The US has a checkered record on its handling of the pandemic, while some states have been stringent thus curtailing the spread others took a more liberal approach leading to sky high infectious rates. Hawaii is one of the few states that imposed strict protocols to curb the spread of the virus which resulted in them having less than 2% infection rates and were able to re-open to tourists.
Hawaii is currently at stage 3 of reopening and visiting the Islands during the pandemic is relatively easy, though inter-island hopping is suspended for some of the islands like Maui and Kauai where you are still required to quarantine upon arrival. There are three things that need to be completed before you can visit Hawaii and not be quarantined:
- Get a negative PCR test within 72 hours of your flight departure from the states Trusted partner laboratories .
- Register on the state’s covid 19 website.
- Upload your test results and get a QR code on the state’s website prior to your flight’s departure time. Link Here
I flew into Honolulu with United Airlines and they made being compliant with the state’s pandemic requirements relatively easier. The airline sent out periodic text messages with links to Hawaii’s covid 19 page and as well as informational texts on what was required. United airlines also partnered with patterned with ADL Health to provide mainland U.s or Alaska travelers with an at home , mail-in, nasal swab, test kit for $119 that is accepted by Hawaii. The airline also has a pre-clearance system that once completed lets you skip the line when you arrive Hawaii and avoid the 10 days quarantine.
Before leaving the airport, I got a Jeep from a car rental because in my opinion the best way to experience Oahu, is to drive yourself around as some of the best beaches (Waimanalo, Kailua) and hikes (Moanalua,Haiku stairs, Lanikkai pillbox, Koko Crater ) are away from the main city – waikiki, plus having a car gives me the freedom to go any place, anytime I chose. When planning this trip I had intended to do some islanding hopping and visit the Big Island as well but after a three days on Oahu, I came to the realization that there is so much to do and see on the island so I changed my plans and stayed put for the entire 8 days and I still feel like there is so much more I could do there.
There is so much to do in Hawaii but for me what I wanted to experience was it’s natural beauties so I planned on doing some hikes, snorkeling , visiting beaches and eating as much food as I could lay my hands on especially the pineapples 🍍 . The first hike I absolutely wanted to do was the Haiku stairs but hiking up the stairs is now illegal with guards posted at the stairs entrance and if caught going up you’ll be fined $1000. I did lots of research and discovered that there is a “legal” way to hike the stairs, by going through the Moanalua trail till the end then pushing on to meet the stairs at the top. This isn’t a hike for novice hikers and I tried to find a local guide to take me but none was available on my desired dates so I bit the bullet and hiked it on my own. I was grueling and the climbs were exerting but all in all it was a fun hike. I hiked a few trails during my stay and here are my chosen ones:
- Moanalua valley trail to the Haiku Stairs -10.5 miles
- Koko Crater Tramway Trail – 1.8 miles but steep climb
- Kaiwa Ridge (Lanikai Pillbox) Trail – 1.8 miles best for sunrise
- Lulumahu Falls trail – 1.7 miles with waterfall
- Mount Olympus Awaawaloa – 5.9miles hard trail
- Diamond Head Trail – 1.8 miles Close proximity to waikiki
The next activities I indulged in were snorkeling , shark diving and whale watching. The best place for snorkeling is Hanauma Bay. It has plenty of coral and fish that swim all the way to the shore , clear waters and the park has other amenities ( Bathrooms, giftshop, life guards, cafe, tram ride, etc). Entry is free to locals with ID but cost $12 for visitors and $3 more for parking but it’s worth every dime.
The best spot for shark diving is on the North coast of Oahu, around waialua and the beaches here are also great for snorkeling. I went with One Ocean Diving and it was a two for one trip. Free shark diving as well as whale watching. I loved the fact that they don’t just provide shark diving experiences but are also researchers whose work promotes the conservation and protection of Sharks.
I consider myself a cultural traveller and try to learn of the ancestral customs of places I visit either trough tours , performances or interacting with the locals which is my favorite way of learning. To maximize my experience in Hawaii, I bought the Go Oahu city pass which I highly recommend for all the activities one can participate in as well as experiences. A visit to Hawaii wouldn’t be complete without a Luau performance. A visit to the Polynesians cultural center is a must as well.
Hawaii may not be fully open but there is still much to do. Most restaurants and shops are open and so are tours. Because my hotel was located in Waikiki two blocks from the beach and a block from Kushiro Ave, I spend time exploring the food scene and the beach. I will say though crowded waikiki beach does have an amazing sunset .