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A 2021 Guide to Hawaii Travel During COVID-19

A 2021 Guide to Hawaii Travel During COVID-19

TripBlog
Jan 15, 20219,3343

Hawai’i is America’s tropical paradise. With lush green landscapes, black volcanic beaches, and world class surf breaks, it’s an all-around ideal destination. Following the stress of 2020, we can all be excused for desiring a bit of genuine rest and relaxation. Let 2021 finally be the year when you plan your very own Hawaiian vacation. No matter if you’ve been there before or this will be your first time, we’re here to help with some amazing recommendations for things to do in the Aloha State. To highlight all that’s on offer, we’ve put together this short travel guide looking at the top-5 best things to do in Hawai’i for 2021. We’ll venture from the Big Island to Kauai and everywhere in between. Ascend Mauna Kea and dive amongst the ship wrecks on O’ahu. Hang Ten on the North Shore and head into Honolulu for some great shopping and dining. Whatever you fancy, you can scratch that itch in Hawai’i. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all sunsets and palm trees (though to be fair those are pretty good). Buckle up and let’s get started. Here are the top-5 best things to do in Hawai’i for 2021.

Contents

New Travel Requirements During Covid-19
Pre-Departure
On-Arrival
A Note on International Arrivals
Things to Do in Hawai’i
1. Hunting for Waterfalls on Kaua’i
2. Whale Watching off Maui
3. Urban Fun in Honolulu
4. Greater O’ahu and North Shore Surfing
5. Star Gazing and Volcano Hunting on the Big Island

New Travel Requirements During Covid-19

A 2021 Guide to Hawaii Travel During COVID-19

Destinations in Hawai’i are served by most US domestic air carriers as well as many foreign carriers. Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) in Honolulu is the state’s largest airport and offers the best options if you’re traveling from the continental US or cities abroad. Once in Hawai’i, you can easily secure onward air transportation to other islands. Interisland flights are easy to book, though baggage fees can get out of hand if you’re continually checking bags. Unfortunately, the interisland ferry service is extremely limited and does not serve all the main islands. Land transportation on individual islands is straightforward. Public buses run in Honolulu and larger population centers. Charter bus services exist for intercity connections.

A 2021 Guide to Hawaii Travel During COVID-19

The most important thing travelers need to be aware of are new regulations in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to promote tourism and revitalize a significant economic sector, the state government has launched what it’s calling the “Safe Travels Hawai’i” program. Billed as “a multilayered process designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” Safe Travels Hawai’i includes a pre-departure testing program, on arrival collection of traveler information, and possible post-arrival quarantine. The good news is authorities recognize the need to make the process as simple and painless as possible. Let’s take a closer look at the steps involved.

Pre-Departure

A 2021 Guide to Hawaii Travel During COVID-19

Travelers who elect to voluntarily comply with the state’s pre-departure testing requirements can avoid being stuck in quarantine for 10 days. In order to fulfill state-mandated testing guidelines, travelers will need to obtain a negative test result no more than 72 hours prior to their final leg of departure for Hawai’i. Tests must be so-called nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT) approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Within the NAAT category, so-called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are the most common and well-known. Nearly all healthcare providers are able to either perform a PCR test or refer patients to reputable testing facilities. Health authorities in Hawai’i further require tests are processed in a laboratory approved under the federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) regulatory regime. A list of state-approved trusted testing providers is available here.

A 2021 Guide to Hawaii Travel During COVID-19

All travelers five years of age and older who obtain a negative test result prior to departure will not be subject to Hawai’i’s 10-day quarantine program. As you’ve probably guessed by now, avoiding being stuck inside for 10 days in beautiful Hawai’i sounds like a fitting tradeoff for the relatively minor inconvenience and cost associated with a COVID-19 NAAT. At the time this article was written, state authorities were not accepting proof of COVID-19 vaccination in lieu of a NAAT. Travelers vaccinated against COVID-19 must still undergo a pre-departure NAAT in order to avoid quarantine on arrival. Travelers are individually responsible for obtaining a valid NAAT and must pay all associated costs themselves.

