Most people know that Hawaii is a remote archipelago off the coast of the United States. If your car can’t swim and navigate in the Pacific, you won’t be able to physically get to Hawaii, but are there other ways to get there by ferry, boat or other means?

It is not possible to travel to Hawaii from the mainland. You can send your car to Hawaii by freight or airplane and rent a car instead. Once in Hawaii there is no car ferry between the islands.

To find out which options are available to you, please read the detailed explanation below.

Why can’t you travel from the United States to Hawaii?

Hawaii is a small group of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s about 2,400 miles off the coast of California – it’s almost as wide as the lower 48 states, which is a long drive if you want to take your car.

Given the distance between the American continent and Hawaii, there are clearly no land connections, bridges or ferries. The Pacific Ocean is strong enough to be crossed by merchant ships with huge storms and big waves, and ferries would not stand a chance.

Moreover, even if there was a ferry with a typical average speed of 25 knots (29 miles per hour), it would take three and a half days to get to Hawaii, even if there was enough fuel on board for a long trip – a long ferry ride!

So it’s incredibly rare for anyone to bring their car to Hawaii. There are no easy ways to do this and the costs make it a relatively pointless exercise.

If you travel to Hawaii and you see cars with license plates from other American states, this is usually for one of two reasons: The main reason is that the U.S. Army often transports personal vehicles for its personnel, so that the troops can use their vehicles anywhere.

They even deliver cars to Germany and other foreign outposts, confusing the locals with the registered American cars on their roads.

There are also a small number of rich people who own very expensive exotic cars, where money is no problem, and who can send their car on holiday, even though they often fly in.

Your options if you want to send your car to Hawaii and drive there


The road from Mana to Maui is an exciting road worth renting a car.

MNStudio/Shutterstock.com

If you really need to take your car to Hawaii and drive there, freight transport is the only real option. If this works, you need to find a shipping company that transports goods between the American continent and Hawaii and buy a container or part of it.

The cost of shipping a 20-foot container off the American West Coast varies depending on the company, weight and other factors, but is expected to be between $1,000 and $1,500 for a one-way trip. If you plan to return, the procedure will be expensive. If you have a particularly large car like the Ford F-350, the 20-foot container will be too short, so you will have to pay a high surcharge to upgrade to the 40-foot version.

This does not include delivery of the car from your place of residence to Long Beach Harbor or any other location in California. If you live on the east coast, this delivery can cost even more than sea freight from above.

Delivery usually takes 5 to 7 days from the moment the car arrives at the port and is loaded into a container. So you have to plan in advance to bring the car to the harbour and pick it up on the other side.

Another important point to keep in mind is that you can consult a specialist from a car transport company. They cost more than your usual container carriers, but they often have specially adapted belt systems in the containers, which can be much more convenient for your vehicle when loading and unloading the cargo ship.

You won’t be able to have any objects in your car either – almost all transport companies will insist that the car is completely empty for the journey. So, if you’ve thought about putting all your luggage in there, this plan won’t work.

Alternatives to driving your own car in Hawaii

A scenic route around the Coco crater on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.
Hawaii’s roads like Oahu’s are impressive, but you can’t drive your own car here.

Malgorzata Litkowska/Shutterstock.com

If you want to travel to Hawaii by car, it is best to fly over Hawaii and take a rental car at the landing.

In fact, public transport in Hawaii is limited, so you’ll want to have a car when you get there, which many tourists do all the time.

Almost all major car rental companies are based at Honolulu airport or in the city itself, with Hertz, Avis, Budget, Enterprise and Alamo all represented. A little further away from the terminal and in the city of Honolulu you will find several other local companies that can offer lower prices.

If you come from O’ahu, there are a dozen famous rental stations on the islands of Hawaii, Maui and Kauai. Don’t forget that you have to rent a car on each island separately, because there are no ferries between the islands, which brings us to the last point.

You cannot drive the same car on different Hawaiian islands.

Although Hawaii’s main islands are not that far apart, the main connecting route between them is by air.

When I talk about air, I’m not talking about big planes that take two hours to land – many of the planes that regularly fly between the islands can carry less than 10 people, and some local airports are quite small.

Air travel became popular and affordable as three local airlines competed with Hawaiian Airlines.

Passengers on the Maui Lanai ferry to Hawaii.
Ferries to Hawaii are quite small and do not bring cars.

EQRoy/Shutterstock.com

That means ferries have never been anything in Hawaii. There are only two ferry connections between Maui and Lanaia and between Maui and Molokai, but these are for passengers only and not for transport. All other islands can only be reached by private boat or plane.

This means that if you decide to send your car to Hawaii, pick it up in Honolulu in a week and then drive it to one of the other islands, you will have a lot of headaches if you have to arrange transportation to get it there. It’s not worth it.

Even if you like fast cars and want to park a great sports car in your garage at home, a quick search in the Hertz Honolulu rental station allows you to find options such as the Chevy Camaro SS (available in Hertz signature yellow), the Porsche Macan (from the Hertz Dream Car series), the Dodge Challenger R/T and the Range Rover Sport. Wrangler jeeps, large SUVs and everything in between are also available.

You can see that you have to be very picky not to find something that works for your holiday.

A two-week rental of an item from Hertz’ Adrenaline collection, including the Fort Mustang GT, costs less than $1,200 – less than the cost of a one-way trip from California in your own car.

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