The pandemic has left me and so many others itching for a change of scenery. Although virtual travel tours through our Oculus have been great, I found myself wanting to be at each location in person. But booking a vacation is no longer as simple as adding a destination to your bucket list and booking a plane ticket. With COVID-19 there are risks and other factors to consider, like putting other peoples health above your own.
While tracking the risks and positives of traveling during COVID, I was drawn to Hawaii’s new pre-testing visitor policy. Their testing program that launched in October has been world class. I was able to experience the new requirements and the current state of Hawaii first-hand. And I’m here to share everything I learned so you can have the best experience.
Here is my disclaimer….my husband and I have no children. We live alone and both work from home during the pandemic. I say that to say this…you are putting yourself at a higher risk when you travel. If we had children or cared for someone else (grandparents or parents), we probably would not have taken this trip. Due to our personal situation, we quarantined for 14 days after our return and felt very safe while in Hawaii. You know your comfort level around COVID, but I do like to put this disclaimer in my travel posts to ensure your safety and others.
Everything You Need to Know About Pre-Testing
In order to avoid a 14-day quarantine, you will want to receive a negative test 72 hours before landing in Hawaii (children above the age of two must also have this test). You will need to fill out a profile with your travel details on the Safe Travel Hawaii website. This becomes somewhat like your passport in Hawaii. Most resorts will require you to pull up this profile when checking into your room. They are also doing temperature checks every time you return to the resort or enter a restaurant.
Your COVID test must be completed at one of the approved COVID testing sites. Even if you have a negative test, if it doesn’t come from their approved testing site list, you will have to quarantine for 14 days. We had no issue getting our COVID test at American Family. It was also a peak testing time (between Christmas and New Years). Allow yourself enough time to ensure your test result comes back within 72 hours of your arrival time.
Once you get your test result, you will upload the negative test within your profile at Safe Travel Hawaii. They will send over a QR code to your email address, and you will want this handy at all times during your trip. I highly recommend travel insurance in case your test unfortunately comes back positive. Most hotels make you cancel your reservation 72 hours in advance for a full refund. Unfortunately, due to the timing needed to comply with Safe Hawaii, you will not get your test back within that window. I should also mention that most airlines will not let you fly to Hawaii without a negative test on hand.
We only fly Delta Airlines. They are the only airline still operating at 60% capacity. We felt very safe flying with Delta. Masks are required, and since we are Delta loyalists, we were upgraded to first class on all flights. Delta is still skipping the rows in front and behind passengers.
Airports were busy during our travels. However, there are frequent staff members walking around and making sure masks are worn correctly. We saw many people being stopped for having their masks below their nose. This goes without saying it, but masks are required in all airports and on airlines.
Once we arrived to Maui, we were directed to a safety checkpoint as soon as we landed. The QR code, which verifies your negative COVID test, is scanned and documented. If you follow all instructions on the website and do your testing correctly, this is an easy process. Once they scanned our QR code, we were free to go to baggage claim. We did see someone get sent home who did not use an approved partner for their COVID test. I can’t stress enough following the instructions on the Safe Travel Hawaii website.
It is really difficult right now to island hop in Hawaii. I don’t recommend it. The only island you can travel to without having to retest is Oahu. Essentially, you can travel to Oahu from another Hawaiian island without retesting. If you want to travel to Oahu and Maui, for example, you would benefit from flying to Maui first and then ending your trip in Oahu. Make sure you check out the inter-travel details on the Safe Hawaii website to be safe.
Hotels in Maui
We stayed in Maui for our vacation. Most resorts and hotels were at limited capacity. We opted to switch hotels halfway during our stay for a change of scenery. The first hotel we stayed at was Hotel Wailea, one of the world’s top rated resorts. We agree! Hotel Wailea is an adults only resort with the best service! If you are worried about staying in a hotel, Hotel Wailea offers bungalow suites. We opted for the Ocean View Suite and loved it! Hotel Wailea also has an open air concept, providing fresh air throughout the resort. This is common in Hawaii, and is great for fresh air flow during COVID.
Halfway through our trip, we moved to the Four Seasons Resort Maui. Once again, they are also operating at limited capacity. Beach and pool chairs are all separated more than six feet. They also have an open air concept in their lobby, providing an outdoor space and air flow. However, the rooms are more of a traditional hotel concept with enclosed hallways.
Masks are required at all resorts in Maui. These two resorts also require that all guests sign a waiver stating that they will wear their masks in public spaces. They can charge a fee to your stay if you do not comply. With limited hotel capacity and mask guidelines, we felt very safe at both of these results. Hotel Wailea is definitely more secluded, but both resorts are doing an excellent job following COVID-19 safety guidelines.
We opted to eat at the restaurants at our resorts. This made traveling easier, and the restaurants at both resorts are superb. The Restaurant at Hotel Wailea has some of the best food we have ever eaten. Definitely try the four course meal. They use fresh ingredients in their food and all cocktails are made with fresh juices. I am still dreaming of their Lilikoi Martini!
The Four Seasons also offers great restaurants. Spago is Chef Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant. We actually had a chance to eat next to him for dinner one night. The Wagyu Beef was offered the week we stayed at the resort. It is pricey, but my husband said it was the best steak he has ever eaten. Duo Steak and Seafood is your average tropical restaurant, and if you want some amazing Italian try Ferraro’s. Their pear and burrata salad was amazing!
Every restaurant at our resorts provided outdoor seating. Masks are required when ordering food and when you are not eating and drinking.
We definitely spent the majority of our time at our resorts. We felt really safe there, and the views were beautiful. We did do the Road the Hana tour. You can drive this on your own if you don’t feel comfortable being around a group. There is an online app that will direct you to different stops along the Road to Hana.
We also did a whale watching tour. The tour was also booked at limited capacity. Masks are required on the boat and with limited capacity, there is ample space to spread out. You can also rent a private charter for snorkeling activities. They can take you to Molokini Crater and Turtle Town. I wouldn’t recommend doing both a whale watching and snorkeling charter. You will most likely see whales on your snorkeling charter. If you have a private charter, the captain can stop and search for whales as well.
Most luaus are also opening back up at limited capacity. If you are interested in booking a luau, I would recommend you book tickets well in advance.
Just remember to be flexible, patient, and kind. Hawaii is doing a great job at safely reopening. The normal trip to Hawaii when you are doing everything humanly possible on the island is probably not going to happen. We enjoyed Maui during COVID, and actually preferred the quiet from the usual crowds. We thought Hawaii is doing an excellent job with their re-open, and we felt very safe on our trip. There is always a risk associated with traveling during the pandemic, but all-in-all, we would highly recommend this vacation to others.