My Trip to Hawaii During the COVID Pandemic: Pre-Travel Requirements, Cost Breakdown, and Overall Experience

My Trip to Hawaii During the COVID Pandemic: Pre-Travel Requirements, Cost Breakdown, and Overall Experience

Have you been feeling cooped up, anxious, uneasy, and even afraid during the pandemic? I sure have. On most days I feel fine, but on other days I don’t feel my best. It has been an emotional roller coaster for many of you out there and I wanted to take this time to say, you are not alone.

One thing that always seems to get me out a funk is the sun. As I get older, I realize how much the weather has an impact on me. When the glowing sun beams on my face I feel energized and happy.

Unfortunately, I live in the Pacific Northwest and it is currently in the middle of November. The weather here is typically overcast, rainy, and cold from October through March.

I really needed a little ‘pick me up’ in the form of a getaway vacation to a tropical paradise. When my sisters and I heard that the Governor of Hawaii announced it’s reopening for tourists starting on 10/15/2020, we quickly collaborated to figure out if we should go.

I am the oldest of three sisters and we are all very close. I consider them my best friends. We enjoy spending time together and going on a mini vacation together to Hawaii sounded amazing.

My husband and I have been doing well financially so he gave me the green light to go, yay!

Obviously, going on a vacation to an island in the middle of nowhere during a pandemic was cause for concern, but after doing a ton of research my sisters and I have all decided to take the plunge and go to Oahu for one week (safely and cautiously of course).

Pre-Travel Requirements

If you are planning to travel to the Hawaiian Islands, it is important that you’re aware of the new and enhanced State of Hawaii Safe Travel Program entry requirements prior to your departure.

Step 1: Create an online user account on the Hawaii Safe Travels website.

Prior to your arrival, if you are an adult (age 18 years or older) you will need to create an online user account and register with the State of Hawaii Safe Travels Hawaii program.

Step 2: Enter your trip details

Once you create your Safe Travels Hawaii account, you will next need to enter your traveler information and trip details on the program’s application form.

Click on ‘Trips’ to add your traveler information. It will ask you to enter your arrival date, departure date, airline, flight number, departing airport, passport ID, purpose of the trip, and your lodging information.

Step 3: Schedule a Covid test 72 hours prior to your departure time

All travelers ages five and over will be required to take a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) from a certified Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) lab in order to bypass the State of Hawaii’s 14-day mandatory quarantine.

The State of Hawaii will accept test results ONLY from TRUSTED TESTING AND TRAVEL PARTNERS.

This is very important. I have seen on the news many people arriving to Hawaii just to be told that they have not gotten their test from their list of approved travel partners. They ended up having to quarantine 14 days in their hotel. Not fun at all and a very costly mistake.

Click HERE for a list of their approved travel partners.

The test will need to be taken no more than 72 hours before your flight departure time. If you have a multi-city flight itinerary, the departure time is from the last city you leave before arriving at a Hawaii airport (e.g. if your travel is from Chicago to Seattle to Honolulu, the departure time to look at is your flight from Seattle).

If you took your test more than 72 hours prior to your departure time, they will make you quarantine upon your arrival.

Step 4: Upload your Covid test results to your Hawaii Safe Travels account

Once you receive your negative pre-travel test result, you will need to upload the result to your Safe Travels Hawaii account.

This step is crucial, as it will be the only means for airport officials to verify your Safe Travel Hawaii information upon your arrival in Hawaii.

Starting on November 24, 2020, the negative test result must be uploaded onto the Safe Travels Hawaii account prior to departure or printed out prior to departure and hard copy in hand when arriving in Hawaii. Failure to do either will result in a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Hawaii.

If you receive an indeterminate result or inconclusive result prior to departure, you will be placed in 14-day quarantine upon arrival.

Step 5: Complete a health questionnaire 24 hours prior to your trip on your Safe Travels account

You will receive a notice 24 hours prior to your departure time to the Hawaiian Islands to complete the Mandatory State of Hawaii Travel and Health Form via your Safe Travels Hawaii account. The names of each child/children traveling with an adult registering will also need to be included in that adult’s Mandatory State of Hawaii Travel and Health Form.

