Hawaii Has Loosened Travel Restrictions. Here’s Where We’re Excited to Visit
It’s now a lot easier to travel to Hawaii.
It’s now a lot easier to travel to Hawaii. Domestic travelers no longer need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or take a pre-trip test before visiting the islands.
“Bringing the Safe Travels program to a close reflects the progress we have made as a state,” Hawai‘i Tourism Authority President and CEO John De Fries said in a statement, calling Gov. David Ige’s decision to loosen restrictions starting in late March “a good balance of maintaining reasonable health precautions while reopening our society and economy.”
There are a few rules still in place. An indoor mask mandate remains statewide. International travelers must still show vaccination proof, according to federal requirements. But the relaxed restrictions mean many more folks might start planning their trips to Hawaii.
The islands are already seeing a rise in visitors. A winter report by vacation rental management company Vacasa found a 53% increase in occupancy rates in Kauai and about a 20% bump to the Big Island, likely “due to last year’s pandemic-related restrictions.” The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported significantly higher average daily occupancy rates this past December compared to the same month in 2020.
With more people booking trips, it worth noting that we should all try to do our part to be respectful and mindful travelers when venturing out into neighboring states and cities. With that in mind, here are some of the spots we’re excited to visit on our next adventure to Hawaii:
Where to Stay
Best Western Pioneer Inn
Step into a piece of history at this hotel, which has been operating on Maui since 1901. “Every room boasts a second-floor outdoor lanai that overlooks either busy Front Street and one of the largest banyan trees in the country, or the peacefully hidden historic courtyard on the interior of the hotel,” says Lee Anne Wong, a previous Top Chef contestant and producer who’s now behind the onsite restaurant Papa´aina. Wong’s menu features “locally sourced and inspired brunch fare,” the chef says, like macadamia nut ricotta pancakes and crispy ramen with kalua pork.
Four Seasons Resort Hualālai
All 249 guest rooms at this picturesque resort on the Big Island have been updated amid a $100 million renovation, not to mention the addition of a marine center at its swimmable aquarium.
Lahaina town, Maui’s historic whaling village, is “a hot spot for art, shopping, and dining, in addition to its pristine beaches,” Wong says. When we asked the chef for top spots to stay and eat, Wong included the newly renovated Hotel Lahaina “home to Lahaina Grill, one of Maui’s legendary dinner spots,” as a recommended pick.
Kaimana Beach Hotel
Expect colorful touches at this Waikiki hotel, which now boasts a contemporary-meets-vintage vibe. Its newly updated Hau Tree restaurant offers a weekend rosé brunch, or shared plates for dinner beneath golden lanterns.
Kā’anapali Beach Hotel
This Maui hotel’s $75 million renovation sees guest rooms updated with employee-made shadow boxes and the debut of waterfront restaurant Huihui, which celebrates Hawaiian sailing.
This luxe resort on the island of Lanai is one of many across the West that want you to get better sleep. Expect a wristband in the mail after you book a five-day wellness program; it’ll be used to track your sleep onsite. (Plus, you’ll get a one-year membership to use the technology.) At the retreat, work with a guide to craft a plan to improve your circadian rhythm. Read more here!
Where to Eat
Not only can you grab a to-go lavender latte or egg salad toast at this trendy Honolulu outpost, but there’s also a selection of totes, hats, tees, and more.
Two-time Top Chef veteran Sheldon Simeon, who grew up in Hilo, is behind this Maui restaurant. In his recent cookbook, he shared dishes from his childhood with us, like chicken arroz caldo, that will forever expand your notion of what Hawaiian food can be. Read more here!
Where to Shop
Maui Kuʻia Estate Chocolate
You can take a cacao farm tour at this Lahaina chocolate factory, billed as the largest in Hawaii. Explore more than 20 acres at the base of the West Maui mountains as you learn about the harvesting process before the grande finale: a chocolate tasting for the whole family!
Courtney Monahan owns this plant store in Honolulu, incorporating island style but tempering it with eclectic and vintage pieces. “My desk is alive with plants because they lift my mood, and remind me when I’m working and sending emails why I own Paiko—it’s so other people can have the knowledge it takes to own plants,” Monahan says. Read more here!