Hawaii Beach

Hawaii will reopen to tourists in 2020, we think. They keep changing their minds…

Destinations around the world are trying to find the difficult balance between ensuring safety and avoiding second waves of covid-19 infection, all while protecting the vital commerce, jobs and businesses that come along with visitors through travel. In some countries where tourism is a main employer, the balance is even more difficult to find.


Hawaii thinks it’s found the balance


Plans have come, gone, and changed again quite a few times, but the latest iteration points to a welcome return for visitors from October 15th, for those willing to bring along a recent negative covid-19 test. Many airlines are assisting with access to rapid covid-19 testing.

Kauai, HawaiiWhen Is Hawaii Reopening To Tourists?

Hawaii has made it fairly clearly that it’s not currently looking for visitors, via the 14 day mandatory quarantine policy, with strict enforcement for all, even apparently including Mark Zuckerberg.

That’s set to change on October 15th, 2020, when quarantine plans are to be dropped, but only for travelers willing to bring a negative covid-19 test. Travelers will also be exempted from Intra-island 14 day quarantine restrictions, provided they do not leave the airport in Honolulu upon arrival.

Hawaii’s Complicated Reopening Saga

The island paradise originally proposed an August 1st reopening to travelers bearing a recent negative covid-19 test certificate, but then quickly fanned the flames of those announcements, with news statements that the date would be postponed by a month.

Authorities were said to be harnessing plans to ensure safe arrival facilities and any testing capacity needed, but have since flip flopped, instead demanding all testing be done in advanced of travel on the mainland.

Entry to Hawaii will be subject to all travel restrictions laid out by the United States, which for now, excludes most Europeans. There may be additional restrictions unique to Hawaii, but the same rules apply for eligibility that would apply in New York.

What Sort Of Testing Will Be Required To Visit Hawaii?

Governor Ige, despite the setbacks has been very clear on what visitors will need to avoid quarantine, and a recent negative covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival is a key piece of that. The order applies to everyone over the age of 5, though children under 5 are understood to be exempted from testing requirements.

United, Hawaiian and Alaska are all offering pre-flight testing access, with prices ranging from $99 to $250 for a rapid test. United will offer tests at the airport in San Francisco.

Failure to produce a negative result, or scanning a temperature of over 100.4 Farenheit will more than likely land you in the 14 day quarantine, or until a negative result can be produced at the visitors expense.

What’s Open In Hawaii, Do You Need To Wear Masks?

Inter island travel is already once again possible, allowing people to move from Kauai to Honolulu and beyond. Restaurants, hotels, bars, beaches, shops and other facilities are open, but not all. A large number of attractions reliant on tourism have chosen not to reopen until a flow of visitors returns.

Intra-island travel does require 14 day quarantine, but visitors arriving from the mainland and connecting without leaving the airport are exempt.

Do you need to wear a mask in Hawaii right now? Short answer: yes. Most businesses require visitors to don a face covering and maintain all social distancing and hygiene rules. The rules apply to all indoor spaces, and also any outdoor spaces where social distancing isn’t possible.

As to the restaurants themselves, don’t expect Hawaii to offer business as usual, at least not yet.

Only circa 30% of all restaurants have chosen to reopen, and some but not all, are only offering take out. This leaves a catch-22 for the government, which must balance businesses failing daily with needs to stop second or third waves of covid-19 infections. So far, polls in Hawaii suggests locals aren’t ready to welcome visitors back yet, at any cost.

Bars in certain parts of Hawaii are also now being told to stop serving liquor at midnight, in response to growing concern over lack of social distancing for gatherings after this time. Basically, people get drunk and forget they’re not supposed to be too close to someone, so measures are being taken. If your plan was to come to the islands to party until well after midnight, you may want to put those plans on hold.

Best Ways To Plan Hawaii Trips Right Now

Airlines and hotels are offering more flexibility than usual, even on the cheapest deals. If you’re aiming to visit the Hawaiian Islands in 2020, it may require some flexibility, given the nature of the changing reopening dates.

