COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 Statement                                                                                                  
Please read this entire post carefully and check our website before your trip for updates
September 7, 2021
There are four distinct sections of this post that are MUST READS for anyone thinking of visiting Hawaii in the near future. We believe we provide one of the best overviews that can be found anywhere, so that you can make the best decisions for you and yours.
(3) CURRENT RULES & REGULATIONS FOR VISITING HAWAII (subject to change at any time)
(4) HAWAII “SAFE TRAVELS” PROGRAM OVERVIEW (direct link to the source) 

NEWS YOU CAN USE RIGHT NOW (Sourced on Sep. 7)
With Covid cases surging and global hotspots erupting, Hawaii’s hotels, air carriers, and car rental agencies are reporting increased cancellations and declines in bookings. During the past two weeks,  arrivals are down about one-third. That, in the wake of the governor’s recent request for Hawaii travelers to pause travel through October, in addition to other factors we discuss below.

Clearly, there is great consternation regarding Hawaii’s existing Covid rules, new and future mandated changes, general trepidation about travel, and Hawaii’s rising Covid cases. Certainly, those of you who have scheduled a visit to the Aloha state are unsure about your ability to actually make the trip. No doubt, some will come as planned, others are rescheduling, and some are flat-out canceling.

Hawaii had been considered safe during prior phases of the pandemic, due in large part to strict travel and quarantine measures that were instituted. But that has changed.

Mid-August through mid-November, are always a time of year when Hawaii travel has a lull. And this year, it will be worse than expected.  Such a slowdown may at least provide good news for the state’s strained health care system. Yet, in terms of the financial impact on a travel-dependent economy, it couldn’t come at a worse time.

Late last month, Governor Ige told travelers that it was not a good time to visit Hawaii. As a result, both Oahu and Maui counties are implementing vaccination passports to help deal with caseloads that have brought many Hawaii hospitals to their knees.

The new programs will make it significantly more challenging for unvaccinated visitors to travel, at least to those islands, with only a pre-travel testing exemption. Additionally, with different rules for different islands, as appears to be the case with these passports, visitors certainly have a right to be concerned. The Big Island and Kauai have yet to implement vaccination passports, but those may well be forthcoming.

More Changes
More changes are coming for Maui-bound visitors. Mayor Victorino announced on Sep. 3, that Maui will implement its own vaccine passport. Details will be forthcoming soon, but we have some information. This news comes in the wake of Honolulu’s plan for a vaccination passport for restaurants and activities.

The governor reiterated that each island can move separately. Big Island mayor Mitch Roth said, “We’ve been looking at it (vaccine passports)… We don’t have a lot of the (financial) safety nets we had last year… We have not decided yet… We are also waiting to see what happens with Honolulu.”

Maui’s mayor said, “For Maui, we have a modified version where customers will be required to show vaccination cards or some sort of verification, and those who don’t have it, if they have outside seating they will be allowed to sit outside and/or take-out… We have received approval… and it is supposed to start on September 15.”

Kauai is also contemplating a vaccine passport and is looking first to see what happens with Honolulu’s implementation. “We’re taking a look at it,” said Mayor Kawakami.

Regarding how vaccination cards could be verified, especially in light of recent fake vaccination cards, Richard said: “Do you think every restaurant owner, bartender, shopkeeper, gym owner or bouncer is going on a government or passport website to verify your CDC vaccination card is legit?”

Governor Ige said that, for the new vaccination passports, the state would have the ability to verify those vaccinations which took place in Hawaii. But what about those that took place elsewhere? That issue was not addressed at the governor’s press conference.

This leads us back to the possible and perhaps likely use of the three commercial vaccination passports. The state partnered with three vaccination passports, but thus far solely for Hawaii travel. Currently, these can be used as an option with all air carriers.

As the country suffers from latest wave of COVID-19 courtesy of the Delta variant, Hawaii is again looking to roll out restrictions to prevent further spread of the virus. However, proof of vaccination may be required. For example, restaurant customers depending on the island and its own unique rules. It was reported by the State Department of Health this week that at least 20 Covid clusters over the past three weeks are related to restaurants.

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green said that the likelihood of Hawaii implementing vaccine passports for certain activities is very real. Green said, “All we really have to do is, work with either Clear or CommonPass, who we already have a deep relationship with, and who are helping us with the Safe Travels program, to show that people are vaccinated.” He went on to say, “It would make life easier in Hawaii.”

CLEAR was the first Hawaii vaccination passport. Shortly thereafter, the governor said that SMART Health Cards from CommonPass had also been approved. Most recently, AZOVA became a passport-providing partner for Hawaii Safe Travels. All of these vaccination verification systems allow visitors to digitally manage both vaccination and testing records., which provides an alternative for visitors to upload documents on Safe Travels and then physically present those records upon arrival.

