News in today from Kauai’s mayor, who just indicated that he isn’t planning to rejoin the Hawaii Safe Travels program until mid to late May. And even that, of course, isn’t certain. That news, disheartening to many, comes as Kauai businesses fail at an unprecedented rate, with no sign of any improvement yet in sight.
Kauai currently has only two active cases of COVID and no hospitalizations. And at the same time, Kauai travel, compared with the other Hawaiian Islands, remains decimated. For example, in the past week, an average of just 84 transpacific visitors arrived daily on Kauai. In contrast, Maui transpacific arrivals averaged 3,443 per day during the same period which ended February 17, 2021. That according to the state’s Hawaii Tourism Authority.
What options do Kauai vacation travelers have between now and May?
The first of two alternatives visitors currently have is staying at a Kauai resort bubble, which includes a mandatory 3 to 4-night stay. See details below. Bubble prices average out to $460 per night, plus taxes and other fees, ranging from $143 to $1,395.
The second option is to stay 3+ nights on another island first, then take a test, and then come to Kauai with a negative result.
The only option, of course, a 10-day mandatory quarantine. There are no provisions for those who have been vaccinated.
Kauai Resort Bubble List.
The entire list of Kauai resort bubble properties and the best prices we found is as follows. (Nightly costs do not include taxes, resort fees, tracking devices, etc.):
Club at Kukuiula. From $800 nightly.
Timbers at Hokuala. From $1,295 nightly.
Cliffs at Princeville. From $260 nightly.
Koa Kea Hotel. From $344 nightly.
Hilton Garden Inn. From $143 nightly.
Kauai Marriott Resort. From $225 nightly.
Point at Poipu. From $322 nightly.
Hanalei Bay Resort. From $287 nightly. Minimum stay 4 nights to comply with testing requirements.
Hanalei Colony Resort. From $240 nightly.
Lawai Beach Resort (starts 3/15/21). From $1,750 weekly.
Kauai resort bubble issues to consider:
1. A 4-night stay may be required instead of 3-night. The problem is that the bubble guest cannot test out of quarantine until they have been on Kauai for at least 72 hours. Timing complexities include whether or not testing is available on the third day after the required 72 hours is completed. The location of the resort also complicates the issue. Hanalei Bay Resort told us that they only have testing available in the early morning. Not in the evening. Thus their minimum resort bubble stay is 4-nights. Koa Kea Resort told us that testing might be available at late as 7 pm on the third day, although that could not be assured. They indicated testing needs to be reserved in advance to assure that someone will be available to perform their $200 per person test.
2. The county is also now providing free testing that is valid for those preparing to exit their bubble. Read hours and other details about free Kauai COVID tests.
3. Residents remain disincentivized from doing any testing. As residents, we are hard-pressed to see how anything here helps us. And yet, we appreciate the importance of being tested before flying. Unfortunately, however, the path of least resistance for us when we return home to Kauai is to quarantine for 10 days without testing.
A resort bubble works best for long Kauai vacations.
As you know, quarantine at Kauai resort bubbles, a controversial measure that was opposed in 98% of your hundreds of comments, was previously approved by Governor Ige. He said, “This proposal will allow Kauai to move forward with limited tourism in ‘resort bubbles’ while honoring the county’s request to opt-out of the Safe Travels pre-travel testing program.”
If you stay three nights (perhaps 4) at an approved resort and have a negative test result on the next day, you are free to explore Kauai without restrictions and change accommodations if you wish for the rest of your stay. Otherwise, all arrivals, including returning residents, must quarantine for 10 days or choose the other option below.
Alternative to Kauai resort bubbles.
If you stay 3 nights on another Hawaiian island first, then test after 72 hours, and subsequently come to Kauai with a negative result, you will not be subject to any quarantine. To qualify, visitors must be “Be physically present in the State of Hawai‘i for more than 72 hours before flying to Kauai to qualify as an inter-island traveler.”
Furthermore, you must prove a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of interisland travel to Lihue. And to reiterate, that test needs to be taken after 72 hours on another island. These test results need to be uploaded to the state’s Safe Travels website/program.
