Category: Travel

Vaccination Exemption

At long last, the State of Hawaii is putting in place a vaccination exemption to the mandatory 10 day quarantine. Starting July 8th travelers fully vaccinated (plus two weeks) will be able to bypass the mandatory 10 day quarantine. You will still need to set up your Safe Travels account and upload your vaccination card. However, if fully vaccinated, you can skip getting the onerous pre-travel test.

Please note, per the official website you must have received your vaccination in the United States (no exemption for those vaccinated internationally).

Should you or some in your travel group not be vaccinated, you can still pre-travel test to avoid the mandatory quarantine. Please make sure to follow the official instructions closely. Do not board your final flight without your test results in hand.

For much more information and the most accurate details, please see the official Hawaii Covid Travel website.

vaccination exemption
Gorgeous sunset at Ulua Beach. This vaccination exemption definitely simplifies Maui travel.

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Further loosening of Covid rules

Remember the good old days, when I blogged about things to do on Maui? I really look forward to no longer writing about Covid updates, but they are important for right now, so here is the latest. The State is loosening the Covid rules. A little.

To preface, all those who have NOT been vaccinated IN the State Hawaii still need to do their pre-travel Covid test. Once 60% of Hawaii’s residents have been fully vaccinated, the State will announce a lifting of the pre-travel testing for US mainland and Alaska residents. So hang tight. And schedule your pre-travel tests, in accordance with the official State website.

This week (June 15) you no longer need to take Covid tests when traveling between islands, regardless of your vaccination status. So for instance, if you are spending some time here on Maui and then hopping over to one of the other Hawaiian islands, you no longer need to pre-travel test before that island hopper flight. Yay. But, you do still need to pre-travel test to come to Hawaii. For now.

A little complication

To complicate things a little, as of June 15 those who are fully vaccinated (vaccines administered and logged) in the State of Hawaii do NOT need to pre-travel test when arriving on the mainland. This mainly applies to Hawaii residents. They do still have to upload their vaccination card into the Safe Travels app. I’m sure this will add a wrinkle or two at the airport.

Are you confused yet? Sorry about that. But please check out the State’s official website re the current rules and loosening restrictions.

Looking for more Maui information?

Have you checked out Tripadvisor’s Maui forum? This is a great place to get specific information from recent travelers and locals.

The other day I was checking our Kamaole Sands 2-206 condo around sunset. Look at the palm tree shadow being reflected on the building by the sunset lighting. I thought this was pretty cool.
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New post-arrival testing at the airport

This week Maui’s mayor announced new post-arrival testing at the airport. What is this all about?

As you (should) know by now, when flying to Hawaii there is a mandatory 10 day quarantine for all arrivals. You can bypass this quarantine by taking a pre-arrival test up to 72 hours prior to the last leg of your flight into Hawaii. For much more information on all this, please check the official State of Hawaii Covid Travel website.

On Maui our Covid numbers have been a bit elevated since around Christmas. The Health authorities and mayor say it’s community-based. However, with the dramatic increase in tourism (6000-8000 arrivals/day the past few weeks), community pushback and blaming both arriving visitors and returning residents for the higher numbers and new variants has grown.

Maui’s mayor asked the Governor and received the State’s official ok to introduce a second mandatory post-arrival test. Details are not really available yet as they are still figuring things out. Here’s what we know so far

  • Rapid-test
  • Mandatory on arrival at the airport for trans-Pacific flights
  • Free to the traveler (paid for by the County of Maui)
  • If traveler tests positive, they will need to quarantine

What is unclear at this time:

  • What about false-positives? Will it be followed up by another test (while you and your fellow travelers quarantine)?
  • Airport logistics when you have multiple large trans-Pacific flights arriving at the same time.

This week Maui County opened vaccinations to all residents 16+. It is my hope that with increased vaccinations our numbers will go down and that this post-arrival test will be short-lived.

