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Current Travel Advisories, Restrictions, & Updates

What are the travel restrictions & requirements in hawaii, last updated:  may 17, 2024.

We've covered all of the latest Hawaii travel news and announcements below, including the steps travelers should follow to safely visit Hawaii in the future.

Maui Travel Updates

Lahaina remains closed.

Lahaina will remain fully closed to the public until further notice out of respect to the town's residents. County, state, and federal emergency responders continue with efforts to identify victims and the missing and conduct clean-up efforts of debris and hazardous materials resulting from the wildfires.

— article continued below —

Garden of Eden - East Maui

Garden of Eden - East Maui

Before you visit…

The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority advises travelers to check with individual accommodations, activities and businesses in West Maui for their availability and hours of operation. As travelers return to Maui after the devastating August wildfires, they will help to sustain jobs, keep businesses open, and support the community.

We urge all visitors to be especially mindful and respectful in the islands as the community continues through this tragedy.

Maui Wildfires

In August 2023, wildfires damaged a significant portion of West Maui, many lives were lost, and 2,200+ structures were destroyed -  making it the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over a century and Hawaii's worst natural disaster in modern history . 

More information can be found on our   August 2023 Maui wildfire  page.

Remainder of West Maui Reopened November 1, 2023

In late September 2023, Maui's Mayor, Richard Bissen,  released brand-new details  about how the island will go about reopening the resort areas surrounding Lahaina, which will remain closed indefinitely.

The plan initially involved three phases, but the Mayor  reopened the rest of West Maui on November 1, 2023 .

Latest Pandemic Developments in Hawaii

Last updated:  december 16, 2022.

At this time, there are no pandemic travel-related restrictions for domestic travelers, and neither the Governor's office nor island mayors have indicated they plan to reintroduce any restrictions.

Travelers can check the state of Hawaii's confirmed cases here .

'Safe Travels' program & mask mandate both officially ended March 26, 2022

According to Governor Ige, the state of Hawaii dropped the 'Safe Travels' program for domestic U.S. travelers at midnight on  March 25, 2022 . Governor Ige has also announced the indoor mask mandate has ended as of March 26, 2022 . Masks may still be required on public transportation, such as buses, and within Hawaii’s airports.

That now means domestic travelers to Hawaii will no longer need to fill out online forms via Safe Travels, no longer have to worry about QR codes, no longer have to provide proof of vaccination, and ultimately, there won't be any additional requirements or restrictions to fly to Hawaii on a domestic flight.

On the county level, the County of Kauai, the County of Maui, and the County of Hawaii have repealed their COVID-19 Emergency Rules. The City and County of Honolulu's Safe Access Oahu program ended on Sunday, March 6, 2022.

" Safe Travels is one part of a multi-layer approach to COVID safety. The program played a key role in keeping Hawaii's residents safe before vaccinations were widely available, and during the surges we've seen through this pandemic ," said John De Fries, Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO. " Bringing the Safe Travels program to a close reflects the progress we have made as a state , and Governor Ige’s decision is a good balance of maintaining reasonable health precautions while reopening our society and economy ."

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Hawaii told tourists to stay away. Did they listen?

Gov. David Ige told travelers to postpone trips last month as delta surged

don't travel to hawaii right now

Late last month, Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) made a plea to tourists: Put travel plans on hold until at least the end of October. The highly contagious delta variant had increased the state’s hospitalizations, straining the hospital system.

“Our hospitals are reaching capacity, and our ICUs are filling up,” he said Aug. 23. “Now is not a good time to travel to Hawaii.”

Ige’s message didn’t stop tourism altogether — just before Labor Day, travel to Maui exceeded pre-pandemic levels — but it did seem to slow visitors.

Mufi Hannemann, president and chief operating officer of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, told local media that since the governor’s request to halt nonessential travel, “the industry has seen cancellations increase and occupancy cut nearly in half in some instances.” Tourism officials reported more than 50,000 room cancellations in Maui County.

You asked: Should I cancel my kids’ end-of-summer trip?

But how do locals in tourism — both big and small — who depend on travelers feel about the slowdown? Tourism officials have stood by the governor, but others feel that if you are going to visit, there are safe ways to do it.

“We are strongly advising visitors that now is not the right time to travel,” John De Fries, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said in a news release on the same day as Ige’s message.

Hawaii tourism surged when the islands reopened to visitors in October 2020, and they have been plagued by bad tourist behavior, from blocking roads for photo ops to being caught with fake vaccination cards.

Andrew Fowers, co-founder of the Hawaii audio tour company Shaka Guide , agrees with tourism officials that travelers “absolutely should postpone their trips,” he said in an email. “As a Hawaii resident myself, I’m concerned about the rise in case numbers and the strain on our healthcare system.”

If a traveler wants to keep the Hawaii plans, Fowers encourages that person to be vaccinated and tested ahead of the trip. Additionally, he advises travelers to be responsible during their trip (as he outlined in this blog post ), and to do their research about local coronavirus protocols ahead of time.

And those protocols are changing.

Local governments and businesses are going beyond the state’s Safe Travels program, which requires visitors to either be vaccinated or test negative ahead of their trip.

For example, this month, the islands of Maui and Oahu started requiring patrons of various indoor establishments — such as restaurants, libraries bars and gyms — to show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test to enter. A number of hotels across Hawaii are moving to require proof of vaccination to enter their properties. Hawaiian Airlines released an in-flight video encouraging visitors “to explore with care, offering your kokua [help] to preserve our natural resources, cultures and communities.”

How to be a better tourist in Hawaii, according to locals

Maile Anderson, a jewelry maker who lives in Maui, also implores visitors in Hawaii to be respectful. After seeing her town without tourists during the early pandemic lockdown, the return of travelers has been jarring.

“I live in Paia, and pretty much around lunchtime every single restaurant has a line out the door — and my town isn’t the main tourist town,” Anderson said. “There are no hotels, it’s a 30-minute drive from the two main tourist areas, and I’ve noticed that my little town has been crazy with traffic.”

Anderson says the impact of tourism’s return to Hawaii goes beyond long lines and traffic. Tension between locals and visitors grew with the rise of tourists’ bad behavior .

“I think maybe they had just been cooped up and hadn’t been able to travel for so long ... they weren’t really respecting the island or the rules or the locals,” she said. “It’s been really sad and frustrating for a lot of people.”

Still, Anderson recognizes the importance of tourism for Hawaii’s economy, and she welcomes tourists if they feel safe visiting.

Her one request is for visitors to “respect the locals, respect the rules of the road,” she said. “The people of Hawaii are so nice and so welcoming, but if you’re not friendly to them, then of course we’re not going to want them to come.”

Everyone loves to hate resort fees. That’s especially true in a pandemic.

Garrett Marrero, the founder of Hawaii’s largest craft brewery, Maui Brewing Company , has seen poorly behaved tourists during the pandemic, “but I would also argue that I’ve seen many visitors come with the best of intentions and leave saying that they’ll never come back to Hawaii because they didn’t feel welcome,” he said.

Marrero said he feels that the local “don’t come here” rhetoric is putting visitors on the defensive, creating a negative feedback loop.

“I would say you get what you give, and if you want aloha, you’ve got to give aloha,” he said. “So I don’t believe fully that tourists are the sole causation of this strife.”

Bob Jones, a journalist in Hawaii who reports on local issues via his blog , said he believes the issue goes deeper than tourist behavior or coronavirus risks. Angst over overtourism had been festering before the pandemic, and the confluence of the coronavirus and tourists created a flash point.

“Because of [the pandemic], we really saw the difference if we didn’t have so many people,” Jones said. “People could actually just go and walk up Diamond Head without being in a crowd of 150 people trying to get to the top at the same time.”

Once the coronavirus situation has been resolved, Jones expects the issue to get worse. International visitors will add to the overtourism problem if the state doesn’t come up with a solution to address local concerns.

For those grappling with whether to visit Hawaii at this time, Marrero’s take is that he “would leave it to the individual to make that decision,” he said. “If Hawaii was your home community and you were seeing a surge, would it be the right thing to do to come to that community? How would you feel?”

He added: “If you do choose to come, you need to be responsible for the safety of yourself and others. That is mask-wearing and complying with the rules.”

don't travel to hawaii right now

Hawaii is open to travelers. Here's what you should know about the latest rules if you're planning a trip to Oahu.

  • If you're planning a trip to Oahu, Hawaii, be aware of COVID-19 and weather-related advisories.
  • Keep reading for important details as you prepare to explore Oahu, Hawaii.
  • Visit Insider's hub for travel guides, tips, and recommendations .

Insider Today

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawaii had one of the strictest travel policies in the US.

In my experience living on Oahu during that time, traveling to and from Hawaii wasn't too difficult as long as you were prepared. My parents flew in from their home in California to visit me at certain points over the last three years, and things ran smoothly. I left the state about three times over the pandemic, and never had any issues as long as I did my research to stay updated on the current restrictions.

Now, policies are much more relaxed. In March of this year, Governor David Ige lifted travel restrictions for domestic flyers . Domestic travelers no longer need to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or negative COVID-19 test or upload any trip information online. However, international travelers still must follow federal US travel requirements to enter the country. 

Related stories

Tips for traveling between the US mainland and Hawaii:

  • Always pack a pen. Each group of passengers must fill out an agricultural form, which is given to you on your flight. Airlines don't always have enough pens, so to make it easy, just toss one in your carry-on.
  • The ecosystem in Hawaii is fragile and many native species are already under stress. As a result, there are certain items you can't bring into the state from the US mainland, particularly plants and produce (unless you bought it at the airport after TSA check-in). Read more about restricted items here .  
  • Bringing a pet on your Hawaiian vacation is tricky, as the state has strict laws regarding animals. If you don't have the necessary vaccinations for your pet, they'll be held in quarantine at the airport. In my opinion, it's not worth it to try, but you can learn more here .

When's the best time to visit Oahu?

The weather on Oahu rarely dips below 65 degrees Fahrenheit. That said, summer is warmer and often sunnier than the winter, which can be rainy. There's also a hurricane season that runs from June through November.

Overall, I wouldn't worry much about the weather as you'll likely have enjoyable conditions and temperatures no matter when you visit. 

One thing to keep in mind about the seasons is how they affect the surf. During summer, the south shore gets a nice swell, but many beaches, like those in Waikiki, are still swimmable, and the North Shore is mellow. During winter, the North Shore fires with big waves, sometimes topping 30 feet. This is when surf competitions take place and pro surfers visit the island, which is always fun to watch, but also means the North Shore will be crowded and the beaches won't be swimmable if you're not an advanced surfer. 

View Insider's comprehensive guide to visiting Oahu .

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Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

What’s It Like to Travel to Hawaii Right Now?

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Matt Moffitt

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Hawaii has been a popular tourist destination for decades and travelers are eager to return as we start to exit the pandemic. However, the state has the strictest testing requirements for travelers of any U.S. state and has not fully opened up yet.

In early May, I traveled to the islands for the first time, spending five days on Hawaii (the Big Island) and another five days on Kauai. Here’s what my experience as a tourist was like, as well as tips for anyone planning a similar trip to Hawaii in 2021.

People resting on the beach in Hawaii

How Do I Get Tested for COVID for Travel to and Within Hawaii?

Currently, travelers from the mainland need to be tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to travel to Hawaii. This is regardless of your vaccination status.

Furthermore, travelers who reside on the mainland (i.e. not Hawaii) need to get tested for most inter-island travel. (This requirement has been dropped for those who have been vaccinated—but only if you received your vaccine in Hawaii.)

COVID-19 test biohazard bag

I took a test at the airport in Austin three days before my departure to Hawaii. It cost me $90, which is on the cheaper side (most tests cost $100+). There were lots of appointment slots available. Hawaiian Airlines has partnered with testing providers in a number of states to offer tests that will fulfill the Hawaii’s strict testing requirements. You can book a pre-flight test here .

The facility was an unassuming drive-thru trailer near the cell phone waiting lot. Surprisingly, the test was self-administered—they just gave me the swabs and bag to do it myself. The whole process took 15 minutes.

Drive through COVID-19 testing location at airport

I had my results in my inbox within four hours. Then I was able to download the results in PDF form, upload it to the SafeTravels portal and get the QR code I needed to officially enter Hawaii.

That was the first test. I got my second test—the one for travel from the Big Island to Kauai— just a day after landing on the Big Island. That marked three days before my flight to Kauai.

It cost $150 and was in-person at a blood work lab in Kona, which was one of the only places in the area on the Trusted Testing and Travel Partner List . It’s important you get your COVID-19 test/s done only through labs and clinics on the list.

Once I was there, the whole process there took 25 minutes. Again, I got the results back within a few hours and got the QR code I needed upon arrival to Kauai.

Bloodwork lab in Kona, Hawaii

COVID-19 testing requirements for mainland travelers are expected to be eased in June or July. You can find the most up-to-date information on the State of Hawaii’s COVID-19 Portal .

My advice is: wait to visit until Hawaii relaxed its rules around COVID testing. It’s both expensive and time-consuming. I am a relatively tech-savvy person and I still found the system hard to navigate. I traveled by myself and thought it was expensive, so if you’re traveling with a partner, family and/or friends, know that the costs can really add up.

Finally, when you do land at any airport in Hawaii, expect a wait of up to an hour to show your QR code and have your tests verified. (Maybe pack a protein bar to munch on and download a podcast to listen to while you wait in line.)

What Countries Are Open to Vaccinated Travelers?

What’s the Current Car Rental Situation Like in Hawaii During COVID-19?

You’ve probably read the reports of travelers making bookings for rental cars, arriving in Hawaii and there being no cars left . Some have resorted to renting a U-Haul or scrambling to find a car on Turo, a car rental app.

The good news is that the worst is probably over. According to my conversations with local residents, shortages peaked in March and April when domestic travel was starting to pick up again. Now that there is more certainty around the timeline of vaccination efforts and exiting the pandemic, the car rental companies have been able to more accurately match supply and demand.

I booked a four-day rental for $398 through Avis for my stay in Kauai. I was nervous that I would arrive and wouldn’t have a car. 

Indeed, when I got off the shuttle bus from the airport terminal in Lihue to the car rental counter, there was a wait time of around 90 minutes. Luckily, I have elite status with Avis through my American Express Platinum card and was able to skip the line and go straight to the Avis Preferred counter.

Sports car in a rental car lot

I was upgraded to a sports car (!) and was out of the parking lot within 15 minutes of arriving at the facility.

My advice to secure a car rental in Hawaii right now would be to:

  • Make multiple bookings (with free cancelations) 
  • Check if any of your credit cards offer elite status with car rental companies
  • Stay close to the airport in case you need rideshares or taxis as backup (but note that—at least on Kauai—rideshares can have wait times of over an hour).

The 16 Best Car Rental Booking Sites for 2021

What’s Tourism in Hawaii Like Right Now?

Hawaii has struggled to reduce its number of COVID-19 cases since mid-February 2021, when they reached their lowest point since last summer. Therefore, you may encounter some hostility and/or animosity towards visitors from the mainland (even though many travelers are vaccinated and all are required to get COVID-19 tests before arriving.)

