Hawaii will allow pre-travel COVID testing instead of quarantining

The sun rises at Hanauma Bay near Honolulu.
(Caleb Jones / Associated Press )

Hawaii plans to reopen the state to visitors who can prove they have had a negative COVID test within 72 hours of their arrival. Gov. David Ige recently revealed details about pandemic protocols that would allow travelers to visit without having to self-quarantine for 14 days. This easing of rules, which has been postponed three times, is to take effect Oct. 15.

“We don’t expect there will be unnecessary delays anymore,” said Mufi Hannemann, president and chief executive of Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Assn.

How will testing work?

Right now, you will have to have results from tests administered by CVS or Kaiser Permanente. The state will be announcing more test partners in the future, the governor said at a news conference.


Kaiser Permanente members, which numbered nearly 12.5 million in California last year according to Statista, may get tested for free. CVS will charge $139 for COVID testing at drive-thru pharmacies around the country. The drugstore chain plans to double the number of testing locations to roughly 4,000 in coming weeks.

A woman prepares to take a COVID-19 test at a drive-thru CVS Pharmacy. Tests cost $139.
(CVS Health)

For the CVS test, people remain in their cars and place a swab into each nostril. It takes only a couple of minutes. “[Specially trained employees] go over the directions about how to do it. They observe them do it and make sure they’re doing it correctly,” said Monica Prinzing, a CVS spokeswoman in Los Angeles.

“We expect the majority of test results to be available within two to three days,” Prinzing said. A Kaiser Permanente spokeswoman in Honolulu said “testing times do vary” for results.

Hawaii provides this graphic to explain who will, and will not, be allowed to enter the state. For example, passengers awaiting test results upon arrival must quarantine until they can provide a negative test result. The same applies to anyone who arrives without a test; expect to spend 14 days away from others.

Even with the change, tourism officials aren’t expecting a flood of visitors following the mid-October reopening. That could be good news for travelers looking to avoid crowds and take advantage of time on the islands’ beaches.


Hotels are expected to welcome guests for the first time in 6½ months. “There are plans to open up everything in Waikiki that’s been shuttered except for a couple of exceptions,” Hannemann said. ”The Halekulani, for example, is not going to reopen this year. They’ve decided to wait until 2021 before they reopen.”

Travelers who visit may find a different experience. “It’s not going to be the Hawaii you’re used to in the past: lei-giving, hugging, kissing [and] large luaus. All of those things now cannot be done,” he said. “We have to be very, very creative to bring about those magical experiences that people have witnessed when they’ve come to Hawaii in the past.”

“Virtual luaus” are under consideration, Hannemann said. “They’ll serve food in the [hotel] rooms, but on your television, you’ll see the Polynesian dancing that will take place,” he said. “That may be as close of an experience to an actual luau that we can offer.”

John White of Maui’s Kaanapali Beach Hotel said fewer guests will mean “more open beaches” and other outdoor spaces. The West Maui resort’s website lists room rates for Oct. 15 starting at $231 a night. On Oahu, rooms at the three-star Shoreline Hotel Waikiki, within walking distance of the beach, are available from $139 a night. At the beachfront, four-star Moana Surfrider, Waikiki’s oldest hotel, expect to pay at least $312.