I just recently got back from Hawaii and I wanted to share my experience with you on how I got there and what it was like being in Hawaii. If you’re going to Hawaii or have it on your list of places to visit, there are a few things that you should be aware of. First and foremost, you must either be fully vaccinated OR hold a negative Covid-19 test result in order to avoid a 10-day quarantine. Secondly, you must complete a Safe Travels program profile through the State of Hawaii and upload your vaccination/test results before travel. And lastly, you need to complete a health attestation form within 24 hours of departure. For international travelers arriving in Hawaii, you need to show proof of vaccination AND a negative Covid-19 test result within three days of departure.
All of these requirements are fairly standard but Hawaii does make the process more cumbersome than necessary. For example, in order to satisfy the negative Covid test requirement, you must take a NAAT/PCR Covid-19 test at one of Hawaii’s trusted testing and travel partner labs and have your test results uploaded to your Safe Travels profile in a very specific format. You can’t just get any Covid test from any laboratory and thus, it becomes very costly and time-consuming. If you are not vaccinated and need to obtain a Covid test, you can find a trusted testing and travel partner lab in your state by clicking here.
AND BE CAREFUL, some airlines may impose their own arbitrary restrictions as well so make sure to read everything they send in detail, including the fine print.
Hawaii Safe Travels Program
In order to travel to Hawaii, you must create a profile on the Safe Travels program website. Here, you can enter in the details of your trip, add flight and hotel information, apply for a quarantine exemption and complete the health attestation form. And if for some reason you end up being quarantined, this is also the site that you need to conduct your daily check-ins.
After you create an account, the first step is to create a trip and enter in your trip details. It will ask you for your flight and hotel information, along with your dates and contact information.
The second step is to apply for a quarantine exemption by either uploading your proof of vaccination or a negative test result. It gives you the option to upload the information manually or apply for an exemption via a third-party company such as Azova, CommonPass, or CLEAR. If you are submitting proof of vaccination as your exemption, it is very important that you upload a copy of your actual CDC card for verification. Do not submit a copy of your digital card, SMART health card, or anything else. Just trust me on this. It will make your life easier.
And lastly, within 24 hours of your departure flight, complete your health questionnaire. You will then be issued a QR code to show proof that you are allowed to travel and are exempt from a mandatory quarantine. These three things must be completed before you are allowed to exit the airport upon landing in Hawaii.
But there’s a way to do all this before your arrival to Hawaii and it’s called “Hawaii Pre-Clear.” I’m not sure which airlines participate in Pre-Clear but I would imagine all the major airlines do. A few days before my flight, I received an email from Alaska Airlines telling me about all the requirements that I needed to complete before my flight (see above). It also stated that Alaska Airlines was able to Pre-Clear me before my flight and that would allow me to bypass the Covid screening protocol upon landing in Hawaii… However, what I didn’t realize was that Alaska Airlines actually requires you to Pre-Clear before boarding. This is important so make sure to arrive at the airport EARLY enough to complete this process in addition to checking in and going through security.
Depending on the airport, Alaska Airlines will either Pre-Clear you at the check-in counter or at the boarding gate. At LAX, it was done at the boarding gate.
But here’s the dumb thing. In order for Alaska Airlines to Pre-Clear you, you need to show them your original CDC card! Not a copy, not a digital copy, not a Smart Health card… THE ORIGINAL CDC CARD. Thank God, I brought it with me on this trip as I normally only carry a picture of it (and my digital Smart Health card). I don’t know if this was a rogue agent or if this is the standard industry-wide but the gate agent made me pull up my Safe Travels profile, show her my QR code, show her my proof of exemption from my profile (CDC card), and then made me show her my original CDC card also. This was such a PITA and a waste of time. What’s the point of having to upload everything to be verified if you’re just gonna ask for everything again at the gate?
If there’s one piece of advice I can give you, it’s bring your original CDC vaccination card with you (and keep it safe). You’re gonna need to show it a lot. I can tell you that on my flight, a lot of people needed help pulling up their information and uploading the correct documents for a variety of reasons, which completely bogged down the boarding process. But once you’re done, you get a Pre-Clear wristband to show you’re good to go. Make sure to keep it on until after you leave the airport in Hawaii.
The one positive I can say about Pre-Clearing at the airport is that you can skip the screening upon arrival and just head straight to your hotel. After a long flight, standing in a queue to be screened is the last thing anyone wants to do.
Restaurants, Bars, Hotels, and Other Indoor Activities
Covid is still a very real thing in Hawaii and you are required to wear your mask in all indoor places and some outdoor places such as Pearl Harbor. Also, keep in mind that I was asked for proof of vaccination almost everywhere I went. Every restaurant I went into, and some other indoor places, required proof of vaccination and my ID before being allowed in. Luckily, a photo of my CDC card was sufficient and I was able to keep my original CDC card locked up in my hotel room safe. I did see that some places accepted a negative Covid test result in lieu of proof of vaccination but I’m not too sure about the details as I only showed proof of vaccination. And both my hotels (Hilton Hawaiian Villiage and the Holiday Inn Express Waikiki) required me to show them my Safe Travels QR code before allowing me to check in.