So, what is one to do?
We cannot suggest what may be your best course of action. If you are not vaccinated, to be fair to all, stay home and stay safe. If you are not exceptionally healthy, you are also probably best served by remaining at home. Hawaii’s hospitals are jammed and any sort of illness or injury could be life-threatening for you and yours. For those who are extremely healthy, fully vaccinated, and carry your proof of vaccination, making the trip is probably okay, especially for golfers, who spend so much time out on the links. No one is trying to puncture your veil of privacy by asking for a vaccination card, which does not disclose your general health issues.

Should you choose to visit Hawaii, you will find a more limited number of restaurants open and still doing business, and the service will be much slower than expected. Proof of vaccination will be required to dine in at those restaurants. Business establishments  have shorter hours and masks must be worn. Lodging in condo/villa accommodations will probably be even safer than hotels. Rental car agencies will still be pricey, but more vehicles should be available and prices softening. Lastly, Hawaii air carriers will have many more empty seats than usual.

Sourced on Aug. 3:
With Covid case counts exploding and concern growing in Hawaii, it looks very likely that changes are on the horizon. This comes as Hawaii continues reporting record numbers of new cases. As July ended and August began—Friday there were 622 new cases, Saturday 485, and Sunday 452 (reported by Lt. Gov. Josh Green). These are the highest numbers since the pandemic reared its ugly head. Bottom line: Cases have gone up about 500% during the past three weeks.

In a press conference on Friday, Governor Ige said he is back to masking up and limiting his own gatherings, which may well be indicative of the direction things will take.

No changes in Covid restrictions have been announced thus far (see below for existing rules & regulations). However, Ige said: “At the point that I believe the hospitals have more patients than they will be able to handle, we will take specific action to restrict movements again as necessary.” Last week, Ige said: “The seven-day average of new cases went vertical this week.”

Lt. Gov. Green (a physician) said that this weekend’s numbers were “heart-wrenching.” He intimated that should cases continue in this direction, county and statewide mandates may be reinstated: “We are seeing the surge from the Delta variant, we will see more people get Covid, and we’ll see more people in the hospital.”

Why Hawaii hospitals are nearing capacity
There is a severe shortage of qualified health workers in Hawaii. You can bet that will end up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back, rather than it being ICU or ventilator capacity, as was the case in 2020. There is said to be only enough staff to man two-thirds of the state’s hospital beds, which if true, means the Aloha state is already nearing capacity.

Vaccination exemption not keeping cases in check
Lt. Gov. Green said last week he believes, “It’s highly likely that “Safe Travels” will be left in place throughout the rest of the year because it has effectively kept our travel-related cases down.” Unfortunately, with vaccinated persons capable of spreading Covid via “break-through” infections, such a plan no longer appears to keep cases in check.

While the Delta variant is still growing, and foreshadowing a potentially more serious Lambda variant, there is a contemporaneous slowing in the vaccination rate among Hawaii residents. The 70% mark, at which the Safe Travels system would be eliminated, has become an illusion. Truth be told, the 60% mark was only achieved during the waning days of July.

Despite strict travel rules, Hawaii vacations continue to thrive
Hawaii’s domestic travel counts are at pre-Covid levels already. And that comes even though visitors must either be vaccinated, comply with strict testing rules, or be quarantined for 10-days.

What’s Next? Likely, more pre-departure and/or post-arrival Covid testing—even for the fully vaccinated
It is our belief that Hawaii is likely to implement some new forms of pre-departure and/or post-arrival testing regardless of vaccination status. This may make sense since it is widely reported that Delta can be spread by vaccinated individuals, even though they may be less likely to become critically ill themselves.

Initially, post-arrival tests might be mandated for those who have not been vaccinated or tested, and such testing could be applied to those choosing quarantine. Should that not be adequate to control Covid case numbers, testing may be applied even more broadly.

Pre-departure testing has been quite successful in mitigating Covid caseloads in Hawaii. And the Safe Travels system, while cumbersome to a degree, is long-established and ready to be applied even more widely.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the prior FDA administrator, said last week he believes we are further into the Delta variant uptick than most experts believe, and was quoted as saying that in the next two weeks, “Hopefully, we’re going to turn a corner.” That appears to have been the case in the UK, but the fact that the average fully vaccinated rate across the U.S is only about 50% of our citizens is a stunning cause for concern and worth keeping a very close eye on. It is critical that we  reach the “herd immunity” milestone of 70% or more (which is possible by mid-September). 

For almost three decades, has endeavored to provide outstanding value and comprehensive information for those intrigued by a Hawaii golf vacation. However, due to the Covid-19 crisis, we are hard-pressed to do what we do best. Hawaii—its golf courses, accommodations, car rental agencies, restaurants and tourist attractions—has been hit hard by the pandemic. For all intents and purposes, the state was closed for the last three quarters of 2020.