Palm trees surrounding a parking lot with a photo insert of a turtle resting on the beach

I found those working in the tourist industry to be very welcoming, which isn’t hard to imagine given Hawaii’s reliance on tourist dollars. Having said that, I found that those working on the Big Island were much friendlier than on Kauai, which has only been open to tourists since the start of April.

Tourists with suitcases waiting beneath a

It’s not difficult to get reservations for restaurants or book activities like helicopter rides right now, but I expect that tourism will increase significantly throughout the summer.

If you want to visit any state parks, know that permits are often needed and are snapped up early, so plan ahead. For example, permits for the popular Kalalau Trail on Kauai are already booked out for the next two months.

Man kneeling on a cliff in front of a large rock face

Indoor mask use was universal when I visited in the first half of May; outdoors, it was much more relaxed.

How Do Flight Prices to Hawaii Compare Now to Before the Pandemic?

There are some excellent deals to get to Hawaii during the remainder of 2021. However, as with most domestic flights, prices are increasing as increasing numbers of Americans feel more comfortable getting on planes.

There is a lot of competition on routes to Hawaii, bolstered by Southwest commencing flying both to the islands and between the islands over the past two years. As a consequence, less than $500 can get not just West Coasters a roundtrip ticket, but even travelers from the middle of the country and the East Coast to the islands (perhaps with some lengthy layovers, though.)

The interior of a plane cabin

Hawaiian Airlines has commenced new services to airports like Orlando and Ontario. They launched service to Austin in late April. When tickets were released back in December, I booked a roundtrip First Class flight to Honolulu using 80,000 HawaiianMiles (transferred from American Express Membership Rewards) plus $11.20 in taxes. The lie-flat seat was a treat, as were the strongest cocktails that I’ve had on any airline!

Beware of Basic Economy: No More Free Changes

Bottom Line

The Hawaiian Islands are a stunning destination and tourists are coming back in droves. Expect that to ramp up in the second half of 2021 as vaccination rates both on the mainland and in Hawaii increase and COVID-19 testing requirements are relaxed.

If you’ve got a trip to Hawaii booked in the next couple of months, i.e. June and July, be prepared to put a good amount of money and effort into getting your COVID-19 tests in order. You may also find long lines at the airport when you land, as well as when you pick up your car rental.

On the other hand, if you are thinking of traveling to Hawaii and are yet to book your trip, I would recommend holding off until there is a more certain timeline around the relaxation of testing requirements. After all, Hawaii is renowned for being a relaxing vacation destination, so why not save the money that you would’ve spent on testing and put them towards a couple of poolside Mai Tais?

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A young girl holds a sign that reads, “Please keep your distance ocean length.”

Please don’t go to Hawaii on a “corona vacation” right now

People dream of escaping to an “exotic” place during the pandemic. But they’re endangering local residents.

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On March 20, the sound of honking horns tore through the air on an otherwise serene afternoon in Waikiki, Hawaii’s most renowned tourist haven. The Kū Kiaʻi Hawaiʻi convoy , dominated by nearly 100 trucks and SUVs, many flying the Hawaiian flag, had come with a message for tourists idling on the sidewalks and beach that day: Go home.

Before Hawaii Gov. David Ige ordered a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals beginning March 26, his most aggressive containment measure was to urge visitors to postpone their vacations , defaulting to county mayors to impose shelter-in-place orders or closures of nonessential businesses. At that point, Hawaii was already days out from its first reported coronavirus case of a resident who hadn’t traveled : a tour guide at Kualoa Ranch on the windward coast of Oahu, leaving many to assume she contracted the virus from a tourist.

don't travel to hawaii right now

By the time he imposed the quarantine, Hawaii already had 48 confirmed cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus , up from 14 cases on the day he encouraged visitors to cancel their trips. At that press conference , the governor said that while he recognized residents’ concerns about visitors bringing the virus to the islands, the state’s authority was limited, but officials were coordinating with the National Coast Guard and other federal agencies to screen visitors.

Not only were tourists not heeding his call, but, as Covid-19 cases were blooming across the US almost overnight, many more seized the opportunity to “escape” the new pandemic by isolating in paradise as airfares plummeted. A quick search of “ corona vacation Hawaii ” on Twitter yields an endless stream of users pining for a “corona vacation” to the islands because, as one visitor says, they would rather quarantine where they could “ live it up ” in luxury.

“Crisis tourism is billionaire bunker mentality,” Honolulu resident Khara Jabola-Carolus, who works at the Hawaii Department of Human Services as executive director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women , told Vox. “A crisis erupts and you jet off with no regard for the impact on the host place.”

She recalled a recent visit to Target when it was seemingly full of such “crisis tourists,” mostly mainland visitors who, she says, had exploited the pandemic to travel to Hawaii at a bargain and escape the virus in an idyllic place. Now that they’re here, she said, they’re competing with locals for basic necessities, noting the bare shelves as she walked down the store’s aisles. It’s happening around the US, “but Hawaii’s strong escapist ‘brand,’ combined with its dependency on tourism, has resulted in a [particularly] concerning situation here.”

Then there is the impact on limited hospitals and clinics in the state additional people would cause if they became sick. “Our health care system is ill-equipped to handle the influx of people who will need beds and ventilators, much less have the resources to assist other ailments at the same time,” Kauai Police Chief Todd G. Raybuck recently said in a statement . “This is a moment to consider the health of the community as a whole and to reevaluate what is truly essential.”

With tourism being an added threat during an already scary time, it didn’t take long for locals to mobilize.

Kawena Phillips, a Native Hawaiian activist who coordinated the convoy through Waikiki, planned the action in a day and a half. “It was important for us to step up and at least say something on the matter,” Phillips told Vox. “If our government officials aren’t going to do [anything], then we need to protect our communities and take care of them. We can’t be caught flat-footed and complacent.”

Inspired by similar actions on Molokai and Maui earlier that week, he gathered the group to ride from the Honolulu airport down through Waikiki, blaring bullhorns and shouting their various sign slogans out of the car windows to announce that Hawaii was closed to tourism.

“People were flipping us off, and there were some instances of tourists sarcastically coughing in our direction,” Phillips said. “There were a few interactions like that during the day with people who felt almost entitled to being there.”

This hostility might come as a surprise in a state known for its aloha and the informal motto to “hang loose.” “The internal culture in Hawaii [has always been], ‘no make waves’ — don’t make too much noise, kind of keep your head down, just go by to get by,” said Phillips. “That’s definitely changing now. People are more willing to stand up, make their voices heard, say something, make some waves, and have that dramatic impact.”

Hawaii’s complicated relationship with tourism

Tourism is the state’s largest employer, so there is incentive to maintain a paradisiacal image for tourists. Last year’s visitor spend brought in $17.75 billion in revenue, generating $2.07 billion in state taxes . But for residents, it’s a double-edged sword: While many locals depend on the industry for their livelihoods, they often also find themselves displaced and subjugated by it.

For example, when a pandemic hits. Many felt that Gov. Ige’s lackluster initial response to the climbing number of Covid-19 cases — which was also criticized by state Senate and House officials for not doing more to impede travel — reflected his unwillingness to stymie the flow of tourism dollars. Despite urgent calls for the governor to immediately order the 14-day quarantine by the Senate Special Committee on Covid-19 — supported by the Airport Division of the Department of Transportation; Adjutant General Kenneth S. Hara, the incident commander of the Covid-19 response; and Lt. Gov. Josh Green, the state’s liaison for coronavirus prevention — a spokesperson for the governor said he was still weighing his options.

It took two days before he issued the mandatory quarantine, to go into effect five days later. And state Senate leader Ron Kouchi told Hawaii News Now that legislators had been urging the governor to issue a stay-at-home order for at least a week before he actually did. In that time, travel into the state continued uninterrupted.

don't travel to hawaii right now

While tourism has contributed to the state’s consistently low unemployment rates , 48 percent of families with children do not make the minimum household budget to survive, according to a study of financial hardship in Hawaii. Adjusted to the cost of living, the highest in the country , Hawaii has the nation’s lowest minimum wage. A recent report estimated that a family of four would need to make upward of $80,000 a year to afford even a frugal lifestyle in Hawaii, nearly double what two adults would earn on the minimum wage right now. Unsurprisingly, two-thirds of residents are struggling financially , working multiple jobs to make ends meet, living with relatives in multigenerational households (some of which is also based on tradition), and dipping into savings.

For the astronomical cost of living, all roads lead back to tourism — or, more accurately, to the state government’s apparent prioritization of tourism over its citizens. The Hawaii Tourism Authority’s (HTA) last Resident Sentiment Survey , in 2018, reported that two-thirds of respondents agreed with the sentiment, “This island is being run for tourists at the expense of local people.”

Many residents were already struggling before the pandemic hit. Now, as families worry about not only financial ruin but also the spread of a virus that would ravage those multigenerational households, it’s no wonder that locals were angered to see tourists jamming the sidewalks and soaking up the sun in Waikiki, essentially carrying on like business as usual.

Protests put pressure on the governor to shut down travel

Two days before the Waikiki convoy, some 60 protesters stood outside the airport on the small neighboring island of Molokai to await disembarking tourists. Standing staggered for social distancing, the protesters held signs that read “Tourist stay home” and “Please keep your distance ocean length.” They said nothing to the tourists, who bowed their heads as they walked past, but the tension was palpable and the message was clear: Tourists were not welcome.

“If we waited for the government, we would wait till we got infected, and [only] then would they react,” Walter Ritte, a longtime activist who organized the protest, the first among the eight main islands to address shutting down tourism, told Vox.

The protest proved effective. Staff of Makani Kai Air, a smaller airline operating flight services to and from Molokai, later approached Ritte and told him they would only run essential flights from then on. Hotel Molokai, the only active hotel on the 260-square-mile island, followed suit and closed.

“Our hope was to create a spark,” said Ritte. “Hopefully, it would create a flame, and all of the other islands would get involved.” The next day, people on Maui started protesting, and Phillips’s convoy on Oahu followed that weekend.

The mounting pressure seemed to have worked. A day after the convoy took place, Ige ordered the 14-day mandatory quarantine, the first such measure in the nation. Two days after that, he issued a statewide stay-at-home order for both residents and tourists, noncompliance with which would be punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, up to one year in jail, or both.

But Ritte believes that even the quarantine order was a compromise. Criticizing the governor’s delay in implementing the quarantine, which was issued March 21 but didn’t go into effect for another five days, he said, “People’s lives are in danger, and [Ige’s] worried about giving [tourists] time to take care of their reservation.”

While the state admits that enforcement will be a challenge , Tim Sakahara, a spokesperson for the Hawaii Department of Transportation, said that hotels, collaborating with the HTA, would call rooms at random times to ensure guests were staying in. What the process will be for visitors staying at short-term vacation rentals was unclear, but Kouchi told Vox over the phone, “The most effective way to track [visitors] is not having to track them [at all]. Flights are almost empty [now], which was the whole point of the 14-day quarantine.” The governor’s office did not reply to Vox’s request for comment on what was being done with the tourists who arrived before the quarantine was implemented.

“We do understand that a stay-at-home order has never been implemented in our communities,” Ige said in a press conference on March 23, two days before it went into effect. “I would like to say that when we first announced these actions, the compliance has been overwhelming.”

Honolulu police say they issued 70 citations for violating the stay-at-home order on the first day it went into effect, mostly at public parks. That same day, police on the island of Kauai initiated islandwide checkpoints, in which some 58 visitors islandwide were advised to return to their hotel and comply with the new stay-at-home guidelines.

Hawaii’s history of protest

Historically, Native Hawaiians (Kānaka Maoli) have always been active in galvanizing their communities to wield collective political power, well before the overthrow of 1893, when American and European businessmen, aided by the US military, staged a coup and forced Queen Liliuokalani to abdicate her throne, dissolving the Kingdom of Hawaii two years later. It might, then, seem easier to understand the colonial undertones of a people’s mistrust in the government by whom they feel dispossessed, as well as of the historical trauma tied to an “ imported ” disease making its way through the remote island chain.

“Hawaii’s tumultuous political history is easy to gloss over because it’s very easy to ignore this tiny little group of islands in the middle of the Pacific,” says Phillips. “So [community action] is an opportunity for us to amplify our image and make sure that people hear about and know about what’s going on here.”

Protest, in this way, is tradition.

Ritte has long been a central figure in contemporary Hawaiian political movements, protesting the US military’s bombing of the island of Kaho’olawe in the 1970s, the farming of genetically modified crops on Molokai, and, more recently, the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the sacred site of Maunakea.

don't travel to hawaii right now

Often framed as a battle between culture and progress, the legal fight for Maunakea has been ongoing for the better part of the last decade. (Maunakea is a proper noun; Mauna Kea, another common spelling, is a reference to any white mountain.) The $2.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) would become the largest telescope in the Northern Hemisphere, but its proposed site is at the summit of Maunakea on Hawaii’s Big Island — a mountain revered in Hawaiian culture for sharing genealogical ties with Kānaka Maoli. While the project’s permit issuance had been contested on environmental and cultural grounds throughout, in 2018, a state Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for the project to proceed.

Things came to a head last July, however, when Ige announced TMT construction was cleared to begin. Kia’i, or protectors, formed a physical blockade on the single access road up to the summit, preventing construction crews from passing. Photos of Kānaka elders, or kūpuna, being arrested — their hands bound in zip ties, some using wheelchairs and walkers, while others were literally carried away — grabbed international headlines as public outrage rang out. An encampment, called Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu , quickly formed to hold the line thereafter.

The movement to protect Maunakea from desecration has galvanized Kānaka across the islands and across generations, as well as garnered staunch supporters abroad as it reached beyond its borders to link arms with other contemporary indigenous movements.

“We were the people that no one expected to rise the way that we did,” Pua Case, one of the leaders of the Protect Mauna Kea movement, told Vox. “We are there, as an extension of an ancestral right to safeguard what we hold dear and what we are genealogically connected to.”

For those not able to get to the Mauna, a convoy of hundreds of people was organized in a show of support for the kia‘i in September. While a convoy might appear like a strong-arm tactic to intimidate people, the convoy as a protest tool actually enjoys unique pride of place in recent community-led organizing in Hawaii.

Jamie Rodrigues, one of the Mauna convoy organizers, who also worked with Phillips for the Kū Kiaʻi Hawaiʻi convoy, told local news KITV4, “It’s a form of display that is unique to Oahu because we have such long roads, freeways. It made sense to utilize the resources on our island,” adding, “We wanted people to rally and share and show up with their innermost feelings and pride about being who they are.”

Another reason for more energized protest among Kānaka and locals in recent years: social media. “As a government official, I have a front-row seat to the state’s response, and as a community organizer, I’m in the middle of the people’s response,” Jabola-Carolus says. “I’ve been able to get information, but the public is in the dark, so disseminating information on social media has been a top priority for me.”

Social media, of course, is how Phillips got the word out about the Kū Kiaʻi Hawaiʻi convoy, and how Ritte gathered such a large group to meet him at Molokai Airport. It’s also how Pu’uhuluhulu communicates updates to its followers, such as its most recent decision to pack up the camp and abide by Ige’s stay-at-home order, out of safety for its kūpuna.

In the midst of this crisis, Jabola-Carolus uses her platform to elevate the “mainly women organizers mobilizing and unseen women in and out of government doing the heavy lifting.” Right now, she is most concerned about the disproportionate impact the coronavirus crisis will have on women.

