travel

'I’m on holidays in Hawaii right now. Here's absolutely everything you need to know.'

Hawaii has always been such a special destination, and let’s all do a happy dance because…it still is! 

I’m spending five fabulous days here on Oahu, swimming, eating and laying in the sun, and it’s an incredibly joyful and restorative trip - not only because I’m travelling solo and having a monster of a me-time, but because it’s just so good to be back in the Hawaiian sunshine, Mai Tai in hand, floating in the turquoise Waikiki water.  

Watch: The horoscopes at the airport. Post continues below. 


Video via Mamamia

I’ve been sharing my trip on Instagram, and here are the answers to the questions I’ve been asked the most about holidaying in Hawaii right now.

What’s the process for flying to Hawaii from Australia?

Protocols are often changing so check Smart Traveller, US entry requirements and your airline’s covid information before you go. 

You’ll need to organise your US travel authorisation, known as an ESTA, before you go, and it can take up to 72 hours (mine took six), so do this well in advance of your flight.

To leave Australia you must be vaccinated if you’re 12 and over, and show printed copies of your International Vaccination Certificate (download through Medicare in your MyGov account) at check-in. 

To enter the US, everyone over two years old needs a negative PCR, taken within one calendar day of departure. 

‘One calendar day’ means that you can test the day before you leave, but I had mine within 24 hours, just to be sure. 

Bring printed copies of your results, as well as your CDC Attestation Form confirming your negative PCR or covid recovery, and the CDC Contact Tracing Form, for everyone over two years old. You can find both forms here. 

Print your return flight details to show on entry to the US, and make sure you have travel insurance that has covid coverage – you’d be crazy to go anywhere without it. 

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I got to Sydney Airport just a little more than three hours before my flight and it didn’t take long to check-in and get through Immigration, and boarding was on time.

Image: Supplied. 

My overnight flight with Hawaiian Airlines touched down into Honolulu at 10.30am and the timing couldn’t have been better. 

While I was expecting it to take ages to enter the US, there were no queues, and I was through US Immigration within minutes, showing my passport and my return flight details and having a good old chat with the welcoming Border Protection crew. Good vibes, good vibes.

What was the flight like? 

The flight from Sydney to Honolulu is 10 hours long and masks must be worn at all times, except when actively eating or drinking. 

I took disinfectant wipes and did my own clean, kept my mask on and sanitised a lot! 

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I really like that the Hawaiian Airlines flight leaves at 9.40pm, as overnight flights not only mean you can (try to) sleep, but that you have a better chance of working in with your destination’s time zone. 

Although it’s one day behind us, on the clock Hawaii is only three hours ahead, and I was on the beach by early afternoon.

Is it easy to get to and from the airport?

Yes it is! Uber is about half the price of taxis at around $26 USD from the airport to Waikiki. 

You can also get a shuttle for $23.50 but it makes sense to Uber, especially as right now they’re only ever five minutes away. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes from the airport to Waikiki, depending on traffic. 

Do you feel safe?

Absolutely. 

I’ve found people are very conscientious about mask wearing and distancing, and I’m outdoors most of the time. 

I’ve only eaten inside in a restaurant once though, as I still feel uncomfortable about not wearing masks indoors (while eating) – a positive test would really ruin the trip! 

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I’m sanitising for Australia and wearing my mask on the streets when there’s a crowd, even though I don’t have to. 

Bring pocket/purse sized sanitiser to keep on you, as while hotels and some cafes and restaurants have it available, it’s not everywhere like it is at home. 

Where did you stay? 

I split my time between the Waikiki Beachcomber - which has a rooftop pool, live music and brewery, is opposite The Cheesecake Factory and a minute to the beach - and the Outrigger Reef, which is just a little south of the centre with its own beach, huge pool and 180 degree views of the coast. 

Image: Supplied. 

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Both are at the southern end of Waikiki, which is my favourite area to stay as everything you need is only ever a block away, and the beach is perfection. 

Hotels and resorts here are operating at about 60 to 80 per cent occupancy, restaurants are pumping and stores are open - but while it’s definitely busy, to me Waikiki doesn’t feel overcrowded.

What are the covid rules in Hawaii? 

Right now, you need to show your vaccination certificate to dine in at restaurants (I showed mine digitally in my iPhone wallet) and masks are required indoors until March 26 when Hawaii’s mask mandate will be lifted.

What does it feel like to be in Hawaii?

It’s completely joyful. 

I feel so happy, and I’m spending my days on the beach, emptying my mind and escaping – for a few days – from the reality of the world right now. 

