Last week, we did something we’ve dreamed about for a few years: we took a Maui vacation. The hubs had spontaneously booked it in January, just as COVID restrictions were beginning to ease. There were some hoops to jump through, and we had a few concerns, but if you’re wondering if you can safely travel to Maui during COVID, the answer is a solid yes. Keep reading for a summary list of what you need to do!
Traveling to Hawaii during a pandemic may not be at the top of your mind, but since international travel is still not possible, it is a wonderful getaway destination, particularly for us West Coasters. A trip to Maui doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, it’s less than a five-hour flight from Los Angeles, and COVID safety protocols are easily handled with a little planning.
Hawaii has a wonderful website set up to provide guidance, but it can be a little overwhelming at first, looking at the list of things you have to complete before you can sit down in the sand or drink that Mai Tai overlooking the beach. We’re going to break down the Hawaii travel requirements a little so you can get a feel for what a trip to Maui during COVID is really like.
It’s important to know that each Hawaiian island currently has their own rules, in addition to visiting Hawaii in general. Maui requires a little extra, but it’s so easy, and the relief it brings in knowing that everyone around you has done these things makes your trip that much more relaxing. Check the Hawaii Safe Travels website before you book, just to be sure you’re comfortable with and aware of the requirements.
When booking the trip, we had zero requirements preventing us from buying our airline tickets, but when you get a few weeks out from your departure, you’ll want to check that website so you can start making COVID test arrangements, because Hawaii requires a COVID test taken within 72-hours of the final leg of your trip to the island(s). Some locations/airlines make it easier, but we chose to depart from the Ontario, California airport, and at the time of our trip, there were no testing centers for United Airlines at the airport. (LAX/Los Angeles does have on-site testing available for a fee.)
Each airline going to Hawaii has some information available on their site to help you meet the requirements. Read it thoroughly, because Hawaii only accepts test results from specific labs, and they only will take certain types of tests, too. For example, our local freebie sites with rapid results or overnight results are not acceptable at this time. (We had to provide PCR or NAAT test results.) These tests may not be covered by your insurance, so inquire prior so you’re not surprised with a fee.
We chose to go with United Partner, ADLHealth. It is an online testing provider. Tests on the website are listed at $169 per person, but if you use the United url — which was not listed anywhere we saw, we had to call ADLHealth to ask — the price dropped to $119 per person. (We’d seen mention of it costing $119 but there was no link to that price.) The url is https://adlhealth.com/unitedoffer. That url is ONLY valid for people using United Airlines for their Hawaii trip.
Do your due diligence before you order a test or make an appointment to be sure your test is accepted and you are aware in advance of timing and fees.
We began our travel to Maui on Monday, April 12, so we ordered our tests on Friday, April 3. The tests arrived overnight, so we could have waited a few days but we didn’t want to experience any shipping delays. ADLHealth monitors you taking the test — it will NOT be accepted if you do not do this. It’s so easy to make the appointment though. The front page of ADLHealth’s website has a button in the upper-right corner so you can schedule your Zoom appointment in advance. Availability was wide open to suit our schedules.
We set up our Zoom appointments for Friday morning. We did set up two separate appointments, but learned later that since we’d purchased two tests in one order, we could use the same Zoom appointment. On the morning of the test, we “activated” our tests. Again, this is done via a button on their website. You will need to sign-in using the information you used to order your tests.
There are specific instructions in the testing kit, including important things like labeling your test tube, NOT opening it prior to getting on the Zoom call with your monitor, and making sure you each use the tube with the proper number. Do not rely on my instructions at all for this — I’m just giving you a brief rundown.
Once our tests were activated, we received a link to a Zoom room. We went in at our appointment time and sat in a lobby for a few moments until our monitor sent us to a breakout room with just him and us. When there, he instructed us how to take the test, and he watched us each as we swirled the tip of the test swab properly in our nostrils. It did feel a little weird, sitting in my jammies in my kitchen, but the monitor was so nice and helpful. The test was over in no time, and he watched us as he guided us through the sealing and shipment instructions as he watched. Once done, the husband headed off to work and I got dressed to go the UPS store.
Tests have to be shipped out same-day, so inquire about pickup time as you leave it. As ADL says, you have to use a real UPS store to ensure pickup is handled timely and so the tests are delivered to their location properly. Also, be sure to get a copy of the tracking receipt.
Our test results arrived the next afternoon via email. A copy comes separately for each test, as you’re required to upload a PDF copy ONLY of just the test results page, not the instructions page. I used a phone app to separate the first page from the second, and created a separate file for the husband from mine.