This option does provide a good alternative for travelers who, for example, spend 3+ nights on Oahu, Maui, or Big Island, before coming to Kauai. However, you cannot fly directly to Kauai from the mainland and participate in this program.
As with the Kauai resort bubbles, availability and the timing of testing on another island is something that needs to be determined well in advance to avoid complications.
Important update on pre-travel testing requirements:
The pre-travel test associated with the resort bubble quarantine may come from sources other than Hawaii trusted partners. This is very significant since many of you have commented that access to “trusted partners” is not ideal for various reasons. The county website says:
“Take a pre-travel test within 72 hours before arriving on Kauai and receive a negative test result. The lab does not need to be on the state’s Trusted Testing and Travel Partners list for use in Kauai’s resort bubble program. This test can be any COVID-19 diagnostic test (an antigen or PCR test) with emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”
“In addition to participating in the EMQ (resort bubble) program, a traveler must receive both a negative test result for COVID-19 from a test administered at their own expense within 72 hours before the final leg of departure of their trip to Kauai and a second negative test result from a test administered at their own expense 72 hours or more after their arrival to be exempt from mandatory self-quarantine.”
“This exemption from mandatory self-quarantine is separate and independent of participation in the State Safe Travels program.”
Beat of Hawaii © photo on Kauai.
Heather H says
We have been vaccinated. I am surprised that there is no information as to how this changes travel options to Kauai. It will be two weeks until we are to be in Kauai.
Thank you for all this great information.
Beat of Hawaii says
It does not change options at all as vaccination is not valid for travel to Hawaii at this time. Testing remains the only option to avoid quarantine. As soon as there is a change or more information, we’ll update that.
Are there any restrictions on taking an Uber or Lyft from the airport to the resort bubble?…my resort is advising to take their shared ride service but it is $100! can’t wait until the 5th (I know it was finally approved by Ige), so we are sticking to the bubble resort. already scheduled our test with Poipu mobile md…fun stuff
Karl E says
I’m confused. Has the governor approved the request from
Kauai to rejoin the Hawaii Safe Travel program effective April
5? If not, why the delay? More politics?
Many people like my wife and I have already changed our
flights to arrive on April 5th.
Thanks for advising what’s going on. You’re a great source for
Beat of Hawaii says
Thanks. Yes, that’s a very good question. While being a foregone conclusion that it will be approved, it has not been yet.
Pati N. says
What’s the most direct/quickest way to find out Gov. Ige approves of Mayor Kawakami’s request? We’ve been watching the CountyofKauai.gov website. We’d like to change our flights by a few days to avoid the quarantine. Mahalo
Beat of Hawaii says
You can check the county or state COVID sites. We’ll also update when that happens.
Pati N. says
Re: the possible April 5th lifting of quarantine, does anyone know why April 5th and not April 1st? It must be some governmental timing? We’re scheduled to arrive 4/1 so it’s a major timing bummer for us.
Beat of Hawaii says
We were left wondering the same thing. How was the date of 4/5 selected?
ROB R says
My theory…..April 5th is a Monday, so Government offices are open and ready to process arrivals, manage logistics, answer the MANY phone calls, etc.
Also, it gives folks the weekend prior to enjoy Holy Week i.e. Holy Thursday (April 1), Good Friday, Easter, etc.
Just my thoughts… Definitely think Easter had a lot to do with it.
Conni L. says
It’s the 5th …. the day after Easter. Just incase you were planning a family reunion.
Joan B says
Thanks for letting me post this.
–Kaua‘i submits proposed Rule 25 to Gov. Ige, requesting to rejoin state’s Safe Travels program for Trans-Pacific travelers starting April 5–
LĪHU‘E – Mayor Derek S. K. Kawakami has submitted proposed Emergency Rule 25 to Governor David Ige for approval. This proposal re-establishes the state’s Safe Travels program for incoming Kaua‘i travelers, effective April 5, 2021.
