Tag: covid-19

My experience traveling to and from Canada

This week it was my turn to travel – my first trip off Maui since July 2019. I flew to Canada to visit family and briefly experience fall weather (rain and cooler weather)! At this time to enter the US you need to show proof of a negative pre-travel test regardless of vaccination status. This will be changing come November (see below).

DISCLAIMER: this worked at my time of travel (September 2021). THINGS CHANGE REGULARLY so please double check the official government websites so there are no bad surprises.

Travel to Canada

Canada
Waiting at OGG for my Westjet flight to take off

I booked my pre-travel test to enter into Canada. There are a number of options on Maui, but the cheapest (and for me easiest) option was at the Clinical Labs of Hawaii at Kihei Wailea Medical Center (in the Safeway shopping center). I made my appointment in advance. You have to specify the test is for international travel (not the free community test). The cost of my travel test was $120US. I arrived at the lab, paid the fee and filled out a form. They took my nasal swab and I had an email announcing that my results were ready in under 24 hours. I set up an account to access my results, downloaded them to my phone and printed them as a backup.

The next step was to download the ArriveCan app. It won’t let you enter your info more than 72 hours prior to your flight. I entered all my travel info – flight and destination info, test result status (no upload required), stated my quarantine plan (should I test positive while in Canada). I uploaded a copy of my vaccine card. It was pretty straightforward. When you finish, the app sends you a receipt with a confirmation number.

Canada
first glimpses of Canada – after 26 months away

I wasn’t able to complete my online check with Westjet. At the counter they checked that I had an ArriveCan confirmation number and also verified my negative test results.

On arrival in Vancouver, the customs agent verified that I had the ArriveCan confirmation and test results.

Travel to Hawaii

To travel to Hawaii I set up an account with Safe Travels Hawaii. There is no app. Once set up, I registered my trip. Please see the official State of Hawaii Covid Travel website for very specific information.

Since I was entering the United States, I had to complete a pre-travel test 72 hours prior to my flight to Hawaii, despite being vaccinated. There are very specific approved ‘trusted testing and travel partner’ labs and at this time they are located only in BC, Alberta and Ontario. Hopefully that will be expanded soon. In BC Westjet partners with Lifelabs. I went onto their site, pre-purchased my test ($200Cdn+tax), then requested an appointment online. Within an hour Lifelabs contacted me to schedule the appointment. I had to bring my lab slip and passport to the lab, they took the swab. I received my results in just under 24 hours. Please check very closely that you get the specific Hawaii approved Covid test from the specific trusted travel and testing partner. If you take the wrong test, your trip will be very complicated (10 day quarantine anyone?).

Then I logged into my Safe Travels account. I clicked the ‘request testing exemption’. Unfortunately I uploaded the wrong form first, then the correct form (with the Hawaii State seal), and received an ‘identity mismatch’ error. I called the Safe Travels helpdesk person (hours are 10AM – 10PM Hawaii time). They had me email my test results and other info and within an hour I had an email that it was corrected on their end. Phew.

24 hours prior to my trip I logged in and completed the health questionnaire. The website then emailed me a QR code. I have both the code and my negative test results printed. Just in case.

What I experienced at the airport

The check-in line at YVR was short but took forever. Westjet agents looked specifically for the QR code and double-checked the test results sheet. A number of travelers didn’t have their QR code. The Westjet gate agent admitted she had not flown to Hawaii and gone through the process herself. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the Safe Travels program. You can phone Safe Travels – they are very helpful.

At the gate we had to show our QR code, test results and passport again. Then on arrival, we were routed to a screening location (at another gate), showed our QR code and passport again. The QR code was checked, we were then directed to take a photo of our ID with a laminated confirmation sheet. I then had to show that photo to another person before exiting the terminal.

All in all, if you have read up on what to do AND if you have followed the official government website instructions correctly, it’s pretty straightforward. More complicated than pre-Covid, but doable.