The weather is perfect, there’s live music on every corner and smiles everywhere. Shops, restaurants, cafes and bars are open and everyone is having a good time. 

Image: Supplied. 

It’s worth noting that Native Hawaiians have requested reduced tourist numbers and for visitors to be more protective and respectful of Hawaiian culture and land.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority now has a majority of Native Hawaiians on its Board, and culture, sustainability and the environment are its priority.

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One if its initiatives is Malama Hawaii – to take care of and protect - which aims to connect visitors with the local culture and environment, and balance a fun holiday with giving back to the islands. 

There are benefits for taking part in activities (like free room nights at Outrigger resorts) and rewarding programs to be part of, like the two-hour long Malama ka Aina (care for the land) program at Kualoa Ranch

It’s worthwhile learning more about Hawaiian history and culture before travelling, making sure to be respectful of the traditional land we are visiting and considering taking part in the Malama initiative. 

Is it crowded and where are the tourists from?

If measured by the wait time at the Cheesecake Factory then Waikiki is definitely not as busy as it can be, possibly due to the lack of Japanese, Chinese and Korean tourists. 

I’ve bumped into a few Aussies and Canadians, but most tourists seem to be from mainland America.

How do you feel about holidaying like this when there is so much going on in the world?

I am really mindful or what is happening, and being in Hawaii doesn’t mean that I’m not affected or contributing to the causes and people that need help right now. 

Practicing self-care is important too, and living life as best you can when you can – because I think we have all learnt over the past two years that life is short.

Image: Supplied. 

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Is Hawaii more expensive now?

As long as our dollar is low, the US will always be expensive in comparison to, say, Asian destinations, and Waikiki is more expensive than other parts of Oahu. 

But there are ways to make it an affordable holiday, like bringing gear from home, limiting your expensive cocktail splurges (I paid $21 USD for my beachside Mai Tais #worthit) or finding Happy Hours, and buying what you need at ABC Stores – there are 32 in Waikiki alone – including meals from $5 USD, Australian and New Zealand wine for $16, and canned mixers from $4.

Image: Supplied. 

Waikiki beach is amazing, but unless you want to spend $87 USD (plus tax!) to hire sun lounges and a beach brolly, consider bringing your own small beach umbrella and beach chairs. 

Hawaiian Airlines gives each passenger an allowance of two bags of 32 kilos, so you can bring your shopping home, and it’s worth using it to bring your beach gear with you too! 

Of course, you can buy it all from the ABC Stores like I did: $20 USD for a beach umbrella, $20 for a float seat or lilo, and around the same for beach chairs. 

Image: Supplied. 

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What’s the shopping like? 

Shopping is still really worthwhile even with the exchange rate, and winter gear is on sale so there are bargains to be had. 

If you can’t make it to the Ala Moana Centre you can find Nordstrom Rack, Ross for Less and all the shops you need in Waikiki. Go forth!

What happens if you get covid there?

If you have a positive result, you will need to isolate for at least five days from your first symptoms and until you have a negative test. 

Check with your hotel for their protocols, but at Outrigger properties, for example, you simply remain in your room and can order room service and outside deliveries that will be brought to your door.

Make sure to contact your insurance company if you test positive to activate the covid cover for your room, flight changes and other costs like food and drinks. 

What tests do I need to return to Australia?

Right now, you need a PCR test within 72 hours of departure for Australia or a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) within 24 hours.

There are a lot of clinics within the Waikiki area and prices vary, with PCRs costing from $150 to $300 USD (and even more on weekends) and RATs up to $150 USD. 

With most clinics you need to book and pay online in advance, but I found a walk-in RAT at the Straub Medical Centre in Waikiki for $93.20 USD. 

There was no queue, and after completing a form, showing my passport and paying (credit card only) I went straight in. 

This clinic guarantees results from both PCRs and RAT in 30 to 60 minutes, and I collected my printed results later that afternoon.

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You can google "PCR travel test Waikiki" for a list of clinics, prices and booking information. 

What’s it like coming back to Australia? 

Make sure you have your printed test results with you and have completed the new Digital Passenger Declaration as you need it to check in. 

You can use the app or online, and it’s a little clunky so do it before you leave for the airport.  

You can complete it up to 72 hours before departure.

Image: Supplied. 

In NSW you are required to do a RAT within 24 hours, and a follow up on the sixth day back, all while you plan for your next trip to Hawaii! 

Maholo Hawaii, and see you soon.

Evie Farrell is usually traveling with her daughter Emmie but has just started taking life-changing solo adventures as well. Follow her and Emmie @mumpacktravel on Instagram and at  www.mumpacktravel.com

Feature Image: Supplied.

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