“Kaua‘i remains one of the safest places in the United States throughout the pandemic, thanks to the efforts of our community-minded residents and health-focused travel restrictions,” said Mayor Kawakami. “Over the past few months our community’s efforts have allowed us this opportunity to safely rejoin the state’s Safe Travels program. At this time, more than 24,000 doses of vaccine have been administered on Kaua‘i, and by April we are confident that employees in the hospitality and food service industries will be offered vaccines. Case counts across the state and on the mainland are stabilizing. Our local hospitals are working closely together and have surge plans in place for additional ICU capacity, if needed. They have also obtained more equipment and have COVID testing and treatment options available to respond to any increase in COVID-19 cases.”
Rob R says
Finally canceled our Kauai trip. Was supposed to stay 3 nights at Hyatt Waikiki, take test, then go to Grand Hyatt Poipu on August 9 for 3 nights. Well….. I have no confidence in Hyatt reopening.
The kicker was Alaska changing my nonstop flight home from Lihue to San Diego to a Seattle stopover, overnight. No thanks. Got my money back, in cash. Kudos to Alaska for the full, no questions refund.
We switched to the Bahamas instead. Testing window is 120 hours out instead of 72 hours. Health Visa is only required for age 10 and up. And, best part, all major hotels offer FREE testing. You need one to fly home, so Hyatt Baha Mar, Atlantis and others are offering free rapid or PCR tests. Heck YES!
Additionally, Hyatt Baha Mar will house you, for FREE, in a suite with $150 daily food credit per person for up to 5 people, for up to 14 days should you test positive. They will also fly you to Florida in a private jet. Wow! I mean, come on Kauai! Get it together. I applaud the Bahamas and their commitment to get tourism jump started.
We’re thrilled to keep our Spring Break plans alive, but sad that Hawaii won’t play a part. Perhaps next year.
Ed. C says
Well, that was terrible timing. Another FB page is reporting that Kaua’i will rejoin the Safe Travels Program April 5th.
Phillippa K says
We flew Alaska from Seattle to Maui. Tested the night before with Carbon Health, contracted for Alaska customers, in an Alaska office parking lot. Received results before 9am next day. Uploaded results (use the “Hawaii Standard” form for auto approval) to Safe Travels, received a wristband at the airport no need to get health screening on landing. I understand Maui requires the AlohaSafe app running but nobody checked.
Maui was new to us and beautiful, we enjoyed our 3 days driving around the coast to Hana and up to the summit.
Booked flights via HNL to LIH with a 5.5-hour gap between inbound/outbound to allow time for testing at National Kidney at the HNL airport. Had to call Hawaiian to get a routing with that long a layover. Was able to check bags through to LIH for a single charge.
Testing outside Baggage Claim 31 is possibly the best organized test collection center I’ve seen (and this was my 12th test). You pay in advance when registering but there are no booked days/times, just a while-you-wait queue. The queue is outdoors, socially distanced, and moves fast (it took 15 minutes to get through it for us). You get to do the nose-swirl thing yourself. They noted that we had same-day flights and reassured us that the results would be in in time. Our packets were marked with the time of our outbound flight. The results arrived 2 hours after we were tested – hours before we needed them. The results came by email (no chance to print them). We uploaded pdfs from phones into Safe Travels.
The interisland terminal has limited eating open. We had Burger King. If I did this again I’d get DoorDash to some outdoor spot before going through Security.
The plane HNL-LIH was quite busy. On landing at LIH there was a queue. Instructions said to fill out the Kauai arrival form but we couldn’t figure out what option to pick to match our interisland status. In any case they checked our QR codes, ID and test results and let us go.
We’re back in Kauai! It worked. Thanks BOH!
Beat of Hawaii says
Thanks for the report on your Maui travel and the interisland testing to visit Kauai. Very helpful.
Barbara K. says
Thanks for sharing this – it gives us a new idea about how to get an inter-island test to go to Kauai with results quickly. We’ll be coming from Maui, so we may follow your lead and get a longer layover in Honolulu. We’re not going until mid May, so maybe things will be easier then, fingers crossed. Thanks again, very helpful.
Delno S says
I have a Question. If I have been vaccinated for COVID now, when will Kauai accept visitors from the mainland?
