Currently, Hawaii is open to US travelers and other countries on their approved list. I visited during Thanksgiving, and it was a seamless process. Because we are still in a pandemic, I want to give you some tips about traveling to Hawaii to have the best time possible.
Before You Go
For the most up-to-date information, check the Hawaii Safe Travels website. There may be quarantine requirements if you do not qualify for exempt status. You can bypass quarantine by providing a negative COVID-19 test by a trusted provider or being vaccinated. Being vaccinated is the easiest way to travel around Hawaii. If you want to be inside a restaurant, you have to be vaccinated or have a COVID test with 48 hours. If you stay a long time, that may get annoying to have to test constantly.
I suggest you pre-register your travel before leaving for your trip, and they will provide you with a QR code you will have to show at the airport. There is a way to bypass the long verification line when landing in Hawaii before taking off.
At the Airport
Before Take Off
Check if your airline participates in the CLEAR program when you arrive at the airport. We flew through DFW airport, and they have a pre-clear program at gate D. They give you a wristband for the check-point at Honolulu airport that lets you bypass verification when you land. The line is long, so if you can pre-clear yourself and get the wrist band.
Landing in Hawaii
Unfortunately, we could not pre-clear at DFW airport since we had a short layover at a different gate, so we had to wait in the long line. As soon as you land, they check to ensure you have your QR code from Hawaii safe travels to proceed. If you did not do this before landing, you would have to set the information up before entering the line. The line took about 30 minutes to get through. If you have all of your documents correct, you can get through quickly. Make sure you read everything on the website!
Where to Stay
We stayed in Waikiki, the famous resort and beach area in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the Pacific Monarch residencies and hotels. The hotel was not fancy, but it was like an apartment with huge rooms. There was a full kitchen with appliances and a rooftop pool, and I liked it, and it was affordable. It was a little further from the main strip but not a far walk.
How to Get Around
Rent a Car
We rented a car using Turo. We wanted to go to the Northshore and had reservations for a shark dive in that area. It was cheaper for us to rent a car for a day than to uber. Keep in mind that gas prices are high, and the parking can be expensive. Our hotels’ parking was 30/ night, but we found free street parking a few blocks away behind the zoo. However, it was a 20-minute walk back to our hotel.
We would have just rented through a rental car company if we had another chance. It was a little inconvenient to pick up a car on another person’s time and location, and we ended up having to uber to the car pick-up location and uber back. Then, we wanted to drop the car off earlier and had to wait.
Use Ride Share/Taxi
Uber and Lyft are pretty high. I wanted to check out a popular hike spot and the uber there and back was about $50 total. I only used uber if I wanted to go somewhere and had no other option. They have a bus that could have taken me there for $5.50, but it was triple the time to get there. A bus is an option if you have the time, but we did not.
The Waikiki Trolley has three lines. It takes you to popular sites, and it’s a great way to learn about the area. We took the redline that takes you to the city and Chinatown. For one day on Viator, it’s $25, and it is a little cheaper than getting them in person. They also have day passes to use all three lines, but pay attention to the schedule, so you do not get stranded.
What to Do
Visit North Shore
You must spend time away from Waikiki when visiting Honolulu. The North Shore is very beautiful and has a lot to offer. Here are some things to do.
- Go diving with sharks. We did North Shore Shark Adventures.
- Go see the turtles at Laniakea Beach. Look but don’t touch them!
- Go to the Byodo-In Temple
Go For a Hike
Honolulu is a very active city with a lot of hiking options. We went for the two options on the side of town we were on. Diamond Head and Koko Head.
- Diamond Head is more structured with a guided path. I would put it at a medium level for challenge since there were people of all ages and abilities. It has railings and man made steps. The view is beautiful at the top. When you reach the end they have delicous snacks to enjoy. Bring cash, because they prefer it.
- Koko Head: I would not recommend this hike if you are newer to fitness or have a health condition. Its pretty challenging. The hike is a straight up about 1.5 miles. You will climb along old rail road tracks that were used in WWII. Take caution there is a warning before you enter the hike. I consider myself in great shape and I had to stop a few times. The reward is at the top! Its such a beautiful view.
Honolulu is a top destination for water activities. From snorkeling to surfing, there is something for everyone. The water is so clear in Hawaii you can see all sorts of exotic fish. My favorite activity we did was the Mai’tai Catamaran. It was a 2-hour tour with scenic views that had delicious mai’tais. We got our tickets on Groupon during black Friday for a great deal.
They call Waikiki the Rodeo Drive of Hawaii, and I see why. It has every designer brand you can think of, and the taxes are not too bad. If shopping is your thing, you can spend all day shopping at the stores on the main strip.
Circle the Island
Spend a day circling the island on your own or with a tour guide. We did an all-day tour circling the island at the famous lookout spots and stops. I like having a guide to learn the history and local tips. Here are some tour examples.
Where to Eat
Food in Hawaii is pricey, in my opinion. Depending on how long you are staying, plan your meals accordingly. There are popular Hawaiian foods that are not as expensive like musubi, but I am not a fan of spam. I tried to eat at more local spots to keep the price down and utilized happy hours.
There were a lot of happy hours with different times starting at two until six with many food options. One day, we hit up multiple for lunch and dinner. In addition, the ABC stores everywhere had fresh sushi and salads. I would grab a few meals there too! My favorite place we ate off the touristy area was Moke’s Bread and Breakfast. Great local food and prices.