Tag: car rentals

How to make your Hawaii arrival easier

You are planning your trip. You’ve got the flights, the condo, hopefully the rental car all lined up. But how can you make your Hawaii arrival easier?

I’ve told you about the official Hawaii Covid Travel website of course.

  1. Sign up for your Safe Travel account. Schedule your pre-travel test, or if you received your vaccination within the United States, you will qualify for a vaccination exemption. See the website for so much more information and details. On a side note, if you have been vaccinated in the US but are re-entering the US from another country (such as Canada), you will need to pre-travel test regardless of vaccination status. This is a US government requirement, not a Hawaii requirement. Here is a video detailing the steps required.

2. Certain airlines offer a pre-clear option to avoid the check at Kahului airport. Sometimes the line at OGG is pretty quick. However, at times there are multiple flights disembarking at the same time, causing a backlog.

Sig’s ‘fancy’ Alaskan pre-clear bracelet

What is pre-clear?

Airlines offering pre-clear will check your documents and Safe Travels QR code at the gate and give you a wrist-band. I’ve heard that the pre-clear is not always at your flight’s gate, but can be elsewhere in the airport. I recommend arriving at your gate in plenty of time to find the pre-clear desk. Sig and our oldest son recently returned to Maui from Seattle and say it was a breeze. Airlines currently offering a pre-clear wrist-band program are: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines Delta, Hawaiian Airlines, South West, United Airlines. If you can, get it – it will make your Hawaii arrival so much easier.

Wrong tests or missing tests

Last weekend I chatted with one of the soccer moms. She works as a waitress at one of the airport restaurants/bars. I asked her, how often are people arriving without their Safe Travels QR code or the wrong test? You would think airlines, hotels, condo owners would be advising their guests of the rules (I certainly do). She says she works five shifts a week. Every shift she sees at least one person crying in the restaurant, waiting for a return flight.

If you arrive on Maui without your valid Safe Travels QR code, you will be flagged as having to quarantine. You will either need to book a room in one of the approved quarantine locations (NOT a vacation rental) and agree to stay within your room for 10 days, line up food and services you may need to be delivered. Or, you are asked to leave. You book a return flight to the mainland. At that point you can either get an approved test and return, or call the vacation over. What a mess.

Make your Hawaii arrival easy. Please make sure you take the correct test. Some approved labs have done unapproved tests. Double check!

Rental cars

In March 2020 tourists started leaving the islands as we became aware of Covid. At the time some 18000+ rental cars needed a place to go. They were temporarily parked in the fields surrounding the airport. Once Hawaii began reopening with the pre-travel test option to avoid quarantine in October 2020, those rental car graveyards began to empty. In the mean time we’ve had severe car shortages. Some cars were shipped back to the mainland or sold, and tourism numbers came back significantly stronger than anticipated.

Imagine my surprise as I was driving the back way (past the heliport) to Costco’s gas station and came across rental cars in fields. This was just a few days ago. Yes, tourism numbers have slowed again. I assume these are extra cars that don’t fit in the airport rental car facility. Talk about a flashback.

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Delta variant on Maui

The news is full of Covid updates, warnings about the Delta variant. Here is a short snapshot of where Maui is currently at.

Yes, Hawaii is also experiencing a surge in Covid cases thanks to Delta. We’ve had a real surge, going from averaging 5-10 cases/day, to the new average of 70+/day. Our island’s population is 145,000. Maui’s mayor Victorino announced this morning that Maui’s hospital – Maui Memorial – is now at capacity. The hospital has 219 beds and has the ability to add some as needed, however, they are short-staffed. Starting Monday 550 relief health care workers are coming to 19 Hawaii hospitals, Maui Memorial is expecting 40 of those relief nurses. My nursing friend says she and her fellow hospital staff are thrilled. They are pretty burned out. The relief nurses are scheduled to stay 60 days.

Maui’s mayor issued a call this morning to ‘not engage in dangerous activity’. Basically, try to avoid behavior that may result in needing hospital care. Well that’s great.

In good news, Lt Governor Green announced 69.5% of Hawaii residents (82.3% of those eligible, 12+) are partially vaxxed, 61.5% fully vaxxed as of today.

Restaurants

Restaurants are currently at half capacity. The best way to get a reservation (per my son who is part-time hosting at a Kihei restaurant) is to walk in and make a reservation for a few days out. Some restaurants allow for online reservations. Late June I blogged about some of my favorites – check it out!