“Hawaii has the highest concentration of multigenerational families in the United States,” she said. “With shelter-in-place and school closures, our crowded homes will need constant cleaning, prepared meals, and round-the-clock child care and elder care. The worst, hardest, and most tedious aspects of that labor will most likely fall to women.”

Neighboring Pacific island nations also brace for impact

The Hawaii government’s response to Covid-19 has lagged behind that of other islands swift to enact travel bans.

Its peers across the Pacific were some of the first to adopt strict containment measures , including suspending air travel, denying disembarkation of cruise ships, and refusing access to supply vessels. The Marshall Islands closed its borders with little warning , leaving visitors and returning Marshallese stranded in Honolulu and Guam. The country remains sealed off from all inbound air travel. French Polynesia, which has also experienced some crisis tourism , also imposed a travel ban , effective the same day, and began repatriating nonresidents immediately thereafter.

While Hawaii, unlike the other islands, can’t ban flights from coming in (only the federal government has jurisdiction over airspace ), it has control over what visitors can do within its borders — and for that, it can readily take from its neighbors’ examples.

New Zealand has closed its borders, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying of the current national lockdown that she hoped to avoid “the scenes of Bondi Beach in New Zealand” by adopting the strictest recommended suppression measures. The country, which has an estimated 240,000 to 260,000 visitors within its borders as of late March, has recruited law enforcement to ensure tourists were complying.

In Hawaii, the stay-at-home order is now in effect, but the city and county of Honolulu has provided conflicting directives for how it will care for unsheltered persons in this crisis. Hawaii has the second-highest homeless population in the nation, the majority of which are Native Hawaiians . Phillips says he plans to join actions to ensure “that they’re not put under any extra trauma or duress, or [are] targeted and made more vulnerable to this virus.”

It’s not his job, of course, but communities in Hawaii have shown an extraordinary capacity to care for one another. “As unfortunate as it is that the community continues to be forced to act in its own defense,” Phillips said. “It’s also great because that means that every time we rise up, we bring more people along with us.”

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Places the U.S. Government Warns Not to Travel Right Now

You may want to reconsider traveling to these countries right now.

Do Not Travel to These Countries

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Crime, civil unrest and terrorism are common risk factors for countries that end up on the State Department's "Do Not Travel" advisory list.

In 2024, tourism across the globe is “well on track” to return to pre-pandemic levels, according to projections by UN Tourism.

Global conflicts and natural disasters , ranging from a series of coups across Africa to catastrophic earthquakes in the Middle East affected international travel patterns throughout 2023. Still, international tourist arrivals reached 87% of pre-pandemic levels in 2023, according to estimates by UN Tourism .

In January 2024 alone, about 4.6 million U.S. citizens left the country for international destinations, 17% higher than the same month in 2019, according to the International Trade Administration . But some destinations warrant more caution than others.

On Oct. 19, 2023, following the outbreak of war between Israel and Gaza and flaring tensions in the region, the U.S. State Department issued a worldwide caution advisory due to “increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests.” Prior to this update, the most recent worldwide caution advisory was issued in 2022 after a U.S. strike killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor as leader of Al Qaeda, causing “a higher potential for anti-American violence.” The worldwide caution advisory remains in effect.

The U.S. State Department also issues individual travel advisory levels for more than 200 countries globally, continually updating them based on a variety of risk indicators such as health, terrorism and civil unrest. Travel advisory levels range from Level 1, which means exercise normal precautions, to Level 4, which means do not travel there.

About 10% of countries – 19 total – have a Level 4: “Do Not Travel” advisory as of Mar. 4. In Level 4 countries, the U.S. government may have “very limited ability” to step in should travelers’ safety or security be at risk, according to the State Department. Crime, civil unrest, kidnapping and terrorism are common risk factors associated with Level 4 countries.

So far in 2024, the State Department made changes to the existing Level 4 advisories for Myanmar, Iran and Gaza, and moved Niger and Lebanon off of the Level 4 list.

Places With a Level 4 Travel Advisory

These are the primary areas the U.S. government says not to travel to right now, in alphabetical order:

Jump to Place: Afghanistan Belarus Burkina Faso Central African Republic Myanmar (formerly Burma) Gaza Haiti Iran Iraq Libya Mali Mexico North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) Russia Somalia South Sudan Sudan Syria Ukraine Venezuela Yemen

Afghanistan: The Central Asian country is wrestling with “terrorism, risk of wrongful detention, kidnapping and crime,” according to the State Department. U.S. citizens are specifically at risk for wrongful detention and kidnapping. In 2022, the government reinstituted public floggings and executions, and women’s rights are disappearing under Taliban control. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul halted operations in August 2021. Since the Taliban took control , many forms of international aid have been halted . Meanwhile, in 2023, some of the year’s deadliest earthquakes killed more than 2,400 in Afghanistan while the country continues to face a years-long extreme drought.

Belarus: Belarus, which shares a western border with Russia and a southern border with Ukraine, has been flagged for “Belarusian authorities’ continued facilitation of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the buildup of Russian military forces in Belarus, the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, the potential of civil unrest, the risk of detention, and the Embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Belarus.” The U.S. Embassy in Minsk halted operations in February 2022.

Burkina Faso: Terrorism, crime and kidnapping are plaguing this West African nation. Terrorist attacks may target hotels, restaurants and schools with little to no warning, and the East and Sahel regions of the country are under a state of emergency. In late November 2023, hundreds died in clashes between state security forces and rebels near the country’s border with Mali. In June, more than 2 million people in Burkina Faso were displaced due to “violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.”

Central African Republic: While there have not been specific incidents of U.S. citizens targeted with violence or crime, violent crime and sudden closure of roads and borders is common. The advisory states that “Embassy Bangui’s limited capacity to provide support to U.S. citizens, crime, civil unrest, and kidnapping” is a factor in its assessment. Recent data from UNICEF suggests the country has the worst drinking water accessibility of all countries in 2022.

Myanmar (Formerly Burma): Armed conflict and civil unrest are the primary reasons to not travel to this Southeast Asian country, which experienced a military coup in early 2021. Limited health care resources, wrongful detentions and “areas with land mines and unexploded ordnance” are also listed as risk factors. After Ukraine and Israel, Myanmar had the highest conflict-related death toll in 2023.

Gaza : Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization as designated by the State Department, controls much of the Gaza Strip, which shares borders with both Israel and Egypt. On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas fighters broke across the border into Israel, killing hundreds of civilians and soldiers in a brazen attack that stunned Israelis. On Oct. 10, Israel hit the Gaza Strip with “the fiercest air strikes in its 75-year conflict” according to Reuters . The conflict has since escalated into war between Israel and Hamas, with regular Israeli airstrikes leading to extensive civilian casualties in Gaza. As of mid-December, nearly 85% of Gaza’s population were displaced from their homes, according to UN estimates . The region continues to face shortages of food , water, electricity and medical supplies , with conditions deemed “far beyond a humanitarian crisis.” The State Department warns of terrorism and armed conflict within Gaza’s borders.

Haiti: In July 2023, the Department of State ordered all non-emergency U.S. government personnel and family members to leave the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince in response to the increased risk of kidnapping and violent crime in the country , as well as armed conflict between gangs and police. The travel advisory states that cases of kidnapping “often involve ransom negotiations and U.S. citizen victims have been physically harmed during kidnappings.” The travel advisory also states that “U.S. citizens in Haiti should depart Haiti as soon as possible” given “the current security situation and infrastructure challenges.” A series of gang attacks in late September 2023 caused thousands to flee their homes, and many aid groups have been forced to cut or suspend operations amid escalating violence in recent months.

Iran: Terrorism, kidnapping and civil unrest are risk factors for all travelers to Iran, while U.S. citizens are specifically at risk for “arbitrary arrest.” U.S.-Iranian nationals such as students, journalists and business travelers have been arrested on charges of espionage and threatening national security. Executions in Iran rose sharply between 2021 and 2022, bringing the country’s total to nearly 580 people over the year, according to a report by Amnesty International released in May 2023.

Iraq: The State Department cites “terrorism, kidnapping, armed conflict [and] civil unrest” as cause for the country’s Level 4 distinction. Iraq’s northern borders, and its border with Syria, are especially dangerous. Since the escalation of conflict in neighboring Israel in October, there has been an increase in attacks against Iraqi military bases, which host U.S. troops and other international forces. In October 2023, non-emergency U.S. government personnel and eligible family members were ordered to leave the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

Libya: Following the end of its dictatorship over a decade ago, Libya has been wrought with internal conflict between armed groups in the East and West. Armed conflict, civil unrest, crime, kidnapping and terrorism are all risk factors. U.S. citizens have been targets of kidnapping for ransom, with terrorists targeting hotels and airports frequented by Westerners. The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli halted operations in 2014. In mid-September 2023, floods, which some say were intensified by climate change , killed thousands in eastern Libya. Clashes between armed factions escalated across the country in the latter half of 2023, including in the capital city of Tripoli and in Benghazi.

Mali: After experiencing military coups in 2020 and 2021, crime, terrorism and kidnapping are all prevalent threats in this West African landlocked nation. In July 2022, non-emergency U.S. government employees and their families were ordered to leave the country due to higher risk of terrorist activity. A U.N. report in August 2023 said that military groups in the country, including both Mali security forces and possibly Russian Wagner mercenaries, were spreading terror through the use of violence against women and human rights abuses. Democratic elections were supposed to occur in February 2024, but Mali’s military junta postponed the plans indefinitely. In December, the U.N. officially ended a decade-long peacekeeping presence in the country, which had been among the agency’s deadliest missions, with hundreds of the mission personnel killed since 2013.

Mexico: Each state in Mexico is assessed separately for travel advisory levels. Six of the 32 states in Mexico are designated as Level 4: Colima, Guerrero, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas. Crime and kidnapping are listed as the primary risk factors throughout the country. Nearly 112,000 people were missing across the country as of October, a number the U.N. has called “alarming.”

North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea): U.S. passports are not valid for travel “to, in, or through” this country, home to one of the world's longest-running dynastic dictatorships. The travel advisory states that the Level 4 distinction is due to “the continuing serious risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. nationals.” In July 2023, a U.S. soldier fled across the border into North Korea, where he is believed to be in North Korean custody, the first American detained in the North in nearly five years. He was returned to U.S. custody in September 2023.

Russia: The travel advisory for Russia cites its invasion of Ukraine , harassment of U.S. citizens by Russian government officials and arbitrary law enforcement as a few of the reasons for the Level 4 designation. Chechnya and Mount Elbrus are specifically listed as Level 4 regions. Terrorism, civil unrest, health, kidnapping and wrongful detention are all noted as risks.

Russia Invades Ukraine: A Timeline

TOPSHOT - Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv  on February 24, 2022. - Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine today with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a "full-scale invasion" was underway. (Photo by Aris Messinis / AFP) (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Somalia: A severe drought resulting from five failed rainy seasons in a row killed 43,000 people in 2022, and caused a famine amid conflict with Islamist insurgents . Violent crime is common throughout Somalia , pirates frequent its coast off the Horn of Africa, and medical facilities, where they exist, have limited capacity. Crime, terrorism, civil unrest, health and kidnapping are all risk factors. In January 2024, some passengers aboard a U.N.-contracted helicopter were taken hostage by al-Shabaab militants after the vehicle crashed in central Somalia.

South Sudan: Crime, kidnapping and armed conflict are the primary risk factors for South Sudan, which separated from Sudan in 2011, making it the world’s newest country . Weapons are readily available, and travelers have been victims of sexual assault and armed robbery.

Sudan: The U.S. evacuated its embassy in Khartoum in April 2023, and the country closed its airspace due to the ongoing conflict in the country, only permitting humanitarian aid and evacuation efforts. Fighting has escalated in the region between two warring generals seeking to gain control after a military coup in 2021 ousted the country’s prime minister. Civil unrest is the primary risk factor for Africa’s third largest country by area. Crime, terrorism, kidnapping and armed conflict are also noted. The International Criminal Court began investigating alleged war crimes and violence against African ethnic groups in the country in 2023. Millions have fled their homes due to conflict, and the U.N. has said its efforts to provide aid have been hindered by a lack of support, safety and resources. As recently as December 2023, the United Nations warned of catastrophic famine , with millions of children at-risk for malnutrition .

Syria: The advisory states that “No part of Syria is safe from violence,” with terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, armed conflict and risk of unjust detention all potential risk factors. U.S. citizens are often a target for kidnappings and detention. The U.S. Embassy in Damascus halted operations in 2012. Fighting in neighboring Israel has escalated since October, and the conflict has spilled over into Syria, where the U.S. has carried out air strikes following drone and rocket attacks against American troops in Syria and Iraq, triggered by the Israel-Hamas war.

Ukraine: Russian setbacks in their invasion of Ukraine buoyed hopes in Ukraine in 2023. However, Ukraine is a Level 4 country due to Russia’s invasion, with crime and civil unrest also noted as risk factors. The country’s forces shot down two Russian fighter jets on Christmas Eve 2023, in a move Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said “sets the right mood for the entire year ahead.”

Venezuela: Human rights abuses and lack of health care plague this South American nation, which has been in a political crisis since 2014. In 2019, diplomatic personnel were withdrawn from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas. Threats in the country include crime, civil unrest, kidnapping, wrongful detention and poor health infrastructure.

Yemen: Six of the nine risk factors defined by the State Department – terrorism, civil unrest, health risks, kidnapping, armed conflict and landmines – are all present in Yemen. Despite private companies offering tourist visits to the Yemeni island of Socotra, the U.S. government argues those arranging such visits “are putting tourists in danger.” Civil war and cholera are also both present throughout the country. The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa halted operations in 2015. The country has experienced a relative lull in the civil war fighting, but as peace negotiations have gotten traction, flare ups in the fighting have jeopardized progress. Most recently, the U.S. and U.K. have carried out a series of airstrikes in the country, targeting Iran-backed Houthi sites.

Other Countries to Watch

Since Jan. 1, the State Department has updated travel advisories for 17 different countries as well as for the West Bank and Gaza, adding information about specific regions or risk factors, or simply renewing an existing advisory. Travel advisory levels can change based on several factors in a nation, such as increased civil unrest, policies that affect human rights or higher risks of unlawful detention.

The State Department has given about 25 countries an assessment of Level 3, meaning it recommends people “reconsider travel” to those destinations.

On Oct. 14, one week after the deadly Hamas attack on Israel, Israel and the West Bank were both moved from Level 2 to Level 3, while Gaza remains at Level 4. The region’s travel advisory was updated in November to reflect travel restrictions for certain government employees who have not already left the area, and it was updated again on Jan. 3.

Following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in early October, the U.S. State Department raised Lebanon ’s travel advisory level from a Level 3 to a Level 4 level due to “the unpredictable security situation related to rocket, missile, and artillery exchanges” between Israel and Hezbollah or other militant groups. In December, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut returned to normal staffing and presence, and on Jan. 29, the country was moved back to Level 3. Crime, terrorism, armed conflict, civil unrest, kidnapping and unexploded landmines are listed as the country’s primary risk factors. However, the country’s borders with Syria and with Israel, as well as refugee settlements within Lebanon, are specifically noted as Level 4 regions.

