written by Sarah Anhalt
In early October, when we began planning our trip to Maui, many people would ask “Why would you travel to Hawaii during a pandemic?” My answer was always “Because we need a break!”
My husband has never been on an airplane and was always a homebody who loves our city and never saw a need to go anywhere but around where we live. Hawaii has always been on my daughter’s bucket list and my son needed no convincing. Southwest was flying with an open middle seat, fares were low and low COVID-19 case numbers on Maui were reason enough to begin planning. My husband agreed.
First, I needed to find out what was required by the state of Hawaii to travel. Hawaii re-opened to visitors on October 15th and wanted to do it in a way that their numbers would remain low so they created the Safe Travels Hawaii website. Currently, the Big Island of Hawaii, Lanai and Kauai are NOT a part of the Safe Travels requirement and all travelers are subject to a mandatory 14 day quarantine (or your length of stay). On the website (https://hawaiicovid19.com) is everything you need to know about flying to Hawaii and the pre-arrival testing program. You need to register your party (each adult must have their own account) and input your flight information, where you are staying, your departure date and pictures of each member of your party including drivers license and birth certificates for minors.
Next step….the COVID-19 test. All travelers are required to have a negative test within 72 hours of arrival in Hawaii. If you have a connecting flight (as we did out of Oakland) your 72 hours begin prior to this last leg of your journey. Your COVID-19 test must be from one of the approved CLIA locations, which are listed on the website. For us, it was Walgreens. At 6pm Central time on Wednesday, I logged on to Walgreens website (this is the time they open their schedule) and said many prayers that we would be approved for a test. We were able to obtain a rapid test on Sunday morning, within the 72 hours needed, as our flight to Maui left Oakland at 5pm on Tuesday.
Once I received our test results, I had to upload them to the Safe Travels website to get our QR code as proof of our negative test. 24 hours prior to departure, we needed to complete a health screening on the Safe Travels website. With that stress relieved, we were on our way!
Masks are required in airports and on planes. This is enforced. I have an autoimmune disease so I was a little leery of this, but I felt very safe when I would hear them announce that masks were to remain on throughout the flight. Nearly everyone on board had wipes as an extra precaution and were anxiously wiping down their seats and tray tables! The open middle seat was welcoming!
As we arrived on Maui, you are immediately directed to the line for screening, which was quite long but moved pretty fast. They scan your QR code for each party, took temperatures, handed you a pink sheet that shows you are exempt from quarantine and sent you on your way to your rental car or form of transportation to your resort/hotel. Those who did not have their negative test result were directed to the taxi area and sent directly to their hotel.
Masks are required on the island of Maui. Everywhere. If you are out of your room, mask on. If you are walking around the resort, mask on. If you are shopping, hiking, taking a tour…mask on. They have made adjustments to the mask mandate that if you are laying on the beach or by the pool, you do not need your mask on but you must be at least 6 feet from others. They do ticket people for not adhering to this mandate and the fine is up to $5000 and a year in jail.
The mask was not an issue for us. Knowing they want to keep people safe made us feel comfortable.
Our resort, Aston Kaanapali Shores, was beautiful! They are doing everything possible to keep people safe, from hand sanitizer everywhere to limiting the amount of people in an elevator (1 person unless you are from the same household). Rooms are deep cleaned and open for 72 hours before they allow another guest to stay in that room.
While a lot is still closed on the island or operating at 25-50% capacity, we were able to do a lot! We did a whale watching tour and saw so many whales for being early in the season. My family did a zip line, parasailing, a kayaking tour, snorkeling, ate some amazing food and the infamous Road to Hana. We shopped until we dropped in Lahaina and drove around the island to see the sites. Little by little, things are beginning to open with Luaus starting in December at limited capacity. Small business owners are very happy to see the tourists back and while everyone is still a little concerned, the locals are slowly coming around to more people arriving.
We had such a wonderful week that we decided to extend our stay another 4 days!
We arrived home last night to the cold and we are all exhausted, but it was worth it. This trip was just the break our family needed!