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Hawaii Reopening to Canadians: What You Need to Know

This guide has been updated to reflect that Hawaii has delayed its reopening efforts (relaxation of the 14-day mandatory quarantine in favour of a pre-testing program) from the original date of August 1 to October 15.

While it’s not a country of its own, I know many Canadians have been keeping a close eye on Hawaii and its process of reopening to tourists without a mandatory 14-day quarantine, and there’s some exciting news to report on that front.

Travelling to the continental US is understandably low on the radar at the moment given the negligent lack of COVID-19 containment south of the border, but the island state of Hawaii has fared relatively well thanks to its early and long-standing quarantine policy, recording only 816 cases to date. 

Hawaii will now be relaxing their mandatory 14-day quarantine policy as of October 15, 2020, allowing travellers to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test instead. Here’s everything you need to know.

Disclaimer: Information may change on a day-by-day basis. While we make every effort to keep these guide up-to-date, the decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. It would be best to contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry requirements before travelling.

Napali Coast, Kauai

Napali Coast, Kauai

In This Post

Are Canadians Allowed to Travel?

Canadians may travel internationally, including to the US; while the Canada–US border is shut, flights remain operational. However, there are several factors to consider that may strongly discourage you from doing so.

The Government of Canada continues to advise that Canadians avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada, including to the US. This means that consular assistance may be limited and that you may face difficulty returning home in the event of sudden flight cancellations or local movement restrictions. 

As a result of the government advisory, travel insurance policies will not cover medical treatment abroad related to COVID-19. If you contract COVID-19 while abroad and incur medical expenses that are not covered by the local government, it will be at your own expense.

Furthermore, all Canadian residents are currently subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon returning to the country from abroad, and will need to make the necessary arrangements for doing so (ensuring a suitable place of quarantine, arranging for food deliveries, requesting additional time off work, etc.) 

The decision to travel in spite of all these considerations remains your prerogative.

Source: Government of Canada

Road to Hana, Maui

Road to Hana, Maui

Is Hawaii Opening Its Borders to Canadian Travellers?

In essence, Canadians were never forbidden from travelling to Hawaii in the first place. While the Canada–US land border has been closed, which precludes travel to the US mainland via car, train, ferry and pleasure boats, the border checkpoints have remained open to air travel. 

Therefore, Hawaii has always been open to Canadian visitors who are not subject to any of the other US entry restrictions (i.e., visiting Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, the U.K., or 26 European countries in the Schengen Area over the past 14 days). 

However, until now, the islands have been imposing a mandatory 14-day quarantine on all out-of-state visitors, enforcing the quarantine with criminal charges and heavy penalties for violation. This has, of course, discouraged most travellers from the idea of visiting Hawaii during this period.

As of October 15, 2020, Hawaii will be implementing a pre-testing travel program and relaxing the mandatory quarantine order, giving new arrivals the choice between undergoing a 14-day quarantine and presenting proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival in Hawaii. 

Source: Governor of the State of Hawaii

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

Do You Have to Test for COVID-19 to Enter Hawaii?

The pre-testing travel program effectively opens up the islands to Canadian visitors who wish to visit, as long as they bring along proof of a negative test and complete a State Travel and Health form upon arrival.

The negative test will need to have been conducted within the past 72 hours prior to arrival, and will need to be a PCR test (nasal or throat swab test) rather than an antibody test. The testing expense will be paid out of the traveller’s own pocket, and no testing will be available upon arrival at the airports in Hawaii. 

The 72-hour requirement may be tricky for some travellers, as it’ll depend on the speed and availability of testing facilities in your area. Some private testing clinics promise a 48-hour turnaround upon receiving biological data, and I suspect these will be in high demand. We plan to look into the availability of COVID-19 testing for travellers across Canada in a future article. 

The Hawaii State Department of Health is still in the process of developing the full details of the pre-testing travel program in advance of its launch on October 15.

The department anticipates that it will require a “US Food & Drug Administration (FDA)-approved PCR test from a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-certified laboratory”, and we’ll update this article with any further details that emerge, including how the testing standard is applied to non-US visitors.

Source: Governor of the State of Hawaii

Do You Have to Quarantine Upon Arrival in Hawaii?

If you are not able to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test within the past 72 hours upon your arrival in Hawaii, you would be required to quarantine for 14 days or however long you remain on the island, whichever is shorter in duration.