Each of us had to create our own Hawaii Safe Travels account. (If you have minors in your party, an adult can add them to their account.) In this account, you must add your trip details, and when you get your results, you upload them there. The site is very easy to navigate. There are basically four graphic images to choose from: Trip, Health Questionnaire, Check-in, Test Results. We were not required to do the check-in as we were exempt due to negative test results. IF your test results are positive, you cannot get on the plane, and if you do not do the test, you will be required to stay in your hotel room for ten days and check in daily. (I don’t have any further details on this as it did not apply to us.)
Within 24 hours of our final trip leg, we had to fill out the aforementioned health questionnaire. It’s so easy and took under a minute. Have your hotel address/phone number ready, along with your trip itinerary, for both the questionnaire and the trip details portion. Be sure to watch the required timing; the questionnaire link won’t even open for you though unless you’re within the proper window of time.
So in short, here’s a list of what you need to do to safely travel to Maui during COVID:
- Create a Hawaii Safe Travels account for each traveler 18 or over. (Add minors to your account.)
- Add your trip details at some point prior to uploading your test results.
- Fill out the health questionnaire within 24 hours of your final trip leg to Hawaii.
- Take your COVID test within 72-hours using ONLY an approved testing partner and test.
- Upload test results in proper PDF format to your Safe Travels account. Keep a printed copy on your person.
- Watch your email for receipt of a QR code, once all of the above is done. Keep this on your phone.
- Obtain the wristband at your final leg airport’s Hawaii departure section so you can get on the plane.
Travel to Maui also requires the use of a tracing app, which is called AlohaSafe Alert. It is a free app that must be on your phone prior to your trip. This will require COVID tracing. We had no exposures so this was easy, but we also stayed home a lot the last couple of weeks so we didn’t jeopardize our trip by being exposed to anyone with COVID.
When we flew out of Ontario airport (Southern California), we had zero requirements beyond constant mask wearing both in the airport and on the plane. (Sadly, saw a lot of people disregarding this rule in the airport, and no one seemed to be monitoring until airline staff arrived at the gate and started the boarding process.)
Once we landed in San Francisco at SFO airport, we headed directly to the Hawaii departure section, where we had to provide our government-issued ID and that QR code. They verify our code and ID, and then put on a bracelet that indicates we are safe to travel. They were not letting anyone on the plane without this. (Another surprise was how many people didn’t have their QR code ready and didn’t know about the bracelet!)
Masks are required the entire trip, and the airlines handed out hand sanitizing wipes along with snacks. I strongly recommend you purchase water and food in the airport before you board. Airlines have changed distribution policies due to COVID. We were disappointed to know that First Class and highest seating levels were allowed alcoholic beverages, but the rest of us were told that even using personal alcohol bottles, purchased in the airport, was prohibited.
Let’s be clear — I can easily fly without alcohol, but when I travel, I stress the night before and I don’t sleep well. A glass of wine helps me relax and sleep amongst the noise on the plane. United’s policy does a little bit of class division, but their snack bag wasn’t so bad. It includes another wipe, a small bottle of water, a Stroopwaffel cookie (YUM) and a small bag of pretzels. It’s not a lot for a five-hour flight though, so just be prepared and consider this when you book flights and if you have a layover.
Once we touched down on Maui, we had no further requirements. We picked up our bag, headed to the rental car agency and were quickly on our way. Again, masks are required at all times and if you are one who forgets it should also cover your nose, they will call you out.
All in all, it was an easy process, though I did worry prior about the possibilities of things that could go wrong. What if my test doesn’t arrive in time? What if we don’t get our results in time? WHAT IF…. But none of that happened. ADLHealth has a streamlined system that works. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
As of the writing of this blog post (April 20, 2021), Hawaii has announced they are beginning a new policy in the next week or two, just to further their approach in keeping down COVID numbers on the islands. They will require another COVID test upon landing, but this will be a rapid result test and the cost is covered by Hawaii. To me, this is a small price to pay to enjoy Hawaiian paradise!
If you’re against wearing masks, I’d stay home. Don’t travel to Maui or Hawaii. Or anywhere. Our resort required masks, every place we visited required masks, and if you even explore neighborhoods on sidewalks, police were driving around calling people out. Even when hiking at waterfalls on the road to Hana, guides were yelling “Wear your mask! Help us stay open!” So wear your mask. Help them stay open. They rely heavily on the hospitality industry and while I don’t know of anyone who actually likes wearing a mask in humidity, it’s easy. Do it. Help the islands stay open to us all and the residents keep their businesses open, and therefore, allow them to retain a steady living.
Related — if you’re a traveler but need or want to drive, check out my post on a wine tasting trip to Paso Robles. Relaxation, hot tubs, gorgeous views…and wine for miles.