Can you travel to Hawaii during the pandemic?

can Americans travel to Hawaii coronavirus pandemic
Photo via Erik Cooper/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Hawaii has had some of the toughest quarantine rules in the nation. But now that U.S. cases are beginning to drop, slightly at least, and considering Hawaii has the fifth-least amount of cases in the country, it might be worth asking this question: Can Americans travel to Hawaii from the mainland during the pandemic?

As of late August, the answer is: It’s possible but almost certainly not preferable.

Gov. David Ige (D) originally planned this month to reopen the state fully to visitors and not force them into a burdensome quarantine, according to the Los Angeles Times, but now the earliest it would welcome travelers is Oct. 1. Even that date is tenuous at best. But in mid-September, Ige said visitors to the island could bypass the 14-day quarantine by testing negative within 72 hours of their arrival, beginning on Oct. 15.

Clearly, people are looking to get away. In August, online searches for travel to Hawaii increased by almost 50%, according to Skyscanner. For now, most people will have to wait.

“We’ll try our best to give you that quality spirit of aloha that we’ve always been known for,” Mufi Hannemann, the president of the Hawaii Tourism & Lodging Assn, told the newspaper. “Don’t take us off your list yet.”

Americans who travel to Hawaii still have to undergo a strictly enforced 14-day quarantine if they haven’t tested negative in the previous three days before their arrival.

“Quarantine means that you stay in your room,” Ige said in April. “You can’t go to the pool. You can’t go to any facility at the hotel. You get your meals delivered. And when visitors understand that’s what it is and that we’ll enforce it, we are pretty confident they’ll choose not to be here.”

If a visitor made it through the two-week quarantine, there might not be much to do anyway. As noted by Travel & Leisure, city parks, beaches, state parks, and bowling alleys in Honolulu have been closed. People also must wear masks when they’re in public if social distancing is unavailable.

In September, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell allowed beaches, parks, and hiking trails to be opened for solo activities only.

Compared to most of the rest of the U.S., Hawaii doesn’t have many cases, and for much of the pandemic has, it was lauded as one of the best-performing states. But, as Politico noted, the state got complacent, and by mid-August, it was hitting its peak in daily coronavirus cases. Wrote Politico, “For public health experts and Hawaii officials, the state’s worsening outbreak is a stark reminder that this virus will easily exploit gaps in defenses.”

So, for now, the islands are keeping to themselves.

“We want to welcome back our visitors once our state is ready to do so in a safe manner that will hopefully avoid the need to backtrack in the future,” Chris Tatum, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, told the Washington Post.

So far, though, the state simply isn’t ready.

Read more on traveling during the pandemic:

Sources: Politico, Los Angeles Times, Travel & Leisure, Washington Post

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