Be sure to book travel with a hotel or airline which offers fee free changes, and or cancellation for a full refund, and be sure to confirm your ability to access a valid covid-19 test before booking any non-refundable plans.

If you play the points game, that’s absolutely the best way to book Hawaii right now. Booking with points allows potential visitors to get something locked down, without the stress of laying down cash. If you need to cancel, most points programs allow you to get all your points back, so long as you’re cancelling at least a week in advance. Happy travels…

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...

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9 Comments

  1. I’ll just wait until 2021 to do leisure travel again, worst then not being able to travel- is getting your hopes up , only to have the trip cancelled

  2. They keep moving the goal posts. I wouldn’t waste my time / money booking a ticket. The Hawaiian economy is going to implode without tourists. Inge thinks the federal government will bail the state out. Good luck with that.

  3. I’m a resident of Hawaii, and can provide a bit more info:
    -“but then quickly fanned the flames of those announcements” this was not the case at all! Gov Ige announced definitively that the state would reopen on Aug 1st for those with a negative COVID test. More than two weeks later he pushed back the date to Sept 1st. During this time tourists booked tickets, hotels hired staff for the expected Aug 1st reopening, etc. Of course health is a priority, and there were external factors involved, but the timing of the communication created a huge mess for everyone. It would have been better to not make the initial Aug 1st announcement IMO.
    -There are still around 500 to 1,000 tourists arriving each day despite the quarantine. All these tourists have to do is make a daily check in call. There is really no other enforcement, and it’s obvious that there are tourists violating quarantine. The highly publicized incidents of tourists getting arrested seem more like a deterrent than anything.
    -Most restaurants – I’d estimate 80% – have reopened. The restaurants that remain closed are in tourist heavy areas that are otherwise isolated from locals.
    -I wouldn’t book close to Sept 1st. Part of the problem is that Hawaii didn’t have the infrastructure to validate tests in place. This, and growing COVID cases nationwide makes Sept 1st iffy at best IMO.

  4. We’ve tried twice now to book vacations to Oahu. One was well before this mess started taking place during spring break in March. Canceled due to unstable circumstance. Next one was supposed to be for two weeks in August. Canceled again due to misinformation. We booked based on tune August 1st reopening date. There are now thousands of dollars tied up in airlines refusing to refund. We’re going to take our money elsewhere. I get this pandemic has been rough on many, but the line needs to be drawn somewhere. I truly hope the Islands are able to recover from this, simply for the sake of the locals who rely on tourism. Honestly though, my desire to travel there has diminished almost entirely.

  5. We booked over a year ago to travel.to Kauai this mid September . Now everything is paid for now wondering if I can move it to 2021?? Wondering upset minds! Ughh.

  6. We have changed reservations 3 times and are now booked for arrival 10/31 for 2 weeks to Maui. Issue we are having is the Covid test required. We have no issue taking a test before leaving. Issue is the test the governor is requiring is not given in this state anywhere we can find and if it were, results take a minimum of 7 days to get results! Ridiculous to get to HI all the way from the east coast then find out we have to stay in our condo! VA does offer a rapid test that gives results in 15 minutes. FDA approved and a great alternative. Would want those results before we depart so we can cancel if necessary. Would rather cancel knowing we may be positive then get stuck there and clog up the system in HI. So if anyone can find how to get the required test and get results before we leave I am all ears! Thanks.

  7. F Hawaii…. We used to visit for two weeks every year. I’m not wasting my time or money visiting a place where we are clearly not welcome. I hope they crash and burn.

  8. Joyce..don’t fly non stop to hawaii. Do a long layover somewhere,cvs starts testing in the west and can give u immediate results. Then hop back on plane with your results. Cvs starts testing Oct 15. Call their main call center in omaha,me to get help. Be creative! You will get your vacation!

    1. Bars. My daughter was due to come and study at Hilo in August ‘20 but that’s been moved to January ‘21 now. I can’t find advise for International students (we’re in the UK). If I’m looking for flights (in the hope it will still go ahead) what way would you recommend to ensure she can get the required testing etc? She’s supposed to be there until June.

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