No vaccination passports at this time

As of now there is no exemption to all the testing for those who have been vaccinated. The Lt Governor heads up the Covid task force for Hawaii and would like to see a vaccination passport implemented soon. However, the Governor recently announced that his priority is to vaccinate residents and not to expect a vaccination passport until later in the summer.

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What is the current re-entry process to Canada

Remember when flying between Canada and the US was as easy as ensuring you had a valid passport, ticket and passing security and customs? I checked – our family’s passports are all valid. And yet, travel to Canada seems so remote these days.

My Canadian return guests and Facebook page followers have been lamenting their cold Canadian winter. Some have optimistically booked their winter 2022 Maui stays (yes, those calendars are filling up).

The Canada-US border remains closed to non-essential travel at this time. Apparently there are exceptions, and of course, Canadians may return to their country. There are just ‘a few’ steps to take in order to do so.

I have a few friends who have gone through this process in the past months. One repeat guest in BC told me of unmarked government vehicles parking outside her house and phone calls, checking that she was quarantining (this was last fall). My mom (also in BC) recently told me of an unmarked vehicle checking in on one of her neighbors, the official in the car speaking with the quarantin-er on the phone through the door.

Direct Westjet flight YYC-OGG arriving on April 3, 2021

Several Alberta friends who own second homes here on Maui recently flew back home. Here is a short summary of one of their experiences:

  1. They had to organize and take a pre-travel test while here on Maui. The requirements are quite specific (so do check the Canadian government website for specifics). I believe Minit Medical, Doctors on Call and Clinical Labs of Hawaii all offer tests. The Minit Medical test ran at $175US/person. You need these results on time, without negative results, you will need to reschedule your trip.
  2. Then for the return flight. Apparently WestJet has one direct flight per week between Calgary and Maui (OGG). I was surprised there are direct flights into Canada. My friend’s return flight to Calgary was a third full and according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority (check here for very cool searchable arrival statistics), there are Canadians are still arriving on Maui on those inbound flights. As I check right now, it doesn’t look like there are any direct flights to Vancouver, and my quick spot check is not showing direct AirCanada options either.
  3. On arrival in Calgary my friends took a complimentary Covid test at the airport and then proceeded to their pre-booked hotel room for their 3 night stay. The cost at the Acclaim hotel for two persons was $1300 for 3 nights which included all meals. Curious me checked the Acclaim Hotel at the Calgary airport. The hotel looks nice, my friend had a standard size hotel room with a king-size bed, chaise, desk and chair. Imagine spending up to three days in a hotel room?
  4. Fortunately for my friend, they received their test results within 24 hours. They called the front desk, were escorted out of the hotel and headed home to ride out the remaining 13 days of quarantine at home. There was no discount for the unused nights/meals at the hotel.
  5. On Day 10 of their quarantine they will take another Covid test. If that test is also negative, then after Day 14 they are free to resume their ‘normal’ routine.

For much more information and current details on the Canadian out-of-country arrival program, please check the official Canadian government website.

As for our family – we will continue to wait to visit our family and friends until the Canadian border becomes a bit more porous.

How many Canadians come to Maui?

When we first started our vacation rental business, about half our guests were Canadian. Over the past years this number has decreased to perhaps one fifth, but Maui remains a popular warm-weather destination for Western Canadians. Per the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s Canada Fact Sheet, in 2019 Maui saw 277,000 Canadian visitors, on average 35% first-timers (65% repeat), spending an average 12 days on island.

Sugar Beach 104
Pull up a chaise lounge and take in the view
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Where are all the rental cars?