On-Arrival

A 2021 Guide to Hawaii Travel During COVID-19

When you arrive in Hawai’i, you should expect a multilayered screening process involving several steps. First, all arriving passengers will undergo initial temperature screening. Afterwards, you will need to complete a Mandatory State of Hawai’i Travel and Health Form. Travelers are asked to provide their personal information, travel history, local contact information, and to answer several health screening questions. All information is used by state authorities for contact tracing and pandemic control purposes. Passengers who register a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or above are required to undergo additional screening. Finally, in order to avoid the mandatory 10-day quarantine requirement and accompanying prohibition on interisland travel, passengers must present their negative NAAT result to authorities for inspection and approval.

A Note on International Arrivals

A 2021 Guide to Hawaii Travel During COVID-19

At the time of writing, international travel into the United States from the Brazil, the European Union, Iran, Mainland China, and the United Kingdom remains suspended. Travelers arriving in Hawai’i from other locations abroad are not allowed to bypass quarantine requirements with a NAAT test. The only exemptions to this policy are for travelers arriving from either Canada or Japan. If you plan to arrive from abroad, you’re strongly encouraged to contact your local US embassy or consulate regarding specific federal requirements for entry into the United States from your location. This includes new mandatory federal pre-departure testing requirements scheduled to come into force January 26, 2021.

Things to Do in Hawai’i

A 2021 Guide to Hawaii Travel During COVID-19

Once you’ve completed the arrival procedures and reached your hotel or local accommodations, you’ll probably be ready to get started enjoying Hawai’i without delay. Assuming you are not under any obligation to quarantine, you will be free to move around the islands normally. Just be aware that some localities do have additional policies in place. (https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel/while-in-hawaii/) When planning where to go, consider the sort of things you think you will enjoy seeing. Our recommendations for 5 great things to do in Hawai’i should get you started. Without further ado…

1. Hunting for Waterfalls on Kaua’i

A 2021 Guide to Hawaii Travel During COVID-19

Kaua’i is the fourth-largest island in the Hawaiian chain. Geologically it’s the oldest of the main islands. Līhuʻe Airport is the gateway to Kaua’i and is located on the island’s southeastern shore. Kaua’i’s allure comes from its beautiful scenery, which includes rugged nature preserves. The island relies on tourism to support the local economy so you shouldn’t encounter difficulties. Start on northern coast where you will find incredible beaches at Hanalei Bay. The large bay offers relatively protected waters in the shadow of emerald green mountains. Surf conditions here are world class. Seasoned wave riders often venture here from the more frequented big wave breaks on the other islands. From Hanalei Bay, continue along the island’s north shore to Na Pali Coast State Park. The park’s otherworldly landscapes seem like large honeycombs covered in a dazzling display of green. Myriad coves conceal pristine waterfalls. Trekkers will delight in gazing upon seemingly undiscovered brooks and cascading falls. It’s simply an enchanting destination. On the western side of Kaua’i you will find Waimea Canyon State Park. Known to many as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea was carved over centuries by rainwater runoff from Mount Waiʻaleʻale. Among the wettest places on Earth, the mountain feeds Waimea’s innumerable waterfalls. Come see the reddish soils and green vegetation set against azure blue skies. It will leave you with the memories of a lifetime.

2. Whale Watching off Maui

A 2021 Guide to Hawaii Travel During COVID-19

Hawai’i’s second-largest island is a true gem. Kahului Airport is located on Maui’s northern shores and is the main route onto the island. Grab yourself a car and take the Road to Hana. The scenic drive along Highway 360 offers near miraculous backdrops as it climbs past roadside villages, pristine swimming holes, and cool tropical forests. When poets describe Earthly paradise, the Road to Hana undoubtedly fits the bill. Along the way be sure and stop to enjoy Hanawi Falls and the Hāna Lava Tube. Upper Waikani Falls is a triple-waterfall system a bit past the halfway point. After arriving in Hana, swing up to Haleakala National Park. The landscapes left by the now dormant Haleakalā volcano are impressive. Many people enjoy catching the sunrise from the mountain, which is possible if you organize your trip ahead of time. Trace the old lava flows down to the Maui’s southeast coast where you’ll come upon the Pools at 'Ohe'o. The hike to the pools is one of the most popular and highly-rewarding treks you can find. On southern Maui near Maalaea you will find the Maui Ocean Center, a 5-acre aquarium with a range of sea life on display. This is a popular spot to link up with whale watching tours. Depending on the season, humpbacks and other species migrate through the waters, drawing legions of spectators pining to see the gentle giants.

