A tourist gives an account of what it’s like flying to Kauai under Hawaii’s COVID-19 rules and regulations on September 5th, 2021.
I usually visit Kauai one to two times a year. The beautiful island is one of my favorite places to visit, and I missed out visiting in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic. So I was ready and eager to visit again in 2021.
During the first part of 2021, I keenly watched as Kauai slowly opened back up. Travel conditions to the island in the early summer months had me excited that Kauai was finally ready to accept visitors. So in June I booked a flight to Kauai with United Airlines for the first part of September, figuring conditions would be even better. (The airfare was one of the best rates I had ever received for a flight to Kauai.)
In July I was encouraged as tourists started returning in large numbers, but was concerned at the developing rental car shortage situation. Nevertheless, I was hoping the rental car situation would be taken care of by September. I was happy to see the news that the mandatory pre-travel COVID test wouldn’t be in effect for my trip. I had read more than a few stories about lost lab tests, false positive tests and contaminated tests rendered useless for entry to Hawaii.
The flight was changed several times by United, and finally, about ten days before my trip, it was cancelled. Fortunately, I found an even cheaper flight on United.
As August rolled along, travel news for Kauai became worrisome. The COVID Delta variant was threatening the momentum brought about by the vaccines. Hawaii Governor Ige was urging tourists not to travel to Hawaii until at least October. Some Kauai residents in online forums were angrily telling tourists to stay away. However, one Kauai resident (the owner of the condo where I would be staying) wasn’t giving me my money back for my lodging, so I decided to proceed with the trip. (I would be spending most of my time hiking and at the beach anyway, two very low-risk activities for myself and residents.)
Several weeks before the trip I registered my flight at the Hawaii Safe Travels website. The website is often called an app but there is no app to my knowledge at the App Store. It is a standard website. I entered my personal information, flight information and uploaded a .jpg photo of my vaccination card.
If you have more than one flight to Kauai, you will need to enter the final flight that is actually going to Lihue. The time of the flight will be used to set the 24 hour window for you to fill out your health questionnaire before your flight. After you fill out the online questionnaire at the Safe Travels website, you will be given a QR code via email (I also took a screenshot of the QR code at the Safe Travels website). This QR code is used by screeners at the departing airport and Lihue Airport.
Basically, in order to avoid a quarantine, a traveler must either be vaccinated or take a pre-travel test and have a negative result. I would be claiming vaccination as my exemption/exception.
From the Hawaii COVID-19 website:
“Travelers entering the state from the U.S. and its Territories who have been fully vaccinated in the United States (including its Territories) may bypass quarantine without a pre-travel test. The vaccination record document must be uploaded to Safe Travels and printed out prior to departure and the traveler must have a hard copy in hand when arriving in Hawaii. The State of Hawaii will also accept vaccine records that are digitally validated by Digital Health Pass Partners (AZOVA, CLEAR and CommonPass). Travelers who use one of the State’s partners to link their digitally validated vaccine records with Safe Travels may enjoy expedited processing at the airport (no secondary visual inspection of paper vaccine records). Travelers who were fully vaccinated in Hawaii are already eligible for this exception.
Travelers wishing to use the pre-travel test to bypass quarantine must have a negative result from a test taken from a Trusted Testing and Travel Partner no more than 72 hours BEFORE beginning the final leg of their trip. Anyone without a negative test result or U.S. vaccination PRIOR to departure must quarantine upon arrival. The State of Hawaii will also accept test results that are digitally validated by Digital Health Pass Partners.”
The negative test result must be uploaded onto Safe Travels or printed out prior to departure and hard copy in hand when arriving in Hawaii.”
There are several options for logging into the Safe Travels website – Apple log in, Facebook log in and email. I selected Facebook because it seemed to be the quickest and easiest method. Afterwards, I was thinking an email login might be better in the event something happened to my Facebook account.
ABOVE: Screenshot from the Safe Travels website.
I limited my social and outside activities the week before the trip, figuring with my luck I would contract COVID at the last minute before the trip.
I arrived about two and a half hours before my flight, not fully knowing the TSA security checkpoint and COVID screening situations. The security checkpoint went rather quickly, and as I approached the gate for my departing flight I noticed a large cordoned off area taking up the space of about two gate waiting areas. This would be the COVID screening area.
It took me about 20 minutes to get through the screening line.
I had my ID, QR code and vaccination card ready for the screeners.
I received a wristband after successfully being screened.
The screening line lengthened significantly before the flight. Yet, the flight left on schedule.
The flight was mostly full, with just a few empty seats.
The usual entrance to the baggage area at the Lihue Airport was blocked off so I proceeded down to the end of the hall where the final screening took place.
Since I had a wristband, I went in the wristbands or interisland line, flashed my band to the screener, and advanced without delay out onto the sidewalk of the terminal. I was then able to return to the baggage claim area from the sidewalk.
The rental car line was short and there appeared to be no shortage of rental car vehicles.
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