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Hawaii is a tropical paradise filled with gorgeous beaches, volcanic landscapes, vibrant culture, and mouthwatering cuisine. But before packing your bags for a Hawaiian getaway, it’s crucial to know which souvenirs and local products you can and cannot bring back home.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Due to strict agricultural regulations aimed at preserving Hawaii’s ecosystem, visitors cannot bring back any fresh fruits, plants, flowers, soil/sand, sea shells, or Feathers/bones of native birds when returning from Hawaii.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover all the Hawaiian souvenirs and products that are prohibited or restricted to bring back to the mainland United States. We’ve broken it down into different categories ranging from food items like fruits and vegetables to natural materials like lava rock and sand so you know exactly what is allowed or not in your luggage.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Hawaii has strict regulations regarding bringing fresh produce like fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers, nuts, and seeds onto the islands from other places. This is to prevent introducing non-native species that could harm Hawaii’s ecosystem and agriculture.

There are good reasons for these import restrictions, but there are also some allowances made under certain conditions.

Overview and Reasons for Restriction

In general, it is prohibited to bring most fresh fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers, nuts, and seeds into Hawaii from another state or country. This ban helps protect Hawaii’s farms and environment from introduced species that may carry diseases, pests, or be invasive.

For example, coqui frogs were accidentally introduced and caused ecological damage. Fire ants and fruit flies also slipped in undetected in the past.

Some key reasons fresh produce is restricted include:

  • Prevent new insects, fungi, or plant diseases from entering and damaging Hawaii’s farms and native species.
  • Stop invasive species that could disrupt delicately balanced island ecosystems.
  • Shield rare Hawaii plants from being overtaken by fast-growing outside species.

Essentially, the restrictions aim to preserve Hawaii’s unique island biodiversity and agriculture.

Fruits and Vegetables Allowed Under Certain Conditions

While generally banned, some common produce like apples, oranges, bananas, and broccoli can enter Hawaii if properly inspected and certified to be pest and disease free. Items must undergo rigorous examination by agriculture specialists before being released.

Produce grown in the mainland U.S. has the best chance of passing inspection. The closer the farm is to Hawaii the higher the approval rate, as fewer pests are present. For example, 90% of west coast produce passes, while only 5-10% of southeast Asian fruits clear quarantine.

According to Hawaii’s Department of Agriculture, here are some key requirements allowing entry of certain fresh fruits and vegetables:

  • Grown in an approved commercial farm inspected and permitted by agriculture authorities
  • Shown to be free of unwanted pests and diseases through lab testing
  • Transported in sterile containers directly from farms to Hawaii
Origin Average Pass Rate
U.S. West Coast 90%
U.S. East Coast 50%
Asia 5-10%

Dried, Frozen, and Cooked Produce Allowances

While fresh fruits and vegetables face substantial restrictions, produce that is dried, cooked, or frozen can more easily enter Hawaii. Processing techniques like heating, baking, salting, pureeing, pickling, jamming, and juicing tend to destroy insects, pests, and diseases previously living on the plants.

For example, dried fruit, canned vegetables, frozen berries, baked goods containing fruit, and tomato sauce are often allowed after inspection.

Any processing should happen before arriving in Hawaii. Cooked, dried, or frozen produce is much less prone to spreading contagions harmful to Hawaii’s environment and agriculture.

When in doubt, check Hawaii’s traveler guidance or call agricultural authorities to find out if a fruit or vegetable can enter state borders. Declare all food items when landing to avoid steep fines or destruction of produce.

Plants, Flowers, Wood, and Seed

Live Plants and Flowers

Bringing live plants and flowers back from Hawaii is strictly prohibited. Hawaii has a very unique and fragile ecosystem that authorities work hard to protect. Introducing foreign species could be devastating.

For example, mongooses were introduced to control rats but ended up preying on native birds and their eggs instead. Whoops!

So even though you might think that beautiful orchid or anthurium you discovered hiking would look great in your backyard at home, leave it be. Getting caught at customs with contraband foliage could lead to serious fines or even jail time. Not worth it!

Also read: What Do Mongoose Eat In Hawaii?