China became a Level 3 country in late 2020, with an update in December 2022 citing “the surge in COVID-19 cases, arbitrary enforcement of local laws, and COVID-19-related restrictions” as the reason for the advisory. In June 2023, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) was moved from the Level 3 to the Level 2 list, but travelers are still advised to be cautious in the area due to “arbitrary enforcement of local laws.” Meanwhile, Macau remains at Level 3.

Following an attempted coup in August 2023, Niger was elevated to Level 4 in August and the Department of State ordered all non-emergency U.S. government personnel and family members to leave the U.S. Embassy in Niamey. In early January 2024, the overall risk level for the country was lowered back to Level 3. Despite the new classification, the State Department still asks non-emergency government personnel and eligible family members to depart the country.

In mid-December 2023 there was an explosion at Guinea’s main fuel depot which has since affected access to health care and basic goods and services. The country was subsequently designated a Level 3 nation after having previously been Level 2. Concerns about civil unrest, health, crime and fuel shortages impacting local infrastructure were listed as the primary risk factors contributing to the change.

Several Level 3 countries are among the worst countries for human trafficking, as designated by the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report . Level 3 countries on this list include Papua New Guinea, Guinea Bissau, China and Chad. There are also nine Level 4 countries designated as among the worst for human trafficking: Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Russia, Syria, South Sudan and Venezuela.

Over 70 countries are currently at Level 2, meaning the State Department recommends travelers “exercise increased caution” when traveling to those destinations.

Botswana became the newest Level 2 country on Feb. 26 after having previously been Level 1, with crime noted as the primary risk factor.

France, which saw nationwide protests throughout 2023, has civil unrest and terrorism noted as risk factors for its Level 2 status, and Sweden’s Level 2 status is associated with risks of terrorism.

The Level 2 travel advisory for the Bahamas was updated in January to reflect water safety concerns. The advisory warns that “activities involving commercial recreational watercraft, including water tours, are not consistently regulated” and notes that government personnel are “not permitted to use independently operated jet-ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands.” It also warns visitors to be mindful of sharks, weather and water conditions. The advisory also says that crime is a primary risk factor with gang-on-gang violence contributing to high homicide rates in some areas. Visitors are asked to “be vigilant” and to not physically resist robbery attempts.

Bangladesh 's Level 2 travel advisory was updated in October 2023 to add a note about the country’s general election , which took place Jan. 7, 2024. The advisory states “demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.” The U.S. has since claimed the country’s election was not free nor fair.

In November 2023, several Level 2 travel advisories were updated with new cautionary information. The advisory for Ghana was updated to reflect threats against LGBTQI+ travelers specifically, noting “anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric and violence have increased in recent years.” Meanwhile, the advisory for South Africa was updated in February to note that routes recommended by GPS may be unsafe with higher risk for crime.

Turkmenistan was moved off of the Level 2 list to become the newest addition to the Level 1 list on Jan. 22, meaning normal precautions are recommended but there are no risk factors causing travelers to practice increased caution.

The State Department asks travelers to pay attention to travel advisory levels and alerts , review country information pages for their destinations and read related country security reports before going abroad.

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Can You Travel to Maui Right Now? It’s a complicated answer

can you travel to maui

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase through my links we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Read about our affiliate policies here .

The Lahaina Fire that started on August 8, 2023, devastated the culturally significant and close community of Lahaina. It has also left questions for visitors as to whether they should keep their plans to visit Maui, reschedule their trip, or cancel it completely.

This is an extremely complicated and difficult situation but we’re laying out what you need to know to help you answer: Can you travel to Maui?

Can You Travel to Maui Right Now?

The short answer is yes, you can travel to Maui right now and Maui is still open for tourists. Most of Lahaina is inaccessible as they clean it up and prepare for rebuilding.

We traveled to Maui in mid-September and here are our 8 Takeaways on Visiting Maui After the Fires .

Below are the areas that were impacted by the fire on August 8th:

Maui Travel Update Maui Fire Map

Right after the fire, the current messaging from the Hawaii Governor was that all non-essential travel to Maui should be postponed for the near future. This was necessary for them to close down West Maui and pour resources into helping those who were affected by the fire. And this was important — every beach rescue or medical emergency not related to the fire was straining the already limited rescue personnel.

In addition, they were focused on getting thousands of people out of West Maui, whether that was getting them home and off the island or getting them into temporary housing. It was and continues to be a big undertaking. 

Now, the official message is that Maui is open and welcoming visitors.

This change comes as arrivals to Maui have plummeted and concern for the Maui economy. While the entire island of Maui is grieving the loss of Lahaina and trying to help with whatever resources they have available to them, tourism is the main economic driver of the island and many are worried about their ability to earn a living.

Maui’s reliance on tourism accounts for an estimated four out of every five dollars made there, according to the Maui Economic Development Board .

The Effects of Travel to Maui Stopping

A tour operator that we have used and consistently recommend is Valley Isle Excursions . The owner, Nichole, gave us a glimpse of how this fire is impacting her employees:

“Today, I had to put 30 staff members on Unemployment. They were not directly impacted by the fire, but are now being indirectly impacted by it. These same employees who one week ago did not hesitate when we called upon them to drive into Lahaina and evacuate visitors, bring supplies to the door of local families who were stranded in West Maui and had no means of transportation to get to supply drop locations. Those who worked 12-14 hours to service the needs of our West Maui community who lost EVERYTHING, will now not know if they themselves can stay here.” Nichole from Valley Isle Excursions

Nichole isn’t the only person to raise concerns about the impact this will have on the economy and the people trying to earn a living on Maui. Chef Kyle from Maui Fresh Streatery shared his thoughts as well as Daniel from food truck owner LikePoke. 

Is Travel to the Rest of Hawaii Impacted?

We’ve had several people ask about travel to the other islands and wonder if they should cancel their trip to Hawaii. There is no impact on the other islands and travel to the other islands is open. 

The island of Hawaii (the Big Island) did experience some fires but it was contained quickly and travel there is currently safe. 

We have seen several people re-book their travel to other islands and go without issue. If you do choose to travel to another island, our free island travel guides for Kauai, Oahu, and the Big Island can help.

  • Oahu Travel Guide
  • Island of Hawaii (Big Island) Travel Guide
  • Kauai Travel Guide

If You Do Travel to Maui

If you do decide you can travel to Maui (continue with your trip), we have some tips that Nichole from Valley Isle Excursions graciously shared:

Kokua (to help)

If you are planning to come to Maui, please give at least one day out of your itinerary to volunteer in assisting efforts to get supplies out to those in need. Look for organizations that have supplies but need hands to organize and sort through the supply inventory to help make the delivery of supplies more efficient and get to the ones who need CERTAIN THINGS.

Editor’s Note: Here is a list of Maui Volunteer organizations that have opportunities for those on vacation.

Consider “adopting a family” who lost everything and connect with them to assist in their specific needs.

​ Donate directly to families impacted ​

(A note from Erica and Jordan: We can’t vouch for the authenticity of the campaigns on the list. As this list is being circulated by many local Maui residents we feel comfortable sharing it but donors should do their own due diligence.)

Although most visitors will be coming to “vacation”, please understand that this Island community is experiencing devastation and grief ISLAND WIDE. Everyone here has to some degree a connection to a dear friend or family that has experienced loss. And our history in Lahaina town is leveled. Please be patient with our people and show them ALOHA too.

One thing that is not at the forefront of our community right now because of the grief and devastation that we are still trying to understand and come to terms with, is the trickle-down effect of not having visitors come. If our Island economy which is largely reliant on the visitor industry spirals, it will leave our Island more vulnerable to the displacement of local families, and the “land grabs” will happen more swiftly and easily. If local families who lost everything, also lose their jobs because the visitor industry collapses, they will not be able to stay and rebuild. They will be forced to leave.

No matter how beautiful the landscape of Hawaii is, what makes Hawaii so special is ITS PEOPLE. If our people leave, it will not be the same Hawaii.

Donate/Support Local

If you are traveling here, maybe pack an extra suitcase with items that you would like to donate. Then fill that same suitcase with products that you purchased from LOCAL Businesses. Bring all your travel essentials so that you don’t have to visit Walmart, Target, or Costco and buy things that you don’t want to pack. Save those resources in our store for our community. Instead of shopping for groceries at Costco, EAT OUT. Support other local restaurants, food trucks, and eateries. These are the companies that pump economic support directly back into the local economy and keep our locals employed so that they have the financial resources to stay here and REBUILD.

I would recommend Hawaii Community Foundation-Specifically the “ Maui Strong ” fund.

They are giving immediate disbursements to smaller nonprofit organizations to help the impacted community, but they are also one of the organizations that have been working on keeping local families here in the Islands by supporting loan programs and land/home purchase education for local families. Long term, this is what we are going to need to rebuild our Lahaina community and keep Lahaina lands in the Lahaina community’s hands.

If You Choose to Postpone Your Trip

Consider postponing your trip rather than canceling outright. See if you can reschedule for a later date rather than asking for a refund. Maui will need visitors to return and hundreds of local businesses are struggling to survive while processing thousands of dollars worth of cancellations. 

There is no clear-cut answer as to whether you should be visiting Maui right now or in the near future. We hope this was helpful in making your decision as it’s highly personal. We love the Maui community and want to see them survive economically but we also know there is a lot of grief around the entire island.

We are traveling there in September to both support our local partners as well as give you a look at what a vacation on Maui looks like now.

Related articles:

  • Maui Fire Updates – daily updates on the fire response and visiting Maui
  • 9 Ways to Have an Authentic Hawaiian Experience
  • Hawaii Volunteer Programs (we will be adding Maui volunteer programs when they are posted)

Pinterest Image: Can you visit Maui right now? Everything you need to know following the fires

I'm the co-founder, with my husband Jordan, of The Hawaii Vacation Guide. We have lived on Maui and Oahu and continue to travel, experience, and learn about the Hawaiian Islands. We travel with our kids, Henry and Edith. I am a planner! I love to plan trips from the mainland and island-hopping adventures, excursion days, and everything in-between. I spend a lot of my time in Hawai'i on a SUP and my favorite time of year in Hawai'i is whale season!

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Maui Residents to Visitors: Come, but With Care and Respect

Following catastrophic wildfires that leveled the western maui town of lāhainā, the island’s residents grapple with the slow return of tourism..

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the back of a person in a burgundy hoody with a flower on it looking out across the ocean with a faint rainbow in the distance

When visitors do come, locals ask that they be mindful of the trauma and devastation the island has been through since early August.

Courtesy of Unsplash

This week, Maui mayor Richard Bissen announced the next phase of the reopening of West Maui to tourism following horrific wildfires that blazed through areas of the islands of Hawai‘i and Maui in early August, completely leveling the town of Lāhainā in western Maui. On November 1, the areas of West Maui north of Lāhainā, from Kahana to Kā‘anapali, will reopen, as officials and residents focus on recovery and rebuilding efforts, including a campaign to encourage travelers to return to Maui, albeit respectfully and with compassion. The phased reopening of West Maui began on October 8.

“Here’s the reality, as much as people don’t like it, we are driven by the visitor industry,” says Tim Lara of Hawaiian Paddle Sports , a certified B-Corp in Maui that offers surf lessons, kayak tours, canoe tours, and stand-up paddleboard lessons. “If all of a sudden everyone stops coming, which they did . . . it’s going to create a bigger economic collapse. And more people are going to need assistance. Whereas if the visitor industry keeps going, not only can we sustain ourselves, but we can help with relief on the west side.”

Lara lives in Kula in Maui’s Upcountry, which experienced wildfires as well—19 houses were lost in Kula, including 10 within a mile of Lara’s house. Lara and his neighbors spent the days after the fires working together to extinguish new hot spots, cut back green waste to create fire breaks, and clear trees that had fallen onto properties. A donation center was established in the community where people could pick up bottled water, in addition to supplies and food.

In the first 10 days or so following the wildfires, Lara’s business was essentially put on pause. “I just didn’t have the headspace to deal with it,” he says. But, he adds, “We’re back [in business] now.”

A map that indicates the reopening progress in West Maui

Hawai‘i tourism officials have released a map that indicates the reopening progress in West Maui.

Courtesy of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority

The losses due to the wildfires in Maui were staggering. Authorities reported that 97 people died, more than 6,600 acres burned, and approximately 2,403 residences were destroyed.

In the initial hours following the August 8 fires, as blazes were still burning, as rescue efforts were still underway, and as losses were still mounting, the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority issued a statement that “non-essential travel to Maui is strongly discouraged at this time. Visitors who have travel plans to West Maui in the coming weeks are encouraged to consider rescheduling their travel plans for a later time.” Unfortunately, the distinction between West Maui, where Lāhainā is located, and the rest of Maui, which remained open to visitors, got lost in the chaos and communication efforts.

Several celebrities jumped in to reinforce that message, including Hawaiian-born actor Jason Momoa, who has 17.2 million followers on Instagram and posted to the platform on August 11, “Do not travel to Maui . . . if you were planning on traveling to Maui in the near future, cancel your trip.” (He has since posted numerous updates , including detailed clarifications about what remains open now—the vast majority of Maui—and the area around Lāhainā that had been closed.)

And many people did cancel their trips. Prior to August 8, Maui’s domestic passenger count ranged from between 4,000 and more than 8,000 visitors each day. In the weeks following the wildfires, they dipped down to between 1,800 and 3,000 daily and have finally climbed back up to above 4,000 daily visitors on most days, according to data provided by Hawai‘i’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.

Graph showing drop in number of domestic passengers flying to Maui since the wildfires

The number of domestic passengers flying to Maui has dropped drastically since the wildfires.

Courtesy of Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism

It’s estimated that the current economic loss is as much as $9 million per day due to the drop in travelers, according to the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.

“There was a lot of talk in the beginning that ‘Maui is closed. Visitors need to leave. Don’t come to Maui,’ ” says Lara, adding that more recently, there’s been a welcome adjustment in the communication. “Now people are saying, ‘Maui is open. Please come.’ ”

In September, the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority approved a $2.6 million recovery plan to restore demand for travel to Maui, which includes a new Mālama Maui campaign that promotes a responsible return in tourism to Maui .

“After listening to the Maui community and visitor industry, the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority is supporting residents who work in the hospitality industry and business owners who count on visitor spending by ensuring that visitors return to Maui,” Ilihia Gionson, public affairs officer at Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, tells AFAR. “We are asking for respectful, compassionate, responsible travel to the island at this time. Visitation is welcome and encouraged to the many open areas of Maui, now more than ever.”

Is it OK to visit Maui now?

So, what does “respectful, compassionate, responsible” travel to Maui look like?

Britney Alejo-Fishell, owner of Haku Maui in Maui’s Upcountry, a small business that makes traditional Hawaiian leis and teaches lei-making workshops, says she wants to spread the message that “it’s OK to come.”

But, she adds, “I know that people love to come to Maui to heal. You come here, and you find your healing in this beautiful place. But this is where people come from. We live here, this is what we’re made of. Come right, come respectfully. The people that come and just stay at the hotels, I get it, it’s helping the hotel. Come with the openness that you are going to travel and to explore and see what Maui has to offer and meet the people and talk to them and not just shelter in place.”