November 2021 changes

Enjoying fall foliage in BC

Last week the US government announced changes to the current travel policies. Currently Canadians need to pre-travel test to enter the US by air. Land borders are still closed to non-US resident travel. Many international travelers are currently not allowed to enter the US, such as travelers from England and the European Union.

In ‘early November’ the US will be changing its policy, opening up to more international travelers. The US will be requiring all foreign travelers (including Canadians from what we can tell) to show proof of full Covid vaccination in addition to a pre-travel test.

The US CDC (Center for Disease Control) will have the final word on which vaccines will be accepted.

“The CDC considers someone fully vaccinated with any FDA-authorized or approved vaccines and any vaccines that (the World Health Organization) has authorized,” said spokesperson Kristen Nordlund. That list could change pending additions by either agency, she said.

Reuters

Canada has a high vaccination rate, so for many the new rule in itself will not be a problem. However, per CBC News it is currently unclear if the US will be allowing people with mixed vaccinations to enter the US.

We are waiting for the US to announce the exact new rules. If you are planning a trip to the US and have received mixed vaccines, please keep an eye on this for further developments.

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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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Safer Outside Vaccination Requirements

Maui’s mayor Michael Victorino announced the County’s new ‘Safer Outside’ program, beginning September 15th. The County will review it 30 days from then and adjust if the County’s Covid numbers have come down.

Here are the details for the ‘Safer Outside’ program as announced at Tuesday’s press conference and reported by Maui Now.

  • If you are 12 and older, you need to show proof of vaccination for indoor dining at restaurants. Note, you can still eat on outdoor patios, get take-out and drive-thru without proof of vaccination.
  • Gym patrons will need to show proof of vaccination at gyms.
  • Restaurants, commercial boats and tour operators are reducing capacity to 50% (this is down from 75%). Check with your activities provider if your planned activities are impacted (luau, dive boat, snorkel cruise, sunset cruise, organized hiking trip etc.)
  • Restaurants and bars have to close by 10pm.
  • Non-commercial outdoor gatherings are limited to ten, indoor social gatherings to five people.
  • No spectators at indoor and outdoor sports events.

The State of Hawaii and Maui County are currently grappling with the Delta surge. Hawaii is located in the middle of the Pacific, with the nearest continent (out of state hospital bed) 2200 miles away.

The State of Hawaii continues to have a strict indoor mask mandate. At this time 64% of Hawaii’s population is fully vaccinated, 72.6% with at least one shot).

Hawaii Covid Travel

Please remember to check out Hawaii State’s official Covid Travel website for the most up to date information on travel requirements. At this time you still need to sign up for the Save Travels app, enter your trip information and upload a copy of your vaccination card or your test results. If you choose to pre-travel test, there are very specific rules regarding which tests and labs you use. Please review carefully and double check (yes, there are changes from time to time).

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Upcountry roadtrip and restaurant update

Last weekend we went for an upcountry roadtrip. One of the kids had a tennis game in Kula, so I thought…. why not combine that with lunch at the ranch? There is something about going for a drive and eating a picnic bbq lunch.

The ranch, you say? Ulupalakua Ranch is located above Makena and Big Beach. As the bird flies, it’s not that far. However, the private ranch road is not open to the public. Years ago there was some significant flooding upcountry which took out a section of Kula Hwy. At that time the ranch temporarily opened their gravel road to upcountry residents. The only way to get the ranch is to drive to Kahului, up Haleakala Hwy, Kula Hwy and just follow that road until you get there – in about 80-90 minutes’ time. But not to worry – it’s a beautiful drive!

The ranch’s General Store sells some picnic supplies, clothes, and touristy items. In the back they have an order counter for their bbq (open between 11-2). If you follow them on Instagram, they often post food photos which make me hungry every time. Maui Wine (and the visitor restroom) are across the road.

This weekend we timed our lunch trip just perfectly, arriving about 10 minutes before a large group. It was pouring rain at the ranch, but we snagged a table on the lanai. There are additional picnic benches with umbrellas on the lawn. We had an hour to spare before the game. I suggested a walk along Thompson Road to stretch my legs. I was overruled – carrot cake was calling.

