Is Hawaii Open For Travel?

Is Hawaii Open For Travel?

Can’t You Just Smell That Hawaiian Breeze?

Is Hawaii Open For Travel? The Answer Is Yes!
Experiential Insights, Navigating Safe Travels Hawaii, and On-location Takeaways.  

Vacationing to the Aloha State sounds amazing anytime and is made even more enticing as travel continues to awaken from its COVID slumber. Like many, you may be ready to dust off that wheelie bag and get back into the travel saddle!

Have you set your sights on a visit to Hawaii?

If so, we have just the ticket as we share our recent experiences in this latest post. Is Hawaii open for travel? The answer is yes! What to expect, Safe Travels Hawaii experiential insights and on-location takeaways.  

7 Friends, 10 Days, 2 Hawaiian Islands, April 2021!

6 Months ago, a group of us set our sights on a Hawaiian Birthday celebration extraordinaire, spending a week on the island of Kauai, the Garden Isle. At that time, we pulled the trigger on booking our flights and securing our lodging, not knowing what rules we could expect and if Hawaii would be open for travel.

Fast forward to April 2021, flying directly to Kauai was a bit of a challenge due to strict COVID rules, however our group did what we do best and we embraced the aloha spirit! What ended up occurring was the following:

  • Pre-departure: COVID Test w/in 72 Hours Prior To Take-off
  • First Leg: Portland to Oahu – 72 Hour Layover, Second COVID Test Required
  • Second Leg: Oahu to Kauai – Relaxation & Adventure For A Week
  • Third Leg: Kauai To Portland

It was so worth it!

Post-adventure, we have some amazing insights, takeaways, and notes to help inform those who answered “Yes” to Hawaii!

Navigating Hawaii’s Safe Travels Program

Being able to answer yes to the question, “Is Hawaii open for travel?” is a wonderful first step! Now it’s up to visitors to stay apprised of Hawaii travel regulations and this is one state that provides clear guidelines and a host of useful resources to ensure their visitors are prepared.

While it took a little brainpower to work through, overall, our group had an incredibly positive experience with Hawaii’s Safe Travels Program.

The technology was efficient, clear, and user-friendly and we were amazed that the state has implemented such a thorough program.

To this end, check out my takeaways based on the departure timelines our group was working with.

Departure Timelines – The Blow By Blow!

72-hours Prior To Departing Portland, Oregon

Under the Safe Travels Program, Trans-Pacific travelers into Hawaii need a COVID test with negative test results within 72 hours of departing to avoid the mandatory 10-day quarantine. Furthermore, the state of Hawaii would ONLY accept Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) from a certified Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) lab test results from a transpacific Trusted Testing and Travel Partner

NOTE: Be sure to set your appointment with enough time to get your results prior to departure and double check the types of tests that their travel partners offer. For example, in Portland we found that Costco didn’t have the type of test we needed, hence we when through Smart Labs.

In addition to testing, this is the time to create your Safe Travels Account. Once your test results are received, and uploaded into your account, a QR Code will be created. This QR Code will be scanned by Airlines and used throughout your trip to validate your COVID status.

NOTE: We found entering our flight information into our Safe Travels Accounts a little confusing. Ultimately, if you make any mistakes, DON’T PANIC! We did and the airline counter support told us what to update!

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24-hours Prior To Departing Portland, Oregon

Answer the health questionnaire found in your Safe Travels account.

72-hour Layover In Oahu

Since we were flying to Kauai, it was required that each of us spend a 72-hour ‘inter-island’ layover on Oahu, Maui County, or the Big Island of Hawaii to avoid 14-day quarantine in Kauai.

3 days in Waikiki, YES PLEASE!

Upon landing in Oahu, we spent about 20 minutes in line to have our QR codes scanned and recorded with the state.

And you guessed it, this meant another COVID test to upload within our 72 hours of departing to Kauai. There is a list of Trusted Testing and Travel Partners for Hawaii inter-island travel provided, and we got our test through the National Kidney Foundation Hawaii located in the Hawaiian Monarch Hotel Upper Lobby. Easy peasy with no appointments necessary and results back same day at a cost of $140!

24-hours Prior To Departing Oahu

Answer the health questionnaire found in your Safe Travels account.

QR Code Clearance Upon Landing In Kauai

Upon landing in Kauai, we spent about 15 minutes in line to have our QR codes scanned and recorded with the state.

NOTE: Be sure to keep your QR code handy as they will check it when picking up your rental car and checking into your hotel!

A Bleisure Trip Chuck Full Of Incredible Memories!

It may feel as though there are a number of hoops to jump through but rest assured it is well worth it! Yes it’s true that Hawaii is open for travel and the amazing Hawaiian hospitality is awaiting your safe arrival and ready to spoil you!

For this work-from-anywhere traveler, it was an awesome opportunity to create incredible memories with life-long friends, while road-testing our new travel app. In addition, it gave us the opportunity to kick off our GoBe On Location campaign. In fact, our Hawaii Series provides several broader takeaways, as well as some highlights for our time on Oahu and Kauai.

