As the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, what’s the first thing that comes to Alaskans' minds?
Amid the pandemic nightmares and the economic catastrophes dominating the news last week, there was a glimmer of hope from the Land of Aloha.
Hawaii, which has had a mandatory 14-day quarantine in effect for months, announced a plan to allow travelers to get tested prior to arrival. Those travelers who can provide a negative result on a COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival can avoid the quarantine, starting Oct. 15.
That’s good news for travelers — and good news for the tourism industry in Hawaii, which employs 250,000 people.
However, there are many moving parts to Hawaii’s reopening plan. It’s going to take some time to get things rolling. Let’s break it down.
First, you’ll need to plan to get tested within 72 hours of your arrival in Hawaii. The state of Hawaii “requires travelers take an FDA-approved NAAT test from a CLIA certified lab.” There are 16 testing sites in Anchorage. I checked with two of them. The first is the drive-thru facility at 4215 Lake Otis Parkway. The second was Medical Park Family Care — just down the street at the corner of Lake Otis Parkway and Northern Lights Boulevard. Both sites provided tests that Hawaii will accept.
Getting to Hawaii from Alaska: Right now, if you want to fly to Hawaii, you have to go via the West Coast on Alaska Airlines or Delta. Alaska Airlines' nonstop flights to Honolulu, Maui and Kona start Nov. 20. The current schedule, which calls for daily flights to Honolulu, is likely to change. Insiders say that Alaska Air is aiming for four flights per week to Honolulu and Maui, although that’s subject to change. There should be three nonstop flights per week to Kona.
Prices from Anchorage to Honolulu range between $473 round-trip on Delta (via Seattle) to $617 round-trip on Alaska Air (nonstop). Nonstop flights to Maui from Anchorage are selling for $677 round-trip. To Kona, the price is a little higher, $717 round-trip. These prices are subject to change without notice.
If you have a place lined up to get tested and you decide on dates to fly, you must go online to Hawaii’s “Safe Travels” website and set up an account. You’ll receive a health form prior to your trip that you’re required to fill out.
Are you ready to pick a place to stay? Be patient, because Hawaii has had a rough time dealing with the coronavirus.
Mufi Hannemann is the president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association. He’s also the former mayor of Honolulu.
“We were in lockdown mode (in Honolulu) for the second time,” said Hannemann. “In many ways the government didn’t have a choice, since the (COVID-19) numbers spiked again,” he said.
Currently, Honolulu and Oahu are in a “Tier 1” stage for reopening. That means bars and nightclubs are closed. Just five people are allowed at a time at a beach or a park. Restaurants are limited to 50% capacity.
“Only half of the hotels are open now,” said Hannemann. He said more hotels will open as demand increases.
As part of the “Tier 1” level for Oahu, short-term vacation rentals are closed.
On the Big Island of Hawaii, county beach and shoreline parks are temporarily closed. According to the County of Hawaii’s latest emergency rule, “beach parks may only be used for direct access to and from the ocean or shoreline in order to engage in exercise, fishing and gathering food.”
Restaurants and bars are open on the Big Island and gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed.
In Maui, the beaches are open, as are bars and restaurants. Nightclubs are closed.
Kauai recently approved the “resort bubble concept.” The resort bubble would allow travelers in quarantine to venture outside their room to the pool or restaurant.
Electronic GPS bracelets, hotel security and local police would make sure that the guests are complying with the rules of the bubble. Kauai’s program is helpful with travelers who still are subject to quarantine requirements under Hawaii Gov. David Ige’s order. These include interisland travelers, mainland travelers who took tests but have not yet received results and people who were unable to be tested.
In addition to Hawaii’s statewide 14-day quarantine order, there’s an interisland quarantine in effect. The pre-arrival COVID-19 test is not valid for interisland travel. That means you can’t come to Honolulu for a few days and then fly to Maui for a week. However, if you fly to Maui first, you can continue on to Oahu, since the quarantine does not apply for interisland travel to Oahu.
Hannemann conceded that travel to Hawaii is different in the age of the coronavirus. “It won’t be the ideal vacation place for awhile ... but our beaches are nice and our weather is fine. There’s still a magical quality to Hawaii. And we’re very anxious to open,” he said.
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