Hawaii is one of my favorite places in the world but I haven’t yet visited since travel opened back up. So it’s great when those of you who have traveled to the islands share the tips you learn along the way. Today’s tip comes to you from Joe V, who says:

Hi Johnny,
I’m not sure if you’ve addressed this, but we have had some struggles with COVID testing and Safe Travels registration on our current Hawaii trip.

Getting the all-important QR code, required on arrival to Hawaii, was straightforward for our trip from Florida (although it was annoying that we needed it at all since we are vaccinated).  The problems began when we prepared for our trip to the Big Island from Oahu.  We thought no test was needed, since the Big Island stopped requiring a second, quick test at the airport, unlike Maui.

We failed to understand that you still need a second NAAT or PCR test within 72 hours of your flight to ANY of the other islands, and having stayed a few days in Waikiki, it was more than 72 hours since our test back in Florida.  So, we had to find a place to administer the test near our hotel.  One at an urgent care near the Moana Surfrider charged $300 per person, but another, administered by the National Kidney Foundation, at The Monarch Hotel, charged $140, so we went there.  It was very well run, but created an unexpected itinerary addition to fit it in.

The real problem was trying to get a new QR code.  We tried to make a new trip on the Safe Travels website but were confused.  It asked: “When are you arriving in Hawaii?”  Well, we were already there. It asked: “When are you leaving Hawaii?”, but not only were we not leaving Hawaii on this part of the trip, but we had no fixed plans as to when we were leaving the Big Island, perhaps to go to Maui.

We boarded our flight to Hilo, therefore, without a QR code, only the printout and PDFs on our phones of the COVID test results, thinking we could just show these to an official at the airport.  Unfortunately, after waiting in a long line, the agent sent us to a bank of iPads and had us wait till she could help us.

There, with her assistance, we went through the process of getting a QR code.  She showed us the very non-obvious, secret trick of how to handle our situation: When you create the trip, you must select as a reason for the trip “Intended Resident”, not “Pleasure/Vacation”. If you do this, you will not be faced with unanswerable questions that will prevent you from making a trip and getting a QR code.

I understand the desire to control COVID, but since we will be going to Maui, we will have had to take 4 tests: three paid NAAT tests (a total of $900-$1,800) and a free test on arrival at Maui. Plus, you have to schedule the time to find testing locations, schedule the tests (very limited … do it days ahead of time or you will be really screwed), then get to the location and take the tests.  Here on the Big Island, we tried to schedule our tests and could not find an appointment on the west side of the island in the two-day window we needed to comply with the 72-hour requirement at any test site. The only place we could find was in Hilo. Had we not found it, we would have had to change many things on our trip: flights, hotels etc.

The only exception is travel to Oahu from an outer island.  So, if you fly to Maui, stay a week, then go to Oahu, you will not need a test.

Please let your subscribers know.

Thanks, Joe – this is extremely helpful and important information for travelers to Hawaii to know.


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4 Comments On "The Secret Trick to Hawaii’s Safe Travels Program for Inter-Island Travelers"
  1. Lorie Rasmussen|

    Guess the pandemic is over and people don’t care anymore?

  2. Anonymous|

    We received our pre travel covid test at Walgreens free 72 hours prior to travel to Maui. Traveled on 48 hour with QR code.

    1. Michelle Winner|

      Dear Anonymous, Was your Walgreens test taken on the mainland or from one of the islands to travel to another Hawaiian island? SafeTravels says only the NAAT test is acceptable for entry into Hawaii from Mainland. Also curious as to how confident travelers are that after taking their test within the 72 hour window of landing that the results will be available in time? Thanks for any insight.

  3. Brad|

    The whole thing is a joke. We had one test at CVS in the mainland prior to leaving, and then used the same test for our trips to Lanai, the Big Island and Maui. They just check the QR code, so we figured out that we could upload our original tests which would generate a QR code for each subsequent trip. I could have uploaded anything and that would have generated a QR code.

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