In addition to getting off the resort compound and supporting local businesses, reaching out to aid organizations that are contributing to relief efforts on Maui, and donating time and money to help (see below), Alejo-Fishell says that conscious travelers should also be aware of how severe the trauma that many residents have experienced has been.

Aerial view of a pool and palm trees at a Maui beach resort

Now, more than ever, residents are asking visitors to shop and buy local when they visit Maui to help support small businesses and their families.

Courtesy of Lo Sarno/Unsplash

Alejo-Fishell recalls that “the very first week, we were getting supplies, taking them directly to Lāhainā, and you can hear tourists complaining in the stores, saying ‘Why is there nothing on the shelves? What are we supposed to do?’ People have nothing, they just survived [this disaster], they may have lost their loved ones. Come on. Just be aware that you may be in line and there may be someone behind you in line that lost everything.”

Lesley Texeira, owner of Aloha Missions , which creates customized give-back experiences for people in Maui, says that following the wildfires, it felt like the COVID-19 pandemic all over again in Maui with rental cars piling up on empty lots around the airport and a dearth of visitors.

The difference this time around is that Maui residents experienced something so sudden and so shocking—and they are, quite frankly, still processing it all.

“If you are coming here . . . [you should be] leaving our island better than you found it. That’s how you should do anything, but especially right now. We are so fragile, and we are so emotional that you have to come here and you have to be mindful,” says Texeira. “The whole island is traumatized.”

Texeira says that for those visitors who want to reach out to local communities and volunteer or provide services and resources while they are in Maui, Aloha Missions can help make those connections between visitors and support efforts.

Says Lara of Hawaiian Paddle Sports, “Just by simply coming and spending money as you normally would, you are helping the situation because you’re stopping that many more families from needing assistance. But then—extra credit—make a charitable donation while you’re here.”

Charred cars and buildings line the waterfront in western Maui town of Lāhainā, destroyed by wildfires in early August 2023

The road to recovery and eventually rebuilding will be a long one for the western Maui town of Lāhainā.

Courtesy of the Office of Hawai‘i Governor Josh Green

How to help Maui

For travelers wondering how they can help, several organizations have jumped in to provide aid and assistance.

American Red Cross

To donate: redcross.org

The Red Cross is providing assistance to thousands of displaced residents in Maui and Oahu.

Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement

To donate: memberplanet.com

This nonprofit organization that supports Native Hawaiians is raising support “for ‘ohana impacted by the devastating wildfires on Maui.”

Maui Food Bank

To donate: mauifoodbank.org

The Maui Food Bank, which distributes food to the hungry in Maui County, is raising money to help feed residents of Maui who have been displaced by the fires.

Maui Strong Fund

To donate: hawaiicommunityfoundation.org

The Hawai‘i Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on creating an equitable and vibrant Hawai‘i, has developed the Maui Strong Fund to provide shelter, food, financial assistance, and other services to residents.

Maui United Way

To donate: ignite.stratuslive.com/auw/get-involved/donate/mauirelief

Community aid organization Maui United Way has created a Maui Fire Disaster Relief Fund that will assist victims of the fires.

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After Maui Wildfires, Travelers Ask: Would a Trip Help or Hurt?

Residents and travelers are grappling with the propriety of visiting Maui, the epicenter of last week’s wildfires but an island heavily reliant on tourist dollars.

A spray-painted sign that reads ‘Tourist Keep Out’ posted on a chain-link fence.

By Christine Chung and Madison Malone Kircher

In the throes of responding to the Maui wildfires that razed the celebrated town of Lahaina and claimed over 110 lives, Hawaii remains mostly open for tourism, despite the misgivings of both residents and tourists.

“Do not come to Maui,” Kate Ducheneau, a Lahaina resident, said in a TikTok video that has been viewed more than two million times since it was posted on Sunday. “Cancel your trip. Now.”

“It’s just kind of a gut-wrenching feeling to see other people enjoying parts of their life that we used to welcome,” she said, adding that her home was severely damaged by fire and her family evacuated with minutes to spare.

Last week’s tragedy has intensified long-simmering tension over the archipelago’s economic reliance on tourism, a dependency that sparked anti-tourism protests in recent years and brought the state to its knees during the pandemic. Many residents, particularly in Maui, are furious over the uncomfortable, contradictory scenario of visitors frolicking in the state’s lush forests or sunbathing on white-sand beaches while they grieve the immense loss of life, home and culture . Others believe that tourism, while particularly painful now, is vital.

“People forget real quick right now, how many local businesses shut down during Covid,” said Daniel Kalahiki, who operates a food truck in Wailuku on Maui, east of Lahaina. The island needs to heal and the disaster areas are far from recovered, he said, but the tourist-go-home messaging is irresponsible and harmful.

“No matter what, the rest of Maui has to keep going on,” said Mr. Kalahiki, 52. “The island has already been shot in the chest. Are you going to stab us in the heart also?”

The devastating loss of life, and these conflicting messages, are causing travelers to grapple over the propriety of visiting Maui, or anywhere in Hawaii, in the near future, prompting them to ask if their dollars would help or their presence would hamper recovery efforts.

“If we’re in a Vrbo, is that going to take away from a potential person who’s been displaced?” said Stephanie Crow, an Oklahoman traveling to Maui this fall for her wedding.

Official guidance from the Hawaiian government has shifted in past week, first discouraging travelers from visiting the entire island of Maui, and now, from West Maui for the rest of the month . Travel to the other islands, including tourist-draws Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island, remains unaffected.

State tourism groups say that travel is encouraged to support Hawaii’s recovery and to prevent it from plunging into a deeper crisis.

“Tourism is Hawaii’s major economic driver, and we don’t want to compound a horrific natural disaster of the fires with a secondary economic disaster,” said Ilihia Gionson, a spokesman for the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Vital to the economy

For those in the tourism industry, the year was off to a promising start. Visitor spending through June was $10.78 billion, a 17 percent increase compared to the same period last year, according to Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism . The pandemic’s woes were in the past.

But tension over growing tourist numbers was not. Hawaii has for decades been one of the top destinations for American and international visitors, and has struggled to balance tourism with residents’ demands to acknowledge and protect the islands’ traditional culture. Visitor-reliant countries like Jamaica, Thailand and Mexico navigate similar existential issues.

A year ago, John De Fries, the first Native Hawaiian to lead the Tourism Authority, told The New York Times that “local residents have a responsibility to host visitors in a way that is appropriate. Conversely, visitors have a responsibility to be aware that their destination is someone’s home, someone’s neighborhood, someone’s community.”

In the tourism agency’s most recent resident sentiment survey , issued in July, 67 percent of 1,960 respondents across four islands expressed “favorable” views of tourism in the state. But the same percentage agreed with the assertion: “This island is being run for tourists at the expense of local people.”

In the immediate days after the fires, frustration over visitors in Maui erupted.

“People are preying on trauma,” wrote Kailee Soong, a spiritual mentor who lives on Maui in Waikapu, on a TikTok post .

Tourists are still in stores even though resources are limited, said Ms. Soong, 33, in the video. “They are in the way right now as people mourn the loss of their loved ones, of the places that burned down, of the history that was completely erased.”

“Maui is not the place to have your vacation right now,” said the Oahu-born actor Jason Momoa in an Instagram Story. He posted an infographic that read “stop traveling to Maui,” and included guidance on how to make donations. There was fierce outcry after a Maui-based snorkeling company conducted a charity tour after the wildfires, leading the company to issue an apology and suspend operations.

“To hear that people are snorkeling in the water that people have had traumatic experiences and have died in, it’s hard to justify the reasoning behind why that would be viewed as acceptable,” Ms. Ducheneau, 29, said.

She works in property management and at a Lahaina restaurant, and noted that her family’s income is wholly dependent on tourists. Still, she said, “I just don’t think it’s an appropriate time to welcome tourism back into our area.”

The industry supplies approximately 200,000 jobs across the islands, and last year, a little over 9 million visitors spent $19.29 billion, according to the Tourism Authority . About 3 million visitors went to Maui, where the “visitor industry” accounts for 80 percent of every dollar generated on the island, the Maui Economic Development Board said .

“Just like everybody, we need to work. We just got over Covid. Things are just starting to get better. To think that everything might shut down again,” said Reyna Ochoa, a 46-year-old who lives in Haiku in North Maui and works several jobs outside of the tourism industry. “ The islands need the tourism and the income to rebuild.”

In Wailuku, Mr. Kalahiki said that his food-truck sales have dropped by half. Streets usually “popping” with tourists have been empty, he said, and there have been days when his wife, who has a beach apparel store in town, hasn’t sold a single item.

Travelers search for clarity

Then there are the travelers who have saved up for their first vacations in years, many with plans to reunite with family or to celebrate weddings and honeymoons. Many want to be respectful and are searching for clarity on what that looks like, deluging online forums to ask local residents where and when it is acceptable to visit.

Early next month, Danett Williams, 48, will spend her honeymoon on the Big Island, where fires burned in North and South Kohala.

For days, she and her fiancé went back and forth about canceling their trip, considering a road trip from their home in San Francisco instead. Ultimately, they decided their tourism dollars were helpful, as long as they stayed clear of other islands and did not take up necessary space or resources away from displaced residents, she said.

Others, like Ms. Crow, from Oklahoma, say that vendors like her wedding planner are asking her to keep their trip. In early September, Ms. Crow, 47, and her fiancé plan to get married on a beach in Kihei, about 20 miles south of Lahaina. It was supposed to be a wedding in a “happy, blissful paradise” setting, she said.

“These are first-world problems I’m dealing with. They’ve lost life, homes, income, they’ve lost everything,” Ms. Crow said.

Determining what to do has been overwhelming and conflicting, she added. And the shifting directives from officials were perplexing, she said.

‘We just need some time’

Marilyn Clark, a travel agent who specializes in trips to Hawaii, said the travel industry was in a “holding pattern” waiting for further government guidance.

Major hotels across Maui have relaxed their cancellation policies through the end of August, she said, but what hotels and vendors will offer beyond that is unclear, compounding the anxiety and confusion among travelers.

And travelers like Ms. Crow are unsure whether their presence will take away from the people who need shelter. In Lahaina alone, one official said that as many as 6,000 people may have lost their homes.

Some hotel operators say that they are offering rooms and other support to emergency responders, displaced residents and hotel staff. The state has secured 1,000 hotel rooms, most of which are north of Lahaina, in Kaanapali, said Kekoa McClellan, a spokesman for the Hawaii Hotel Alliance.

Joe Pluta, a West Maui community leader and real estate broker, is among the homeless. He is staying with his daughter after escaping the flames that destroyed his home and all his possessions.

Describing himself as a “top fan of tourism,” he however suggested that there were other ways to support Maui. The horror and grief is too raw, he said.

“This is not the proper time to come and play,” said Mr. Pluta, 74. “Come again, just give us some time. We just need some time.”

Kirsten Noyes contributed research.

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram and sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to get expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation.

Christine Chung is a travel reporter for The Times. She previously covered breaking news. She joined The Times in November 2021. More about Christine Chung

Madison Malone Kircher is a reporter for The Times. She writes about the internet for the Styles desk. More about Madison Malone Kircher

Open Up Your World

Considering a trip, or just some armchair traveling here are some ideas..

52 Places:  Why do we travel? For food, culture, adventure, natural beauty? Our 2024 list has all those elements, and more .

Mumbai:  Spend 36 hours in this fast-changing Indian city  by exploring ancient caves, catching a concert in a former textile mill and feasting on mangoes.

Kyoto:  The Japanese city’s dry gardens offer spots for quiet contemplation  in an increasingly overtouristed destination.

Iceland:  The country markets itself as a destination to see the northern lights. But they can be elusive, as one writer recently found .

Texas:  Canoeing the Rio Grande near Big Bend National Park can be magical. But as the river dries, it’s getting harder to find where a boat will actually float .

I just traveled to Hawaii: Here's what it's like for tourists right now

Madison Blancaflor

Located more than 2,000 miles off the coast of California, Hawaii is an idyllic beach destination that — in a normal year — attracts more than 10 million visitors.

But many people had their vacations to the Aloha State put on hold as the islands, and the world, battled the novel coronavirus pandemic.

With 2020 thankfully coming to an end and a promising vaccine on the horizon, Hawaii has begun the process of carefully reopening to vacationers.

To give you a better idea of what it's like to travel right now, I flew to Hawaii as a guest of Hawaiian Airlines and the Hawaii Visitors and Conventions Bureau. This was my first-ever trip to the island state, so I didn't know exactly what to expect — especially during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Would I feel safe during my flights there and back? Would the resorts have open amenities? Will tourists even feel welcome?

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter .

At the end of my four-night stay in paradise, I was pleasantly surprised both by the new safety protocols, as well as the overall vibe in Hawaii. It was quickly easy to understand why Hawaii has so many repeat visitors. And, while the system isn't perfect, I was able to enjoy my trip with few concerns.

If you're considering a trip to Hawaii next year, here's what you can expect.

Hawaii COVID-19 testing procedures

After a few false starts and last-minute changes, Hawaii reopened to tourism on Oct. 15 .

There are, however, barriers to traveling to the island destination. You'll have to quarantine for 14 days after arrival unless you are visiting an island that allows you to opt out of the quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test.

Right now, Kauai has opted out of the program that lets you avoid quarantine with a test so visitors will need to quarantine for 14 days in Kauai. Unfortunately, even for other islands, getting a valid test isn't as simple as heading to your local clinic of choice the week before you leave. You need to take your test within 72 hours of departure from one of Hawaii's approved testing facilities and have to have the correct test results in hand before your trip. That tight turn around can be extremely challenging.

We've covered the full run-down of what you need to know prior to visiting Hawaii , but here's my experience with Hawaii's pre-travel testing program.

I ordered an at-home testing kit through Vault, one of Hawaii's accepted testing facilities.

The at-home test is a "supervised, saliva-based test," which means you don't have anyone excavating your nose, but you do have to spit into a test tube while making awkward eye contact via video chat with a Vault employee.

Vault's site has a Hawaii-focused page that helps you plan out when you should order your test, schedule your test and mail it back in order for your results to arrive on time. If your flight to Hawaii is set for Tuesday or Wednesday, Vault is not a great choice for you because UPS doesn't ship on Sundays and increased holiday shipping traffic could delay your results regardless of travel date.

Getting test results in time is a hurdle not every traveler from every location will be able to overcome right now. You are better off doing an in-person test at an approved facility that guarantees results in time than relying on the mail.

Related: Hawaii's reopening highlights problems facing tourist destinations, but there's hope for 2021

After sending in my test, I registered my trip on Hawaii's Safe Travel website . The website is easy enough to use — you'll want to create a trip for each leg of your journey.

For example, I flew from San Francisco (SFO) to Honolulu (HNL) and onward to Maui (OGG), so I created two trips — one for each leg. You'll need the information for your flights, accommodations and your ID handy.

Closer to your departure, you'll fill out the health questionnaire on the site for each trip and upload your negative test results (once for each leg of your trip). Then, you'll receive QR codes via email you use to check in once you've landed in Hawaii.

I downloaded the QR codes to my camera roll for easy access, which helped me go through the check-in process much faster.

don't travel to hawaii right now

The process is cumbersome, but if you prepare properly, going through the actual check-in process on the ground is simple. They'll ask for your name, scan your QR code, verify your test results and then send you on your way.

