First Hawaii Vaccination Exemptions Just Announced + It's a Bummer For Visitors

Hawaii Travel Rules | Conflict Among Officials on Next Changes

Governor Ige and the state of Hawaii may be changing their thinking once again on Hawaii travel rules. Disagreements remain between the governor, the chief legislator, and others on how it should work. The governor has been making the rules via emergency proclamations. However, don’t be surprised if the legislature starts to take back its role when it returns to session next week. Lastly, Lieutenant Governor Josh Green appears to be largely sidelined from travel with his vaccination oversight duties.

Josh Green moves from travel to vaccination.

Lieutenant Governor and emergency room physician Josh Green was largely the voice of Hawaii Safe Travel testing and quarantine program for months. That seems to have now changed. Green is now at the helm of the huge task of oversight for Hawaii’s residents’ vaccination. Recent updates from him have focused there. Thus the governor is taking back the role related to travel.

Governor said Safe Travel would work one way, but now it doesn’t.

Ige has said repeatedly that Safe Travels should work consistently to avoid confusion with differing rules by island. Yet, at this time, that isn’t’ the case. Unfortunately, that sends a confusing message to the public that is bad for all islands.

Simultaneously, the current rules around 72-hour pre-travel testing and quarantine are difficult for visitors to comply with easily. As you see in comments, visitors are often left wondering if Hawaii really even wants travelers right now or not.

Statewide orders vs. local island-by-island rules. Officials disagree.

Governor Ige acknowledged that he has the ability to “Issue statewide orders that impacts everyone, but also allows the flexibility that we can take appropriate action in each of the counties to respond to what we see happening in the community.” He said that House Speaker Saiki’s upcoming bill “would not allow for the kinds of exemptions that we are currently seeing, such as on Kauai.” It is interesting to note that Ige has never stated whether he agrees with Kauai’s unique plans.

Last week Saiki said that there still needs to be a statewide policy for travel consistent across the islands to avoid confusion and help the decimated travel economy.” He said that data does not indicate that visitor travel is a primary cause of COVID cases in Hawaii. Ige agreed, stating that the vast majority of cases, “Definitely is residents… The numbers of cases that are tied to visitors continue to be, relatively, a small percentage of the cases we are seeing.”

Mainland caseload is causing Hawaii to freeze.

Hawaii’s governor said he is now disinclined regarding the upcoming legislation being introduced by House Speaker Scott Saiki. Saiki echoed Ige and Green’s prior view that travel rules need to be clearly delineated and not add confusions to visitors (and residents). Saiki said that the current rules are anything but clear. We can certainly attest to that.

Ige now says that he now feels a standard approach for all islands doesn’t provide adequate flexibility for each county. On the other hand, virtually all prior communication from both the governor and lieutenant governor acknowledged the mayors’ desires. Still, they never stated they agreed with the need for island-by-island rules. Thus, this appears to be a reversal in thinking.

On Friday, he said that he thinks “Flexibility is important, and we do see very different conditions in each of the counties.” Yet perhaps waffling on whether he actually concurs or is simply deferring, he continued,  “Kauai has the fewest hospital beds and ICU units, so they definitely are concerned about any increase in cases, because it can very easily overwhelm the hospitals there.”

Testing on arrival to avoid quarantine still pending. 

Gov. Ige changed policies, after which all mainland arrivals without proof of negative test on landing now go into a mandatory 10-day quarantine without exception. Before that, arriving passengers could quarantine just until those results were presented. The current situation presents too much risk to travelers who may, through no fault of their own, end up in quarantine.

Stakeholders largely agreed that a change was needed, and yet, to date, nothing has happened that would provide for on-arrival testing for those instances. Both Lt. Governor Josh Green and prior Honolulu Mayor Caldwell proposed rapid antigen testing on arrival, and the Hawaii House of Representatives’ COVID committee agreed.

Saiki may introduce another legislation to permit passengers to obtain COVID testing at Honolulu Airport if they do not have a negative test to present on landing. Those passengers testing negative would not need to quarantine. In October, it was announced that HNL on-arrival testing would be available for up to 10,000 passengers daily to accommodate that need.

Meanwhile, Kauai went rogue and is half-in and half-out of Safe Travels.

As you know, Kauai withdrew from the otherwise statewide Safe Travels program, then sought and received approval to allow travelers who have already been in the state for three days to participate in the Safe Travels rules. That new rule is now in effect.

Also, Kauai received approval and has implemented a questionably successful “resort bubble” system, which permits travels to the garden island to stay at one of the five approved quarantine hotels then test out of quarantine on their 4th day here. You’ve been vociferous in comments about your uniform disapproval of resort bubbles.

Which of the sticking points concerns you the most?

104 thoughts on “Hawaii Travel Rules | Conflict Among Officials on Next Changes”

  1. I will be staying in Princeville starting on March 11th. I have had both of my vaccines. If you stay at a hotel that is not a Bubble hotel, do I have to quarantine for 10 days?

