A (risky) break from the cold
Seasonal depression is no joke and with almost zero sun in the PNW during winter, it’s easy to feel the effects. I felt I needed a getaway in the sun and heat. I felt healthy and had been quarantining as much as I could (no bars, getting takeout rather than dine-in, etc.). I was craving a Disney themed trip since I didn’t get to go on my Disneyland trip in May of 2020 with my best friend. I asked a couple of family members and Joe if they’d like to join me but all were either unable to take off work or were too nervous to travel during the pandemic. Very understandable! Rather than limit myself and decide not to go because others cannot/ don’t want to, I decided to make it a solo trip!
My previous solo trip
My last solo trip was to Japan and my experience, while incredible and I want to go back, was marred by my anxiety, lack of appetite and constant feeling of nausea. Generally I don’t mind, and sometimes prefer, to do things alone. My solo trip to Japan was unexpectedly hard at some times so it made me hesitant to go on solo trips again. I assume my anxiety comes from missing Joe and my cats as well as being in an unfamiliar environment. Would it be a good idea to go on a solo trip after that?
I’m stubborn and didn’t like the idea of holding myself back due to my anxiety; I didn’t want it to control me like that and I also wanted to show myself that solo trips without massive anxiety are possible. Luckily I found a way!
Pre-travel requirements to skip quarantine
The Hawaii Gov website does a great job laying it out but here are some links to get you there. Aulani is on the island of Oahu so luckily the option to skip the 10-day quarantine was available with a negative COVID-19 test. When I went the first week of February 2021, Kauai didn’t have the option to skip quarantine with a negative test but recently that changed. Be sure to check the official government websites (look for URLs ending in “.gov”) of each island to ensure you’re viewing the most recent information (some websites below don’t reflect this new change yet, for example).
- Hawai’i’s tourism authority website
- OFFICIAL Hawai’i travel site for uploading all COVID documents and the website you’ll need throughout your trip to prove/show your negative results.
- Go Hawaii website also has a list of helpful links for travel requirements
Proving negative results during your trip
Friendly FYI that when you check in at your hotel and visit restaurants, they’ll ask you to pull up the travel.hawaii.gov website and show your negative results (and also check something that’s updated while you’re at the airport but I’m not sure what to call that). Keep this website’s page showing the negative results and QR code (I just had my browser tab open on my phone, in the background) on you at all times.
I flew out of SEA-TAC airport and I was pleased that it wasn’t very busy. On top of that, my Pre-Check security clearance worked this time (had issues last time I flew to Hawaii) so I flew through security. As I walked through the airport though, I realized pretty quickly I was the only one wearing three forms of face protection. Most travelers were only wearing one mask, including the flight crew and airport personnel. I was still lookin’ cute with my face shield so I was satisfied with my own safety precautions.
I decided to do the following things to avoid germs at the airport:
- Wear a classic, disposable face mask under a fun cloth face mask.
- Wear a face shield only at the airport and during the flight
- I brought disposable gloves (but ended up not using them)
- Hand sanitizer (they let you bring one on the airplane that’s separate from your liquids total)
- Hand wipes
- Technology wipes (for when I set my phone down)
- General wet wipes to open doors, clean seat handles, tables, etc.
- Washed my hands as soon as I got to my gate
- Washed them again right before boarding the plane
- Bought snacks that I could dump into my mouth rather than eat with my hands (Ritz Bitz Cheese ❤ )
- Held my airplane meal (sandwich) with it’s wrappings to avoid touching it with my hands
- Kept my face shield on while eating
- Washed my hands during the flight
- Booked a seat with maximum space (the “Extra Comfort” section of Hawaiian airplanes is behind first class but in front of the flight attendant area so is perfectly secluded for improved safety; costs more than coach though)
- With more vaccines being available soon, this won’t be an issue eventually!
Arriving at HNL on Oahu
My seat was next to the plane door so I was able to get off quickly and speed walk. The area where they verify your negative results and update their systems to confirm your status, was VERY close to the gate. If you’re staying at a resort in Ko Olina then there’s a special area for you to get assistance but don’t make the same mistake I made. I thought it would be faster for me to use that special area but then a family was helped before me and I looked over and the general area had available staff still so I waited unnecessarily.
Luckily I made up time by catching the little bus that’s at the airport to take you to baggage claim. The bus wasn’t right there when I got through though so people who were quick like me but didn’t know about the bus ended up walking to baggage claim (crazy far!) but I waited maybe 2-3 minutes and the bus arrived (driver wore a mask). Be sure to know your flight number because the shuttle driver may ask you so they can update their records (ex: mine was HA21).
Baggage claim, the airport in general, and the car rental place close by were all pretty empty so it was very easy to keep 6ft distance.