Alaska Airlines flyers can now get pre-clearance at the departure gate from Anchorage to Maui and for flights to Honolulu and Kona beginning Dec. 14. If your Safe Travels profile is updated with your negative COVID-19 test and completed health results before departure, you'll be given a pre-clear wristband so you can skip the arrival screening.

My flight and airport experience

I'm based in Charlotte, North Carolina, so I took a positioning flight to San Francisco that was completely full (likely runoff from the holiday weekend). American Airlines did notify me of this ahead of time through the app in case I wanted to change to an emptier flight.

While I had a full row (American Airlines is not currently blocking middle seats), the couple occupying the seats next to me kept their distance as much as possible, wiped down their tray tables and seatbelts and were great about wearing their masks. It wasn't ideal, but I didn't feel unsafe.

San Francisco International was mostly empty. While there were other travelers, there were no lines (which made security a breeze) and most people were very mindful about distancing from others in line for food and at the gates. Some of the shops and restaurants were closed, but I had no problem finding a morning coffee and breakfast before my flight.

don't travel to hawaii right now

I did fly as a guest of Hawaiian Airlines to Hawaii, and since they are blocking middle seats , I ended up with a row to myself to spread out during my flight to Honolulu. Hawaiian Airlines has also implemented new boarding and deplaning procedures and modified inflight service to mitigate the risks. Wearing a mask for the duration of the flight to Hawaii sounds cumbersome, but in practice, it really wasn't that bad.

Related: Spotlight on safety: How airlines are keeping passengers safe

Things to know while in Hawaii

I was in Maui for four nights and stayed at two different resorts — Wailea Beach Resort and the Westin Maui. Despite both being Marriott resorts in Maui, they each had a distinct vibe. Here are a few things to know about visiting Hawaii right now.

There are fewer people

The first thing I noticed was the lack of crowds. At the almost residential-style Wailea Beach Resort, which is spread across 22 acres, it's easy to keep your personal space. But with occupancy down due to the pandemic, even the communal areas didn't have an abundance of people.

"The people who have made the choice to come [to Hawaii] during this time have been able to get this really boutique, personalized experience like never before," said Laurie Garzon, director of sales and marketing for Wailea Beach Resort.

I spent one morning lounging by the adults-only infinity pool here, which overlooks the ocean and is perfect for whale watching (I even got to see one breach!). Only three other people were in the pool, and perhaps six total occupied the lounge chairs. It was relaxing and quiet — perfect for a morning in the sun.

It was the same that evening when I came back to watch the sunset from the pool's edge.

don't travel to hawaii right now

One afternoon, I had a private surfing lesson with Maui Surfer Girls (a bucket-list experience that surpassed all expectations), and there were only a couple of other people out on the waves with me — perfect for a newbie trying to learn. The same was true the following morning when I went on a kayaking and snorkel excursion offered by the hotel. Only five other people were in our group, which made it easy to spread out for safety and enjoy a more personalized experience.

In the Lahaina area of the island, near where the Westin Maui is located, there were a few more people.

I did venture out to do some souvenir shopping for family and friends (mostly checking out a local farmers market and stopping by a local coffee shop for Maui-grown beans), and there were a significant number of people enjoying dinner and the local shopping scene. But everyone was wearing a mask and trying to keep a safe distance when possible.

The Westin Maui, while a little busier, was also far from crowded. I mostly stuck to the beach, but the resort has a number of pools (including some adult-only options) so you can pick a spot away from other guests.

don't travel to hawaii right now

While we're all excited about travel returning in full force once it's safe, I will admit the lack of crowds meant my first trip to Hawaii was even more enjoyable than I'd ever imagined.

You still need to wear your mask

Just because you've tested negative for COVID-19 prior to arrival doesn't mean you're exempt from wearing a mask. The state of Hawaii is still requiring everyone to wear a mask when in public, unless you're in the water or participating in an activity exempt from the mask mandate.

Unless I was at least 30 or 40 feet away from others out on the beach, kayaking or surfing, I was wearing a mask. I know mask-wearing isn't everyone's favorite hobby, but it's still an essential part of keeping yourself and others safe while you travel.

Related: Does my child need to wear a face mask while traveling

Tourist activities and local spots are still open

While tourism in Hawaii is far from fully recovered, it was great to see so many places open — both at the resorts and in the local communities. Restaurants and shops in both the Wailea and Lahaina areas were open (with mask policies in place, of course). Not everything is open and some places have reduced hours, but by and large, my trip was unaffected by any closures.

I took a surf lesson, went snorkeling, enjoyed the pool areas, did some shopping, hit up a farmers market and tried out food from restaurants both at the resorts and in nearby towns. Hiking trails are also open to the public, as well as parks along the beach.

don't travel to hawaii right now

One of my concerns was that tourist activities would be limited, but by and large, businesses were open. In fact, customers were a very welcome sight based on my conversations.

Contactless experiences are on the rise

Both resorts I stayed at during my trip had implemented multiple ways for guests to go contactless during their stay.

The Wailea Beach Resort, for example, has new mobile check-in and pre-arrival processes in place to ensure each guest feels welcomed and safe. The resort's navigator team calls every guest before arrival to walk through the arrival process and to introduce them to the digital hub.

The Wailea Beach Resort now has an online guest "hub" accessible with QR codes you can find around the resort. Through the hub, you can order food, schedule a spa appointment or excursion, reserve pool chairs or a private cabana and more.

The Westin Maui also used QR codes for menus at their restaurants.

don't travel to hawaii right now

While going contactless helps minimize the risk of being around others during your stay, it's also just an easier way to coordinate activities and food plans.

I hope these new contactless options are permanent because I preferred making lunch plans and arranging activities from my phone versus having to call or seek out a hotel staff member.

Hawaii is dedicated to offering ways tourists can learn about Hawaiian culture and give back

I'll admit, I'm normally someone who swears by Airbnb and similar vacation rental platforms in part because I enjoy meeting my hosts and getting to experience a bit more of a destination's culture when I travel.

But both resorts I stayed at in Maui did an excellent job of incorporating traditional Hawaiian with modern, luxury amenities.

At the Wailea Beach Resort, there are hula and lei-making classes for guests. The resort is also participating in a state-wide Malama program , where you can get a fifth night free (about 20% off your stay) when you volunteer some of your time to give back to the community while there.

Each participating hotel has its own experience for the Malama program, and Wailea Beach Resort offers a quilt-making experience where you can learn about the Hawaiian quilting technique and help stitch together a quilt that will be donated.

don't travel to hawaii right now

As part of the Westin Maui's resort transformation, it will offer a number of new cultural experiences for guests staying in the Hōkūpaʻa beachfront tower. Think: coconut leaf hat weaving, a star navigation class, Hawaiian language classes and more. The Westin Maui has also partnered with a local beach cleanup organization as part of the Malama program.

Learning about the culture of the places I visit is one of my favorite things about traveling, and it was great to see both resorts making efforts to include cultural learning opportunities as part of the overall resort experience. These offerings dramatically impacted the richness of my experience on Maui.

Bottom line: Is traveling to Hawaii worth it?

If you aren't a high-risk individual, and you're able to adhere to the state's testing mandates (which could be a serious roadblock), a trip to Hawaii isn't out of the question. I had a great time, felt safe and was able to visit a very popular destination without any crowds. While I didn't have Hawaii all to myself, at times, it felt like it.

After months spent mostly at home, the time I spent outdoors on Hawaii's postcard-perfect beach, engaging in a new-to-me culture and simply breathing in the ocean air made all the hurdles it takes to safely get there right now worth it.

Still, the CDC is recommending people stay home over the holidays to combat the surge in cases across the U.S., as well as other considerations (such as testing availability and any risks associated with nonessential travel).

While things certainly aren't business as usual with Hawaii tourism right now, the resorts and tourism-focused businesses have taken additional precautions to make sure guests and employees can stay safe while still experiencing the magic of Hawaii to the fullest.

What to do in Hawaii? Locals weigh in on if these popular spots are worth the hype

don't travel to hawaii right now

There’s one road going east from Honolulu to popular Oahu beaches like Makapuu and Waimanalo, and on a sunny Saturday morning between Christmas and New Year’s, it was jam-packed. 

One particular slowdown happens right before Hanauma Bay. The entrance to the popular snorkeling spot is blocked with a sign that says the parking lot is full. Workers turn the cars of hopeful snorkelers around and people are walking up the hill in the hot sun with their beach chairs strapped to their backs after parking in the nearby neighborhood. 

Although the holiday week drew more crowds than typical, it’s not an unusual sight for the well-known tourist attraction. 

Hanauma Bay continues to top Hawaii travel activity lists for its calm waters and easily spotted marine life, like sea turtles and tropical fish. But for some travelers, it can seem like a headache to wake up early before the parking lot is full, often by 9 a.m. 

Even past the bay, the scenic road’s multiple lookout points are overflowing with rental cars and people snapping photos. 

Learn more: Best travel insurance

For most, a Hawaiian vacation itinerary feels incomplete without a few must-dos: Witness the islands’ natural beauty; go to a luau; snorkel with marine life; and, obviously, soak up the sun at the beach as much as possible. 

Unfortunately, there’s a big chance travelers won’t even experience the real Hawaii on their trip if they do this. 

“People love Hawaii, but they just don’t know Hawaii,” Evan Mokuahi Hayes, a Native Hawaiian who owns Hoomau Oahu Tours, which seeks to give visitors deeper and more history-driven tours of Oahu, told USA TODAY. “They love this place, but they don’t know our history.”

In Spring 2023, 67% of 1,960 Hawaii residents agreed an “authentic presentation of Hawaiian language and culture is important.” Although the industry is heading in that direction, it’s still challenging for visitors to distinguish what's overrated and just seeking out tourist dollars, and what’s actually going to teach them more about Hawaiian history and culture. 

While travelers can research what to do, sometimes inside knowledge is the right guide. USA TODAY spoke with Native Hawaiians who work in the tourism industry on whether or not the most popular tourist attractions in the island chain are worth the hype and how to get the most out of their Hawaiian visit. 

1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park 

Definitely go for its sacred history and cultural significance.

As one of the most popular national parks in the U.S., Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is worth facing crowds for – and not just for marveling at the dramatic, ever-changing landscape (or the chance to see fiery lava.) 

“It’s a sacred treasure trove of history, culture and adventure, and it’s the place I go to pay homage to Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes,” Kaiulani Blankenfeld, Director of Hawaiian Culture at Hawaii Island’s Fairmont Orchid, told USA TODAY.

For Hawaiians, the over 355,000-acre park is home to Pele, making it an incredibly sacred place, from the lava fields themselves to high-elevation forests. 

The Oahu-born and raised kumu hula (hula master teacher) has danced and chanted at Halemaumau, located inside Kilauea’s caldera, and “felt my thoughts, spirit and body shift into another realm.” Travelers shouldn’t rush their visit; they should take it all in and be respectful of any signage. 

2. Diamond Head State Monument

Go for the sacred history, but there are other hikes with great views too. 

Diamond Head, or Leahi as it is known in Hawaiian, is arguably the most iconic Honolulu tourist attraction. The 0.8-mile-long hike up to the top of the crater is well-maintained, and the top offers a panoramic view of the southern shoreline. Before the park’s reservation system in May 2022 ($5 per person over 5 years old to enter and $10 per car), it wasn’t unusual to be hiking the popular trail in a slow, single-file line. 

Even now, it’s not exactly the most tranquil hike on the island.

Travelers who do go, shouldn’t just admire the views but research how sacred the 300,000-year-old crater is to Hawaiians, Hayes said, which Hoomau focuses on during its tours. Before its use as a military bunk, it was a place of worship to Native Hawaiians, and where Maui – who people may know from Disney’s “Moana” – caught the sun. 

For fewer crowds, Blankenfeld recommends the Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail on the island's eastern side. “It offers stunning views of Oahu's southeastern coastline, including Koko Head and Koko Crater.” It’s free and also a great place to spot humpback whales during winter.

3. Hanauma Bay

Worth making a reservation for a safe snorkeling experience.

Tucked into a volcanic cove on Oahu so the waters are always calm, Hanauma Bay has been the island’s most popular snorkeling destination for decades. During the pandemic, the bay closed so marine life could rest from human traffic and restore itself. After a few months, the water was clearer, and more fish and coral growth was recorded. 

Although nonresidents have to book and pay for a timeslot ($25 per person plus service fees and $3 per car) to enter, Hayes said it’s still the best place for tourists to snorkel safely, especially for those with kids (who, if 12 and under are free to enter.)

“I think Hanauma Bay is perfectly set up for tourists,” he said. “They have people there who close the parking lot down, and there’s restrooms and trash cans.” 

He added that tourists who aren’t familiar with the ocean can often be reckless and jump in the water anywhere without realizing the almighty power of tides, swells and currents, which can end dangerously . 

To avoid the hectic parking situation, there’s a shuttle service to and from Waikiki for $49 per person, which covers snorkel gear but not the entrance fee. 

4. Polynesian Cultural Center

Entertaining and informative, but expensive and far from Honolulu . 

Located in the laidback Laie town on Oahu’s North Shore, the Polynesian Cultural Center is considered a Polynesian Disneyland for its six immersive villages representing the island cultures of Hawaii, Fiji, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Samoa, Tahiti and Tonga. 

While Hayes attests to PCC’s ability to show people about Polynesia, it’s a long drive from Honolulu and will cost at least $89.95 and up to $289.95 per person , depending on whether you want to experience the two shows. 

A much cheaper and closer alternative is Bishop Museum ($28.95 per adult, cheaper for seniors and kids), which has “the largest collection of Hawaiian and Pacific cultural artifacts and natural history specimens in the world.” There’s also a Planetarium for people to learn more about the ancient navigational practice of wayfinding.

5. Iolani Palace

Definitely go, and keep exploring downtown Honolulu.

As the only official royal residence in the nation, ‘Iolani Palace is a must-do for immersing visitors in the late 1800s. “‘Iolani Palace is a great place to visit and learn the history of the Hawaiian Monarch and especially about King Kalakaua, who was really a monarch ahead of his time,” Blankenfeld said. They’ll also be educated on the tragic overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, a necessity when learning about Hawaiian history. 

Hayes recommends people go beyond the palace and visit other parts of downtown Honolulu with historical significance, all within walking distance of each other.

A few minutes away is Kawaiaha’o Church, the oldest church on Oahu, built in 1820 where many ali’i , or Hawaiian royalty spent their time. The church has a free self-guided audio tour that people can follow by scanning QR codes. View the royal pews, Princess Kai‘iulani’s bench and plantings and King Lunalilo’s tomb. 

Hayes also suggests visitors stop by the nearby Hawaiian Mission Houses ($20 per person for a guided tour, $10 for a self-guided tour) to learn more about the massive impact Christian missionaries had on Hawaii and see Hawaii’s oldest Western-style house. 

6. Road to Hana

Overhyped and there are better ways to experience Hawaii’s natural beauty.