3. Urban Fun in Honolulu

A 2021 Guide to Hawaii Travel During COVID-19

Hawai’i’s state capital and largest city will be most people’s first experience on the islands. There are many resorts clustered along the beaches and a vibrant community built around Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam, the US military’s large redoubt in the Pacific. Obviously you should make a point to visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial and see the remains of the USS Arizona. It’s a moving tribute to the more than 1,100 sailors and Marines still entombed there. Visitors can also tour the decommissioned USS Missouri, on whose deck the Japanese government signed the instrument of surrender on September 2, 1945, thereby ending World War II in the Pacific. Afterwards, head back into Honolulu where you can stroll along the famous Waikiki Beach. Imortalized in many a 1960s ballad, Waikiki is synonymous with Hawai’i. The long sandy beach and neighboring resorts attract visitors from around the world. A little further along the coast is Diamond Head. Hike up to a great overlooking view along the shore and back towards Waikiki. At night, visit the restaurants and bars scattered throughout the city. If you’re looking for a good historical tour, Iolani Palace features exhibitions about indigenous Hawaiian culture and the monarchs who ruled here before the US government deposed them. Honolulu is in many ways the center of Hawaiian life so you’re sure to find plenty to enjoy.

4. Greater O’ahu and North Shore Surfing

A 2021 Guide to Hawaii Travel During COVID-19

O’ahu has a lot to offer beyond Honolulu. From arguably the world’s single best section of surf breaks to spectacular Hanauma Bay, you could easily spend your entire Hawaiian vacation on O’ahu. If you’re setting out from Honolulu along the Kalaniana’ole Highway, make a stop at Hanauma Bay. The bay’s spectacular blue waters backdrop photos taken from the surrounding hills. Further up the road, you’ll find Halona Blowhole. The natural rock formation was created over centuries as pounding waves wore away the rock and pressure differentials send water shooting skyward. Along O’ahu’s northern shores are famous surf breaks including Sunset Beach and Banzai Pipeline. However, surf aficionados will head straight for Waimea Bay. It was here in 1957 that Greg Noll and a handful of others revolutionized surfing and brought the big into big wave riding! Waimea has long loomed large in the surfing community. This is the place to be if you want to test yourself against the best. On you way out to Waimea along Route 99, stop at the Dole Plantation and walk through the pineapple fields. Finally, those anxious to get under the waves will find some excellent scuba diving and snorkeling on O’ahu. There are many dive operators around the island. Consider venturing to the USS YO-257 shipwreck site if you want a fascinating and challenging underwater adventure.

5. Star Gazing and Volcano Hunting on the Big Island

A 2021 Guide to Hawaii Travel During COVID-19

The Big Island is where you can sample the best Hawai’i has to offer. Flights are available to either Kona International Airport on the west side of the island or to Hilo International Airport on the east. Hilo is a good choice if you want to reach Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. This is where you will find Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. Kīlauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and has been erupting nearly continuously for decades. With lava flowing down towards the sea, Kīlauea is always adding to the Big Island’s landmass. Mauna Loa is the world’s largest shield volcano and the dramatic feature on the Big Island landscape. Volcanoes National Park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and is truly one of the most beautiful places in all Hawai’i. Not far outside Hilo city is the famous Rainbow Falls, so-named for the persistent rainbows visible there nearly year-round. On the northern reaches of the Big Island is Mauna Kea, a now dormant volcano rising over 4,200 m above sea level. Due to this elevation, its summit sits above most weather systems resulting in fantastic astronomical viewing conditions. The Mauna Kea Observatories take full advantage to conduct some of the world’s most cutting-edge research. The telescopes here are among the best in the scientific community. Amateur astronomers or anyone who enjoys a good stargazing party will be beside themselves on a visit to Mauna Kea. In wintertime it’s about the only place in Hawai’i that receives measurable snowfall. So you can climb from tropical jungle to snow-capped mountains in just a few hours.

A 2021 Guide to Hawaii Travel During COVID-19

Hawai’i’s rich landscapes and proud indigenous culture have long attracted visitors. There is a beauty here found nowhere else in the United States. With a well-developed tourist infrastructure and easy connections to the mainland and cities abroad, Hawai’i is the ideal getaway. Come explore the pristine trails on Kaua’i, snap photos of migrating whale pods off Maui, shoot the curl at Banzai Pipeline, or stand in awe of immense volcanic eruptions on the Big Island. Hawai’i is a place you have to experience to believe. Once you do, you’ll understand why the Aloha State is nothing short of paradise.

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