5 things to know about visiting a reopening Hawaii

a body of water with a mountain in the background

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

Hawaii has had many false starts when it comes to reopening the state and restarting tourism. But the state has a new target reopening date — Oct. 15, with some new momentum courtesy of airlines behind the date. If things go to plan, beginning on Oct. 15, visitors and returning residents will be able to enter Hawaii without a mandatory 14-day quarantine if they come with a state-approved negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before departing on the final leg of the journey to Hawaii. And the airlines are going to help make that happen.

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While we expect things to change over time, here’s what you need to know about testing and entering a soon-to-reopen Hawaii as of right now.

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

© The Points Guy
(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

You’ll need a test to go to Hawaii

There are many types of COVID-19 tests on the market, so this part can be tricky. Hawaii is currently requiring a test that detects the presence of active COVID-19 infections. (This is not an antibody test that would detect previous infections.)

The test must be an FDA-approved nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), performed using a nasal swab, with results from a CLIA-certified laboratory. (Non-PCR tests are not acceptable.)

PCR tests are a type of NAAT test, so if you can get a negative rapid PCR test result, that should work for Hawaii.

Hawaii’s approved trusted testing partners are currently listed as CVS and Kaiser Permanente. However, you don’t have to get your test from those providers. In fact, not everyone could test there if they wanted to as minors are required to also turn in a negative test to avoid quarantine in Hawaii, and CVS won’t currently test children under 12.

Related: Points and miles guide to visiting Hawaii

Airlines are aiding with testing

So far, four airlines have announced plans to manage the testing element of a trip to Hawaii.

This list will likely expand in terms of routes and participating airlines. For now, those traveling on United via San Francisco (SFO), Hawaiian Airlines via sites near Los Angeles (LAX) or SFO, Alaska Airlines out of Seattle (and soon expanding to other cities) or American Airlines out of DFW can lean into the airlines’ testing systems.

United has partnered with GoHealth Urgent Care at SFO, and testing will be available from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily to offer rapid tests to United’s Hawaii-bound passengers for a price of $250 per person.

a person standing in front of a building: Photo courtesy of United Airlines

© The Points Guy
Photo courtesy of United Airlines

Alternatively, United flyers can take an $80 mail-in test from Color. The airline recommends that travelers begin the process 10 days before their travel, and collect a sample no more than 72 hours in advance of their trip. It is then returned via overnight mail or a dropbox at SFO. Results will then arrive via email and text within 24- to 48 hours. This means you may have some period of quarantine in Hawaii before results are received.

Hawaiian Airlines is partnering with Worksite Labs to provide drive-through PCR testing near both Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Worksite Labs will offer the Droplet Digital PCR shallow nasal swab test for $90, with results within 36 hours, or you can expedite at a cost of $150 for “day-of-travel express service.”

Hawaiian has said it expects to roll similar testing out to other U.S. gateways soon.

Alaska Airlines has partnered with Carbon Health, a provider that will make rapid COVID-19 testing available at its Downtown Seattle location. Alaska passengers have priority testing at the pop-up clinic on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. PDT, starting Oct. 12 (though you can make an appointment as of Oct. 8). Carbon Health promises a two-hour turnaround time on the Abbott ID NOW rapid test, which costs $135.

In November, Alaska’s partnership with Carbon Health will expand to offer testing in Portland, Oregon as well as San Jose, San Diego and Los Angeles, California.

On Oct. 5, Alaska Airlines will publish more details about this program on its website, including how to schedule an appointment.

Like the above carriers, American Airlines will launch three preflight testing options for passengers headed to Hawaii:

  • An at-home test from LetsGetChecked, which is observed by a medical professional via a virtual visit (results expected within 48 hours)
  • In-person testing at a CareNow urgent care location in North Texas
  • On-site rapid testing at DFW administered by CareNow

Testing begins at DFW on Oct. 15.

Related: What it’s like to fly Hawaiian Airlines to Hawaii

a large mountain in the background: Kauai (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

© The Points Guy
Kauai (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

There won’t be testing on arrival

Unlike some destinations, such as Alaska, where coronavirus testing is offered upon arrival at the airport, that’s not the plan for Hawaii. You will need to bring your own negative test result based on a test taken before going wheels-up to the Aloha State or be subject to the stringent 14-day quarantine.

The State of Hawaii’s COVID-19 website further clarifies that if you are subject to a 14-day quarantine, you will be required to remain in your quarantine location for that duration and there won’t be an option to test upon arrival.

However, if you have pre-departure testing results that are still pending when you arrive in Hawaii, you can be released from quarantine before 14 days when you share the negative test result with the appropriate officials.

Related: Do you need a negative coronavirus test to fly?

While routine testing on arrival won’t be in play, the airports in Hawaii are scanning passengers to ensure temperatures are under 100.4 degrees. Those with temperatures of 100.4 and above will be taken to secondary screening and offered a COVID-19 PCR test with results available generally after 24 to 48 hours.

You’ll need to register with Safe Travels

There are travel and health forms to complete on the Safe Travels digital platform. This is also where you’ll upload your test results. Safe Travels can be found at travel.hawaii.gov.

Testing needed to go to Hawaii should get easier

As Hawaii gets further into its reopening plan, we expect testing to become easier.

But currently, there’s the reality that getting a PCR coronavirus test — and results — within 72 hours of travel isn’t simple in all areas of the U.S. This is especially true in less urban locations, or in cities that are experiencing a surge of cases, which can lead to a temporarily diminished supply of tests and a backlog of up to seven to 10 days to get your test results.

Related: State-by-state guide to coronavirus reopening

If you have the ability to lean into the airlines’ arrangements with the State of Hawaii for coordinated testing, that’s not a bad plan if getting COVID-19 PCR results within 24 to 48 hours isn’t easy in your area.

a group of people standing around a plane on the tarmac at an airport: (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

© The Points Guy
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Related: One family’s experience traveling in the age of coronavirus

Bottom line

Hawaii is magical and will likely be in high demand when it is able to reopen without quarantine with a negative test result in hand. However, Hawaii’s reopening plan has already changed several times, so we’ll keep a close eye on this Oct. 15 reopening date and plan.

Featured image by M.M. Sweet/Getty Images

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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