For Christmas 2020, my family made the decision to follow through with our vacation plans to visit Kona, Hawaii, for a week of “Mele Kelemaka” on the Big Island. The decision was not made lightly, and we seriously debated going, but we followed all of the guidelines and safely made it to the island on December 16th.
It took a lot of planning to get to the island. We had to do much more than the usual “where to stay” and “what to do” research for our trip. The new COVID-19 policies almost deterred us from taking the trip, but we persevered, and figured out what we needed to do to get there safely.
While doing our research we found others facing these same frustrations and hesitations, so I wanted to share exactly what we did to get to Hawaii safely.
*Please note that things may change before you arrive on the Island. We arrived December 16th, but things are constantly changing, so check Hawaii.gov to make sure you are up to date with current guidelines.
Step One: Figure out Which Island To Visit
Each island has different restrictions. Before we booked our flights we had to research each one to see where we wanted to go. We figured out where we should go by looking at different government and local websites (like HawaiiCovid19.com) to see how things were looking and learn about current restrictions.
For example, Kuai had a mandatory 14 day quarantine requirement regardless of test results, so we did NOT want to book there!
Here are a few resources that we found helpful:
Step Two: Get The Correct COVID Test on The Correct Day
Scheduling our appointments and getting tested was by far the most stressful part of this process. All of these pandemic precautions are so new to everyone that we were all worried about doing something incorrectly. There is a lot of different information out there, and there were a lot of things we could have done wrong, but luckily, we figured it out and did everything correctly.
Essentially, we needed to find a testing facility near us that was on the Hawaii list of official providers and get the test within 72 hours of our arrival to the island. For us, this meant we needed to be tested after noon on Sunday for our Wednesday flights.
We chose to get tested at Walgreens and had back up appointments scheduled at Go Health Urgent Care, because both provided results within 24 hours, but Walgreens had appointments scheduled 3-days out where the urgent care was first come-first served. This gave us plenty of time to get our tests on the calendar and eased some of our concerns.
We arrived at the drive-through pharmacy window for our appointments, and all we had to do was show our confirmation emails and drivers licenses to the pharmacist. We confirmed for the hundredth time that we were getting the correct test to enter Hawaii before the pharmacist handed us our swab. Once we were handed our sterile swap, we swabbed our noses and handed them back. It was very easy!
Only about an hour later, we all received emails letting us know that we all were NEGATIVE! It was a major relief. Now, we had to prove it to get on our flights!
Step Three: Uploading Results and Declaring Our Travel
Once we had our emailed negative test results, we created traveler profiles on travel.hawaii.gov. 24 hours before our flight, we logged in and answered all of the required questions. They asked us to upload our negative results, take a health questionnaire, and declare our travel plans to the state. This was the easy part.
Step Four: Showing Your Code in The Airport
We landed on the island and kept our fingers crossed that everything would go smoothly.
It turns out that we were randomly selected to be tested again. We didn’t expect to get tested when we landed, because we had read that only 25% of people were being tested upon arrival, but it seemed like our entire plane had been chosen to be tested again.
In the meantime, we picked up our luggage and our rental car and drove to our Airbnb. In that time, about an hour had passed and none of us got a call!
We had successfully and safely all made it onto the island!!!
We were so relieved that we had all made it to Hawaii without incident! From here, our vacation and our relaxation was set to begin.