Margaret P says
The opening of an article in today’s Garden Island (2/25) states “The county doesn’t want to miss out on summer tourism because it’s not participating in the state’s Safe Travels program, County of Kaua‘i Managing Director Michael Dahilig explained”. Another quote: “We have heard the calls, and a lot of them have been very, very vibrant and loud when it comes to a desire to want to return to Safe Travels”. I thought maybe some relief for small business was finally in sight.
But then my heart sank. “Dahlig stopped short of saying the county is in a stage of recovery, but is more so in a state of planning. What we’re seeing at this point is preparation to be able to layout a plan.” In other words, this is not a “plan”. It’s a plan to come up with a plan.
“Dahilig said the work with community partners and those in the tourism and resort industry will continue to work on a date to ask Gov. David Ige for the county to be reinstated to Safe Travels.”
Sorry for so many quotes, but I can’t give a link. Anyone interested can find the article on the Garden Island website.
I have been online nonstop figuring out how to get tested to go to Kauai after spending the required 72 hours on Maui first. Two questions: I am assuming that rapid tests from various providers is only allowed for the Resort Bubble program, correct? Second, I have seen conflicting information on what happens if you travel inter-island to Kauai but your second test results (the one after 72 hours on a different island) are pending when you arrive in Kauai. Some sites say you have to quarantine for 10 days regardless of pending results, some other say you can self-quarantine until results come in. Which is it, and if you do self quarantine until test results come in, how would that work? Thanks for all the helpful information this site provides!
Beat of Hawaii says
The most recent information indicates that interisland you can be released with a subsequent negative test. That can be found here: https://www.kauai.gov/covid-19. How and where you quarantine under that circumstance we could not find.
Jennifer C. says
I am curious how to eat at the Hilton Garden Inn given their restaurant is closed. Is there food delivery on the island? Are there restaurants that deliver?
Cat W says
When are you going to be staying at the hilton? I have reservations for the 4th of april. I have had NO luck actually talking to a person at the hotel and have been scouring the internet for anyones actual experiences there for the resort bubble! IF you hear anything will you please share, I’m typing this comment while listening to their hold music its been 20min and counting.
Conni L says
To Cat W
I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn last week. Rooms were fine. Access to pool and hot tub. No balconies. Minimal food on site. ABC market close by delivers food and booze. Also did a smart cart order for lunch supplies. Very doable. Test out was done by PoiPu medical. 15 minute results. They just refused from $200 to $99.
Katie R says
Hi Conni L-
Your comment is super helpful. One question I had was if you rented a car on Kauai prior to being in the resort bubble? Or if you rented after you were “released” from quarantine.
Conni L says
Use have to Uber back to the airport for car rental and show them your last negative covid test.
Jennifer C says
Does the Hilton Garden Inn allow us to stay after checkout to get our covid test? We are having the PoiPu medical come at 3:30pm, hours after checkout.
Conni L says
Yes they have a complimentary 1 pm check out that you can ask for. We just hung in the lobby after to wait for testing.
Marjorie k says
I stayed at the Hilton garden in on kauai in the bubble. No food. So I had to use Uber ears but only a few places deliver. Also you are not very safe. You can use the pool with everyone in the bubble and it’s the tiny pool. There is a very small area to walk around for the 3 days. People on my bubble tested positive on their follow up test so had to be moved to a true quarantine site for 10 days. Can’t fly. Can’t rent car. That was the end of their vacation. Very difficult with COVID.
Jennifer C says
What are the food delivery options for those staying in a resort bubble with no restaurant onsite?
Jennifer C says
I’ve read some reviews the Hilton Garden Inn has no food options. Is there local food delivery from restaurants? Curious what people are doing for 3 days without a restaurant onsite and no ability to go to the grocery store.
Pati N. says
Any word as to Kauai’s allowing fully vaccinated travelers being able to skip the quarantine?
Ed. C says
As stated numerous times on this blog and in comments, being vaccinated or not makes no difference.
Pam F says
I think what Pati was inquiring about was Kauai’s potential participation in a possible vaccination passport. We are also interested in this program, and although we know there has not been any decision on this from officials, there’s no harm in asking if anyone on the islands has heard anything new. We’ll be fully vaccinated by our May trip, and keeping our fingers crossed the program will be in place for all the islands at that time.