The fact that each airline, rental car agency, accommodation & golf course also creates its own rules and regulations, in accord with municipal and state regulations, make keeping up with it all much more demanding.

BE ADVISED: We will continue to offer quotes and bookings for vacation packages for 2021 & 2022, which must include two basic travel elements (air/vehicle/lodging, or air/vehicle, or air/lodging, or lodging/vehicle). The Big Island or Oahu GOLFHAWAIICARD or our Insider’s Guide to Maui Golf will always be included. Click here to get a vacation package quote. However, we can no longer quote or book vehicle-only due to current market conditions (see below)

Here are some sub-categories that you can and should review for informational purposes…

There have been two types of course closures in Hawaii during the past year. Upon information, two courses—Koolau GC on Oahu & Volcano GC on The Big Island—have shuttered permanently. We also know that Puakea GC on Kauai and Kahili GC on Maui are closed indefinitely. The other course closures are generally found at multi-course resorts, where operators have decided to open only one course rather than two in the interest of cost efficiency. This is the case at Waikoloa Beach Resort and Mauna Lani Resort on The Big Island.

There are also various new rules and regulations at courses regarding Covid-19 testing, presenting credentials, cart sharing and restricted operating hours. While making a tee time is now possible on very short notice, there is absolutely no reason to make a tee time more than a week out. Even as little as a day or two before is generally just fine. What is most important is to call and inquire as to best rates, specials, new rules and revised hours of operation. 

Hawaii’s rental agencies returned more than 30,000 vehicles (40% of the fleet) to the mainland during the middle of 2020. Most were sold to private parties. This means there are far fewer available vehicles in Hawaii and everywhere else. Accordingly, the price has gone way up. Our rates more than doubled, so we are not offering vehicles as a stand-alone offering at this time. There are better rates out there right now that we cannot compete with and we urge you to shop around. But be prepared for serious sticker shock wherever you are renting a vehicle.

Your best value will be full-size, premium and certain SUVs, not the small vehicles that are not well suited for golfers. The best online rate we’ve been able to find is about $550-$600 per-week, inclusive of taxes/fees/surcharges. We advise you shop early and reserve a vehicle with no prepayment. Then, shop it out every couple of weeks and react to the best deal. We suggest examining, Priceline, Hotwire and Orbitz, where we see some of the slightly better deals. has resumed Hawaii vehicle rentals, so be sure to check there. We can still include vehicles at competitive pricing within our complete packages and land packages. 

Since Hawaii officially reopened to visitors, the rules that apply to arrivals remain in a state of flux, which, to say the least, is challenging when planning a Hawaii golf adventure. This is the latest information culled from various sources. That being said, this is only a guide, which is intended to be helpful and not the final word. Therefore, due to the nature and scope of the pandemic, we cannot be responsible for any changes or misrepresentations.

There is new information and an overdue clarification for those who have been fully vaccinated, and wish to visit Hawaii without pre-travel Covid-19 testing. Below is important information about what is required and how the current Hawaii travel rules, which went into effect on July 8, will work.

The July 8 directive from Governor Ige’s was clear: “Travelers vaccinated in the U.S. or U.S. Territories may participate in the exception program starting on the 15th day after their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine — or starting the 15th day after their single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”

This represents a change in language regarding the definition of fully vaccinated.

Documentation process updated
Upload one of three vaccination documents to your Safe Travels Hawaii account before traveling to Hawaii. Effective July 1, the state confirms that the “Safe Travels digital platform is now allowing vaccine document uploads for trips arriving in Hawai’i on July 8 and beyond.”

One of the following must be uploaded:
>  A CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card
>  VAMS (Vaccination Administration Management System) printout
>  DOD DD Form 2766C

New legal attestations also required
To qualify for the exemption, visitors must “Sign the online legal attestations on Safe Travels Hawaii, confirming the uploaded documentation is true and accurate.”

A hard copy of vaccination documentation is also required
Visitors seeking the vaccination exemption must “bring a hard copy of their vaccination documentation to show screeners at the gate before boarding and/or upon arrival in Hawaii. Screeners will review/verify the vaccination documents, match photo IDs, name, and DOB, and confirm that the attestations are signed.

Additional notes
• There are special rules in place for children 5 and under & children 5 and over.
• Interisland travel (solely within the state of Hawaii) does NOT require either vaccination or testing.
• This program does NOT cover international travelers.

Travel to Hawaii if you have recovered from COVID

This is convoluted and, if you have recovered, but are not vaccinated, we suggest you call the county health department for the island(s) you will be visiting for their specific rules and regulations.

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