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Many dog owners dream of taking their furry friends to sunny Hawaii for vacation. But what if your pup hates to fly or can’t due to health issues? Don’t despair – you absolutely can travel to the Aloha State without boarding a plane.

If you’re looking for a quick answer, here it is: The best way to transport your dog to Hawaii without air travel is by cargo ship. Most major shipping companies allow pets in designated kennel areas. The journey takes 5-9 days from the West Coast.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore all your options for ocean transport to Hawaii, including cargo ships, private yacht charters, cruise lines, and more. We’ll compare the pros and cons of each method so you can choose what’s best for you and your pup.

Taking a Cargo Ship to Hawaii

Booking Logistics and Requirements

To book passage for your dog on a cargo ship to Hawaii, you’ll need to work with a freight shipping company or freight forwarder. They will handle the booking logistics for you and ensure your pet meets all the necessary requirements for the journey. Here are the key things needed:

  • A health certificate from your veterinarian confirming your dog is free of infectious diseases and fit to travel. This certificate must be dated within 10 days of departure.
  • A hard-sided crate or kennel large enough for your dog to stand and turn around inside. The kennel must meet specific IATA regulations.
  • Confirmation that your dog has received all necessary vaccinations at least 30 days prior to departure.
  • In most cases, you will need to deliver your dog to the departure port yourself a day or two before. This allows time for document checks and loading onto the ship. Be prepared to show your dog’s vaccination records and health certificate.

    What to Expect During the Journey

    The average transit time from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii on a cargo ship is about 12-18 days. So your dog will be aboard the vessel for over two weeks as it slowly makes port calls along the Pacific Coast before crossing the ocean to Hawaii.

    Your dog will be housed below deck in a special kennel area for animals. Crew members are responsible for providing fresh food and water, exercise breaks, and cleaning of the kennels daily. Most cargo ships that transport domestic pets have policies and procedures to ensure animals are safe and cared for.

    But space is often limited to just 1-2 pets at a time.

    Be prepared that there likely won’t be frequent updates during the voyage. But the captain can make special calls into port if any issues arise with the animals on board.

    Cost Comparison

    At first glance, traveling by sea may seem like an affordable option compared to flying. But once you factor in gas/mileage for overland transport, kennel costs, document fees, special handling fees, taxes, and more – it actually ends up being comparable or potentially more expensive than booking an airline pet ticket.

    Especially if you have fewer pets.

    Route Cost
    Los Angeles to Honolulu by cargo ship $1,200 – $3,500+ per pet
    Los Angeles to Honolulu by air $225 – $450+ per pet
    The convenience of air travel along with shorter transit times is why most pet owners still choose to fly their dogs to Hawaii versus travel by sea cargo. But the cargo ship option allows you to avoid air transport entirely if desired.

    Chartering a Private Yacht

    Finding a Pet-Friendly Charter Company

    When looking to charter a private yacht to transport your dog to Hawaii, it’s crucial to find a pet-friendly company. Many luxury charter companies actually cater specifically to pet owners and offer amenities like beds, bowls, treats, and even a crew member assigned to look after your furry friend!

    Websites like and allow you to search for pet-friendly charter companies and yachts. Consider the company’s experience transporting animals, protocols for pet health and safety, and rave reviews from other pet owners.

    Amenities and Services

    Chartering a private luxury yacht for you and your dog can be an amazing experience, with many companies offering first-class amenities and services. From comfy pet beds and specialty food menus, to walks on secluded beaches and pets pampering – many companies pull out all the stops.

    Standard amenities often include designated potty areas, shaded deck spaces, fresh water bowls, treats, toys, life vests, and clean-up supplies. Some companies even have veterinarians or trained pet caregivers on staff!

    Be sure to inquire about amenities upfront so you and your furry co-captain can relax and enjoy the voyage. With the right charter company, Fido might end up tougher to disembark the yacht than you!

    Expected Costs

    Chartering a private luxury yacht suitable for transporting your dog to Hawaii will likely start around $10,000/week, with costs varying greatly depending on the yacht’s size, amenities, crew and duration of your journey.

    On average, expect to budget $15,000-25,000+ for a 1-2 week trip. While not cheap, chartering a yacht allows you to avoid airport hassles and directly sail to Hawaii in first-class style. For multi-million dollar luxury boats, costs can easily exceed $100,000+!

    When factoring total trip costs, be sure to account for fuel, crew tips, dog amenities, water toys, on-shore excursions, provisioning fees and taxes/insurance when quoting with companies.

    Cruise Ships That Allow Dogs

    Rules and Restrictions

    Bringing your furry friend on a cruise requires following some important rules. Most cruise lines that allow dogs impose restrictions on the number, size, and breed of dogs permitted. For example, Cunard limits guests to two dogs per stateroom, each under 25 lbs.