Jesse H says
Family of 6 in Kauai now. Pre-travel tests and all info uploaded to Safe Travels, then flew Anchorage to HNL. Alaska Airlines pre-clear process was easy in Anchorage and with the wrist band no screening required upon arrival in HNL. Car rentals companies want to see Safe Travels QR/screened/exempt info, also when checking into lodging. Due to late arrival, we spent 4 nights in HNL and took 2nd test after 72 hrs on Oahu. HI kidney foundation testing at the HNL airport was smooth. Pre-pay for tests ($125) on their website and no appointment needed. They’re open until midnight and had our results back in 6 hrs. Uploaded results of these to the Lihue trip on Safe Travels (be sure to print a hard copy as well) and caught our flight. Deplaned in Lihue and National Guard screeners will need to see Safe Travels QR, ID for adults and test results for everyone. Our screener said a hard copy was preferred as there’d been issues accessing results on Safe Travels. Took about 15 minutes and we were free. Caught a cab to our condo and am listening to the waves as I write this. Even though I’m fully COVID vaccinated, many hoops to jump through but absolutely worth it being here. Super quiet, no traffic, some businesses closed, but as beautiful as ever. Hopefully Kauai will join the rest of the state with their program which seems to be working well and make it easier to travel to here.
kathy t says
We are currently scheduled to go to Maui in Sep. Would you tell me how much it cost total for testing each person. I assume you paid for the pre flight testing. Was it a total of 2 tests. Glad you are able to get to your destination trouble free. Enjoy.
Ed. C says
Kathy T – No one knows what the situation will be or what will or will not be required in September.
Having said that, our pre-travel tests were cost free with our insurance. Others report paying as much as $200 per test. It all depends on where you live and what options are available to you in your area, as well as your health insurance coverage. There’s no one answer.
DavidbackinWYbutstilllurking B says
Jesse – thank you for your helpful comment. It comes down to:
 Money to pay for two rounds of tests, plus extra flights from/to HNL for a family of six;
 Time for the extra 4 days on Oahu – hopefully enjoyable; and
 Taking the risk that any one of your party of 6 gets a positive test on Oahu, however unlikely, in which case now you are stuck in a world of hurt with no way to go back home for at least ten days with all 6 of you being locked in a room or two at your expense with no food or anything else (my understanding of what happens when anyone in the family gets a positive test).
Between the above three, I can see why many (most?) returning residents will just opt for no tests and stay home for ten days.
Suzi C says
I will be in Kapolei area five nights in August after arriving from the mainland. Can you suggest where I get a Covid test as I will be flying to Kauai for one week? Thank you.
Beat of Hawaii says
Two thoughts here. First, of course, is to check the list and see which partner is available to meet your schedule. https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel-partners/. Also, possiblyy others who have tested on Oahu can help. Kidney Foundation has frequently been mentioned.
the kidney foundation test at the airport is fast and easy used it myself last week to go to Maui.
Good people staffing it and all very helpful…
I have rescheduled twice already with the third time on the books for May. The vrbo home will not let us reschedule or cancel and the resort bubbles are a nightmare. When will they have DATES (specifics) on the date ending the 72 hr bubble. There’s no date and the resort bubble will not refund if you cancel.
Can anyone help the stress from this trip has been to much. So disappointing we love Kauai the culture, quietness, beauty but not sure if I will book another trip.
Mark T says
I was scheduled to arrive direct to LIH on 2/2, but American cancelled flights. Best I could do, was fly into HNL on 2/2, and take inter-island flight the next morning. Two days before departure, my bubble resort informed me I would NOT be eligible for the 3 day quarantine, even though the county had earlier told me I would. We scrambled. Ended up staying 4 nights in Oahu, getting another Covid test at Royal Monarch Hotel after being there 72 hours ($125), and flew to LIH on Saturday 2/6. IF you can change your plans to stay on a different island for 72 hours, THEN test, THEN fly to LIH, you can bypass ALL the quarantine and bubble BS. For us, turned out to be a blessing in disguise, and cheaper than arriving in LIH, paying for transportation to a bubble resort, and then a $200 retest!
