The islands are calling! As vaccinations roll out across the country, air travel is picking up! Maui is seeing visitor numbers rise, in part due to those that had to cancel reservations in 2020. This means a little more advanced planning is necessary, even for seasoned travelers. It is so much more pleasant to know in advance what to expect. Here are our eight best recommendations for a worry-free Maui beachfront vacation, which should be done in the order they are listed.
Up to 1 Year Ahead
1. Book your accommodations early
Even before booking your flight, make sure your place to stay is secure. Destination Maui Vacations has one of the most flexible change and cancellation policies in the industry. We accept reservations up to one year out, and suggest for 2021 -2023 you book as early in this time frame as possible. First time to Maui? You may want to start with this island overview page and map, or see this overview of resort areas.
If you are having difficulty finding suitable accommodations in timeframe you wish to travel, try booking a condo in Maalaea Bay. This central location is often overlooked because it is set apart from the bustling tourism areas around Kihei/Wailea to the south, and Lahaina/Kaanapali to the west. However, it is on the ocean, hugging a quaint boat harbor, with a charming oceanfront complex of shops and restaurants, which also includes the world-class Maui Ocean Center aquarium. What we think is the best part of staying in Maalaea Bay is it is central to major points of interest on the island, so when you go out to explore, you are already half way there!
2. Book your flight
Major carriers United, Delta, American and Hawaiian Airlines all have direct flights to Maui from major hub cities. But don’t over look Southwest. This no-frills carrier allows free bags and is budget friendly. However, with few direct flights, you may have to make a connecting flight.
3. Arrange for entry to Maui and your first COVID-19 test
Now that your flight and accommodations have been arranged, make sure and register on the Safe Travels website, which is required for entry to Maui. Go to //travel.hawaii.gov and complete the questions, including flight information, sign, and submit. You will be able to add minors as additional travel members. You will enter more information later after you receive the results of your COVID-19 test.
Visitors have reported having good experiences scheduling their COVID-19 test through their airline. All major carriers have a section on their website about obtaining your COVID-19 test for Hawaii. As a representative of American Airlines explained, linking to a COVID-19 test provider through the airline means the test will be expedited. This makes sense since they want you to make your flight on schedule! Make sure the test is within 72 hours of the last leg of your journey (not when your journey started, if you have a connecting flight), adjusted for any time difference. Tests can often be done via the internet with a test kit that comes in the mail, while a health professional monitors you taking the test online. Important note: go ahead and order your test in advance, but don’t open the test kit until instructed to do so during your appointment. When ordering your test, read through all instructions carefully, including how to pre-order a pick up of your test if completing it online.
You may be able to get a COVID test cheaper (or free) somewhere else. Some major airports also have rapid testing. However, if you choose a provider other than one recommended by your airline, make absolutely sure it is an approved provider listed by the Hawaii Department of Health.
Also, it is not advisable to plan any travel 4 or so days before you leave for Maui, so you can conduct your COVID-19 test and get your test results, unless you are planning on testing at the airport.
4. Avoid planning interisland travel
Unless you are staying more than a couple of weeks, you might want to skip staying on multiple islands on your next trip to Hawaii. A negative COVID-19 test is required to fly interisland, both ways (except Oahu, a test is only required to return to Maui). You will have to consider whether you want to take time out of your vacation to track down a COVID test, wait for results, upload the information, then repeat the process all over again, plus learn different COVID rules for each island. Maui has plenty to offer for a full vacation.
You may hear of a vaccination passport for interisland travel. However, that plan launching in May 2021 is intended for Hawaii residents that were fully vaccinated within Hawaii only at this time.
5. Book your rental car
Thousands of rental cars were shipped off island during the pandemic causing a shortage and higher prices. After your accommodations and flight are booked, secure your rental car as early as possible. After you shop online for the best price, you might want to book direct with the rental car company so your reservation is secure. If you waited too long, you can try some of the smaller agencies with older cars like Kihei Rent a Car (with limited free airport shuttle) and Kimo’s Rent a Car (they leave the vehicle at the airport for you). Island residents also put their personal cars up for rent (with insurance) on Turo.
Six to Eight Months Ahead
6. Make dinner reservations
Use the OpenTable app to book any fine dining you are planning during your visit. Some restaurant reservations are running 6 to 8 months (or more) in advance. Don’t book multiple reservations for the same date (or forget to cancel reservations). It is not fair to the establishment or others trying to make reservations, and have compelled some restaurants to require advance payment.
7. Plan and book some activities
Also book any activities you would like to do a month or two before arrival. A luau should be booked the same as a restaurant- 6 to 8 months in advance or more. If you haven’t been to a luau in Hawaii, it is something you should do one time. Previously, you could wait book activities on island. Now, it is recommended in advance. Check each activity’s cancellation or change policy.
Zero to Three Days Ahead of Your Flight
8. Final preflight preparations
You will be taking your COVID-19 test that you prescheduled no sooner, but as close to 72 hours from when the last leg of your flight is scheduled to leave for Maui.
No more than 24 hours prior to departure, log in to your Safe Travels account created earlier and complete the Travel Health Questionnaire. This is where you will upload your COVID-19 test results (the paper copy will not suffice). You’ll be notified via email or text when the questionnaire is available to be filled out, but you can also log in and check. You must upload your negative test prior to boarding your flight to Hawaii. Test results time stamped after your departure, or paper copies, will not be accepted.
After uploading your negative test results and filling out the questionnaire in your Safe Travels account, check your email for your QR code, which will be scanned upon arrival into the state of Hawaii. Have it readily available, either printed or on your phone, to help the process go smoothly. If your first stop is Honolulu on the island of Oahu, you will receive two QR codes- one for Honolulu and one for Maui.
Keep a folder with a printed copy of all of your accommodation reservations, rental car confirmation, your negative COVID-19 test, QR code and other reservations you have made. Bring the folder with you to Maui in your carry on bag, with backup copies on your phone. It is a good idea to keep your phone charged, and bring a backup battery pack that is also fully charged.
When possible, allow extra time at the airport. Time spent waiting in line or going through extra steps is just a momentary blip of time compared to the fun you will have on Maui.
9. Know what to expect upon arrival to Maui
Upon arrival, anticipate a second COVID-19 rapid test at the airport. It is not anticipated you will have to wait for results, but the data will be used for contact tracing if necessary. Please be patient through this process.
The County of Maui Public Health Emergency Rules now require the download of the AlohaSafe Alert application or other Google or Apple exposure notification system application for all travelers on the Safe Travels program and those who obtain a limited quarantine exemption.
10. Relax and enjoy your vacation!
We know travel will be a little challenging for you in the next year or two. Understand that Mauians have also had to put up with a few struggles as we navigate our way out of the pandemic, but we still are loving life here on Maui! It’s a time to let go of your expectations, embrace the host culture and make new discoveries about this special island.
With warm aloha,
Your Destination Maui Vacations Ohana
PS. See our related article on Unusual (but necessary) Things to Pack for Maui.