We are all weary of travel restrictions, masking, distancing, and the sharp smell of hand sanitizer. But if you’re reading this, then you’re still alive! You’ve made it this far through a global pandemic, and there’s still a lot of joy to be had in travel — if you keep a few basic rules in mind.
The Hawaiian Islands are among the world’s most popular travel destinations, so it’s no wonder that we all flocked here the moment we were fully vaccinated. But each island has its own challenges to welcoming visitors back, which include understaffing, water shortages, and limited capacity of hospitals.
Of course, tourism is also a big driver of Hawai’i’s economy, so it’s not as simple as closing the floodgates. The Hawaiian hospitality industry has been planning — and bracing — for the safe return of visitors throughout the lockdown. When the islands opened with restrictions (such as mandatory Covid testing before arrival), the load seemed manageable, but as restrictions were lifted, infrastructures got overwhelmed, prompting Maui’s mayor to plead with airlines to limit seats.
One approach to this conundrum is to take personal responsibility for your own choices. There are ways to visit Hawai’i mindfully, with consideration of the complex factors at play — and still have a fantastic, memorable vacation.
10 Rules For Mindful Travel
Beyond current safety protocols, here are 10 rules for the tropical road:
#1 Plan ahead. If you have reservations for the must-do things on your list, you’ll stand a better chance of accomplishing them.
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#2 Build time into every stage of your itinerary. Leave padding for the extra time things take when systems are taxed.
#3 Give servers a break. They are doing their best to get back to work and help you have a good time. But they’re overworked and rightly concerned about their own safety.
#4 Tip big, anyway. Even if your experience of service isn’t what you’re accustomed to at a luxury resort, a fancy restaurant, or an expensive tour, tip well. This gesture will go a long way toward acknowledging the situation we’re all in. (As always, don’t forget the housekeepers!)
#5 Be flexible. If the road to Hana is clogged with daytrippers, don’t be one of them. Either drive out in the evening and stay for several days, or do your day trip next time. Hana will still be there. Can’t score the restaurant reservation of your dreams? Get takeout and eat it on your lanai with an even better view.
#6 Forgo the rental car. This one is a biggie. Hawai’i used to have the cheapest rental car rates in the U.S., but now you’ll easily pay more than $1,000 a week for even the most ordinary car — if you can even secure a reservation. Not renting a car can be a game-changer, in terms of both budget and hassle. Get to know your local surroundings better, and rely on your hotel’s shuttle, a local tour company, or your own two feet to get out and about.
#7 Don’t do crazy things that increase your chance of landing in the hospital. If you break your ankle going past a “do not trespass” sign, you’ll become part of the problem. Help frontline workers remain available for folks who’re having heart attacks and other emergencies in a hospital system that needs to focus its attention on the pandemic.
#8 Contribute to the community. Participate in one of many statewide mālama program initiatives that allow visitors to learn about Hawaiian history and culture while planting trees or cleaning up a beach.
#9 Be kind, even when things do not go as planned. It doesn’t make anything better to lose your cool.
#10 Chill out. It’s what you came here to to do. Don’t feel the need to see and do everything. Slow down and get deep into the beauty of where you are rather than trying to see everything in just a few days.
These 10 easy adjustments to your mindset — and your travel behavior — will ensure that your Hawai’i vacation is memorable, maybe even magical.