a large mountain with green and brown cliffs and blue water

Hawaii’s reboot of travel has largely been a success, with hundreds of thousands of visitors passing through, and no major spikes in covid-19. But depending on who you ask, you might get a different side of the story.

Hawaii hoped that with pre-flight covid-19 testing, most sick passengers would be stopped from boarding a flight to the Pacific Islands, and set their goals at 1 in 1,000 people slipping through the cracks, aka testing negative pre departure, but incubating the virus and testing positive in Hawaii days later.

They got 1 in 1,500, some 500 better than hoped, but that doesn’t mean cases aren’t being imported, and for some of the island governors, the measures are simply not enough. New calls are now being echoed from various islands to take covid-19 testing requirements further, which could impact future plans for trips to Hawaii.

Hawaiian Calls For Tighter Travel Testing

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami has been no stranger to controversy during the reboot of Hawaii’s tourism industry. Kawakami lead a rebellion hoping to insist on secondary testing for all visitors to Kauai, and his wishes were echoed by the mayor of Big Island.

At the time, the proposed moves were seen as too burdening and full of hassle for the traveler experience, and were shut down by Hawaiian Governor David Ige. Ultimately, Governor Ige delivered on goals to mitigate case counts, and exceeded them with the statistics so far.

But for islands, some of which have few hospital beds and largely at risk populations, even the 15 or so cases which have slipped through, out of thousands, are worrisome. Mayor Kawakami has issued fresh calls on two fronts, one of which seems more than fair. According to HNN, Kawakami is asking once again for…

  • pre-flight testing to be mandatory, rather than optional
  • for a second test from all visitors three days after arrival

Calls for mandatory pre-flight testing, rather than leaving the option for some travelers to refuse testing and opt instead to go into 14 days of quarantine, or test on arrival would create greater safety, as proven by a variety of covid-19 studies.

The move would make it mandatory for travelers to upload their lab tested covid-19 result online before departure, otherwise be barred from boarding. The majority of travelers are opting for pre-flight testing, but many who do not wish to pay, or are happy to quarantine are traveling without them, putting others at risk.

A second test 3 days after arrival, with 72 hours of quarantine in between has been proven to be one of the most effective covid-19 testing options in studies to eliminate spread thus far. Countries including Canada are trialling reduced quarantine periods varying between 3-7 days, with a negative test to leave quarantine.

A second test with 3 days of quarantine to start might indeed put too much strain on already fragile travel demand travel. But with case counts rising on the mainland of the United States, making pre-flight testing a mandatory requirement could actually create greater peace of mind for visitors and locals alike.

Hawaii Beach

Kauai counts 13 cases on the island since the resumption of travel, all of which have been isolated, but the island claims it experienced zero cases before the reboot. Many thousands of travelers have passed through since travel resumed in September.

Whether Governor Ige’s office answers the fresh calls from Kawakami and other island mayors remains to be seen, but a middle ground could make considerable sense.

Hawaii’s reopening was caveated with managed risk, but mayors remain adamant that risks are too great, given world events right now. At the very least, pre-flight testing on a mandatory, rather than voluntary basis could create even strong efficacy in the travel program, and win some fans both on and off the islands.

Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Hawaii right now.

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. “or are happy to quarantine”… huuh? Dude you gotta be real, no such thing. Show me one and I’ll show you an intentional quarantine breaker x10.

  2. Happy or not, I’ll quarantine before I’ll submit to the test tyranny..
    It’s not science.. it’s social science..

    1. Hate to burst your bubble, but testing IS science. It catches at least 30% of sick travelers attempting to make their way to a destination, which therefore then decreases the chance…

      1) people get sick on planes.
      2) people get sick at destination.

      By choosing NOT to test, you are selfishly putting others at risk, without need. Making sure your fellow compatriots don’t die unnecessarily is not tyranny, it’s called kindness.

      1. Seriously? If you are that high risk that you might DIE from human contact, then maybe skip the Hawaiian vacation this year 🙄

      2. Totally agree! If you dont test and then test again dont even thinkbof travelling and putting others at risk!!!

  3. I’m all for proof of negative testing before getting on a plane but when I traveled to Alaska, my test results took 15 days. There’s no guarantee my test 72 hours before flight is gonna happen and it’s not in my control. They should extend it to 96 hours bc of the holidays. 2nd test? Sure but I’m not paying another $130 for everyone to take it.

  4. Recently, I traveled to the mainland and took the pre-test with result before departure from my last connecting flight to come back to my home. I was, then, selected a few days later through email to voluntary take a second test for free for data study and probably check if my negative test is still negative few days after traveling. It was voluntary, but I went ahead and did it. In my opinion, its about knowing, for myself and others, whether I have it to not spread it, especially since I traveled. The only thing for residents, if they really want to know more data and keep record of its spreading, would be to also test before they leave the island, then on return.

Leave a comment

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