Rental cars

Beat of Hawaii has announced that rental car prices have dropped. Unsure why – but if you have a rental car reservation, check back to see if prices have dropped. If you haven’t paid, rebook at the lower rate and don’t forget to cancel your other booking. Turo car rentals continue to be strong here on Maui. My concern is, what happens if your Turo car rental is an accident prior to your arrival – I assume your reservation is cancelled, and then you are back to square one.

The Canadians are back!

The Canadians are back! In fact, our sister and brother-in-law visited from BC end of July – it was so nice to be able to see family again! Paul went scuba diving and I included his whale shark video in a blog post! Sig and our eldest are currently in Canada visiting family. If you are Canadian and have a trip scheduled for Hawaii, be sure to get those pre-travel Covid tests scheduled while they are still available. And do remember, you also have to pre-travel test to return to Canada.

Covid requirements for Hawaii

Yes, Hawaii still has the mandatory 10 day quarantine in place for travel to Hawaii. If you are traveling from within the US, you can currently get an exemption by showing proof of vaccination (plus 2 weeks) or do a pre-travel Covid test. Note, all this is up to change especially as Delta continues to surge around the world. Please CHECK THE OFFICIAL HAWAII COVID TRAVEL SITE repeatedly pre-travel to make sure you have all the current information.

Masks are mandatory when indoors and on shared transportation.

enjoying the afternoon at Kamaole 1 beach

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Cancellation of the post-arrival testing

Early May Mayor Victorino put new post-arrival testing in place for all arriving on Maui. To many it seemed over the top, as most arriving also do a pre-travel test 72 hours prior to arrival. However, the mayor was under some pressure from many residents to prove that reopening tourism was safe. There are many residents who were insisting that travelers were bringing in new Covid variants (they have to come from somewhere, so there is some truth to this). As of tomorrow (June 4, 2021), this post-arrival testing is being cancelled. Please note, you still have to do the pre-travel test (Safe Travels program).

What were the results of the post-arrival testing

Between May 4-31 nearly 93,000 people received a rapid test upon arriving in Kahului airport and 26-29 travelers tested positive. The positives were then given a PCR test to confirm, and of those 5 tested positive – 3 visitors and 2 residents.

The news article does not state if the positive residents had done the pre-arrival testing. While most of those arriving in Hawaii are taking the pre-travel test to avoid the mandatory quarantine, there are some residents who choose to do the 10 day quarantine rather than deal with the testing. Additionally, the article does not address if those who have exemptions from the pre-travel testing (flight crew, essential workers etc.) were being tested.

Not all arriving on Maui were subject to the post-travel test. Travelers were exempt if they showed valid proof of full vaccination (plus 14 days). Also I’m told the post-arrival test station was closed when some arrived.

Safe Travels program (pre-travel testing)

Hawaii does still have the pre-travel testing requirement to bypass the mandatory 10 day quarantine. Unfortunately at this time there is no exemption for those who have proof of vaccination. Please make sure you are checking the official State website for your information. There are a few scam ones out there. Note, there is no charge or fee for the Safe Travels program, with exception that you do have to pay for your Covid tests (directly to the provider).

The official websites are:

  1. https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel/
  2. https://travel.hawaii.gov/

Is Maui tourism back to normal?

Maui’s daily arrival numbers are back to near ‘normal’. A recent news article showed that we are actually right around 2018 visitor numbers, 5% down from the previous high of 2019. However, it is a bit of a different experience.

  • The State recently dropped the outdoor mask mandate, but we do still wear masks indoors and when close to others.
  • Rental cars continue to be in short supply. I am told 40% short. Book yours now. Please show respect and do not book Uhauls and the likes (it certainly complicates things for residents).
  • You will need advance reservations to get into many restaurants – Restaurants and stores are still operating at reduced capacity. Or just get take-out.
  • As with elsewhere in the service industry, employers are having a difficult time hiring employees, such as waitstaff and cleaners.

Yes, Maui is here and it is beautiful. Please be patient while we work to get back to normal.

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Outdoor Mask Mandate Lifted

Yesterday Governor Ige lifted the outdoor mask mandate for the State of Hawaii. Naturally we are to use common sense. Larger gatherings are still not allowed. And, private outdoor venues may still require masks.