Upon your completion of the Mandatory State of Hawaii Travel and Health Form, a QR code will be emailed to you. Airport personnel will need the QR code to locate and validate your Safe Travels Hawaii information upon your arrival in Hawaii.

Step 6: Receive your Safe Travels QR code

Upon your completion of the health questionnaire, a QR code will be emailed to you for each leg of your trip, which you need to present to airport personnel upon deplaning in Hawaii.

The QR code can be either on paper or on your mobile phone, and must also be presented with a legally valid photo ID. 

I highly recommend you print out the QR code. Thankfully, I printed my QR code along with my sisters and it saved us a lot of time at the airport. I saw many people around us scrambling to get their QR code from their phone while holding carry on bags, passports, and various other documents. For your sanity, print out your QR code.

If your test results are not yet available when you arrive in Hawaii, you will need to quarantine at your accommodations for 14 days.

  • If you receive a NEGATIVE TEST RESULT or an INDETERMINATE TEST RESULT while you are in quarantine in Hawaii, you will need to remain in quarantine for 14 days.
  • If you receive a POSITIVE TEST RESULT while you are in quarantine in Hawaiiʻi, you will be required to go into isolation until you recover and at least 10 days have passed since the start of symptoms or positive test, and at least 24 hours have passed without a fever without the use of fever reducing medicine. Health services guidance will be provided to you by the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH). If you are traveling with others, they will be required to quarantine in Hawaiiʻi for 14 days since their last contact with you, plus an additional or 14 days after you are cleared from isolation IF staying together.

Airplane and Airport Protocol

Once we arrived at the Hawaii airport, it was honestly a bit intimidating. There were men and women in military uniforms guiding everyone that was deplaning to a specific area to get our documents verified.

We got our temperatures checked and masks were required to be worn the entire time. Removal of face coverings is allowed for young children and individuals with health conditions preventing them from wearing one.

There were tables (at least 8) with one person behind the table verifying all of your documents including your negative covid test, Safe Travels QR code, and ID.

Once given the green light, you are good to start your vacation!

Cost Breakdown for the Hawaii Trip

My sisters and I took our trip the first week of November 2020 and we flew to the island of Oahu. I would say that the trip wasn’t overpriced or under priced. To be honest, I was expecting the cost to be rock bottom low because I didn’t think people would want to travel to Hawaii during the pandemic, but the cost was a bit higher than expected, especially the flight and hotel.

Here is our cost breakdown:

  • Flight – $542.00 from Seattle to Oahu
  • Hotel – $1,303.00 for 6 nights for 3 people/ $434.33 divided 3 ways
  • Rental Car – $160.00 for 7 days for 3 people/ $53.33 divided 3 ways
  • Food – $504.00
  • Checked bag – $20

My total cost for the trip came to $1,553.66 and it was completely worth it!

Overall Experience

This is my first time visiting Hawaii and I am still kicking myself for never visiting before. I was a bit apprehensive because I knew that not all businesses were open yet. We were worried that it would spoil the trip, but it did not what so ever! We had the time of our lives and it was definitely a trip to remember.

I will breakdown our overall experience by the following categories:

  • Hotel
  • Beach
  • Hiking
  • Shopping
  • Restaurants

Hotel

We stayed at the Laylow Autograph Collection in Waikiki. It is a beautifully decorated modern and eclectic hotel located just two blocks from the beach.

It was a bit difficult to find the parking garage because the hotel is tucked in the back of a fairly busy street. There aren’t huge signs directing you to the parking garage so drive slowly when your GPS says you’re close.

The staff were extremely friendly and welcoming. They had a big smile on their face and greeted my sisters and I warmly upon check-in. You can also visibly tell that the staff was keeping the hotel clean and sanitary. The handrails of the escalator were constantly being wiped down and hand sanitizer was available at the front desk at all times.

Our room was large and spacious with 1 king bed, a day bed, a dining room area, and two balconies. The room was clean and beautifully decorated. Due to covid, you won’t get your room cleaned unless you request it.

They have an amazing restaurant/bar called The Hideout. My sisters and I went there almost every night. They have live music, great food, amazing ambiance, and delicious cocktails.