    Some cruise lines don’t allow snub-nosed or aggressive breeds due to health and safety concerns. There may also be designated areas your dog can access, like certain decks.

    You’ll need to provide vaccination records and health certificates for your dog no more than 10-30 days before cruising, depending on the cruise line. Some mandatory vaccinations are rabies, distemper, hepatitis, parvo, and bordetella.

    You’re responsible for your dog’s behavior and any damage they cause with penalties including confinement or disembarkation. Leashing policies range from always leashed to designated off-leash play times. Finally, be prepared to pay a non-refundable pet fee starting around $100-150.

    Onboard Amenities for Dogs

    More cruise lines now cater to pet lovers with dog-friendly amenities. Most provide a designated outdoor dog walk and play area, affectionately called a “Pooch Park.” Stocked with artificial grass, obstacles, and toys, it’s a space for dogs to stretch their legs and socialize.

    Some ships like MSC Cruises offer fancy “Pet Cabins” with plush beds, bowls, treats, and toys. A few cruise lines partner with land-based pet resorts to provide boarding services for when you’re in port. That way dogs can play while you explore.

    Room service menus might even include special “Fido Food” options to feed the four-legged guests.

    Sample Itineraries and Costs

    A dog-friendly cruise allows you to vacation while keeping your pup by your side. From a quick weekend getaway to an extended tropical adventure, you’ll find voyages catering to you both.

    • 3-night Baja Mexico cruise from $399 interior stateroom, $75 pet fee
    • 7-night Alaska cruise from $599 balcony stateroom, $150 pet fee
    • 14-night Transatlantic crossing from $1,199 suite, $300 pet fee

    With more ships welcoming pets every year, you have lots of choices for hitting the high seas together! Just be sure to plan ahead and brush up on all policies to ensure smooth sailing.

    Tips for Preparing Your Dog for Travel

    Get a Health Certificate

    Before bringing your dog to Hawaii, you’ll need to get a health certificate from your vet within 14 days of arrival. This ensures your dog is up-to-date on vaccines and free of parasites and communicable diseases. Your vet will also administer a blood test to check for heartworm.

    Be sure to bring the original health certificate with you on your trip.

    Train Them for Confinement

    Dogs will need to be confined during travel, whether in crates, carriers, or a small enclosed area. Start training your dog to be comfortable in their confinement area for extended times. Place them in the area with toys and treats so they associate it with positive experiences.

    Slowly increase the lengths of time they are confined to mirror travel plans. This will prevent anxiety and restlessness during the actual trip.

    Gather Supplies

    Be prepared with all the doggie gear needed to keep your furry friend happy and healthy during travel:

    • Collapsible food and water bowls
    • Their regular food plus treats
    • Portable waste bags and cleaning supplies
    • Familiar toys and blankets
    • First aid kit
    • Medications if needed
    • Sturdy leash and harness

    Having the right supplies will make the journey more comfortable for both you and your dog!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How early should I book?

    It’s advisable to book your pet’s travel arrangements as early as possible, ideally 3-6 months in advance. Ship berths that allow pets fill up quickly, especially during peak Hawaii travel seasons. Booking well ahead ensures you secure a spot for your furry friend.

    Early booking also gives you plenty of time to get the required pet travel certifications, vaccinations, and paperwork in order before departure day. Your vet may recommend starting vaccinations at least 2 weeks prior to travel.

    What kind of kennel does my dog need?

    Your dog must travel in an IATA-compliant kennel that gives them enough room to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Hard-sided kennels are required for cargo ship transport. Make sure to choose an appropriate size kennel for your dog’s weight and height.

    Kennels should have adequate ventilation, a spill-proof interior, and durable construction. Attach a bowl for food and water. Affix clear “Live Animal” labels to indicate upright kennel orientation. Include your contact info, destination address, and any feeding instructions.

    Can I let my dog out of the kennel on board?

    You’ll need to keep your dog securely confined in their kennel for the duration of the ocean journey. This protects both your pet and the ship’s crew. While some cargo carriers may allow brief potty breaks on deck, this isn’t guaranteed.

    Be prepared to not take your dog out of their kennel at all during the multi-day trip.

    To help your dog feel comfortable, try placing familiar toys and bedding inside the kennel and acclimating them to spending extended time confined prior to travel. Provide ample absorbent lining and consider attaching a pheromone collar to ease anxiety.


    As you can see, with some preparation and planning, almost any dog can enjoy a Hawaiian getaway without ever boarding a plane. Cargo freighters offer the most direct route, while chartered yachts provide luxury and cruises allow you to sightsee along the way.

    No matter which option you choose, your dog will relish exploring the islands with you by their side.

    We hope this guide gave you all the information you need to start your Hawaiian doggie vacation off on the right paw. Let us know if you have any other questions as you plan your dog-friendly travels!

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