Cynthia H says
Just curious Mark – why were you not eligible for for the 3 day quarantine at the resort bubble? What was the name of the resort bubble?
Glad it work out for you in the end.
Mark T says
there is a 3 column guide on the Kauai County website, for how to avoid the 10 day quarantine. One way, is to fly directly into LIH from the mainland, get a ride to your resort bubble (I’m staying at the Point in Poipu). Our flight got changed to HNL, arriving too late for last inter-island flight of the day. I had called Kauai County, and was told to use the middle column – treat our next day arrival from HNL as if we had flown directly into LIH. The interpretation from the resort (which they confirmed with the county) was I would not be eligible for the 3 day bubble program because I did not arrive on Kauai directly from the mainland. Leaving the HNL airport for a hotel .3 miles away, and staying in that hotel until first thing the next morning to then leave for the airport to fly to LIH, evidently caused me “too much exposure”. Ultimately, the staying in Oahu for 4 nights worked out best, but all the last minute hoop jumping was stressful.
We are going to Kauai in April. We are looking at the Big Island > Kauai, but apparently we have to stay on the Big Island for 72 hours, THEN test, and we can’t find any Rapid ID tests on the Big Island (I checked with the Health Department). How did you do it? Does the Royal Monarch have Rapid ID testing? Thank you! I’ve spent hours on the phone and internet today trying to figure this out.
Christine M says
Heather, I don’t think there is a rapid test site on the Big Island. Mark was on Oahu NOT on the Big Island. I think DSL on the Big Island is the fastest with 24-48 hours
Mark T says
Hello Heather –
I stayed on Oahu, not the island of Hawaii, so am not sure what you may find there. I just did a google search of “covid testing near me” once in Oahu. My understanding though, is be sure to WAIT at least 72 hours after arriving on Hawaii(Big Island) before getting your test. Also, I didn’t need a negative test in hand when I arrived in Lihue. You can’t rent a car, and need to go right to your hotel, but (and you’ll want to verify this with Kauai County that this is still the case) as soon as your negative results come in, you should then be free of quarantine. In other words, when doing the three days on another island, Kauai allows you to travel there with results pending, AND (I think…) it may not need to be from one of their “trusted partners”. I don’t think any direct flights from KOA to LIH exist, so you would need to connect through HNL anyway. HNL has a testing site at one of the baggage claims (#31?) that costs $125, and has 3-6 hours turnaround on their website. When I called, I was told 8-12 hours, so it may vary depending on workload?
If you can get a test in Kona, plan your travel time into your test result window… I’m guessing minimum 3 to 4 hour trip. So, get a test in, say, Kona three hours before leaving to LIH, and you’ve already chewed up 6 hours of the wait for results window. Go to the Kauai County Covid website, and they provide a flowchart (although incomplete) of the most common scenarios you can fall into, and what the quarantine period for each would be.
At the beginning of February, I did find them to be helpful, but I got different answers based on you I spoke with at different times. Hopefully by now, they are working from the same script and have a few more weeks of experience under their belt! Good luck!
lisa m. says
Thanks, do any of the resort bubble hotels allow use of the beach?
Beat of Hawaii says
No, they do not.
David B says
They should put up a big sign between the hotel and beach, with the “Soup Nazi” guy from Seinfeld saying (forcefully) “NO BEACH FOR YOU”
That would get the point across.
Melissa G says
Hello – I made a reservation at the Grand Hyatt but they didn’t mention anything about resort bubble. Are they included in the list? What would happen if we flew from California to Kauai same day and went to Hyatt?
Lisa C says
Here is a list of the resorts who are participating as resort bubbles. I don’t see the Grand Hyatt on the list. I am staying at Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club which is on the list.
The Club at Kukui’ula
Timbers at Hoku’ala
The Cliffs at Princeville
Koa Kea Hotel & Resort
Hilton Garden Inn Hotel
Kaua’i Marriott Resort and Beach Club
The Point at Poipu
Hanalei Bay Resort
Hanalei Colony Resort – new as of 3/1/2021
Lawai Beach Resort – new as of 3/15/2021