Remember a year ago when all the tourists left? Beside empty condos and empty hotels, empty restaurants, stores and streets and insane unemployment, Maui had another problem. Empty rental cars. Empty rentals cars all needing to be stored and no place to put them. Most of those rental cars ended up being stored in fields surrounding the airport. For months we had cars sitting in fields, and it got to the point where they closed and guarded the road by the heliport overnight to prevent theft, gas syphoning and car part picking. From time to time you would notice windshield wipers raised on some cars – I am told this was to indicate that a car had been checked.

a not-so-temporary rental car parking lot at the intersection of Airport Road and Hana Hwy in Kahului (March 2020)

Eventually the rental car fields emptied. Rumor has it many were loaded onto ships and sent back to the mainland to be sold or integrated into the mainland rental car fleet.

In mid-October tourism slowly restarted with the pre-travel test option. There were plenty of rental cars available for the demand. Here on Maui we are used to car lots running out of cars around Christmas and the early January PGA golf tournament, but we didn’t hear anything about shortages.

Until now! It’s been spring break this month and Maui has been BUSY. Arrival numbers have skyrocketed and guess what – there are no rental cars to be had. HawaiiNewNow reports today that on Oahu you are hard pressed to find a car, and those businesses with cars available are reaping the benefit of supply and demand. $1000/day for a car anyone? Yikes.

What to do?

Well, spring break should be coming to a close with Easter this weekend, so hopefully things will slow down a bit again. And hopefully rental companies will start shipping inventory back to the islands. In the mean time, taxis and ride-shares will have to fill the gaps. If you can get one.

Do you love statistics?

I track the Hawaii Tourism Authority daily arrivals logs, looking at how many people are arriving on Maui on a daily basis.

But today I stumbled across this arrivals compilation on the Hawaii Covid website, showing where people are coming from, airlines etc. You can look at all of Hawaii, or break it down by County, play with dates etc. Fascinating. For example, one of my neighbors flew back to Calgary (Canada) by direct flight on Sunday (March 28) where she is currently languishing in quarantine (another story). So I knew there must have been a flight coming from Canada – I found it on March 27th – a Westjet flight with 28 passengers (yes – 28!!). Apparently they fly once week. Who knew?

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What’s new with Maui travel?

NEW: Mandatory sign-up for AlohaSafe Alert App (or similar) to avoid the 10 day quarantine per County of Maui. This is in addition to the SafeTravels program (pre-travel Covid testing etc etc). Please, if you are traveling to Maui at this time, make sure you read the official websites carefully to avoid problems.

Tourism on Maui has settled into its groove, in a manner of speaking. After the Christmas ‘rush’ of about 2200 arrivals/day, we seem to have settled in at about 1700 visitor arrivals/day. This down from January 2020’s 7000/day. After 9 months of minimal traffic, it seems like a lot, but really it isn’t.

You’ll notice Lihue (Kauai) is seeing minimal travel. In December they opted out of the ‘pre-travel testing to avoid quarantine’ program. Predictably their economy is suffering badly.

Who is traveling to Maui?

Generally we are seeing a younger than usual crowd for this time of year. Typically winter is snowbird season, time for baby boomers to come thaw out from winter back home. Yes, there are always younger people also, but they typically stay a week or two and then have to get back to work. This year many snowbirds are taking a pass on travel – I assume pending receipt of the Covid vaccine or the pandemic ending. Completely understandable. Thankfully the younger crowd is coming, many staying longer and working remotely from the condos. We are thankful.

Anecdotally I am told there are a lot of condo owners on island. Perhaps they haven’t been able to travel this past year, haven’t had much luck renting their condos out. Good for them! In normal years high season rents help pay the bills during low season, so often owners will limit their high season stays. This year the world is upside down.

Some vacation rental stats for you!

I just received my monthly update email from the Hawaii Tourism Authority on vacation rentals for December 2020. According to their data, condo occupancy for the month of December was at 45% for Kihei/Wailea vs last year’s 83%, with average rates down 29%. over last year’s. We were lucky, our condos were all full for December. For January our Kamaole Sands condo sat empty. Next month all condos will be full again, with exception of our Sugar Beach condo – the remodel should hopefully be completed in the next two weeks.