Note, in the State of Hawaii we are still required to wear masks indoors (including public transportation). The new rules apply to all, vaccinated or not.

It will definitely be nice not to have to worry about the outdoor mask mandate and it’s enforcement when walking the Wailea resort walk (our fave).

At this time 49% of Hawaii’s eligible population (ages 12 and up) are fully vaccinated, with more waiting for their second dose. As school lets out this week in Hawaii, there have been many popup vaccination clinics around the State.

Other Maui updates:

It’s graduation season – kids are finishing up their school year this week. We’ve been cautiously celebrating graduations around Maui. Last week Maui High, Baldwin and Lahaina Luna all hosted graduation ceremonies. I’m told graduates were allowed two guests each at the ceremony. We’re definitely seeing more subdued celebrations, but it’s still better than 2020.

my candy lei for graduation celebrations

Rental cars continue to be in short supply and crazy expensive. I haven’t heard the Maui numbers, but on Kauai roughly 40% were shipped back to the mainland/sold. We have numerous guests who have not been able to secure a rental car. If you have a trip planned and want a rental car, please book that ASAP.

Unable to get a car? There are taxis, uber and lyft (though I’m told the ride-share services aren’t always available), the Maui bus service. We are still waiting for Turtle Tracks to re-start in South Kihei/Wailea – they used to provide a hop on, hop off shuttle service. We’ve seen people rent scooters, bikes, Uhauls and toy cars that barely seem street legal (do double check before you rent). I stumbled across this blog on 11 Tips to get around Maui without a car.

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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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Kahului Airport rental car tram

Just under a year ago the new rental car facility opened at Kahului Airport. I’ve been admiring it and the new rental car tram every time I drive to and from the airport, but to date I’ve not had the opportunity to check it out. When I arrive on Maui, I’m coming home – and as such I haven’t rented a car on Maui in nearly ten years.

Yesterday I had to pick my husband Sig up from the airport. I left home early with intention of going for a tram ride. Unfortunately the kids are too old to want to go, but once a boy mom, always a boy mom 🙂 It’s a train ride after all!!

You can check out my blog post from last year for info on the car rental facility. But here’s my report from last night.

I parked near the train house and since I had just missed the tram, I opted to walk to the rental car facility. The signs said ‘8 minutes’, but it seemed shorter. Of course, I didn’t have any luggage in tow and I was the only one walking. It’s a nice partially covered walk which will be handy for shade in the daytime and should it be raining.

As you get close to the facility, the ramp goes uphill – not a problem if riding the tram.

The lobby sure is nice. And I particularly like the old fashioned clock. The tram is reminiscent of Maui’s sugar cane train history.

tram
the car rental arrivals facility

Here’s a short video I took getting into the tram at the car rental facility

How was it?

Ok, it was fun. I enjoyed my little adventure. The ride itself isn’t terribly smooth, the cars jiggle and swing around a bit, but totally fine. The car was empty, I think I had just beat the rush as there were both an Alaska Airlines and Westjet flight arriving when I got back to the terminal. If our kids were still little, I’d pick a quiet time, park in airport parking and take them for a tram ride. I got off the tram with a big smile on my face. Yes, several people were hanging out at the OGG arrivals station – they clearly thought I was a little crazy. No matter.

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New Car Rental Facility at OGG

It’s finally time – time to unveil the new car rental facility at Kahului Airport (OGG) here on Maui! Work began 3 years ago in April 2016 and according to the Maui News article construction is now complete. The new facility is scheduled to open May 15th. It’s been a long time coming.

Most airports I’ve traveled to have those handy car rental facilities that you walk to directly from the terminal. Currently here on Maui you catch a shuttle which then takes you to an off-site rental car location – it’s just a short 2 minute drive at most. It’s been fine. But on the off chance you can’t get the car you want at your agency, you then have to walk a ways to the next car rental company to see if they have one.

The new car rental facility is very lovely looking. Honestly, they have added some neat Hawaiian features to the building, I think it looks great. But the best part about the new facility are the two old-style sugar cane train trams that take you from the arrivals area to the new rental car facility. The old sugar cane plantation days may have come and gone here on Maui, but it’s a neat nod to the island’s history. I’ve also seen an old-style clock at the rental car terminal. I just may need to check it out next time I pick up friends/family from the airport.