The 52-mile-long Road to Hana drive is Maui’s most iconic activity for its stunning natural wonders. Think rainforests, waterfalls and sea cliffs. If travelers don’t leave first thing in the morning, they’ll face traffic jams and crowded waterfalls, taking away from the natural escape they were looking for. Many tourists also park their cars illegally and residents trying to commute have complained of the chaos. 

A better way for people to immerse themselves in Hawaii’s natural environments that's also more unique is by volunteering with a nonprofit like Hawaii Land Trust (they also offer beach cleanups and other types of volunteer days) and Maui Cultural Lands to help care for the land by replanting native trees. Technically, you could do this on any island, and you’ll get a deeper understanding of Hawaii’s forests. 

Usually a tourist trap, but you should still try to experience hula. 

A quintessential Hawaiian vacation experience is going to a luau. With countless luaus across the state, it’s tough for people to know they’re not wasting their money on something made just for tourists.

Unfortunately, this can be a tricky one to navigate. “It’s harder to define authenticity in a luau today because it’s been so touristy it’s essentially like every show is almost the same everywhere,” Hayes said. “Some things you look out for are really shiny, shimmery skirts, really bright colors, all those things are a dead giveaway.” 

Hayes said the Ali‘i Lu‘au ‘Onipa‘a , which shares the last Hawaiian monarch Queen Lili‘uokalani’s story, and the following “HA: Breath of Life” show at PCC are solid choices. “Hands down, that’s the best dinner show; the storyline is absolutely amazing and you’re still getting all of the cultures,” he said. “You’re sitting in an amphitheater, so the seats are better and the people are actually from Tahiti or Tonga or Samoa.”

If your hotel hosts a luau experience, which tends to be pricey, try to meet with the cultural director beforehand and learn more about what’s behind their specific show. 

To experience the most authentic hula, seek out a hula competition . Contestants practice a song or two for months on end, striving to represent the art form in their highest regard. This is where dancers, musicians and halau (hula schools) are putting their best foot forward, literally. 

Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at [email protected] .

Be Right Back by Mary

Be Right Back by Mary

15 Facts Americans Don't Know About Hawaii

Posted: 18 May 2024 | Last updated: 18 May 2024

<p>The Napali Coast, with its dramatic cliffs, emerald valleys, and sparkling waterfalls, is a natural wonder that seems almost too beautiful to be real. Accessible only by boat, helicopter, or a strenuous hike, it remains one of the most pristine and untouched landscapes in the world. The coast’s sheer beauty and tranquility make it a bucket-list destination for those seeking to experience the pinnacle of natural splendor.</p>

15 Facts Americans Don’t Know About Hawaii

Hawaii, usually known for its stunning landscapes and unique culture, also holds many fascinating facts that many Americans might not know. From historical achievements to unique laws, here are 15 interesting things about Hawaii that might surprise you.

<p>In Hawaii, you can send a coconut through the mail without needing to encase it in a box. This quirky postal service is a popular way for visitors to send a piece of the tropics back home. Simply purchase a pre-husked coconut from a local vendor, write a message and an address, and the post office will handle the rest!</p>

1. You can mail a coconut from Hawaii without a box

In Hawaii, you can send a coconut through the mail without needing to encase it in a box. This quirky postal service is a popular way for visitors to send a piece of the tropics back home. Simply purchase a pre-husked coconut from a local vendor, write a message and an address, and the post office will handle the rest!

<p>Hawaii, an archipelago of natural splendor, offers more than just crowded beaches and tourist luaus. Each island has its own personality, from the dramatic cliffs of Kauai to the active volcanoes of the Big Island. Despite its popularity, Hawaii’s spirit of Aloha, lush landscapes, and vibrant culture make it a place where the connection to land and sea is always palpable, inviting visitors to explore and respect its unique beauty.</p>

2. Hawaii has its own time zone, the Hawaiian Standard Time

Hawaii operates on Hawaiian Standard Time, which is unique within the United States. This time zone is two hours behind Pacific Standard Time and does not observe daylight saving time. This keeps the islands' time consistently rooted in their geographical location in the Pacific.

<p>Coffee creamers in American supermarkets can be found in surprisingly large containers, reflecting the high consumption of coffee and preference for varied and flavorful creamer options across the country.</p>

3. It’s the only U.S. state that grows coffee commercially

Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. where coffee is grown commercially. The volcanic soil and ideal climatic conditions of the islands, especially in places like Kona, provide perfect growing conditions for coffee plants, producing beans that are praised worldwide.

<p>In the U.S., billboards are a common sight along highways and in cities. They advertise everything from products and services to tourist attractions and religious messages. This widespread use of billboards is often surprising to visitors from countries where advertising is more regulated or less visually dominant in public spaces.</p>

4. Billboards are outlawed in Hawaii

Hawaii is one of the few places in the United States where billboards are completely banned. This law helps preserve the natural beauty of the islands, ensuring that views of the pristine landscapes remain unobstructed by commercial signage.

<p>Waimea Canyon, often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” is a vast and vibrant landscape that envelops you in its majestic beauty. The sheer size and the rich colors of the canyon walls, together with the lush vegetation, create a serene yet awe-inspiring atmosphere that truly makes you feel small in the best way possible. It’s a place of reflection, nature, and breathtaking vistas.</p>

5. Hawaii is the widest state in the United States

When measured from east to west, Hawaii is the widest state in the United States. The state stretches over 1,500 miles across the Pacific Ocean, although this width is largely due to the separation of its islands.

<p>Honolulu offers a paradise for those seeking a healthy lifestyle, topping the charts in community and environmental factors. The city's laid-back culture and natural beauty contribute to a high quality of life, although job opportunities and income levels are varied.</p>

6. The state was once an independent kingdom

Before becoming a part of the United States, Hawaii was an independent kingdom. Governed by native monarchs, the Kingdom of Hawaii was a recognized sovereign state that engaged in international relations before its eventual annexation.

<p>In Hawaii, it is illegal to own or import snakes to protect the native ecosystems. The islands have no natural snake populations, and the introduction of snakes could severely disrupt the existing wildlife and harm indigenous species.</p>

7. Snakes are outlawed; there are no natural snakes in Hawaii

In Hawaii, it is illegal to own or import snakes to protect the native ecosystems. The islands have no natural snake populations, and the introduction of snakes could severely disrupt the existing wildlife and harm indigenous species.

<p>While many Americans flock to Maui, Hawaii’s Big Island remains one of the most impressive with its active volcanoes, vast canyons, and unique lava roads. The diverse ecosystems and dramatic landscapes of the <a href="https://brbymary.com/the-best-hot-springs-big-island-offers-pohoiki-warm-springs-and-more/">Big Island</a> offer endless opportunities for exploration and adventure, making it a standout destination in Hawaii.</p>

8. The Hawaiian alphabet only has 13 letters

The Hawaiian alphabet is unique as it consists of only 13 letters: five vowels and eight consonants. This simplicity reflects in the Hawaiian language, known for its melodic and fluid sounds.

<p>Geologically, the Hawaiian Islands are located on the moving Pacific Plate, which shifts about four inches closer to Japan each year. This movement is a slow but constant reminder of the dynamic nature of Earth's crust.</p>

9. Hawaii is moving toward Japan by about four inches every year

Geologically, the Hawaiian Islands are located on the moving Pacific Plate, which shifts about four inches closer to Japan each year. This movement is a slow but constant reminder of the dynamic nature of Earth's crust.

<p>Hawaii holds the unique distinction of being the only U.S. state that was once ruled by a royal monarchy. This historical monarchy adds a rich, royal heritage to the islands' history, distinguishing it from other states.</p>

10. It’s the only state that was once a royal monarchy

Hawaii holds the unique distinction of being the only U.S. state that was once ruled by a royal monarchy. This historical monarchy adds a rich, royal heritage to the islands' history, distinguishing it from other states.

<p>Alaska, a paradise for hunters, offers expansive wilderness areas including glaciers, tundras, and forests. Over 74% of the state, or more than 292 million acres, is open to hunting, hosting some of North America’s largest game like grizzly bears and moose. </p> <p>The post <a href="https://brbymary.com/10-best-states-for-hunting-ranked/">10 Best States For Hunting (Ranked)</a> appeared first on <a href="https://brbymary.com">Be Right Back by Mary</a>.</p>

11. From east to west, Hawaii is the second widest state after Alaska

In terms of width, Hawaii is second only to Alaska, stretching significantly across the Pacific Ocean. This vast expanse includes all the islands that are part of the state, contributing to its extensive maritime boundaries.

You may also like: Best Haleakala Sunset Tours

<p>TV hackers break into complex security systems within seconds, showcasing flashy screens and rapid typing. Real hacking is a complex process, often taking substantial time and involving less visual drama.</p>

12. The ‘Iolani Palace had electricity before the White House

The ʻIolani Palace in Honolulu had electricity before the White House did, showcasing the Hawaiian Kingdom's modernity during the reign of King Kalākaua, who was known for embracing new technologies.

<p>Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano on the Big Island, is considered the tallest mountain in the world when measured from its base on the ocean floor to its peak. This measurement significantly exceeds the height of Mount Everest.</p>

13. The Big Island’s Mauna Kea is technically the world’s tallest mountain from base to peak

Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano on the Big Island, is considered the tallest mountain in the world when measured from its base on the ocean floor to its peak. This measurement significantly exceeds the height of Mount Everest.

<p>Hawaii is the only U.S. state that is home to tropical rainforests. These lush, biodiverse areas are crucial for the ecology of the islands, supporting a wide range of wildlife and plant species.</p>

14. Hawaii is the only state to have a tropical rainforest

Hawaii is the only U.S. state that is home to tropical rainforests. These lush, biodiverse areas are crucial for the ecology of the islands, supporting a wide range of wildlife and plant species.

<p>Surfing, a popular water sport enjoyed around the world, originated in Hawaii. This ancient sport was practiced by Hawaiian royalty and has since become a significant part of the local culture and a major attraction for tourists.</p>

15. Surfing was invented in Hawaii

Surfing, a popular water sport enjoyed around the world, originated in Hawaii. This ancient sport was practiced by Hawaiian royalty and has since become a significant part of the local culture and a major attraction for tourists.

<p>Garden Grove stands out for its community and environment, offering residents a supportive atmosphere that fosters happiness. Although it’s more mid-range in terms of income and employment, the city excels in creating a welcoming community that enhances the everyday lives of its inhabitants.</p>

18 Surprising Facts About California You Probably Didn't Know

Read More: 18 Surprising Facts About California You Probably Didn't Know

<p>The American flag should only be displayed at night if it is illuminated properly. The Flag Code mandates that a flag flown at night must be visible and treated with respect, ensuring its presence is honored even in darkness. This requirement helps maintain the flag’s symbolic importance at all hours.</p>

23 Things Americans Do Without Realizing How Weird They Are

Read More: 23 Things Americans Do Without Realizing How Weird They Are

<p>In the U.S., it’s perfectly acceptable to attend prom without a romantic date. Many students go with friends or in groups, making it a less formal and more inclusive event. This flexibility can be quite different from European dances, where having a date might be more emphasized.</p>

10 Surprising Facts About The American Prom

Read More: 10 Surprising Facts About The American Prom

The post 15 Facts Americans Don’t Know About Hawaii appeared first on Be Right Back by Mary .

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Signs asking people to respect locals and that 'Lahaina is not for sale' are seen on the side of the Lahaina Bypass, in Lahaina, Hawaii.

Hawaii to limit vacation rentals in response to tight housing market

Last year’s deadly Maui wildfire revealed the extent of short-term rentals and their contribution to the state’s housing shortage

Hawaii lawmakers have voted to put limits on short-term rentals such as Airbnbs. On Friday, the governor, Josh Green, signed a bill that would give counties the power to regulate short-term rentals and even phase them out to become long-term housing for local residents.

The bill clarifies the counties' authority to control the time, place, manner, and duration of land uses, particularly transient accommodations including short-term rentals. pic.twitter.com/tr2gQ6cEzK — Governor Josh Green (@GovJoshGreenMD) May 4, 2024

The move on short-term rentals was one of several legislative decisions to come out of Friday’s meeting of the state legislature. It also appropriated $1bn to go toward the ongoing recovery from the Lahaina fire on 8 August, including more than $120m in rental assistance for people who are ineligible for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) and $500m for emergency housing for residents who remain displaced, according to ABC News .

The state house speaker, Scott Saiki, a Democrat, told reporters on Wednesday that this bill – SB2919 – differed from recent past attempts to address the state’s housing shortage. Those primarily involved subsidies for affordable housing construction.

“We’re seeing in other states, and even in other countries, that governments are looking at zoning as one of the barriers to housing development,” Saiki said. “And it was time for Hawaii to take a look at that as well.”

The bill will essentially give counties the authority to redefine zoning ordinances and phase out short-term rentals into long-term residential housing, something that has been a dire need, especially since the Maui wildfires.

The early August wildfire that decimated the historic town of Lahaina and killed 100 people brought to light the number of short-term rentals owned by people on the mainland and how they’ve contributed to the housing shortage across Hawaii. In late February, Green called the situation “bullshit”.

“This fire uncovered a clear truth, which is: we have too many short-term rentals owned by too many individuals on the mainland,” he said during a 27 February press conference . “I would like them to sell to local owners or at least rent long-term.”

Maui’s mayor acted on this bill immediately by announcing county legislation that would phase out vacation rentals operating in areas zoned for apartments. The bill would affect 2,200 west Maui units in and around Lahaina and nearly 5,000 more elsewhere in the county.

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The future of Maui as it relates to land ownership has been of the utmost concern for local residents who, soon after the fire, warned of “land grabs”, the Guardian reported in March . In response to these concerns, local advocates created the new Lahaina community land trust to ensure that the future of the town remains in the hands of the people who’ve spent their lives there.

As a more lighthearted motion during Friday’s legislative session, lawmakers moved to make the shaka the state gesture and recognize Hawaii as its birthplace. The hand gesture – made by making a fist with the thumb and pinky raised – is sometimes known outside the islands as the “hang loose” sign associated with surf culture. People in Hawaii display the shaka to say hi and bye as well as thanks and aloha.

The Associated Press contributed reporting

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The huge solar storm is keeping power grid and satellite operators on edge

Geoff Brumfiel, photographed for NPR, 17 January 2019, in Washington DC.

Geoff Brumfiel

Willem Marx

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NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of solar flares early Saturday afternoon. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says there have been measurable effects and impacts from the geomagnetic storm. Solar Dynamics Observatory hide caption

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of solar flares early Saturday afternoon. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says there have been measurable effects and impacts from the geomagnetic storm.

Planet Earth is getting rocked by the biggest solar storm in decades – and the potential effects have those people in charge of power grids, communications systems and satellites on edge.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says there have been measurable effects and impacts from the geomagnetic storm that has been visible as aurora across vast swathes of the Northern Hemisphere. So far though, NOAA has seen no reports of major damage.

Photos: See the Northern lights from rare solar storm

The Picture Show

Photos: see the northern lights from rare, solar storm.

There has been some degradation and loss to communication systems that rely on high-frequency radio waves, NOAA told NPR, as well as some preliminary indications of irregularities in power systems.

"Simply put, the power grid operators have been busy since yesterday working to keep proper, regulated current flowing without disruption," said Shawn Dahl, service coordinator for the Boulder, Co.-based Space Weather Prediction Center at NOAA.