In contrast, Kihei/Wailea’s hotel occupancy for December 2020 is at 26% (down from 85% for December 2019). Interesting hotel nightly rates are only down 7%. See here for the Hawaii Tourism Association’s report. We’ve definitely seen near empty resorts on our Wailea beach walks. A few weeks ago we overheard a Wailea Beach Resort employee telling someone their occupancy was at 18% that day. How do these resorts stay open at those numbers?

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The Canadians are back!

Late March 2020 the border between Canada and the US was closed and Canadian airlines Westjet and AirCanada cancelled all Hawaii flights. Covid was upon us all and noone knew what to expect next.

The airlines have been teasing customers with flights this fall, only to cancel them due to the persistent 14 day mandatory quarantine upon arrival to Hawaii. Mid-October the State started the pre-travel test exemption, but the approved tests were only available on the US mainland. As of December 17 there are now Canadian testing options and we are thrilled! Hawaii is after all the closest warm-weather destination for Canadians on the West Coast (though still a 6+ hour flight away).

For much more pre-travel test information please FIRST check the official State of Hawaii Covid Travel website (note, things change regularly, so check back often). Then (if you are traveling from Canada), check with your airline for further testing information. At this time AirCanada and Westjet both run the official pre-travel test program for Canadians traveling to Hawaii.

We were driving to Kahului yesterday afternoon as I saw a Westjet flight come in. I double checked my flight tracker app (I use the free Flightradar24 app on my phone) and sure enough – it was coming from Vancouver. I then googled more information, turns out it was the FIRST Westjet flight arriving on Maui since late March! Welcome back!

About half hour later I saw another plane arriving – Flightradar showed me it was Air Canada – their very first Covid-era direct flight from Calgary.

Mandatory Quarantine on return to Canada

As Canadians will know, there is currently a mandatory 14 day quarantine for all arrivals to Canada. However, Alberta currently has a pilot-program to avoid the mandatory quarantine. I am hoping BC will follow suit. Sure would be nice to go see our Canadian family again! It’s been a long year….

State of Hawaii Mandatory Quarantine Change

As I mentioned, things change from time to time. This week the State of Hawaii officially shortened the mandatory quarantine from 14 to ten days. This applies to all arrivals who do not have a Hawaii State approved negative Covid test in hand on arrival in Hawaii. Please check their website for much more information.

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Finally – Hawaii State approved Covid tests for Canadians!

Exciting news from the Hawaii State Governor today. They have announced new testing options that will allow Canadians to fly directly to Hawaii!

On October 15th the State of Hawaii started allowing visitors to present a pre-travel Covid test to avoid the mandatory 14 day quarantine. To be clear, this test must be taken no more than 72 hours prior to the last leg of your flight to Hawaii (if it’s a multi-leg flight). The catch is that you have to have the test done at one of the ‘trusted testing partners’. Originally these partners were only in US locations, then it was expanded to include Japanese partners. And now, ta-da, finally we have Canadian options, which are specifically through Air Canada and Westjet, the two Canadian airlines that fly to Hawaii.

Both Westjet and AirCanada will be posting all the information to their website in the coming days, so please do check there for details. Note, very importantly, please study the Hawaii Covid Travel website thoroughly to ensure you have the correct information (and note, it is in flux and changing – so check back). You will also need a Safe Travels account.

What about quarantine on return to Canada?

Yes, as Canadians know, there is currently a mandatory 14 day quarantine for all returning to Canada. There is however currently a pilot program at Calgary International Airport (YYC) which allows those returning to severely shorten the quarantine. Note, at this time the physical border between Canada and US is closed. Canadians may fly into the US, however under most circumstances Americans are not allowed to fly into Canada.

What countries are next?

The Governor just mentioned South Korea is in talks with the State of Hawaii to offer testing options also. New Zealand and Australia may be on the horizon, but per the governor, ‘the problem is, Hawaii is part of the United States and many countries have shut down travel to the United States’. So we’ll see what happens.

