a man standing on a rock overlooking a body of water

The lead up can only be compared to daytime soap opera television, with backstabbing and infighting galore, but Hawaii managed to reopen to transpacific travelers without quarantine just over two weeks ago.

With all the suspense and fear leading up to the reopening of tourism, you might be curious how the actual pre-travel covid-19 testing program is going. The short answer: so far, so good. Even surprisingly so…

Hawaii Pre-Travel Testing

Hawaii’s reopening to mainland and other transpacific visitors was largely conditioned upon rapid covid-19 testing prior to flight.

Hawaii needs visitors back, but with limited health facilities on many islands, it also requires a layer of safety beyond most other mainland states, particularly after such accomplished handling of covid-19 thus far, with infection rates far lower than most of the mainland.

After squabbles with island mayors and wary locals, Hawaiian Governor, David Ige, pushed through Hawaii’s single pre-flight testing strategy for all travelers wishing to avoid 14 day quarantine. Basically, take an approved test prior to departure, and you can enjoy Hawaii from day one.

But from the beginning, it was always known that a single test before departure would not stop 100% of covid-19 cases. Two weeks in, thanks largely to Hawaii’s commitment to offer double testing via a second complimentary test days after arrival, there’s an array of data regarding cases found, and what percentage of travelers present a risk.

Among the key main takeaways offered by the Hawaiian Governor’s Office regarding covid-19 testing effectiveness thus far, a few statistics stand out…

  • 9,323 tests have been conducted in Hawaii after arrival, and counting.
  • Thus far, 6 passengers have tested positive for covid-19 days after arrival.
  • This equates to 64 infected passengers per 100,000 arrivals, at current rates.

So far, Hawaii’s Gubernatorial officials have been proven right. Prior to the launch of the program, Lieutenant Governor Josh Green stated a 1:1,000 chance of any traveler obtaining a negative covid-19 test within 72 hours of departure and still testing positive after arrival.

This was a calculated risk the state was willing to take to reopen travel. The current figure stands at 1:1,553 passengers, which is far more favorable than planned, or even hoped by authorities. And yes, it means 6 people would’ve had their vacations put on hold with 14 days of quarantine, but it’s part of the travel equation right now.

Like all things with covid-19, success is subject to change, but the news is extremely encouraging. Pre-travel testing, particularly with a second optional test after arrival is keeping Hawaii safe, while opening up the vast economic opportunities travel and tourism bring to a destination.

So what about the travelers who slip through the cracks?

This is precisely why health and hygiene measures including masks and regular sanitizing of all surfaces is so vital. Outdoor activities – which Hawaii is famous for – stand lower chances of spread, and combined with mask wearing and social distancing measures, even the odd infected traveler shouldn’t be able to ravage local areas.

Pre-travel testing isn’t a silver bullet, but nothing involving a constantly evolving threat is. Even a vaccine is not a silver bullet. Pre-flight testing keeps the majority of infected travelers off planes in the first place, and rapid airport testing is making it easier for travelers to obtain these vital tests.

A second complimentary test after arrival will help Hawaii keep a better eye on data regarding those who do slip through the cracks, and provide a fascinating look into future measures countries eager to reopen could possibly take. For now, it’s good news for your future Hawaii travel plans.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

Join the Conversation


  1. Just got back from 10 days on the islands (6 on big isle, 4 on Ohau). I would suggest that having the timing of your initial test, as well as having your information ready to go on your phone, made travel to Hawaii fairly easy. Had approximately a one hour gap between de-planing and collecting our rental car due to post-travel test on big isle. Extra time was needed at hotels, rental cars & booking excursions to show COVID negative proofs. Local businesses seemed mostly grateful to have customers again, although a lot were in the learning curve phase of re-opening. Benefits included having some beaches and other sites practically to ourselves at times … something that will never happen again, I’m sure.

    1. Yes and No. It all depends on which island and which beach you are on. Some beaches have less than 5 people on it at any given time during the day and others, like Waikiki, are extremely crowded with a heavy police presence enforcing the mask mandate and giving tickets.

  2. This looks like good news, and hopefully as Europe comes out the other side of the second wave, it can use this information, and the greater amount of data Hawaii will accumulate over the coming months, to inform testing plans for next year.
    Of the six who tested positive, did their families or travelling companions also have to go into quarantine?

  3. The post quarantine vice pre travel test should be apply to island redidence returning back to Hawaii from travel outside of Hawaii. Test taken upon return, quarantine. until result is received. The pre Travel don’t work, you could get infected between the 72 hours.

    1. You could get infected after arrival too. There is no perfect solution anywhere that covid-19 exists. The point is that statistically, pre-travel testing stops most cases, and checking up on arrivals with random testing helps to make sure fewer people are slipping through the cracks.

  4. Dear GILBERT OTT,
    I so appreciate this Kauai news and give the link of what happened on the open/ shutdown of Kauai. I have my vacation trip to Kauai in March and spend most of my time figuring out what to do. It has been frustrating.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *