Traveling to Hawaii


Article by Lynette Standley

Photography by Lynette Standley

I finally made my first big trip post-Covid, to the Big Island of Hawaii. Like many people, I haven’t been on a plane since the world shut down over a year ago. My last trip in March 2020 was to visit my son in Kona, Hawaii. Appropriately, that was my first big trip as things begin to open.

I say “post-Covid,” but you know what I mean. It will probably be with us for a long time. But I’m fully vaccinated and was anxious to see my son, so I decided to venture out.

Traveling to the Hawaiian Islands is no easy feat. I wondered malevolently if the hurdles I encountered were to partially discourage travelers. But realistically, they have small hospitals and limited facilities, so they have taken major steps to avoid a large outbreak there.

Remember that each island, for the most part, is a county, and they each have their own regulations relative to Covid restrictions. I flew Hawaiian Airlines roundtrip from Seattle, and between the airline, state and county requirements, it was taxing. As of May 11, restrictions will begin to ease, like the required negative Covid test prior to travel for those who are vaccinated. But for this trip, I had the test and completed the required health questionnaire.

One thing to be aware of when you upload your test results: create a profile for each leg of your trip. While it says to upload documents for your trip, which you'd think is the entire route, they want all the details.

I lost my place in line – and an hour of wait time on my layover – because I had to enter documents for both legs: Seattle-Honolulu and Honolulu-Kona.

I had a one-hour wait in Seattle and a 1.5-hour wait in Honolulu, so give yourself plenty of time in the airport. And just when I thought I was golden, landing in Kona and dashing to see my son – we all were herded through a maze that directed us to create yet another online health profile and complete an on-site rapid Covid test before we could leave the airport.

I can only imagine how many employees have been added to process the paperwork, administer tests and direct people through the steps. 

As you would expect, masks are required everywhere if you aren’t eating or drinking. But they have managed to mostly contain the virus, so I applaud their efforts. They still have an average of 100 ongoing cases, but given the huge increase in travelers this spring, they are managing it well. On my departure day in Kona, they had just opened the gift shops for the first time. Restaurants were open in every airport, including Boise. Not all of them, but enough to get food, beverages or souvenirs.

If you go, your airline will send you everything you need. You can also get a jump on it and look at Hawaii’s travel website to see the latest news on restrictions. 

Another travel tip: if you want to rent a car, reserve it early. Rental agencies off-loaded many cars during the crisis. They are rebuilding their inventory, but it is still limited, and you may find your options cut short.

On the bright side, the Aloha Spirit is alive and well. The people were wonderful and seemed happy to have their shops and restaurants buzzing. I’m already planning a return visit in the fall – and hope that my vaccine card is my ticket to streamlined travel!

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