COVID-19 precautions at Aulani
After enjoying the feeling of being back at Aulani, I noticed the friendly bellhops waving to me with matching blue masks. After talking to one of them (with my two masks on), I made my way to check-in at reception. Right away I saw two hand sanitizer dispensers and a electronic board reminding people checking in to have their travel.hawaii.gov documentation ready (they need the digital version that shows your QR code and negative status AND the update from the airport). It blends in with the beautiful lobby though so it’s not an eyesore or anything.
Got lucky that there was no line (I arrived around 5pm) and walked up to the reception counter that had a huge wall of plexiglass with speakers and a microphone installed (think of the ticket booths at Disneyland, for example). They did the normal check in but also showed me the store and restaurant hours for all the spots on the resort. Some were/are closed (including Laniwai Spa at the time, sadly) and others are open with limited food options.
On my way to my room I noticed more hand sanitizer stations, signs to limit the number of people in the store, arrows on the ground, line queue thingys as well as stating the number of people allowed in an elevator (four individuals or one party). Luckily, everyone seemed to follow the elevator rule the whole time I was there! At one point there was a long line to get in an elevator from the pools area but since there are six elevators, the line moved quickly.
Limited food & drink options at Aulani
The best thing I had at Aulani while I was there was definitely the shave ice with Mickey ears. They’re perfect when the day is really sunny and hot and you want to cool down near the pools. I’d say the next best option is the ‘Ulu cafe near the Rainbow Reef area.
Sad news – the free drink dispensers they have when you bring your Aulani cup are temporarily closed throughout the whole resort with no free drink alternatives available. 😦 The reason I was given was that they didn’t want people to congregate around them.
There is a Pool side menu that’s available from the beach, your pool chair or the restaurant Off the Hook. Sadly, it has changed since I was there in 2019 and they removed all the food I liked and only left an extremely limited open that favors people who really like veggies and healthy food (hello I’m on vacation and want more to pick from than an ok burger and ok chicken strips…).
Food & drink options within walking distance to Aulani
Across the street from the resort is a little shopping center that’s getting bigger and better every time I visit. My family’s favorite spot at this center is MonkeyPod and I think you’ll quickly notice it’s everyone’s favorite. The food and drinks are SUPER good and they do live music at night. The musician is behind a few, tall plexiglass walls (they have a microphone) so it seems safe to sit near them. The restaurant staff all wore masks and the tables where all spaced 6 feet a part. You’re given a buzzer while you wait for a table so that you can walk around and properly distance.
There is also an ABC mart that has a little grocery store, freshly made hot food section, and coffee/tea shop inside. This store has basically everything you need, including delicious lunch options. I highly recommend their hot food section; I got pre-packaged spaghetti and meatballs (made there that day) for lunch from there and it was really fresh and flavorful. Note the arrows on the ground as well as the line markers, so you don’t accidentally cut someone. The staff wore masks and the registers all have plexiglass as well.
There’s also a Starbucks, Pizza Corner restaurant, Eggs ‘n Things restaurant, a coffee shop, and a rolled ice cream shop (so upset I didn’t try this while there).
Food options within 15 minutes of Aulani
If you pop on the highway back towards Honolulu, the first or second exit down leads you to a big development area in Kapolei with a ton of food, drink, and shopping options available. Side note – my favorite shopping spots there are the Target and Ross! Knowing I could just run to Target to grab what I needed during my trip was a huge stress relief.
The best food option at the shopping center in Kapolei is the Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ restaurant, hands down. I also enjoyed the Genki Sushi restaurant – they delivered the food on little monorails! So cute! Both places asked for my name, number and address for contact tracing so be ready for those questions whenever you eat out on the island.
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Pools & the lazy river
My only complaint – they took away the adult only pool during COVID-19 times 😦 They kept the adult-only hot tub area but that area only has two seating options so both were always occupied. Beware that families will still reserve those chairs (despite having a ton of options) but just tell their kids to leave the area quickly (or sometimes they wouldn’t….).
That aside, the resort and beach (during the week) is still really empty so it’s easy to find a spot to put your stuff down. The beach is peaceful because the other hotel sharing that lagoon is temporarily closed still so only Aulani guests are using the beach area.
The lazy river seemed to be open the first couple days I was there but eventually it closed and only the water slide that ends in the big pool area was open.
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I really loved my trip to Oahu and had an amazing time, regardless of the safety restrictions in place. I recognize my privilege to be able to afford and have the ability to travel during this time so I tried to do my best to be safe as well as support local, small businesses when possible. I came back much happier and my overall anxiety has been nonexistent since I got back so my mental health definitely benefitted from this trip so I can’t regret this decision. Best of all, I came back with no COVID-19! Tested twice and so far I’ve been negative so with the right precautions, you may be able to plan a quick getaway too.
With more vaccines being available, I assume business will pick up and it will be busier. I plan to go back in a few weeks for my 30th birthday with Joe so I’ll be sure to update!
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