  2. Where to start!!! We have been going to Kauai every year for about the last 10 years. We delight in bringing family and friends with us to see the beauty of the island and people. We had a family reunion planned on Kauai for late Feb. early March. We will probably be cancelling as we can’t get a flight to the island from the mainland without stopping at another island. For us this adds many hours to the trip. Also ,some of us will have both vaccinations but I guess that does not count. This breaks our hearts! Some of us will not get on a plane without vaccinations. Others can’t deal with the resort bubble. This is ridiculous………anyone out of quarantine or coming from another Island can enter the bubble and the quarantine will be broken. I have heard there is difficulty , too, in getting a test from a partner in a timely fashion. I am so sorry for all of this and the economy of Hawaii and especially Kauai!

  3. The 72 hr test is ridiculous. The concept that a test 72 hrs prior to travel is adequate is crazy. So lets say you take a test. You think you’re okay… get your results. Yay it says you’re negative. You fly over to Hawaii…have some fun in the sun for a few days. On the last day or so of your trip you start feeling a bit low. You pass it off….no way you’re gonna say anything because you don’t want to be put on the no fly list because you are sick or have covid. So you shut up and carry on.You fly home…you start feeling sick. You get tested. Bam positive. So if we trace that back time line wise. You contracted it during that 72 hr wait pd. and in your window of 72 hrs while you were prepping for your trip and shopping for your last minute necessities, taking the doggo to the kennel, picking up that bikini you forgot…..then flew to Hawaii and spread it everywhere you went. Unknowingly. Unfortunately you now came into contact with hundreds of local residents working in different establishments…they take it home and bam our numbers spike. This is why our local numbers look high. While residents stay in Hawaii tourists leave and arent traced as the source in many cases. Vaccinations won’t stop you from getting the virus nor will it prevent you from spreading it. All it does is supposedly give you less symptoms when you do contract it. So vaccinations are not the cure all golden chalise. We can learn alot from Kauai but apparently no one wants to because its all about the money. Which is unfortunate for the locals who are being almost fully blamed for outbreaks. There is barely and tracing being done past 1 person contact and no reprimands or consequences since establishments need to stay open. Test at airports prior to travel. Only negative tests get to fly. And fix that dang rapid tests. And listen to Kauai.

    1. Dawn V. Or … say you take the 72 hour test, fly to Hawaii, spend a few days (or weeks) having fun in the sun. Inject several thousands of dollars into the devastated Kauai economy, maybe put food on a local family’s table and help them to pay a couple of past due bills. Maybe also restore a glimmer of hope in the heart of a local worker. On the last day or so of the trip you’re feeling rested, recharged and ready to take on more Covid BS at home. Let’s get real here. The raw facts are that the cure here is worse than the virus. The answer isn’t to close down the economy, cause businesses to permanently close and families to be forced out of their homes through foreclosure. Living life means taking chances each and everyday. When we get in the car we take chances. When we cross a street we take chances. When we get a vaccine for Covid19 … we’re taking a chance. If someone wants to stay home and quarantine that’s their choice and they should not be criticized for it. Thus, for those of us that choose to live our life we should be able to do so and not be criticized. It’s time for government to get the heck out of our lives.


      1. Amen TJ.

        Florida does not require masks, is open and not locked down (social distancing, diminished capacity is in place). They have a high rate of elderly people who are the most vulnerable, yet their death rates are lower than CA and NY – the rates rival the 2018 flu season. That is not in the media, nor is the suffering, suicides, drug increases from these lockdowns.

  4. I understand needing a negative report before coming to Hawaii but you should be able to go to any reputable place instead of having to travel hours to get to a spot and then another hour at the place and then two hours home. That is ridiculous and I wonder who is getting a kickback. Cost us $255 a person

      1. Wyoming used some of their CARES money to pay for the Vault tests for any resident who orders one. We did this back in October for our return to Kauai. I believe other states have done this, as well. Using the free test for travel to Hawaii is probably not what they had in mind, but I view it as a small tax rebate.

        What did Hawaii spend it’s CARES money on? Among other things, a fully loaded $150K robotic dog:

  5. Thanks! I had a failed trip back in August due to a friend who was not up to date on the rules of quarantine, I lasted 8 days in quarantine and finally decided to go home. I incurred many more expenses with hotel bill and food delivery services. I understand the situation with very few hospital beds and ventilators. I feel the inconsistency with rules changing on a daily basis practically. However I just booked a flight for my grandson and am completely fearful of what is to come. Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi Evelyn.

      Sorry to hear about your experience. As so many have stated in comments, if you follow the rules closely, it can all work out just fine. Please let us know how it goes.


  6. Hi. We are traveling to Kauai via Honolulu (layover only) on Saturday, Jan 23. We have done this once before, getting our test within 72 hours before our flight leaves LAX and it worked out, although some in our party barely got their results in time before the flight left at 10am. Now I read that for Kauai travel you must not test more than 72 hours prior to arrival in Kauai. That takes almost a whole day out of the process. If we time it for the Kauai arrival, and don’t get results before the flight leaves, do they let you on the plane? also, the Kauai rule says it doesn’t have to be from the approved test provider, nor has to be a PCR test. Does this rule supersede the safe travels rule? Help!

    1. In order to avoid 10 day quarantine in Kauai, you have to stay in Oahu 72 hours, THEN take a test and wait for negative result before you fly to Kauai. So a layover won’t do, you need to stay 4 days…

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