Straw Items, Wreaths, and Garlands

Natural materials like straw and leaves are often used to make classic Hawaiian souvenirs like hats, baskets, wreaths, and garlands. However, bringing these back could introduce invasive insects or pathogens.

For example, a tiny egg or larva hidden in the straw might hatch and start munching away on crops and trees back home.

Instead, opt for wreaths and leis made from fabric or decorative materials. Just make sure to give them a good check to ensure no natural materials were accidentally mixed in. When in doubt, leave it out!

Wood Products

Untreated wood items, even something as simple as a decorative plaque, are another no-go for bringing back home. Tiny wood-boring beetles and their larvae could be lurking inside and potentially devastate trees where you live. We don’t want to be responsible for an ecological disaster!

However, commercially manufactured wood products that have been kiln-dried, treated, or thoroughly processed are generally considered safe. Some examples include finished wood carvings, etched wooden bowls, or even ukuleles with treated wood.

When purchasing, check for markings or tags confirming it’s been treated. Still, declare them at customs just to be safe and transparent.

Bottom line: When visiting paradise, prioritize protecting it! Making eco-friendly choices ensures Hawaii’s natural wonders remain intact for future generations to enjoy. Take only photos, leave only footprints 😊👍.

Also read: How To Visit Hawaii Ethically And Responsibly

Animal Products

Sea Shells and Coral

Hawaii has incredibly diverse and vibrant marine ecosystems, home to numerous species of colorful fish, coral, and other sealife. Many visitors are tempted to take home a souvenir from Hawaii’s shores, like a seashell or piece of coral.

However, this is strictly prohibited in an effort to preserve Hawaii’s fragile ocean habitats.

Specifically, Hawaii state law prohibits taking, possessing, or selling coral and live seashells without a permit. Seashells are an integral part of keeping Hawaii’s beaches healthy, as they provide shelter and food for hermit crabs, snails, and other marine species.

Coral reefs are incredibly important for marine ecosystems and require years to grow just an inch. Unfortunately over 30% of Hawaii’s reefs are considered to be in poor health, so preserving every bit of coral is essential.

Also read: Can You Take Seashells From Hawaii Beaches Legally?

Feathers, Bones, and Ivory

Bringing back certain animal-derived products like feathers, bones, and ivory from endangered species is illegal. Hawaii is home to some rare and exotic birds, like the nene goose, whose population dropped dangerously low in the mid-1900s.

Now protected under federal law, it’s illegal to possess even just one of their feathers without a special permit.

Other products that seem innocuous but cannot be transported back include seashells containing organisms (which could introduce invasive species if brought elsewhere), coral, whale teeth, turtle shells, and shark teeth.

Transporting these items back could have unintended consequences on local ecosystems and wildlife preservation efforts. When in doubt, refrain from taking anything from its natural environment in Hawaii.

Fish and Aquatic Life

Bringing home Hawaii’s seafood might seem tempting after enjoying the islands’ fresh fish and tuna. However, strict regulations prohibit transporting most live fish and aquatic plants. Aquarium owners may attempt smuggling home exotic Hawaiian fish, corals or anemones for their tanks.

But most carriers prohibit transporting live fish, and getting caught with exotic aquatic species could lead to federal penalties.

Aside from legal issues, taking aquatic life often critically damages Hawaii’s native ecosystems. Collecting coral, anemones or aquatic life removes organisms that ensure balance and diversity underwater.

If you simply can’t part with Hawaii’s marine beauty, consider ordering sustainably farmed Hawaiian seafood or purchasing quality photos of underwater scenes rather than disturbing sea habitats.

Soil, Sand, Rocks, and Minerals

Hawaii’s islands feature incredibly diverse soil compositions due to the islands’ volcanic origins and isolation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The soil ranges from rich, dark volcanic earth to red clay to plain old beach sand.

Visitors often wish they could take some back home as a souvenir, but strict regulations prohibit the removal of any soil or sand from the islands.


The fertile volcanic soil found at higher elevations enabled Native Hawaiians to grow ample food through the generations. Modern farms and nurseries cultivate a variety of popular crops in this rich soil, from coffee and macadamia nuts to tropical flowers.

Removing even a tiny amount threatens entire ecosystems and agriculture industries. Instead of taking any, visitors can purchase bags of genuine Hawaiian soil at select gift shops.


