A Beginner's Guide to Hawaii Pet Travel

New to Hawaii's pet travel rules? Start here.

Experiencing Hawaii's natural beauty with a pet companion can make a visit to Hawaii even more enjoyable. Though it takes extra planning and added costs, the process of bringing your pet along can be straight-forward with the right help.

Why Hawaii Restricts Pets: Rabies

Hawaii is one of the few rabies-free zones in the world. Rabies is a mammalian virus that affects dogs and cats, which is why Hawaii requires those pets to be screened for rabies upon arrival.

Hawaii offers three different screening options for pets arriving in Hawaii:

  • Direct Airport Release (DAR)
  • 5-Day or Less
  • 120-Day Quarantine

Direct Airport Release (DAR) is the most preferred option. Your pet can leave with you after a short exam at the airport, and there are no additional fees for overnight boarding. Owners can qualify for DAR by proving their pet is not carrying rabies or pests prior to arrival.

Both the 120- and 5-day options require pets to stay at a state kennel. Owners are required to pay for each night that their pets stay at the kennel, with the 120-day option costing just over $1,000.

How to Qualify for Direct Airport Release

A woman in a blue jacket and jeans walking a small white dog down a glass staircase.
Hawaii's Direct Airport Release (DAR) program allows owners to leave the airport with their pet on the day of arrival.

There are six main things owners must do to qualify for Direct Airport Release:

  1. Get your pet microchipped
  2. Properly vaccinate your pet against rabies at least twice
  3. Mail two original rabies vaccination certificates with payment to Hawaii's Quarantine department
  4. Take and pass a rabies anti-body test (aka FAVN test) at one of three USDA-approved labs
  5. Get a health certificate from your vet within 15 days of your flight
  6. Have a vet apply a long-term tick and flea medication

There are nuances to each of those steps, and we've created additional guides for each of them to help you along.

Time & Cost

Before reading up on the rules and regulation, it's good to know whether you can afford to bring your pet with you to Hawaii. In general, the process is easier if you plan ahead, have a healthy pet with good medical records and have uncomplicated travel plans.

Scenario A: Easy

For healthy, small pets with current rabies vaccinations traveling from the mainland US, the costs are usually between $400-700. If your pet has been vaccinated for rabies at least twice, the process for approval can take 45 days or less.

Scenario B: Moderate

If your pet has not been vaccinated for rabies twice but meets everything else about Scenario A, typical costs range between $500-900. Due to the waiting periods between vaccinations, it may take 60-90 days before you can travel to Hawaii.

Scenario C: Difficult

If your pet is too large to travel in the cabin but is otherwise healthy, it'll have to travel under the plane. The cost of a large, durable crate and the added airline cargo fees add approximately another $200-300 to your travel.

Scenario D: Hard

Pets coming to Hawaii internationally will have the most difficult time. Many airlines won't allow pets on long flights (over 10 hours), which may require owners to break a trip up with rest stops in between. In addition, there are more import processes to follow and fees to pay. Total costs can exceed $5,000 and should be planned as early as possible.

Start Right Now

A black and white kitten staring intently at a laptop screen.
Do cats send their coworkers funny human GIFs?

Even if you don't know your travel dates yet, the best thing you can do is start the process. Once your pet is approved for travel to Hawaii, you can arrive any time before their rabies vaccination expires (or up to 36 months after their last lab test).

If you don't yet know your travel dates and want the most flexibility, we recommend:

  1. Refreshing your pet's vaccination if it's going to expire soon.
  2. Starting the FAVN testing process and paperwork as soon as possible.

Once both of those steps are completed, you just need to remember to get a health certificate and tick medication within 15 days of your flight. If you're feeling bold, you could even do it the same day you fly! Note: we don't recommend that.

Cost-Saving Tips

Even if you aren't relocating to Hawaii permanently, there are ways to make the costs for traveling with your pet more affordable or justifiable.

$550 Military Relocation Stipend

The US military reimburses up to $550 for pet-related relocation expenses as part of a permanent change of station (PCS). That can be put toward anything from vet bills, import fees and service providers like Mokupet.

Combine Vet Visits

Most veterinary clinics charge a base fee for each visit, which can range from $30-70 depending on your location and veterinarian. To minimize cost, ask your vet to do multiple things in the same visit, like issuing your pet a microchip and their first rabies vaccine at once.

Compare to Boarding Costs

If you choose to stay in Hawaii for 10 days or longer, the cost of boarding a cat or dog may be an incentive itself. Pet boarding can range from $50-100 per night, putting the break-even point at around a 6- to 10-day stay in Hawaii for healthy pets.

As a bonus, repeat visits to Hawaii with your pet are cheaper and more streamlined because you're in Hawaii's database.