Paradise Regained: Hawai’i Is Now Open For Safe Travel To The Islands

Food & Drink

On October 15, 2020, the state of Hawai’i reopened its islands for travel (from U.S. states) under the condition that visitors over the age of five take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to departure. Upon presenting a negative result on arrival, the previously mandated 14-day quarantine will be waived. (If test results are still pending on arrival, then visitors must quarantine until negative results are uploaded onto the Safe Travels website.) In addition, approximately 25% of visitors to Hawai’i Island (AKA the Big Island) will be randomly tested upon arrival. For more detailed information on requirements, visit the Hawai’i Tourism Authority’s website.

While it will take some time to see if the reopening holds long-term, it’s clear that those in the hospitality industry, central to Hawai’i’s economy, are invested in success — which means implementing safety programs to the letter.

The restaurant sector has been among the hardest hit by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Star chef Peter Merriman, who has restaurants on the Big Island, Oahu, Maui, and Kaua’i, and whose company distributed more than 20,000 pounds of food to struggling employees over the course of the summer, says, “Everyone in Hawaii understands the importance of tourism to our economy. Although there is some trepidation, we’re eager to welcome back tourists for a safe and enjoyable vacation.”

How is Merriman’s Hawai’i, and other island restaurateurs, systematizing safety? Chef Merriman says, “In accordance with government regulations, masks are required unless actively eating and drinking. We also kindly ask guests to keep their masks on when interacting with our team members. Merriman’s team members wear their own protective gear and undergo daily health screenings. Tables are six feet apart and group sizes are limited depending on the regulations specific to each island. Hand sanitizer is available at all major touchpoints, throughout the space, and available upon request.” In addition, employees are provided sick leave, if needed, by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).


Hotels are opening at different times according to their own internal processes to ensure guests’ and employees’ safety and comfort. Leaders in the space include Four Seasons Maui at Wailea, which is slated to re-open on November 20th with 24/7 onsite medical care (including rapid antigen COVID-19 tests with results in 15 minutes), HEPA filters in every room and suite, and a Virtual Classroom where kids can get schoolwork done while parents work and/or relax.

“There’s no question that, right now, our guests’ and employees’ biggest concern is safety. So we focused efforts on reimagining safer travel that will both help protect our guests and, ultimately, our employees as well,” says General Manager Marc Bromley. “Our guests will enjoy the resort with the assurance that Four Seasons Maui has gone above and beyond.” Read more about Four Seasons’ Safe on Maui program here.

Fairmont Orchid, on Hawai’i Island’s Kohala Coast, will open on November 13th and has implemented its Stay Safe & Stay Well program, vetted by a team of experts that includes Bureau Veritas, a world leader in testing, inspections and certification; Dr. Amesh Adalja, Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security & fellow with the Infectious Diseases Society of America; and Ruth Petran, Ph.D., CFS, Senior Corporate Scientist, Food Safety and Public Health, for Ecolab. General Manager Charles Head says, “The hotel’s top priority remains the safety, care and wellbeing of ourFairmont Orchid ‘ohana (family). Welcoming, safeguarding and taking care of others is at the very heart of what we do and who we are,” says General Manager Charles Head. “Our team has been working around the clock to ensure we are ahead of all state, local and regulatory guidelines related to sanitation and hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19. When operations resume, we will ask and expect our guests to be pono (respectful) as they honor our mandatory face mask policy, observe physical distancing and adhere to our screening process,” he added.

As joyous as we are to return to our beloved Hawaiian Islands, let us exercise caution and be mindful of all the practices that will keep Hawai’i safe for locals and visitors throughout the duration of COVID-19. Travel consciously, friends.

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