Hawaii’s beaches boast world-famous soft, white sand composed of coral and seashells slowly ground down by the ocean over millennia. This sand remains protected as a crucial natural resource. Federal and state agencies carefully manage its extraction, requiring permits for any significant disturbances.

Beachgoers enjoy the sand under their feet but should not attempt to take any as a keepsake.

In addition to its special soil, Hawaii’s geology produces unique igneous rocks and mineral deposits. As with sand and soil, visitors cannot remove most rocks or minerals they find, with serious penalties for violations.

Lava Rocks

Given Hawaii’s active volcanoes, lava rocks cover large swaths of the landscape, especially on the Big Island. These jagged formations come in an array of colors and textures, leading visitors to see them as the perfect memorabilia.

However, removing any rocks disturbs fragile volcanic features and ecosystems. Fortunately, numerous gift shops sell polished lava rock souvenirs,showcasing the natural beauty without environmental impact.

Also read: Can You Take Lava Rocks From Hawaii?

Semi-Precious Minerals

Over the eons, molten lava flowing into the ocean created intriguing green, blue, and black sand beaches with embedded gems like olivine. As alluring as extracting these semi-precious mineral pieces may seem, disturbing these rare geological formations damages them.

Instead, visitors glimpse their beauty through photographs, respecting Hawaii’s natural wonders for all to enjoy.

Also read: What Can You Bring Back From Hawaii: Unique Hawaiian Souvenirs And Gifts

Pests and Invasive Species

Hawaii’s tropical climate and remote location have made it vulnerable to invasive species that can wreak havoc on native plants and animals. Transporting plants, animals, and even soil from Hawaii may spread harmful pests and diseases. Here’s what you need to know.

Invasive Insects

Insects like the coconut rhinoceros beetle, detected on Oahu in 2013, can damage and kill coconut palms and other crops. Other unwelcome guests are little fire ants, which deliver painful stings and can blind pets.

Transporting plants from Hawaii risks carrying destructive insect eggs, larvae, or adults.

Fungal and Bacterial Diseases

Hawaii’s native ohia trees are under attack from rapid ohia death, caused by the invasive fungi Ceratocystis. Spread by moving infected soil or plant matter, it has killed over a million trees. Bacterial diseases like banana bunchy top virus also threaten crops.

Taking home plant cuttings or produce allows these illnesses to hitchhike to new areas.

No-No List

To protect Hawaii’s agriculture and ecosystems, visitors cannot take home the following:

  • Plants, plant parts, flowers, fruit, seeds
  • Live insects, snails, slugs, nematodes
  • Animals, animal carcasses, bones, feathers
  • Soil, rocks, sand
  • Fresh herbs and produce

Many of these prohibitions are outlined in Hawaii’s strict anti-invasive species laws. Fines for violations can reach $500 per item. Instead of natural souvenirs, opt for photos, videos, or crafts to remember your island adventures.

Safe Souvenirs

Worried you’ll return home empty-handed? Here are some pest-free Hawaiian mementos to consider:

  • Shells, coral, marine life without living tissue
  • Processed food like macadamia nuts, chocolate, coffee, preserves
  • Leis and flower arrangements made from dried or artificial plants
  • Candles, soaps, beauty products containing no plant matter
  • Wood carvings, bamboo products
  • Tropical-themed home decor made with synthetic materials

By leaving Hawaii’s natural beauty intact and transporting only safe, certified souvenirs, visitors play a vital role in protecting the islands. Following biosecurity guidelines preserves Hawaii’s vibrant ecosystems while still allowing travelers to relish treasured vacation memories.

Also read: What Not To Bring To Hawaii: 15 Things To Leave At Home


To preserve Hawaii’s delicate island ecosystem and agriculture, there are restrictions regarding what visitors can bring back home from the islands. By following the guidelines outlined in this article on prohibited Hawaiian exports, you can avoid fines and contribute to the sustainability of these Pacific paradises.

Safe, permitted souvenirs range from cooked foods sealed in cans to wood products made with treated koa wood. And if you’re ever in doubt about an item, declare it with your airline to verify if it meets standards for the mainland before packing it in your luggage.

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