GoBe OnLocation: Hawaii ep.1
April 2021
Stop #1: Oahu
GoBe OnLocation: Hawaii ep.2
April 2021
Stop #2: Kauai
GoBe OnLocation: Hawaii ep.3
April 2021
Stop #3: Portland, OR

GoBe On Location Takeaway #1: Pack Along Your Aloha Spirit!

Patients and a go-with-the-flow attitude are the name of the game while traveling these days and this is especially true when heading to Hawaii! Known for a laid-back culture of kindness, visitors to this magical place will do well by packing along their aloha spirit while visiting the home of these stewards of harmony.

And while we were racing to relax in Hawaii, it was incredibly helpful to give ourselves ample time to get there! For example, we didn’t fill out our Safe Travels account correctly, therefore we needed to make some updates while at the gate prior to departure. Gate agents were incredibly helpful and knowledgeable which went a long way at putting us at ease.

Giving ourselves a little additional check in time was invaluable. Given new policies, additional passenger details to be checked, service agents learning new processes, and full flights, a little additional time can go a long way to reduce stress.

Speaking of reduced stress, Hawaii is just the ticket! Did you know that the Aloha Spirit is more than a way of life for Hawaiian’s? The Hawaiʻi Law of The Aloha Spirit is an actual ‘law’ recognized by the state of Hawaii and reinforced through the teaching at the University of Hawaii System? Aloha is more than just a salutation, it is an acronym:

  • A: Akahai, meaning kindness, to be expressed with tenderness;
  • L: Lōkahi, meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony;
  • O: ʻOluʻolu, meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness;
  • H: Haʻahaʻa, meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty;
  • A: Ahonui, meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.”

GoBe On Location Takeaway #2: Change Is In The Air!

For seasoned and new travelers alike, it’s exciting to dust off that wheelie bag and get (back) into the travel saddle. However, what about cost ramifications when it comes to the booking and changing of flights?

To this end, the flexible refund policies put in place by airlines to encourage air travel are one positive outcome of COVID that we can all celebrate.

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For our crew, even 8 months ago booking flights to Hawaii was business as usual regardless of state requirements. These new flexible policies gave us reassurance and alleviated stress around loosing airfare due to a change in flights.

We sure put these policies to the test during our April adventure! All in, my friend and I adjusted our flights four different times in response to state COVID requirements. We found Alaskan Airlines amazing to work with, agents were in the know, supportive and really stood by their high customer service reputation.

Beyond the waiving of change fees, what about other ways to save money?

I love to cost compare using googleflights or OTA’s such as Expedia while researching flights and when it comes to booking, I elect to purchase directly through the airline. This cuts out any 3rd party confusion with lost baggage, cancelled flights or additional fees associated with changing my plans. Furthermore, I generally get the same price regardless.

Another great way to save money is by maximizing loyalty programs. For example, I am part of the Alaskan Airlines rewards program and had a companion ticket through Alaskan. Therefore, for this April trip to Hawaii, my friend and I elected to book together and take advantage of the discounted fare. That’s money in the mai-tai bank, baby!

GoBe On Location Takeaway #3: Bring Along Your Flip Flops…And…Snacks!

Staying fueled is critical and during COVID days, finding food (and healthy food at that) may be a challenge at stops along your journey.

And we definitely experienced this throughout our travels as food options at airports were hit and miss.

Furthermore, food and beverage services were extremely limited by Airlines. While they didn’t offer alcohol or food-for-purchase, small snacks and bottles of water were provided.

Carrying a personal water bottle to be filled at water stations can go a long way to stay hydrated and pre-packed snacks will help you stay nourished along the way.

3 Days On Oahu, Yes Please!

I have one word for Waikiki, this place is thriving! I adore Waikiki and landing in Honolulu feels like sliding on a comfortable pair of slippers for this city mouse! It was wonderful to revisit Hawaii’s largest city.

Although COVID rules are still in effect, such as social distancing and mask requirements, shops and restaurants are open and the beaches are calling!

Is Hawaii Open For Travel?
Waikiki – “Sprouting Water”

How fun is this idea that the city has on offer to help us learn Hawaiian as we explore the sights?

It’s super cute how they etched Hawaiian words, and their meaning, in the stone sidewalks! Mahalo Honolulu County!

For those in need of a COVID test prior to departing Oahu, we found testing to be a breeze at the National Kidney Foundation. Located in the Monarch Hotel (444 Nui St., Honolulu), their walk-up, no appointment necessary service, along with friendly staff and same day results made this one positive experience!

A Fun-filled Oahu Afternoon!

An amazing thing about Oahu is the wealth of sights to see. Two such examples include the Pearl Harbor Monument and the North Shore for surfing. We spent much of our time exploring the bars, restaurants, shopping and beaches around Waikiki. We did, however, opt to get out of the city and rent a car for 5 hours to explore one of my favorite routes!

