I hope everyone is having a great kickoff to their summer! We have had a great one so far, with trips out to Walt Disney World at Bay Lake Tower and Art of Animation, as well as an anniversary trip for Mom and Dad only to our beloved Kaanapali, Maui. I wanted to touch base on our experience for those who wish to visit Hawaii (or return) and haven’t been to the islands since the Covid-19 pandemic. My husband and I were married there fifteen years ago, so we decided to celebrate the milestone by returning to the scene of the crime on Kaanapali Beach. I also have several guests traveling to the islands this summer, so I was excited to experience the trip myself!
First of all, getting there – this process is extremely fluid and has changed dramatically just in the last several months, and will surely continue to do so as the pandemic hopefully continues to subside. Please check with the official Hawaii state website to get the latest updates. Each island/county in Hawaii has slightly different rules and requirements, but as of this writing, all require those flying in from the mainland to have a negative Covid test within 72 hours of departure from an approved source. My husband and I were flying out on a Wednesday morning, so we did our tests with CVS on a Sunday afternoon – note, it isn’t free (like typical COVID testing locally), and we were fortunately able to use our HSA card to cover the $140 fee per person. Fortunately, we both had our negative results by Monday afternoon, and uploaded them to our Aloha Safe account. We also uploaded a photo, added a new trip including all our Alaska air flight information, and 24 hours before take-off we completed a short health survey. Once at the airport, we proceeded to our gate where Alaska had a special booth set up to get pre-clearance… the agent was able to validate our negative test results, and gave us a wrist band that allowed us to deplane without any issue in Maui. We are both fully vaccinated, so we also carried our vaccination cards with us in protective holders just in case we needed them – up until a week before our departure, Maui was still requiring a second rapid test upon arrival but exempting it for those who weren’t vaccinated and could provide proof of vaccination (yay, us!) . Good news! As of July 8th, those fully vaccinated will be exempt from the pre-travel COVID test as well so long as they provide proof of vaccination.
Once we got off the plane in Maui, it was an easy walk out to baggage claim for those who had the clearance wristbands on. For those who didn’t, a small booth was set up for additional screening and clearance. However, we can’t say that they were doing much patrolling or paying much attention, and I presume it’s gotten much more lax since the state initially reopened in December. We did not rent a car this trip, but to do so is quite a process right now! If you are renting a car, you want to do so very early (make it one of the first things you book) and be prepared to pay very high rates. We heard some crazy stories of what it was costing people for a car! On average, the price seems to be around $150-200/day, with some paying significantly more. We pre-booked a private ride to and from Kaanapali Beach with Aloha Share Express and they were absolutely wonderful. They were willing to make stops at the store, gave direct service, and avoided the hassle of a taxi or Uber with great pricing (cash only). I cannot recommend them enough!
Once at the hotel, we had a great stay at the Westin Kaanapali in the Hokupa‘a Tower with a club access Lanai. It was beautiful! Everyone so friendly, the daily hot breakfast was delicious, and the evening pupus were great as well. Juice and soft drinks were included, and delicious cocktails were available for a charge. Our favorite part of this was the Lanai lounge pool, where you could sit and dine in the water in the shallow end, or actually swim into the deeper end and watch the sunset nightly! Our room itself was spacious and clean, with a patio area that was constantly shaded and allowed for great resort views. We had fun using the pools (one is adult-only and lovely!) and water slide at this great resort, and we would love to return with our kids.
Our biggest observation of this trip was that it was the busiest we’d ever seen it on the island. The post-COVID itch to travel is definitely burning, and people are flocking to their favorite destinations (and also likely to those they feel safest, given that many Hawaii attractions are outdoors and they require testing to enter). Locals said that during peak seasons, the island population normally doubles, whereas right now it’s more like 3x that. They said they had never seen it like this in all their years on Maui. We saw many long lines and multiple hour waits for restaurants, and many sunset cruise boats/parasail boats running to accommodate the demand. Uber and Instacart were both backed up, especially during peak hours. It seems that most of Maui is back to work and they’re trying to adjust for the flood of people, but definitely pack some patience in your suitcase if you try to go to Hawaii!
As always, I love to help you plan your travels, so please contact me to plan your Hawaiian Getaway!