Rising From the Ashes
Updated: Feb 16
Hawaii Eases Travel Restrictions
Three years ago this month, a river of molten lava flowed from a crack in the earth in Puna, Hawaii. It raced downhill towards the sea, leaving a path of destruction after it. A well-known Hawaiian photographer and videographer, Brian Powers, took to the sky one July night to try and capture this incredible phenomenon. Here is what he saw.
It was a devastating time for people who lost their homes due to the lava flow and the Big Island's tourism. You may remember all the hype in the news that scared many people from visiting the island. Eventually, the flow stopped, and we recovered from these challenging times just to face COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions that came after. Once again, the island struggled due to the lack of tourism and economic hardship that ensued. Empty, lonely beaches, closed hotels and restaurants, lots of people out of work were not an easy sight to bear. For over a year, we have been asking ourselves whether this pandemic reality would ever end and if life would return to normal.
Today, looking back at all this, my answer to this is a definite Yes! We survived; we persevered and got up again like the Phoenix rising from the ashes. This year, tourism is coming back, and it is about to become a lot easier to visit our beautiful land.
On Thursday, June 24, Hawaii Governor David Ige made a big announcement: the state would relax travel and gathering restrictions starting July 8, as Hawaii nears having 60% of the population fully vaccinated for COVID-19. That means that beginning July 8, domestic travelers who are fully vaccinated will be able to bypass quarantine and pre-travel testing when coming to Hawaii. Also, the second post-arrival test for the Big Island has already been canceled, which makes it easier for visitors to come and enjoy our island.
Travelers must upload their vaccine records into the state Safe Travels program and bring a hard copy of their vaccine record with them on their trip to Hawaii. Additionally, the state is asking those screening passengers before flights to verify that the name matches the traveler and the vaccination date occurred at least two weeks before the flight to make sure the traveler is fully vaccinated.
Also, on July 8, Ige said the state would increase the number of people who may attend both indoor and outdoor social gatherings. For indoor groups, the maximum will be increased from 10 individuals to 25. Outdoor gatherings will be permitted to have up to 75 individuals.
Restaurants will also be able to seat up to 75% of capacity with maximum group sizes of 25 individuals indoors and 75 individuals outdoors.
Hawaiian cruises are set to return to the islands at the end of this year. You can book the cruise as early as September with some companies, though many of them are already sold out for this year.
When 70% of the state's population is fully vaccinated, all COVID-19-related restrictions will end. Ige estimated it would take a couple more months to reach the milestone. You can read more about it here.
These changes have been widely anticipated, and now that we have actual dates set for them, return to normal feels more real.
So, get your swimsuits ready! If you have been postponing visiting Hawaii because of all the hassles related to travel restrictions, now is the time to plan. The island is alive and well, and paradise awaits!
For the latest COVID-19 travel-related information, click here.
Video and pictures are courtesy of Hawaiian Images, Honolulu-Star Advertiser, Kuleana Rum Shack, Inoptia.