Planning your first Maui vacation since the pandemic started? Traveling to Maui has changed dramatically when compared to even a year ago.
I’ve flown to Maui from the West Coast three times in the past six months, and while the island remains just as enchanting, vacationing on Maui in 2022 is a different beast when compared to pre-pandemic and mid-pandemic travel.
If this is your first trip to Maui (or your first trip back since 2020), these are nine things you should know about vacationing on the Valley Isle this year.
You no longer need a negative test or proof of vaccination to enter Hawaii
As of March 26, 2022, the state of Hawaii dropped its Safe Travels requirement, which required domestic visitors to complete an online application before being allowed entry into the state. Prior to March 26, the mandate also required travelers submit a negative Covid test or proof of vaccination.
Now domestic travelers can visit Maui without providing Covid-related documentation. The state continues to require international travelers to comply with federal requirements, which includes a negative Covid test within 24 hours of boarding a flight to the U.S. (This mandate is in affect as of this article’s publication date.)
Bottom line: Domestic U.S. travelers have one fewer thing to check off on the pre-vacation checklist. However, keep an eye on Covid status updates as your trip gets closer, in case state or local regulations change.
You aren’t required to wear a mask indoors
Regardless of how you feel about masks, you can now make your own choice. Everyone can decide whether or not they want to wear a mask inside of shops and restaurants. As of March 26, 2022, the state of Hawaii dropped its indoor mask mandate.
Bottom line: No need to panic now if you forget to bring a mask to dinner. Wear a mask or don’t — it’s your choice. I personally wear mine in crowded places but opt for a mask free time in well ventilated spaces or when there are just a few people milling around.
Dinner reservations are a must — for some restaurants
Prior to 2020, you could make a dinner reservation at Mama’s Fish House several weeks out. Now the iconic restaurant is booked solid for months. On May 17, 2022, we searched OpenTable reservations for its next availability — lunch on September 30th. The next dinner reservation? A late 8:30pm slot on Halloween, October 31st.
Nowadays, you’re likely to be turned away at many popular upscale restaurants (or have a long wait, if you’re lucky) if you try to walk up without reservations. These visitor favorites include tourist favorites such as Mama’s Fish House (definitely need a reservation) , Gannon’s (reservation “highly recommended” per their website), and Merriman’s (reservation required).
If your must-eat restaurant accepts reservations, do it. Otherwise, you may be turned away (I’ve seen it happen). Even if a table isn’t as hard to land as it is at Mama’s, you’ll spend less time waiting for a seat if you have a reservation.
Traveler tip: Make dinner reservations early, as soon as you lock in your trip dates. And don’t forget to cancel the reservation if your plans change.
If you aren’t able to score a table for your trip and the restaurant accepts reservations through OpenTable, you can sign up for notifications about last-minute availability.
You need reservations at some popular tourist spots, too
Haleakala National Park has required reservations for sunrise visits since 2017, and other heavily visited Hawaii tourist sites have since followed suit. On Maui, you now need a reservation to visit Waianapanapa State Park, site of the often visited Road to Hana black sand beach.
Hotel and vacation rental prices are on the rise
Nationally, the Consumer Price Index is up 8.5% for the year as of March 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For Hawaii, which has the highest cost of living in the U.S. (according to the Missouri Economic and Research Center), costs have spilled over to affect visitors on the island.
Since 2021, both hotel and vacation rental costs in Maui county have surged.
The average nightly rate for vacation rentals in Maui county was $287.71 in March 2021. The cost has since ballooned by nearly 30% as of March 2022 to $365.98.
Hotel prices surged even higher, with an increase of 35.7% between March 2021 and March 2022. In Maui county, the average cost of a hotel room in 2021 was $465.87. In 2022, the average nightly rate jumped to $632.27.
Bottom line: If this isn’t your first trip to Maui, prepare for sticker shock. You’ll need to allot more of your budget than you think toward your vacation stay.
Rental car prices have dropped somewhat since rates skyrocketed in 2021
In 2021, Hawaii travelers battled critical rental car fees when lack of inventory and a rush of tourists strained rental companies still recovering from the pandemic.
That strain appears to have lifted as of 2022.
In April and May of 2021, a 5 day car rental cost between $1,000 to $2,000 because of pandemic-related car shortages (according to a US News report). After a quick search on Kayak for a July 2022 trip, I found prices in the $600 to $800 range for a compact car.
Bottom line: Good news. While renting a car on Maui isn’t exactly cheap, now you won’t have to resort to booking a U-Haul truck the way some tourists did in 2021.
Your flight to Maui may not be a smooth one
Travel is back and in full swing, with airlines reporting a surge in bookings, according to a March 2022 USA Today report.
But airline woes have grounded many flights in 2022.
These flight cancellations have increased, not merely because of weather — but because of staffing issues. In a YouTube video, Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci addressed recent flight cancellations as a result of a pilot shortage.
Industry experts say that it could take weeks or months for staffing woes to stabilize and for airline routes to get back on track. If you’re flying to Maui in 2022, you may want to monitor your airline route in the days leading up to your departure.
Traveler tip: As your vacation draws near, keep an eye on your flight schedule using a flight tracker such as FlightAware. You can look up your flight number and see whether there are any trends toward cancellations or delays on your route in past weeks.
Security lines at the Maui airport could surprise you
In March 2022, Maui saw a 40% uptick in visitors when compared to the same month in 2021. Nearly 240,000 visitors landed on Maui’s shores in March 2022, compared to just over 170,000 in 2021.
And visitors that land on Maui must eventually depart — usually via the airline gates of the unassuming Kahului Airport (OGG).
This surge of visitor arrivals — and subsequent departures — results in unpredictable security lines as throngs of tourists attempt to make their respective flights. Never mind the extra time required to drop off the rental car, run luggage through agricultural screening, and check in bags with the airline.
According to a survey of travelers who have visited Maui so far in 2022 (through the Facebook Group Maui Bound), getting to your gate can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours. Anecdotal comments tell me that weekends tend to be busier at OGG than during the week. Either way, prepare to battle crowds when you get to the airport.
Traveler tip: Give yourself more time at the airport than you think. Sign up for TSA Precheck before your trip. Even if the TSA Precheck line looks long, it probably moves faster than the standard security queue because travelers don’t have to remove liquids, shoes, laptops, etc. from their bags.
Road to Hana is busier than ever
Locals have long lamented tourists who pull over on Hana Highway (and block the road) or creep down the road at 5 miles per hour with a stream of cars trailing behind without pulling over to let others pass.
As visitor numbers have increased in the past year, visitors to Maui in 2022 can expect copious crowds (read: heavy traffic) to join their journey on the famous winding highway.
Crowds have gotten so bad that the landowners that provide access to the popular Twin Falls hike are now charging $10 per car to park at the picturesque trail, in an effort to curtail crowds.
Travel tip: Start early to beat the crowds. During our last Road to Hana sojourn, we departed Haiku at around 7 a.m. and met zero traffic and crowds along Hana Highway.