Traveling to Hawaii has never been tougher. The Aloha State, which saw visitor numbers nearing 10.5 million in 2019 has seen visitation decrease by some 50% this year so far. In May alone, that dip was down 98.9%. That number came to 9,116 visitors, and they traveled to Hawaii by air. That figure compared to 841,376 total visitors that entered by air and cruise ships during the same month a year ago.

On the upside, a new pre-travel testing program recently began in October that will allow visitors in Hawaii who test negative for COVID-19 to avoid the two weeks of mandatory quarantine Hawaii has had in place since the pandemic began.

Air Care

Hawaiian Airlines is now offering travelers visiting or returning to the Hawaiian Islands from the U.S. mainland a pre-travel COVID-19 test they can take from the comfort of their home to qualify to be exempt from the state of Hawai'i quarantine.

The tests can order the $150 mail-in saliva test online through Vault Health. The test kit, which is available for travelers of all ages including children, will be express mailed overnight to travelers who will self-collect their sample with assistance from a testing supervisor in a video call. The kit is express shipped overnight to Vault's lab, which will process and analyze the sample and provide travelers their results electronically within 24 hours.

Travelers with a negative COVID-19 test taken at a state-approved testing facility within 72 hours of departure will be exempt from Hawaii's 14-day quarantine upon arrival.

Hawaiian Airline's new at-home COVID-19 test option adds to the carrier's partnership with Worksite Labs that will provide guests exclusive access to drive-through PCR testing ($90 for results within 36 hours, or $150 for day-of-travel express service) from dedicated, conveniently located labs near Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) international airports, with more testing locations coming soon to its other U.S. mainland gateways.

Hawaiian's comprehensive health and safety program covers all aspects of the travel journey, starting at check-in, when guests must complete a health acknowledgment form indicating they are free of COVID-19 symptoms and will wear an adequate face mask or covering at the airport and during the flight.

Hawaiian's enhanced cleaning includes frequent disinfecting of lobby areas, kiosks, and ticket counters, electrostatic aircraft cabin spraying, plexiglass barriers at staffed airport counters, and sanitizer wipe distribution to all guests. The carrier, which has been operating a reduced schedule since March and will continue to cap cabin capacity at 70% through Dec. 15 to allow for onboard distancing.

Hawaii Hotels Step Up

Through this jigsaw profile, some hotels and resorts are taking matters into their own hands and reopening now in anticipation of official opening announcements by the governor. One of those resorts is the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, which will be welcoming guests back on November 20.

The resort's new Safe on Maui program is in place to ensure a comfortable and healthy environment for guests as they travel and through the duration of their stay. Along with state mandated negative test results, Four Seasons requires guests to present proof of a negative result upon arrival at the hotel as well.

"There's no question that, right now, our guests' and employees' biggest concern is safety. So we focused efforts on reimagining safer travel that will both help protect our guests and, ultimately, our employees as well," says General Manager Marc Bromley. "Our guests will enjoy the resort with the assurance that Four Seasons Maui has gone above and beyond."

Meanwhile, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai in Kona is embarking on a resort-wide renovation with plans to open up again on December 1. The multi-million dollar enhancement program will update almost every aspect of the Resort, further enhancing the guest experience while maintaining the distinct, authentic character of the Resort.

All rooms and suites in the Resort will be extensively renovated with updated finishes and furnishings. A new bungalow consisting of six oceanfront guest rooms, including a suite with a private pool, will be constructed adjacent to Kumukea Beach on the Resort's northern edge, providing excellent views from its ocean front location.

The top three villas at the Resort — Hawaii Loa, Makaloa and Ho'onanea — will each be expanded to add a second story and unique design elements as they vie to become the largest and most luxurious villa room product in Hawaii.

Amenities across the property will be updated. King's Pond, Hualalai's 1.8 million-gallon swimmable aquarium, will receive a dramatic update with the addition of a new elevated swimming pool, lounge deck, and Marine Activity Center. Seashell Pool, the Resort's family-friendly pool, will receive new tiling and finishes to complement the updated poolside furniture and umbrellas added in 2019. A dedicated Culinary Academy will also be added upstairs of ULU Ocean Grill + Sushi Lounge, hosting a plethora of interactive culinary experiences and guest chefs.

The entire golf experience is also receiving considerable attention. Hualalai recently announced a new addition to its award-winning golf program, the Hualalai Golf Hale. This 3,000-square-foot instruction and practice facility will be the ultimate destination for golf enthusiasts of all ages.

Beyond the Beach

As for activities and attractions, Blue Hawaiian Helicopters reopened in mid-October at its base on Maui. It is the only helicopter tour company serving all four major islands, and will be reopening additional bases on the Big Island and Kauai in November, followed by Oahu.

Visitors to Maui will have the option to choose from its two top selling scenic tours: Maui Spectacular and the Waterfalls of West Maui & Molokai. A maximum of six guests may join each tour.

To safely accommodate those customers, guests will be required to undergo non-contact infrared temperature checks, practice proper social distancing from other guests outside their personal group and maintain proper health and hygiene with hand sanitizer and hand washing stations throughout. Masks for employees and guests will also be mandated at all times upon arrival to the base and throughout the tour aboard the helicopter. Only one tour group (maximum of six guests) can enter the base at any given time. Extensive cleaning procedures are in place for cleaning bases and craft at the beginning of each day, every hour and at the end of the day.

Travelers can find the latest State of Hawaii guidelines, which continue to evolve, here.