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Changes – you must have your pre-travel test results prior to traveling

On October 15th the State of Hawaii started a pre-travel test program. Travelers have the option to skip the mandatory 14 day quarantine by getting a negative Covid test no more than 72 hours prior to the last leg of their flight to Hawaii.

You have to take the test with one of the State’s ‘trusted testing partners’ in order for the State to accept it. A friend’s daughter just arrived with a wrong test. Additionally she didn’t receive her result (negative) until after her arrival. As she took the wrong test, she has to quarantine for fourteen days regardless of the fact that she is negative. Bummer.

The big change is…. Starting Tuesday November 24th, ALL RESULTS MUST BE IN HAND PRIOR TO BOARDING YOUR FLIGHT. The State wants you to stay home (not travel) should you test positive. They do not want you to arrive and then find out that you are positive. Should you fly to Hawaii and not have your results (either uploaded to the Safe Travels App or in hand), as of Tuesday November 24 you will be subject to the mandatory 14 day quarantine, even if you receive your results after arrival. This new policy applies to all domestic and international flights. Per the governor’s news conference this change is due to the increases in Covid numbers on the US mainland but also worldwide.

The Governor stated that 94% of travelers arrived with their tests. However, there have been 40+ who have arrived and then gotten positive results after arrival. Note, the State of Hawaii currently has the lowest per capita incidence of Covid19 in the country.

For much more information about the State of Hawaii’s pre-travel test program, please carefully study the State’s Covid Travel website. And please check it regularly – details have been changing from time to time.

What do you do if your results don’t arrive on time?

Canadian airlines Air Canada and Westjet both had reps on the State of Hawaii Governor’s press conference today. Both stated that should the results not be back on time, travelers could change their flights free of charge. The Lieutenant Governor thought the US airlines would have similar policies.

My question to that is – by bumping your flights back by a day or two, would you not need to re-test as you would no longer be in the 72 hour window?

Please, if you choose to travel at this time (and we would love to have you), make sure you purchase Cancel for Any Reason Trip Insurance which specifically covers Covid19.

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Important – Maui County Covid rules

We are one week into having the pre-travel test option for arrivals in the State of Hawaii (check here for more info). There have been hiccups and bumps along the road, however, it is wonderful to have this as an option to avoid the mandatory 14 day quarantine. Of course, this doesn’t mean anyone is exempt from the Covid rules.

What are the rules?

The Maui County Covid rules aren’t that hard.

  • Wear a mask when in public (ages 5 and up) – unless you are doing strenuous activity or in the water. Yes, we have to wear a mask on the beach and when walking. Many have not been doing this – the State is stepping up enforcement.
  • Social Distance six feet or more.
  • Wash your hands and/or sanitize often.
  • Indoor/outdoor gatherings of up to ten people allowed subject to social distancing.
  • Stay home and isolate if you are sick. Get tested.

Check out this graphic from Maui County with their new Arrive Healthy, Stay Healthy campaign. Maui County is offering complimentary post-arrival tests (only to those who did the pre-travel test). You cannot do an on-island test to opt out of quarantine.

How is it going?

We are starting to see a few more people on island. Sig and I walked the Wailea beach walk again yesterday (we do this twice a week) and saw a few visitors at the beaches. There were a few people in lounge chairs on the Four Seasons property and we have seen a little activity at the Grand Wailea, but unclear if they are open yet.

Wailea Beach fronting the Grand Wailea

We saw a few people across the street from Fred’s Mexican (Kamaole 2 beach), sitting on the wall watching sunset. It has been 7 months since we last saw that.

Some residents remain skeptical about allowing visitors back. Others are hugely relieved as they hope to be able to work again after all this time. We are hopeful people will obey the Covid rules and that Maui County can avoid an outbreak. On that note, Lanai is currently struggling with an outbreak. It appears it may have been a traveling construction worker at one of the hotels.

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