Honolulu is the capital city of the state of Hawaii in the USA, located on the island of Oahu. With a full urban setting, especially in the popular neighborhood of Waikiki, it looks and feels very different from other islands in Hawaii. Now, with more than 50% of the US population fully vaccinated, people have been looking forward to getting out of their homes and traveling again. With the 4th July approaching in the US, many have made plans to travel, and Hawaii is on the minds of many. There is some governance enforced by the State of Hawaii because of COVID-19, and other logistics that we will help you with today to make your journey enjoyable and safe.
Step 1: Know Hawaii COVID-19 Travel Regulations.
The State of Hawaii does not recognize vaccination from any other state in the US yet, it only recognizes vaccination within its own islands.
But they have opened up for tourists now, so here's what they are doing. Anyone traveling from any other state/ country is required to have a negative NAAT ( Nucleic Acid Amplification Test) 72 hours before travel. NAAT is a nasal diagnostic test that detects the presence of SARS-COV-2 in your body, the virus that causes COVID-19. Results can be available anywhere between 24-48 hours.
There is a Health Questionnaire that you need to fill out with your personal details on Hawaii's Safe Travels website. This questionnaire also has a section where you can upload the negative NAAT results. Once you have completed these steps, you will receive a QR code at your specified email. You can then show this code with your negative test results to the authorities after your arrival at the Hawaii airport, and you will be allowed to enter into the state.
For those who do not get the test done and arrive at the airport, you will be required to quarantine for 10 days at the airport. So, in order to exempt yourselves from the 10-day quarantine period, officials at your departure airport will inform you of Hawaii's NAAT requirements. There are arrangements made at the airport for a rapid test with 2-3 hour test results, which you can pay for and thus, still meet the requirements.
Other than the above, there are some airlines (six so far) that have created a Pre-Clear program for the benefit of their customers. For example, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines scan the QR code you received after filling the Health Questionnaire, at the boarding gate and put a band around your wrist. This is an easy and clear indicator to the airport authorities at Hawaii that you have a negative test result. The added advantage is you get to skip the long lines of showing your QR code and the negative results, and can walk out of the airport as soon as possible and get on with the exotic vacation you planned.
Step 2: Planning and packing for the actual trip.
Once you figure out the destination island you want to visit, the next natural step is to look at airline reservations, hotel bookings and car rentals. Everything is different in this new world. Airlines are flying with restrictions, and may or may not be expensive, but definitely not cheap. They are trying to keep to a maximum of 70% capacity, but there are flights that are flying at 100%. Make sure to wear a mask at the airports at all times, but there is not much enforcement of face shields. Also, from a hygiene point of view, keep restroom breaks to a minimum if you can. The airports might be crowded with many people traveling, and you will find maintaining a 6-feet social distance very challenging. But, try your best to ensure your complete safety.
The weather in Honolulu is year-long warm day and night. You will not require any jackets there, even for the nights, which is good because then you have room for more small clothes, and any other equipment you want to carry for activities on the island. If you plan to go snorkeling, it is recommended that you buy the face gear for yourself and use them instead of the rented ones. You could always rent the fins. Use your common sense and own some gear that you may use around your face, it is a great investment anyways if you love water sports. Also, we would recommend you invest in life jackets of your own.
Recently due to the dying corals, and also to preserve the ocean life and beaches, Hawaii has prohibited sales of sunscreen with coral-harming chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate. So, even when you buy sunscreen from a local store wherever you live, please pay attention to these ingredients. This way you contribute your little to saving the gorgeous Hawaiian reefs.
Most activities are sold out fast, so try and book in advance. There's lots you can do here like surfboarding, paddle boards, scuba diving, parasailing, air hang gliding, ziplining and more. Activities like the underwater scooters and the ATV tours are unique to Hawaii. Other than these, you could hike the Diamond Crater in Waikiki, visit the Pearl Harbor Museum, checkout the Queen Leilani Palace, and take the ATV adventures in Jurassic Park. Remember that these activities are hard to book though, so reserve in advance.
Step 3: Respect the governance in place for everyone's safety.
The COVID-19 pandemic is still not completely under control. There are cases where people get infected by the virus in spite of being fully vaccinated. So, all those who are traveling during these times, be alert and put a little extra effort in ensuring you are safe and so are others. There are some rules and regulations laid down pretty much everywhere you go, please make sure you follow them despite some inconvenience to you.
Don't get into overcrowded areas. While at your hotel, do not try to pile into an elevator. Have some extra time on your hands, so the elevators hold only 4-6 max every trip. As much as possible, try to spend time in open, ventilated, outdoor areas, which is not difficult at all while in Hawaii.
While in Honolulu, if you decide to hike the Diamond Crater, there are very narrow paths. And you may be sharing and crossing paths with a lot of people. Make sure you avoid crowds as much as possible. Allow people to pass before you. If possible, wear a mask at close quarters and in enclosed spaces like the tunnels.
Make sure to call in advance for reservations related to any activities you want to do. Most shops are working with limited crew members. There may be delays, cancellations or re-bookings that may cause some disruptions in your plans and may inconvenience you.
You have stepped out of your home, and made all these arrangements to enjoy a fun vacation in Honolulu. But once in Honolulu, you might notice things are a bit slow, disorganized, short-staffed etc, and this is ok. This is the time to be a bigger person.
Ignore small mistakes, prepare your mind for restrictions on resources and availability. Learn to adapt and adjust.
And even in this new world, you will find enjoyment and new ways to explore. It is a different world, but it is still somewhat the same. Set your expectations right, and we can promise this vacation will be as or more exciting than the ones you've had before in Hawaii. Aloha!
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