Travel safely & make the most of your special getaway to the Hawaiian islands
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Our 2021 trip to Hawaii during the pandemic required extra preparation and logistics and I think that made us appreciate it all the more. I learned a few things in the course of planning and enjoying our trip, and hope these Hawaii travel tips will be helpful to you.
While getting to Hawaii can be a long haul, once we arrived it felt like a dream come true. The temperature was perfect every day, thanks to trade winds that keep temps comfortable. We watched the humpback whales from the shore. (Humpbacks spend the winter in the warm Hawaiian waters before returning to the North Pacific; peak whale watching season in Maui is January to March.) And the sea turtles even greeted my husband as he surfed the little waves off of Kaanapali Beach. After months at home during the pandemic, this Hawaii vacation was extra special.
Hawaii's Covid Restrictions Lifted
SPRING 2022 UPDATE:
As of March 26, 2022 all Covid restrictions have been lifted. No requirement for pre-departure testing or filling out the state’s SafeArrivals app. That said, things can change quickly in a pandemic, so check for current information and restrictions at the State of Hawaii Travel website.
Additionally, Hawaii’s mask mandate has been dropped. That said, masks can still be required in certain places such as public transportation, airports, schools, hospitals etc. And remember that private businesses can also request masks be worn, so pack your masks, and have them with you, just in case.
Tips For a Hawaii Vacation
Bring Your Own Rapid Tests
Although many restrictions have been lifted it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on any symptoms you might delveop while away. By having a supply of rapid tests, you can quickly determine whether the cough or sniffles of someone in your group are of concern.
Reserve Rental Cars Well Ahead
Hawaii was always pricey, but rental car rates have gone up significantly during the pandemic, due to limited supply. As soon as you have travel dates, book your rental car. Don’t pay ahead – you should be able to cancel your car until the day of arrival. I like the website AutoSlash for quickly comparing rates between companies. I’ve used it many times and always found great discounts. They are just a comparison site – you will book directly with the rental agency.
If you’re a Costco member, I’ve recently been finding good car rental rates through Costco Travel.
Once you book, you can always monitor to see if the price drops and rebook if it does.
Reserve Dining Ahead of Your Trip
Dining reservations are booking up weeks ahead in Hawaii. (Capacity has declined due to some restaurant closured and a shortage of staff.) I recommend you make dining reservations for every night of your stay, well before your trip, and then cancel the ones you decide you won’t use.
This is especially true for Luaus which should typically be booked two months ahead.
Most restaurants are using the OpenTable reservation system because they don’t have enough staff to take reservations by phone. If you plan to visit Maui, you might enjoy this West Maui Restaurant Guide. If you can’t get a reservation, many restaurants will seat a certain number of walk-ins each night. Do call ahead to confirm hours which are fluctuating due to staffing issues. Go early.
Support Small Business
The pandemic has been very difficult for Hawaii which is very reliant on tourism. There are many ways to support small, local businesses. We went to a farmer’s market to buy some of our groceries and tried many of Maui’s delicious food trucks. There are excellent small grocers, bakeries, restaurants and coffee shops that offer wonderful food experiences.
This list by Jordan and Erica of the Hawaii Vacation Guide has wonderful ideas for supporting small businesses in Maui: Hawaii Shop Small.
Enjoy Local Foods
Hawaii has delicious fresh fish and seafood, incredible produce and traditional dishes you may have never heard of or tried such as Poi, Poke and Kalua pork. Make sure to try the shave ice – it’s nothing like shave ice I’ve had elsewhere.
Reserve Visits to Natural Landmarks
Pack Your Patience
The crowds have returned to Hawaii and you will need to be patient as many places are short-staffed. In some cases excursions and venues have limited capacity so things book up quickly. Remember that travel during a pandemic may come with delays and unexpected events. Be patient and flexible.
Consider Off-Season Travel
If you are concerned about the crowds or costs, consider traveling during the low seasons – April & May and September to early November. Off-season travel can be more relaxing and affordable. It also benefits the destination by easing the strain at busy times and supporting local businesses throughout the year.
Which Hawaiian Island Should I Visit
I’ve been to Oahu, Kauai and Maui; the Big Island is where I would like to visit next. They are all special and lovely. For more nightlife choose Oahu, Maui would be second. Maui has great snorkeling (especially at the Molokini Crater, which requires a day trip) but the Big Island is supposed to have great snorkeling as well, on the northwest coast. The Big Island seems ideal for outdoor adventuring. If you like luxury, Maui’s Wailea area and the island of Lanai will offer more upscale hotels, dining and service.
All that said, Kauai is my favourite. I would return in a heartbeat. But there are some practical considerations. Kauai is called the “Garden Isle” for a reason. It is the rainiest of the islands in winter, with December getting the most rain. If you are traveling in winter and would be disappointed by multiple days of rain, you may want to save Kauai for travel in the drier months of April through September.
Whichever island you choose, this truly special place with its unique culture and incredible beauty will be a wonderful vacation. I hope these Hawaii travel tips help you prepare for the trip so that once in Hawaii, you can relax and enjoy yourself. Extra logistics are just a part of travel during a pandemic and Hawaii is definitely worth the effort.