By the way, no, you don’t have to take the tram. If you’re going to departures, it’s not that far a walk – just across the street. And you could just walk from arrivals too. In fact, after the long flight, it may feel great to get out and stretch a bit. Depending on the time of day, sleepy kids and amount of luggage you have with you.

Kahului car rental
the new ‘sugar cane train’-style tram cars (photo taken in September 2018)

Maui’s sugar cane history

Sugar Cane plays a significant role in Maui’s history since it’s commercial introduction to the island in 1848. Several sugar cane plantations and mills popped up around the island. Owners brought in workers from China, Japan, Puerto Rico, Korea, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia and Scandinavia. It was a hard life, but these people settled, started families and their descendants make up a significant portion of the island’s population today. Check out the Maui Sugar Museum across from the last remaining (now abandoned) Sugar Factory in Kahului. The last sugar cane crop was harvested in December 2016.

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Frequently asked security questions

I thought it might be helpful to address some of your security questions. If you have any others you’d like me to address, or if you have first hand experience with any of these (and better answers), please let me know.

This post is not to scare you. Maui is a very safe place to visit. But, please use common sense, just as you would at home.

What do you do with your phone and keys when you go to the beach?

keawakapu
I love sunset at the beach!

Is it safe to just leave them with your towel? Honestly, don’t take anything of value to the beach. If you must bring your phone (I know, it doubles as our camera, book, etc), make sure someone stays with your stuff when you go in the water. Or, pick up a water proof case, either at home or at the ABC store. I know of people who have used ziploc bags to protect their phones when going paddle boarding. Would I? Probably not… If you are staying at one of our condos, we have keyless entry, so it’s just the car key you need to worry about.

Is it safe to leave valuables in the rental car?

Would you leave valuables in the car where you live? Probably not. If you must, maybe because you can’t check into the condo til 3 or 4pm or because you have a late flight and couldn’t get a late check-out, place everything in the trunk of the car and do not open the trunk to get things out (in case anyone is casing your vehicle). If you are renting a jeep, there is no trunk, everything is visible (and accessible if it’s a soft-top). In six years of living here, we haven’t had a vehicle break-in, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

A few years ago I wrote this post on ‘What to do about late check-out at your condo?‘ Have a read. Did you know, most flights to Canada and a surprising number of flights back to the mainland leave in the evening? Check-out at our condos is at 11 AM.

Is it safe to leave valuables in the condo?

Generally yes. But, know that there are others who by necessity have access to the condo. The owner, the property manager (in the case of our condos, we are the owner and property manager), the cleaning lady and the manager of the complex you are staying at (they need to have access in case of emergencies and for the quarterly pest-control treatments). If you are staying at our condos, we have personal safes for you to use (I have an override key should you forget the code or the battery randomly dies). Otherwise, I recommend just placing your valuables in a drawer or at least out of sight. It’s happened a few times where I’ve had to go into one of our ground-floor condos (with guest consent) to repair something, and seen the blinds wide open and laptops, ipads, phones and once even a wallet just laying out. When staying in a ground floor condo especially, please don’t do that. It’s asking for a break-in. At minimum close the blinds when you leave.

Is it safe to walk at night?

You may have noticed, it is really dark on Maui at night. Why is this? Power is super expensive here and street lighting isn’t cheap. On the plus side, it makes for some great star viewing. Generally the tourist areas especially are quite safe to be walking at night. But use common sense. I also strongly recommend taking a flashlight. A few years ago I didn’t see the edge of the sidewalk – ouch. I was walking with crutches for over a month.

All in all, Maui is a pretty safe place to be. But like most places, we also have drug and homeless problems and crimes of opportunity do happen. A little common sense will help you have a great vacation – I’d hate for you to have a negative experience because of something preventable.

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What side of the rental car is the gas tank?

It happens to me every time I rent a car – I pull up to the gas station and then…. what side of the rental car is the gas tank? I always check my mirrors, but I can never spot the gas tank in the mirrors. Then I get out of the car, and look a bit like a fool, checking out my own rental car! Please tell me I’m not the only one!

gas tank on rental car

Here’s a little-realized fact for you: if you look at the fuel gauge on the dashboard, there is a little arrow pointing to the side of your car that the gas tank is on. Look closely, it’s right next to the fuel pump symbol. Apparently it’s done by all car manufacturers.

Who knew? I just checked both our vehicles, one of them nine years old, and they both have it (I had never noticed).

Now I just need to remember on our next trip!

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