the test to board, you need it upon arrival. So while you may not get the test result before leaving, you may get it via email or online during or stopover or hopefully by arrival time.

  14. good lord. what an angry tone there is to this travel blog.

    regarding hawaii, tough choices to have been made in the past and will be made in the going forward. the author of this blog is making this a political rant rather than thinking what is or has been best for people on the ground in the islands. he has no skin in the game so what does he really know of the wants or needs of the residents of hawaii or actual Hawaiians. looking forward not back would be a better way to approach this if you(Leff) cared about the responsible return of travel. the easy path of credit card referrals and the blame game must feel like a nice, warm bath.

    I know it’s mean to say but if you identify yourself by “emcee at the freddy awards”, then that is pretty telling.

  15. @tja – I’m very much aware a test is not needed to board. However, I would not be willing to board a flight to Hawaii without knowing ahead of time I have a negative test result. Otherwise I could get to Hawaii and find out during the flight my result was positive and I’ve wasted all that money for a vacation yet I have to quarantine.

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