Grandma’s Coffee House

When we pulled up at Grandma’s Coffee House there were no cars up front or parked on the road. I wondered if they were even open. Turns out we got lucky a second time, ordered our carrot cake and lilikoi cheese cake and sat in one of the booths. Then a large group of people arrived. Unfortunately my phone camera flaked and didn’t take the cake photo. Sorry! Both cakes were delicious. I did pick up a pack of their home grown and roasted espresso beans for at home enjoyment. Yum.

Mauna Loa changes

This past year my favorite Mauna Loa macadamia nuts updated their packaging. They also changed their chocolate recipe on their individual nuts. While the mac nut cluster chocolate seems largely the same, the other has changed significantly. The milk chocolate individual nuts are a lot more dark chocolatey than they used to. They are still great – just different! I have discovered a new favorite – kiawe smoked bbq mac nuts. Yum.

Restaurant news!

With the ongoing Delta surge, Maui’s mayor announced yesterday a vaccine passport type program for restaurants. Details have yet to be announced, but I’ll update the blog when we know more. It is supposed to go into effect September 15th.

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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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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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Cara’s Maui favorites

I am regularly asked for recommendations, what my Maui favorites are. Of course, with Covid many things have changed, so this list is in flux. Also, for restaurants – call and make reservations! Some take reservations on Open Table, others do not.

Cara’s breakfast Maui favorites

  • Beach Street (Former S&Q Shave Ice stand)
  • Cafe @ La Plague
  • Maui Bread Co (we like to walk to this bakery – go early, it’s small and they sell out)
  • Kihei Caffe This place is hugely popular for their big portions. Honestly, I wouldn’t stand in those crazy lines (mainly in full sun) for breakfast. But if there is no line, I’d go! Note: they have finally opened their Lahaina location for those staying on the West side!

Cara’s favorite restaurants

  • Gannons – my absolute favorite, recently reopened for happy hour and dinner. Having said that, my favorite is lunch/happy hour. The view and ambiance is amazing
  • 5 Palms on Keawakapu beach – any time of day, but perfect for oceanfront sunset dining
  • Maui Brewing Company – for lunch and dinner. They also offer tours of their award-winning facility
  • Nalus – they have finally reopened after a long closure during Covid. I dream of their ahi club
  • Cafe o Lei on South Kihei Road – one of the most reasonable lunch menus
  • Ami Ami (at the Maui Coast Hotel) for breakfast/dinner. They also serve food poolside – no, non-hotel guests may not use the pool, but they often have live music and it’s an easy casual atmosphere with younger kids
  • Cuatro Restaurant – we haven’t been for a few years. Small restaurant, their ahi nachos are so good
  • Eskimo Candy – they have the best poke bowl on island (disclaimer, that is all I eat here)
  • Pint & Cork – when we went a few weeks ago, they were not taking reservations, just first come first serve
  • while not a restaurant, Island Market @ Shops at Wailea has a very nice take-out/deli section for picnics

non Kihei special mentions

  • Tin Roof (pre-order your take-out on their website). The mochiko chicken is amazing
  • Cafe o Lei at the Mill House (this is at the Maui Tropical Plantation, former Mill House restaurant site)

best grocery stores

  • Safeway (use your Safeway card, or the one in the condo. If you can’t find it, use my phone number for the Safeway deals 808-281-7934)
  • Hawaiian Moons – natural/organic grocery store with a take-out section
  • Foodland – best poke selection, hands-down

Cara’s Maui favorites – these are the ones that really count

I’ve mentioned I love dessert and treats, right?

  • Ululani’s – hands down best shave ice on island
  • Maui Gelato – have you tried their local flavors like lilikoi (passion fruit) or mango
  • Fabianis – love their desert display case. The lilikoi meringue is a definite favorite
  • Hula Cookies – they make icecream sandwiches with your choice of their cookies and Roselani icecream. So good.
  • Komodas – home made malasadas, donuts etc. Arrive early (like between 7-8am) for best selection, or pre-order for later pick-up.
Maui favorites

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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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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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