Kauai reopens to tourists, with caveats

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Napali Coast on Kauai, Hawaii [Credit: Francois Seuret/Shutterstock.com]
Kauai's Napali Coast. The island has decided to rejoin Hawaii's Safe Travels program. Photo Credit: Francois Seuret/Shutterstock.com

A month after opting out of Hawaii's Safe Travels program that allows travelers to skip the state's mandatory quarantine period with a negative Covid-19 test result, the island of Kauai has now won state approval to rejoin under its own specific set of guidelines.  

Under those guidelines, travelers who have been inside the state on another island for 72 hours or more may bypass a mandatory 10-day quarantine on Kauai with proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken from one of the state's approved providers within three days of traveling to the Garden Isle. Everyone arriving in Kauai from outside the state is still required to quarantine for 10 days, no matter what tests they have taken.

"A person must be physically present in the state of Hawaii for more than 72 hours before flying to Kauai in order to qualify as an interisland traveler," according to the Kauai County's statement on the new regulations. "This means that travelers who arrive from out of state would not be eligible to participate in the Safe Travels program to Kauai until they have been in Hawaii for more than three days."

Gov. David Ige approved the new plan from Kauai County mayor Derek Kawakami on Dec. 30, and it took effect on Jan. 5 -- a little more than a month after the island opted out of the statewide pretravel-testing plan, drawing the ire of many of Kauai's travel-related business owners.

"While Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island continue to have cases, the rate of infection is significantly lower than the mainland," Dr. Janet Berreman, Kauai's district health officer, said in a statement. "With our low rates of disease and frontline healthcare workers and first responders beginning to be vaccinated, this is an appropriate time to allow interisland travel with a pretravel test, while continuing to require additional precautions for people who recently traveled out of state."

Additionally, Kauai also plans to enact a regulation that allows travelers staying in the county's "resort bubbles" who have already received a negative pretravel test to take a second test three days after arrival on the island, and if that test also comes back negative, they are able to cut short the quarantine.

The infinity pool at Timbers Kauai Ocean Club and Residences at Hokuala, one of six Kauai properties participating in the resort bubble program.
The infinity pool at Timbers Kauai Ocean Club and Residences at Hokuala, one of six Kauai properties participating in the resort bubble program.

Resort bubbles, formally known as enhanced movement quarantine zones, allow travelers who agree to monitoring -- including wearing a GPS tracking device -- to use the grounds and facilities at participating properties. Under the current guidelines, individuals in quarantine may not leave their accommodations or home for anything other than a medical emergency. Currently, a half dozen properties on Kauai are approved as resort bubbles: The Cliffs at Princeville, Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay, Koa Kea Hotel and Resort at Poipu, the Club at Kukui'ula, Timbers Kauai Ocean Club and Residences at Hokuala, and Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club.

"We realize the resort bubble program is tailored to visitors and is not ideal for our residents," Kawakami said in a statement. "Our residents continue to be our highest priority. Now that our community has been able to enjoy the holiday season without a major surge in cases, we feel we are in a good position to loosen interisland travel restrictions and offer more convenient opportunities to travel between islands."

In announcing the new regulations, the county also said it has yet to determine when Kauai might adopt the Safe Travels program for travelers arriving directly from out of state, as well. The statewide program launched on Oct. 15, but after seeing an increase in coronavirus infections, Kauai was granted permission to stop participating in Safe Travels on Dec. 2.

"Unfortunately, it is just not safe at this time to allow transpacific travel to Kauai without additional safeguards; we hope that will change soon," said Dr. Berreman, citing the increasing coronavirus infection rate on the U.S. mainland in December.

More info on Kauai's pandemic-related regulations and travel information are available at www.kauai.gov/COVID-19.

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