NOAA Issues First Severe Geomagnetic Storm Watch Since 2005

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"Satellite operators are also busy monitoring spacecraft health due to the S1-S2 storm taking place along with the severe-extreme geomagnetic storm that continues even now," Dahl added, saying some GPS systems have struggled to lock locations and offered incorrect positions.

NOAA's GOES-16 satellite captured a flare erupting occurred around 2 p.m. EDT on May 9, 2024.

As NOAA had warned late Friday, the Earth has been experiencing a G5, or "Extreme," geomagnetic storm . It's the first G5 storm to hit the planet since 2003, when a similar event temporarily knocked out power in part of Sweden and damaged electrical transformers in South Africa.

The NOAA center predicted that this current storm could induce auroras visible as far south as Northern California and Alabama.

Extreme (G5) geomagnetic conditions have been observed! pic.twitter.com/qLsC8GbWus — NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center (@NWSSWPC) May 10, 2024

Around the world on social media, posters put up photos of bright auroras visible in Russia , Scandinavia , the United Kingdom and continental Europe . Some reported seeing the aurora as far south as Mallorca, Spain .

The source of the solar storm is a cluster of sunspots on the sun's surface that is 17 times the diameter of the Earth. The spots are filled with tangled magnetic fields that can act as slingshots, throwing huge quantities of charged particles towards our planet. These events, known as coronal mass ejections, become more common during the peak of the Sun's 11-year solar cycle.

A powerful solar storm is bringing northern lights to unusual places

Usually, they miss the Earth, but this time, NOAA says several have headed directly toward our planet, and the agency predicted that several waves of flares will continue to slam into the Earth over the next few days.

While the storm has proven to be large, predicting the effects from such incidents can be difficult, Dahl said.

Shocking problems

The most disruptive solar storm ever recorded came in 1859. Known as the "Carrington Event," it generated shimmering auroras that were visible as far south as Mexico and Hawaii. It also fried telegraph systems throughout Europe and North America.

Stronger activity on the sun could bring more displays of the northern lights in 2024

Stronger activity on the sun could bring more displays of the northern lights in 2024

While this geomagnetic storm will not be as strong, the world has grown more reliant on electronics and electrical systems. Depending on the orientation of the storm's magnetic field, it could induce unexpected electrical currents in long-distance power lines — those currents could cause safety systems to flip, triggering temporary power outages in some areas.

my cat just experienced the aurora borealis, one of the world's most radiant natural phenomena... and she doesn't care pic.twitter.com/Ee74FpWHFm — PJ (@kickthepj) May 10, 2024

The storm is also likely to disrupt the ionosphere, a section of Earth's atmosphere filled with charged particles. Some long-distance radio transmissions use the ionosphere to "bounce" signals around the globe, and those signals will likely be disrupted. The particles may also refract and otherwise scramble signals from the global positioning system, according to Rob Steenburgh, a space scientist with NOAA. Those effects can linger for a few days after the storm.

Like Dahl, Steenburgh said it's unclear just how bad the disruptions will be. While we are more dependent than ever on GPS, there are also more satellites in orbit. Moreover, the anomalies from the storm are constantly shifting through the ionosphere like ripples in a pool. "Outages, with any luck, should not be prolonged," Steenburgh said.

What Causes The Northern Lights? Scientists Finally Know For Sure

What Causes The Northern Lights? Scientists Finally Know For Sure

The radiation from the storm could have other undesirable effects. At high altitudes, it could damage satellites, while at low altitudes, it's likely to increase atmospheric drag, causing some satellites to sink toward the Earth.

The changes to orbits wreak havoc, warns Tuija Pulkkinen, chair of the department of climate and space sciences at the University of Michigan. Since the last solar maximum, companies such as SpaceX have launched thousands of satellites into low Earth orbit. Those satellites will now see their orbits unexpectedly changed.

"There's a lot of companies that haven't seen these kind of space weather effects before," she says.

The International Space Station lies within Earth's magnetosphere, so its astronauts should be mostly protected, Steenburgh says.

In a statement, NASA said that astronauts would not take additional measures to protect themselves. "NASA completed a thorough analysis of recent space weather activity and determined it posed no risk to the crew aboard the International Space Station and no additional precautionary measures are needed," the agency said late Friday.

don't travel to hawaii right now

People visit St Mary's lighthouse in Whitley Bay to see the aurora borealis on Friday in Whitley Bay, England. Ian Forsyth/Getty Images hide caption

People visit St Mary's lighthouse in Whitley Bay to see the aurora borealis on Friday in Whitley Bay, England.

While this storm will undoubtedly keep satellite operators and utilities busy over the next few days, individuals don't really need to do much to get ready.

"As far as what the general public should be doing, hopefully they're not having to do anything," Dahl said. "Weather permitting, they may be visible again tonight." He advised that the largest problem could be a brief blackout, so keeping some flashlights and a radio handy might prove helpful.

I took these photos near Ranfurly in Central Otago, New Zealand. Anyone can use them please spread far and wide. :-) https://t.co/NUWpLiqY2S — Dr Andrew Dickson reform/ACC (@AndrewDickson13) May 10, 2024

And don't forget to go outside and look up, adds Steenburgh. This event's aurora is visible much further south than usual.

A faint aurora can be detected by a modern cell phone camera, he adds, so even if you can't see it with your eyes, try taking a photo of the sky.

The aurora "is really the gift from space weather," he says.

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The stunning secret Italian lakes that most tourists don’t know about

By Silvia Marchetti, CNN

Published May 17, 2024 7:05 AM PDT | Updated May 17, 2024 7:05 AM PDT

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Aerial view of the hilltop village of Castel di Tora on the lake of Turano in July 2021. (Photo credit: Davide Seddio/Moment Unreleased RF/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)  

CNN) —  Tourists regularly flock to Italy to enjoy its beaches and islands, they admire its historical cities – and of course they enjoy the food.

Recently, they’ve been coming in far greater numbers, leaving some destinations overwhelmed. However, there are still places to visit that offer an escape from the crowds as well as stunning scenery.

We’re talking lakes. But not Lake Garda, the huge body of water that nestles up against the Alps, busy with resort towns. And not celebrity-favorite Lake Como.

Italy has dozens of secret smaller lakes that boast superb scenery, unknown to mass tourism, where locals get together on day trips and enjoy picnics.

These are some of the best:

Lake Turano

One of the best-kept secrets of Lazio, the region around Rome, is Lake Turano. Visitors to Rome, many who wilt during the heat of the Eternal City’s fiery summers, have no idea that nearby lies an enchanted place that has the views, the history, the food and a welcome breath of fresh air.

It wasn’t meant to be a vacation spot at first. When Benito Mussolini, Italy’s former dictator, ordered the construction of this artificial lake in the 1930s to supply water to nearby power plants, the last thing he expected was for it to turn into a weekend detox retreat for people longing for open spaces.

Lago del Turano  has an ideal location, close to the capital but far from the noise and chaos.

Set in the wild countryside north of Rome and surrounded by hills, the location was once home to the Fallisci, an ancient tribe, before they were wiped out by ancient Romans.

Free-roaming cows and sheep greet visitors along a road cut through a deep forest that leads to the lake. Once out of the woods, the mesmerizing scenery of the lake forces drivers to stop at a belvedere with benches to take in the view.

The lake brims with giant carp that draw anglers from across Italy for fishing contests.

Two picturesque towns of stone dwellings with panoramic balconies overlook lake Turano - the clifftop medieval Castel di Tora and the even more ancient Colle di Tora, sit right on the shoreline. There’s also a tall peninsula jutting out into the lake topped with an old monastery.

The water is crystal-clear and the  pebble shores are dotted with beach facilities  where one can rent dinghies, canoes, boats, or simply suntan and sunbathe in tropical-like waters.

Just one metal bridge runs over the water connecting Castel di Tora to the main road. In winter, most holiday homes are shut and the narrow alleys are largely deserted apart from cats. In spring, locals spruce up their outdoor patios and socialize in the little piazza.

Fresh fish is served at restaurant  L’Angoletto , a stone cottage with an open panoramic veranda over the lake. Hotel Turano has cozy, no-frills lakefront rooms and a restaurant serving local specialties.

Lake Scanno

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Lake Scanno is known for its unusual phenomena. (Photo credit: Davide Pischettola/NurPhoto/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

The most intriguing of all lakes however is Lake Scanno, the “pearl” of eastern Italy’s Abruzzo region, which is as beautiful as it is mysterious.

Over the years, tales and myths have been spun about this deep green, heart-shaped lake that persist today, attracting scientists and paranormal investigators who try to find explanations to weird happenings that have long baffled locals.

Surrounded by the Apennines mountain range, it is said this natural lake, named after the overhanging village above, has magical powers.

Locals believe the lake is alive and some have previously reported unusual phenomena such as shattering light bulbs, exploding TV screens and ceiling lamps dancing as if a small earthquake had just struck.

They also tell stories of other unexplained events: sudden water level drops, divers compasses going berserk and dead fish and even long-lost World War II weapons floating on the surface. There’s said to be a mysterious unidentified object buried in the lake bed.

Lake Scanno’s unusual atmosphere is almost palpable. In the heady days of summer, the sense of mystery hangs in the warm air.

Despite its green color, caused by harmless algae in the water, bathing is permitted here as is windsurfing. The lake is also ripe for exploration, with a “Path of the Heart” trail that circles its banks and takes in a church, said to be a site of miracles, and an old hermitage.

Along the shores there is a  beach  kitted out for summer bathing. There are mountain bike trails and it’s possible to rent rickshaws, rowing boats and canoes.Other facilities include a children’s playground, and a parking area for campers.

Lakefront Agriturismo Miralago  is a farm and B&B, where horses roam free. It serves traditional dishes like  tagliatelle  with wild boar. The village of Scanno, a puzzle of lavish bourgeois mansions and humble shepherd dwellings decorated with bright flower pots, is a must-see.

Located just a few miles from Milan, this picturesque spot formed from pure Alpine glacial meltwater is also a source of great sparkling wines, made from grapes grown on its banks.

The lake  has three islands. The two smallest are private while the largest, Montisola, a huge mountain sticking out of the deep blue water, is heaven for nature-lovers.

Here, visitors can rent canoes or fishing boats for a private tour of the lake. Another shoreside attraction is the brightly colored dwellings built for fishermen that stand on stilts over the edge of the water, among them restaurant  Locanda al Lago , known for its fish dishes and the sardines hung on the dock to dry.  Hotel Sensole  is a lakefront Baroque palazzo that contains a gourmet bistrot.

don't travel to hawaii right now

Lake Nemi, near Rome, sits in an extinct volcanic crater. (Photo credit: e55evu/iStockphoto/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

This small lake just beyond the southwestern suburbs of Rome is where locals flock for Sunday lunches with traditional  porchetta  pork sandwiches and heady red wines.

They’re treading in the footsteps of their ancient predecessors. Back in the days of Roman empire, senators and wealthy families came here to relax in lavish retreats around Nemi’s shores, where succulent strawberries grow amid archeological ruins and dense forests.

Sited among the Colli Albani hills on the edge of Rome, the lake is of volcanic origin and sits in an extinct crater. It’s accessible by foot along an old route that winds down from a village on the slopes above it that shares the lake’s name.

Lakefront  B&B Lago di Nemi  is an old restyled farmhouse that rents out bicycles, while restaurant  La Fiocina  on the shore, serves fish specialties like fried whitebait with green peppers.

Orta is one of the secret gems of Italy’s Piedmont region, usually overlooked by visitors who flock to the more touristy Lago Maggiore nearby.

Created by a melting Alpine glacier, it’s a quiet idyll with picturesque villages, chapels and medieval towers along its banks. In the middle of Orta, the  monastery-island of San Giulio  rises from the water.

Alongside myriad biking and horseback riding trails, it’s possible to waterski and even scuba dive in the translucent waters that lie off its pebble beaches.  L’Approdo  is a four-star lakefront hotel restaurant with a panoramic terrace and pool.

Lake Trasimeno

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Lake Trasimeno is located in a less-touristed part of Umbria region. (Photo credit: Christiana Stawski/Moment RF/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

This  shallow lake  formed millennia ago by tectonic movements of the Earth’s crust is located in a less touristy part of Umbria, where just locals have holiday homes and shops in the overhanging village of Castiglione don’t sell the usual souvenirs.

Trasimeno’s banks are dotted with medieval hamlets and wooden bridges that cross over the water that are great for birdwatching and sunset drinks.

Beaches here rent out windsurf and kite equipment.

B&B Dolce Dormire  has cozy rooms in the ancient district of Castiglione, while  La Casa di Campagna  is a rural farm and tavern serving local specialties.

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State shuts down unofficial ‘back way’ to the Haiku Stairs

MOANALUA VALLEY (HawaiiNewsNow) - Since the city announced it was dismantling the Haiku Stairs, more hikers have been trying to get to it from a trailhead in Moanalua Valley. But the state now says if you try to do that, you could be cited.

Moanalua Valley Neighborhood Park is the start of the Kamananui Valley Road Trail, which eventually leads to the Kulana’ahane Trail to the top of the Koolau mountains.

But in anticipation of the so-called Stairway to Heaven coming down, the state DLNR has closed what’s been known as the Middle Ridge trail, for safety reasons, for at least 90 days.

“It was never intended to be open to the public as one of our Na Ala Hele program trails, state sanctioned trails,” said Aaron Lowe of the Na Ala Hele program.

However, the Middle Ridge trail gained popularity as the most direct trail to get to the top of the stairs from the back of Moanalua Valley, even though it’s considered to be difficult and dangerous.

The state also said the traffic on the trail through a watershed forest reserve has resulted in severe damage.

“The erosion is just unbelievable,” said Lowe. “Out of all the trails that I manage on the island of Oahu, this is more erosion than I’ve seen on any other trail.”


  • ‘Not pono’: Hordes of hikers descend on Stairway to Heaven as city prepares dismantle it
  • HPD arrests 5 people for trespassing on Haiku Stairs trail
  • Legal issues complicate removal of ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ city confirms
  • After decades of debate, city announces start of $2.6M Haiku Stairs removal project

Justin Scorza, vice president of Friends of Haiku Stairs, said the group has maintained that the back way should be less-trafficked.

“There’s the stairs, which are significantly safer and don’t cause erosion to the mountain,” said Scorza. “There’s the back way that was ‘legal,’ but is much more dangerous and causes much more erosion.”

HPD said since last past Sunday, it issued four trespassing warnings on the Haiku Stairs, but there were no citations or arrests. However, that threat has spurred more hikers to take the Middle Ridge.

“I heard the number — 150 — was what someone counted one day,” said Lowe. “That type of number could have been even more.”

Friends of Haiku Stairs is continuing its legal fight to keep the stairs in place, with a preliminary injunction hearing before a state judge Friday morning.

“We’re hoping he judge agrees with us, and if she does, she’ll order the city to stop their demolition efforts through the remainder of the case or however long she says they need to hold off for,” Scorza said.

For now, the state has already put up closure signs, and Lowe said HPD and state officers will be onsite to issue citations, if necessary.

“We highly recommend that the public just not even try to hike or go into Kamananui thinking that they’re going to get to the stairs,” Lowe said.

“It’s not gonna happen.”

Copyright 2024 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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