Hawaii’s fragile economy relies heavily on tourism but as a small group of islands with limited healthcare availability they have really struggled with choosing between health and sustainability and oftentimes those go hand in hand.
Hawaii reopened for tourism in late 2020 after being closed for over half the year, but not without limitations. At the time of this post, February 2021, the state of Hawaii currently requires all visitors to adhere to a strict 10 day quarantine OR apply for a quarantine exemption. I’m going to walk you through how to get the quarantine exemption. We just got back from a wonderful 7 days on the main island of Oahu with exemptions for our entire family of 7.
First things first, plan your trip! You will need to know your hotel/rental, dates, and flight info to apply for your exemption. Best to book things that are refundable or you can at least get a credit for if you need to cancel last minute. I don’t work for or even know anyone who works for Southwest Airlines but if you’ve read any of my travel posts before then you know we fly with Southwest a lot! Southwest has super cheap nonstop flights from California to Hawaii right now, I’m talking like $99 cheap! Or if you’re loaded up on points like us they may even be free! The best thing about Southwest is you can cancel or change your flights up to 5 minutes before departure with no penalties and they’ll either give you a full cash credit or a full point refund. Cant beat that!
You need to go to the Hawaii Safe Travels website and create an account. Each person in your party over the age of 18 will need their own account. For example Andrew and I had our own accounts and I put all of our kids on my account. Once you have created an account you need to fill in your trip information. The website is pretty straightforward on what you need to fill out. You will also need to upload a selfie of each person on the account, you’ll see where to put it!
TESTING! This is the most difficult part of getting an exemption. The state of Hawaii requires each visitor 5 years old and older to provide a negative COVID-19 test done within 72 of the departure time of your final flight to Hawaii. The catch is that Hawaii will only accept tests from certain approved testing facilities. You can find a complete list of Hawaii approved testing facilities HERE A lot of these locations require appointments and fill up quickly. You also need to keep in mind that results can take over 48 hours to come back so don’t wait until the last minute to take your test. I’ll provide a sample timeline below. Once you have received your negative test results you need to upload them in PDF format to your safe travels account. They must be uploaded before you board your flight to Hawaii! You should also have a paper copy or at least a copy on your phone, they actually looked at our paper copy too.
24 hours before departure to Hawaii you will need to log back in to your safe travels account and fill out the health questionnaire then you will get a QR code.
That’s it! Safe travels account with trip info, 72hr negative covid test from an approved facility, 24 hour health questionnaire, you’re off to Hawaii!
Upon landing in Hawaii you will have your temperature taken as soon as you deplane then you will be directed to the screening area. When you arrive at the screening area someone will scan your QR code to bring up your safe travels account. For us she also asked to see the paper copy of our covid tests even though we had uploaded all of them ahead of time. Then she approves our exemption and sent us on our way to baggage claim. Overall the entire process at the airport for our entire family took maybe 5 minutes.
After your exemption is approved it will show up in your safe travels account. You will need this to show your hotel when you check in. It looks like this and as you can see mine also lists all of our kids.
Below I’m going to show you the timeline we did everything in so hopefully it makes more sense!
January 20- Create safe travels account for myself & kids, create safe travels account for Andrew (everyone over 18 needs their own account). Make appointments for covid tests at approved testing facility.
January 27- Fly to San Francisco. 3:30pm take covid test at City Health Urgent care in downtown San Francisco. They are well versed in Hawaii travel so make sure you tell them you need the approved test for Hawaii travel. We had results back in about 36 hours but they estimate it taking 48 hours.
January 29- COVID results back & negative. Upload results for all travelers into the appropriate safe travels account. Andrew had his own account and then I uploaded my test and the kids tests to my account. Kids age 5 and older need tests so the twins needed tested but our younger 3 did not.
January 30 9:30am- fill out health questionnaire in safe travels account
January 31 9:30am- Depart San Francisco on nonstop flight to Honolulu.
As you can see we took our covid tests about 66 hours before our flights so that put us within the approved 72 hour window but still gave us enough time to ensure we had results back.
I know this is a lot of information and it’s complicated so feel free to ask me questions, I’m happy to help!