Heading out from Waikiki, we took in this easy road trip with ample viewpoints along the way!

Map Of Some Great Stops While On Oahu!
  • Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail
  • Buzz’s Original Steakhouse – One of the best steaks on the Island, be sure to make your reservation!
  • Bowles Burritos – Looking for something more on the casual side, check out this amazing local burrito joint!
  • Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve – For an out of this world view of Kailua!

That takes us to the topic of of renting a car. It used to be that renting a car for a day around Waikiki was a cinch; however these days there are very few rental counters open. Therefore if you need to rent a car during your entire stay, picking one up at the Honolulu Airport is a solid bet.

However, if you just need wheels for an afternoon and want to save some mulah, you may find using Hui Car Share a viable alternative. I know we did!

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This cost-effective option allows you to grab a car for the number of hours you need at an all-inclusive rate that entails rental, insurance, unlimited mileage, and gas. Moreover, it’s all digital. Like ZipCar and other car share companies, you simply download the app, secure a car at one of the many pick-up locations, confirm, and the app acts as your car key.

Brilliant!

AHHHH, Kauai, Alas We Meet!

If you are looking to lay back and chill out, Kauai is the island for you! And after an action-packed stopover in Waikiki, my travel partner and I were really looking forward to it! With yummy food, delicious beverages, sunsets, and great friends in store, who could ask for more?

Without delay, we took a quick hopper from HNL to LIH on Hawaiian Airlines and were greeted with a warm, ocean breeze upon landing. Our next stop was Budget Car Rental. From there, we set out to rendezvous with our group at our AirBnB. Situated along a private stretch of beach, our island oasis was located just around the corner from beautiful Hanalei Bay

Roaming chickens, one lane bridges and a “Try Slow” attitude are just a few charming aspects to the Garden Isle

On the relaxing side of things, we thoroughly enjoyed learning about the indigenous foliage and fauna at Limahuli Garden and Preseve.

Located on the north shore of the island, this biodiverse valley is home to dozens of endangered plants and birds found nowhere else on earth.

We found it to be very educational and a truly beautiful setting with photo opportunities galore!

For The More Adventurous!

Certainly Kauai offers ample opportunities to unplug and there are options galore for the more adventurous as well!

Did someone say Helicopter Tour? Among the host of movies filmed on Kauai, few are as popular as Jurassic Park! And given that members of our group were keen to take a helicopter tour, it was only fitting that we booked through Safari Helicopters Hawaii.

If you are a seeker of waterfalls, stomach dropping cliffs, and scenic views of coastline that will literally leave you speechless, then this is one ride for you! Overall, it was a fabulous and informative experience and one that not only put our courage to the test but it showed off Kauai’s incredible scenery as well!

View of the Na Pali Coastline from the air.

Albeit, the adventure experience that hands-down won us over was the scenic ocean tour through Blue Ocean Adventure Tours. Our group booked the Na Pali Coast + Beach Landing Adventure Tour.

And we were so glad we did! During our 5 hour excursion, we met some amazing people and saw some out-of-this-world coastline. Additionally, we were lucky enough to see playful spinner dolphins, large sea turtles, monk seals, and an elusive pueo owl!

And how was lunch you ask? It was delicious and included ice cold bottled water and a Hawaiian Bento Box full of delicious traditional items!

Overall what an amazing experience and one not for the faint of heart! These 24’ Rigid Hull Zodiac Rafts are full-throttle, high-speed, sea sickness excitement!

Highly recommended!

And How Did Our New Travel App Do?

Speaking of new beginnings, our newly designed travel app, GOeConcierge, did awesome for the most part! And how lucky to be able to put it to the test and experience it firsthand.

This sassy app is designed to:

  1. Organize your travel hub, in this case, for our group of 7
  2. Generate a Master Itinerary
  3. Facilitate collaboration via chat, assigning tasks, and co-creating lists
  4. Share photo’s
  5. Tag and expense reports for those of us capturing business expenses
GOeConcierge
GOeConcierge

While much of the functionality worked great I found that there were a number of refinements needed. For example, we could upload our photo’s, however there wasn’t a thumbnail of the actual photo; therefore, we couldn’t tell which were receipts, video’s, or photo’s. Furthermore, we could only upload one photo at a time which was a huge issue with 7 people uploading them!

This feedback was given to our development team who in turn, got the revisions pushed immediately! Now that’s teamwork.

Overall, it was a hugely invaluable trip both personally and professionally! Be sure to follow us on social and sign up for our newsletter for more insights such as these!

About the author

Simply put, Tamara lives for travel and travels to live! With 25 years of bleisure travel under her belt, it is only fitting that she founded HospitaliYAY LLC, a 2020 start-up described as the perfect intersection between technology, travel, and hospitality.

Tamara and the HospitaliYAY team bring their unique tech and travel expertise to the eConcierge suite of products designed to help novice and experienced alike travel like a pro!

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