Can You Drive to Hawaii?

Hawaii has been a dream for many people for a long time, both because of its rich cultural history and its beautiful landscapes. When thinking about how to travel to the beautiful islands, people may wonder, “can you drive to Hawaii?”

This article unravels one such query – the possibility of driving to Hawaii. We’ll explore the state’s geographical context, the existing modes of transportation, and the pros and cons of driving on its beautiful islands.

Can you drive to Hawaii?

Unfortunately, driving to Hawaii is not possible due to its isolated location in the Pacific Ocean. Without looking at a map, many people believe Hawaii to be relatively close to the coast of California. Even looking at a map, the distance from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii can be rather deceiving. Hawaii is much further out in the ocean than people realize.

Due to engineering constraints, no bridges or tunnels exist, so people must travel by air or sea. However, once in Hawaii, cars can be shipped or rented for local exploration.

Key Takeaways:

  • You can’t travel by car to Hawaii from the mainland US.
  • It’s also not possible to drive between the islands.
  • If you want to drive a car while in Hawaii, you can ship one from the United States or rent one once you get there.

Why can’t cars drive to Hawaii?

Driving in Hawaii
Driving in Hawaii | Image by stinne24 from Pixabay


Hawaii is a group of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s the most southern state in the U.S. and the only state that’s made up of only islands. It is also the most isolated population center on Earth! The closest continental landmass in the U.S. to Hawaii is the southern tip of the Alaskan peninsula, which is about 2,260 miles away. The second closest would be southwestern California, which is approximately 2,400 miles away. Many people that fly to Hawaii for the first time are surprised by how many hours you are flying over nothing but ocean before you get there!

Since the state is so far away from the rest of the United States, no bridges or tunnels connect it to the mainland. Here are some key reasons why such a project would be impractical:

1. Distance

A bridge or tunnel from Hawaii to the mainland would be by far the longest in the world, at about 2,400 miles. The Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge in China, the longest bridge in use today, is just over 102 miles long. A bridge between the state and the mainland would be almost 24 times longer.

2. The ocean’s depth and terrain

The Pacific Ocean isn’t only very big but also very deep. Moreover, the ocean floor between Hawaii and the mainland is uneven, with mountains and trenches, making the construction of bridge supports or a tunnel extremely challenging.

3. Seismic activity

Hawaii is located where earthquakes happen often and volcanic activity is ongoing. This would put any planned bridge or tunnel in danger in a big way.

So, even though it’s an interesting idea, building a bridge or tunnel for cars between the U.S. mainland and the state is beyond our technical skills right now, and it would be too expensive.

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How to get to Hawaii

Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines | Image by stinne24 from Pixabay


Hawaii’s unique geographical location means that traditional land-based travel methods aren’t possible. But there are several safe and quick ways to get from the United States to this tropical paradise:

1. Air

The most popular and fastest way to get to Hawaii is by plane. There are direct flights from many U.S. cities to Honolulu International Airport (HNL) on Oahu, which is the main airport for the state.

From there, people can get flights to the other Hawaiian Islands if they want to. Nonstop flights from the West Coast (Cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle) usually take 5–6 hours, while flights from the East Coast (Cities like New York and Boston) can take up to 11 hours.

2. Cruise

Another way to travel to Hawaii is by taking a cruise. Several cruise lines offer trips to Hawaii, and most of them leave from the West Coast, from cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco in California.

Most of the time, these cruises stop at more than one island, so visitors can see a wide range of what the state has to offer. But this way of traveling takes a lot longer than flying. From the west coast, it takes a cruise ship about five days to get to Hawaii.

3. Cargo ship

This is a less popular way to get to Hawaii, but some people do choose to book a trip on a cargo ship. Some cargo ship companies allow a small number of passengers and can offer a unique, slower way to travel. This is an alternative to standard cruises that are less fancy but often more interesting.

4. Private boat or yacht

Sailing to Hawaii is a choice for people with a seaworthy boat and the skills they need to sail. This method is less common due to the cost, extensive time, and preparation required.

Can I ship my car so I can drive it in Hawaii?

Cars in-transit
Cars in-transit | Image by Leehyun Kim from Pixabay


Shipping your car to Hawaii can be a good idea, especially if you’re moving there or staying there for an extended time. But this process needs to be carefully thought out and planned. Here are several important things to consider:

1. Choose the right shipping company

The first step is to choose a reliable auto shipping company that specializes in sending cars to Hawaii. Look for a company with positive reviews, a strong track record, and experience shipping to the state.

2. Cost

Transporting your car to Hawaii can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500. The price can change depending on its size and weight, the time of year, and the shipping method (container or Roll-on/Roll-off). Remember, you’ll also need to consider the cost of shipping your vehicle back to the mainland if you plan to return.

3. Insurance

Check what kind of insurance coverage the shipping company provides and ensure it covers possible damage during transit. It’s also a good idea to check with your car insurance company to see if your policy covers it while it’s being shipped.

4. Shipping time

Know how long it’ll take. Shipping a car to Hawaii can take anywhere from one to four weeks, based on where the vehicle is shipped from and how it’s shipped. Plan your schedule accordingly so you’re not left without a vehicle for longer than anticipated.

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5. Local regulations

If you plan to stay in Hawaii long-term, familiarize yourself with local vehicle regulations, as it must pass a safety inspection. Also, understand the local driving laws and road etiquette.

By considering these things, shipping your car to the state will go more smoothly and quickly.

Pros of driving in Hawaii

H2, Waipahu, Hawaii Approaching Junction with H1 | image by Ken Lund via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0


Even though you can’t drive straight to the state, you can rent a vehicle or use public transportation to get around once you’re there. Beautiful drives can be found on the islands, and having an automobile can make it easier to see everything at your own pace.

Driving in Hawaii has a lot of benefits that can make your time in this tropical paradise much better. Here are a few of the most important ones:

  • When you have your own automobile, you can make your own plans and go at your own pace.
  • If you have a car, you can get to some of Hawaii’s most beautiful and unique places that may not be readily accessible by public transportation or tours.
  • Having a vehicle can make getting around easier, especially if you’re going with family or a group.
  • This paradise is known for its beautiful scenic drives, which are best when you can go at your own pace and stop and start whenever you want.

Cons of driving in Hawaii

While driving in Hawaii offers numerous advantages, there are also some potential downsides to consider. Here are some of the major cons:

  • Getting stuck in traffic, especially around Honolulu and Waikiki on Oahu during rush hour, can make travel times longer and lead to frustration.
  • Parking can be hard to find and expensive in places like Honolulu and other popular tourist destinations.
  • Most of Hawaii’s main roads are well-marked and well-kept, but if you go to places off the beaten path, you might end up on narrow, curving roads that can be hard to drive on, especially in inclement weather. In many cases you’ll need to rent a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get up mountains, or down un-paved roads into the forests.
  • There are no bridges between the islands, so you can’t drive between them.

Final Thoughts

While you can’t drive to Hawaii due to its isolated Pacific location, you can fly or cruise from the mainland. You can ship your car for long stays, but things like traffic, parking, and driving on new roads can be difficult. Regardless of your mode of transport, remember to respect the state’s unique environment and local customs.