The best part of the hotel is their location. They are in the heart of Waikiki. The best shopping, dining, and beaches are walking distance from the hotel. The only time we really needed the rental car was when we drove to Ala Moana Mall and visited North Shore.

The Laylow is a wonderful hotel with a boutique feel that I highly recommend them!

Beach

Ohh… the beach. I have a smile on my face just thinking about it. The beach was by far the best part of the entire trip.

Since our hotel was so close to Waikiki Beach, we went there. It was absolutely breath taking! Clear turquoise water with white sand and a beautiful mountain in the backdrop. You can walk a mile into the ocean and still touch the sand with your feet. You just can’t beat it.

There was also barely any people. My sisters have both been to this beach before and they were both shocked at how empty it was. They said that typically Waikiki Beach is pretty crowded since it is so close to many hotels, but we were in luck. We practically had the entire place to ourselves!

We also visited a few beaches in North Shore, but I was so distracted by the beauty of it that I barely have any pictures. Their beach definitely had more waves than Waikiki so if you’re a surfer you should head that way.

Hiking

One of the items on my bucket list is going on a hike in Hawaii. I am happy to report that I was finally able to check this off my list!

We originally planned on hiking Diamond Head due to the rave reviewed on Yelp, but due to the pandemic they were closed.

We decided to be a bit ambitious and hike Koko Crater Trail instead and boy was it hard.

Koko Crater Trail was a 20 minute drive from Waikiki and it is definitely not a hike for beginners.

It took my sisters and I about an hour to get to the top and you are literally climbing steep steps to get there almost the entire way. At times, the steps were so steep that you are literally pulling yourself up with all fours.

Make sure you pack good shoes, water, and a hat to protect your face from the sun. The heat will get you.

Once you get to the top and catch your breath you will be in awe of the view. It was incredible to see! Pictures do not do justice. It was one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen in my life.

For privacy purposes, I have blurred out my face.

One thing to note is that during our hike, I noticed that almost no one was wearing a mask. We tried to keep our masks on during the start of the hike, but it became almost impossible to breathe, especially with the intensity level of the hike combined with the 90 degree heat.

Shopping

There were tons of shopping options close by our hotel. The International Market Place and the Waikiki Shopping Place is next door and one block down was Kalakaua Avenue.

Kalakaua Avenue has all of the best shopping. The street is clean and beautifully lined with palm trees and tiki torches. The side walk walk side enough to keep a comfortable 6 foot distance from others.

Despite covid, most of the stores were open, but with limited hours. Most of the stores opened around 11am and closed around 7pm.

Masks are required the entire time you shop and almost every store had clean masks and hand sanitizer available for shoppers.

Restaurants

If Hawaiian beaches are my number one, then the food will easily be my number two.

The food was absolutely incredible! Hawaii is a melting pot for many cultures and it really does translates in their food. There are so many food combinations I have tried for the first time in Hawaii.

My sisters and I tried our best to stay away from the big food chain restaurants and try the small mom and pop style local restaurants in our area.

We had curry udon with hand made noodles, fresh açaí bowls, pork katsu cutlets, musube, fresh poke bowls, Hawaiian shaved ice, Kona coffee, fish tacos, jumbo shrimp platters, traditional Japanese dipping ramen, and that’s just the tip of the ice berg!

Curry udon with hand made noodles.

I was also surprised with how affordable their food was. I assumed it would be expensive since many raw ingredients are imported from main land, but it was cheaper than food from my home town.

Typical dishes costs around $8-$11 plus 4% sales tax . And the portions are BIG. My sisters and I typically ordered two main dishes and simply shared. At the end of every meal, we couldn’t finish or we barely finished the plate. I gained a good 7 lbs during my trip and oh, was it worth it!

Fresh poke… yum!

Final Thoughts

I am so grateful to have had this amazing opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful islands in the world with my sisters. I felt like tearing up on multiple occasions while writing this blog post because my heart is filled with so much love and appreciation.

For those who are curious, I promise we stayed as safe as possible. We wore masks the entire time we were out in public (except when we were eating and hiking), we kept our distance from other people, we constantly sanitized our hands, and we got tested before the trip and immediately when we got back.

I do not regret for one second taking this trip! Thank you for reading and until next time…

-Ann

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