You would need to proceed directly from the airport to your designated quarantine location. As a visitor, your quarantine location would be a hotel room (paid out of your own pocket) or the residence of a friend or family member. You may not leave your place of quarantine for any reason other than emergency medical care, and would need to make your own arrangements for essential daily needs.

Violations of the mandatory 14-day quarantine may result in a fine of up to US$5,000 and imprisonment of up to one year.

Source: Governor of the State of Hawaii

Kilauea Volcano, Big Island

Kilauea Volcano, Big Island

What Measures Is Hawaii Offering to Encourage Tourism?

Hawaii’s economy is heavily reliant on tourism, and the longstanding quarantine rules have resulted in widespread unemployment across the island, which was one of the motivating factors behind the phased reopening. 

Having only just announced its intention to allow a pre-testing travel program as of October 15, the island has yet to announce any special measures to make visitors feel more comfortable on their trip. In particular, unlike other destinations that have reopened their borders, there are no plans to cover COVID-19-related medical or quarantine costs for travellers who may incur those expenses during their trip. 

For Canadian travellers, this means that you may be personally on the hook for any such expenses should they arise. With the Government of Canada’s advisory against non-essential travel to the US in place, most Canadian medical travel insurance providers (including those associated with credit card benefits) will not cover COVID-19-related medical expenses, and some providers may not cover any medical expenses at all.

For peace of mind during your trip to Hawaii, it may be best to turn towards select US-based travel insurance providers that do provide COVID-19 coverage for visitors to the US.

Per the American Visitor Insurance website, Trawick International, INF insurance, and Global Underwriters are three companies that are providing such coverage at this time. As always, make sure to carefully read the terms and conditions of your coverage before making a purchase or embarking on your trip.

Source: American Visitor Insurance

What Can You Expect if You Travel to Hawaii?

Restrictions on inter-island travel has been lifted as of June 16, although passengers will still need to fill in an inter-island Travel Health Form prior to boarding their flight. Travellers will also be thermally screened at the airport, and anyone with a temperature above 100.4˚F (38˚C) will not be permitted to fly.

Across the Hawaiian islands, much of normal life has resumed with physical distancing rules in place, some capacity restrictions, and masks encouraged where physical distancing is not possible. Beaches, bars, and restaurants across the state have opened for business in this fashion.

Outdoor tour operators have also been allowed to resume business as of late May, while state parks have also been gradually reopening in May and June, including the reintroduction of camping and overnight lodging opportunities. Most hotels, too, have either already opened or will be accepting reservations as of October 1. Of course, large-scale events and festivals are not permitted and have largely been cancelled throughout the summer. 

The statewide alert level has been reduced to yellow (“Act with Care”), so it’s now up to each county/island to implement their own phased reopening plans for local businesses and attractions.

You’ll want to check each county’s guidelines for Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island for the specific details of what to expect if you travel to Hawaii, but for the most part, you’ll be able to enjoy a Hawaii trip that aligns with our usual expectations.

Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority

Which Airlines Are Operating Flights to Hawaii? 

As if on cue, Canada’s two largest airlines will be resuming flights between Vancouver and Honolulu in the first week of August. 

Air Canada will launch a four-times-weekly service as of August 2 using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, while WestJet will launch a daily service as of August 5 on Boeing 737s. 

It should be noted that the cash fares to Hawaii are relatively low as well, given the general lack of demand for travel. If you don’t have Aeroplan miles to spare or are planning a trip for after October 15, then a Toronto–Hawaii round-trip fare in the region of $500 isn’t at all unreasonable. 

While Canadians can technically transit through US gateway cities as well, I imagine most would want to avoid the continental US if possible, so a connection through Vancouver would be the best option. Air Canada and WestJet’s seasonal services to Honolulu and Maui out of Calgary and Toronto will also be resuming later in the fall as well.

Conclusion

Hawaii has managed its local transmissions of COVID-19 in a prudent fashion by imposing a 14-day mandatory quarantine on out-of-state travellers early on. As of October 15, 2020, the state will welcome tourists back to its sunny coastlines and mesmeric landscapes in the form of a pre-testing travel program, requiring visitors to present proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test within the past 72 hours to avoid the 14-day quarantine requirement. 

We’ll do our best to keep these reopening guides updated as new information comes through. Also, I encourage you to continue adding your suggestions for future articles in this series in the comments below – although I’ll only be writing a guide when there is something meaningful to report on for Canadian travellers.