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Hawaii is known for its rich natural resources, vibrant culture, and strict laws protecting its environment and way of life. If you’re planning a trip to the Aloha State, you’ll want to be aware of some key items that are illegal to take out of Hawaii.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: It is illegal to take home black coral, sand, lava rocks, certain feathers and shells, and indigenous plants and animals from Hawaii without proper permits and approvals.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide an overview of Hawaii’s laws restricting the export of natural, cultural, and archaeological items and explain the reasons behind the regulations. We’ll also look at penalties for violating these laws so you can enjoy your Hawaiian vacation while being a respectful steward of the islands.

Natural Materials

Hawaii is known for its stunning natural beauty, from its pristine beaches to its lush rainforests. However, it is important to remember that taking certain natural materials from Hawaii is illegal.

This helps to protect and preserve the fragile ecosystems and ensure the sustainability of the islands’ natural resources.

Here are some of the natural materials that are illegal to take from Hawaii:


Believe it or not, taking sand from Hawaii’s beaches is illegal. While it may seem harmless to collect a small vial of sand as a souvenir, the removal of sand from the beaches can disrupt the delicate balance of the coastal ecosystem.

It can lead to erosion, which can have serious consequences for the shoreline and the marine life that depends on it. Plus, taking sand from Hawaii’s beaches is considered theft, and offenders can face hefty fines and even jail time.

Also read: Is It Illegal To Take Sand From Hawaii Beaches?


Coral reefs are not only breathtakingly beautiful but also crucial for the health of Hawaii’s marine ecosystems. Taking coral from the ocean is strictly prohibited, as it can cause irreparable damage to these fragile and slow-growing organisms.

Coral theft is a serious offense and can result in significant fines and penalties. It’s important to admire coral reefs from a distance and leave them undisturbed for future generations to enjoy.

Also read: Can You Take Coral From Hawaii?

Lava Rocks

The volcanic activity in Hawaii has created unique landscapes filled with lava rocks. While it may be tempting to take home a lava rock as a memento, it is illegal to remove them from the islands.

Lava rocks play an important role in the ecosystem, providing habitat for various plant and animal species.

Their removal can disrupt the natural balance and have long-term consequences for the environment. So, resist the temptation and leave the lava rocks where they belong.

Also read: Can You Take Lava Rocks From Hawaii?

Plants and Animals

Hawaii is home to a diverse array of plant and animal species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. Taking these native species, whether it be plants, insects, or animals, is strictly prohibited.

The introduction of non-native species can have devastating effects on Hawaii’s delicate ecosystems, leading to the displacement and extinction of native species.

It’s essential to respect the unique biodiversity of Hawaii and refrain from taking any plants or animals without proper permits.

Remember, when visiting Hawaii, it’s important to be a responsible and respectful visitor. Take only pictures, leave only footprints, and help preserve the natural beauty of the islands for future generations to enjoy.

Also read: Bringing Plants From Hawaii To California: What You Need To Know

Cultural Artifacts

In Hawaii, there are strict laws and regulations regarding the removal of cultural artifacts. These artifacts hold significant cultural and historical value to the indigenous people of Hawaii, and their protection is of utmost importance.

It is illegal to take certain items from Hawaii, including feathers, shells, petroglyphs, and other artifacts.


Feathers have deep cultural significance in Hawaiian culture. They are often used in traditional ceremonies, clothing, and adornments. Taking feathers, especially those from endangered or protected bird species, is strictly forbidden.

It is important to respect the cultural significance and the environmental impact of taking feathers from Hawaii.


Hawaii is known for its beautiful seashells, but it is important to remember that these shells play a vital role in the island’s ecosystem. Taking shells can disrupt the natural balance and harm the marine life that relies on them.

It is illegal to take shells from protected areas, including certain beaches and marine reserves. Enjoy the beauty of the shells in their natural environment instead.

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

Petroglyphs and Artifacts

Petroglyphs are rock carvings made by the native Hawaiians that depict their history, culture, and spirituality. These ancient artworks are protected by law, and it is illegal to remove or disturb them.

Taking petroglyphs or other artifacts from their original locations not only robs future generations of their historical significance but also damages the cultural heritage of Hawaii.

It is important to educate oneself about the cultural significance and legal regulations surrounding these artifacts. When visiting Hawaii, you can appreciate and learn about these cultural treasures by visiting museums, cultural centers, and historical sites that showcase them.

Remember, respecting and preserving Hawaii’s cultural artifacts is crucial for the overall preservation of its rich heritage.

Consequences of Violating Export Laws

Export laws are in place to protect the natural resources and cultural heritage of Hawaii. Violating these laws can have serious consequences, both legally and environmentally. Let’s take a closer look at some of the potential penalties for those who choose to ignore these regulations.

1. Legal Consequences

Individuals found guilty of violating export laws in Hawaii can face significant legal repercussions. This can include fines, probation, and even imprisonment. The severity of the punishment depends on the nature and extent of the violation, with penalties increasing for repeat offenders.

2. Environmental Impact

Illegal collection and removal of certain items from Hawaii can have a detrimental impact on the environment. For example, taking certain marine species or plant life without proper permits can disrupt fragile ecosystems and threaten the survival of these species.

3. Damage to Cultural Heritage

Hawaii is home to a rich cultural heritage that deserves to be protected. Taking artifacts or cultural items without authorization not only deprives the local community of its history, but it can also damage or destroy important cultural sites.

This can lead to the loss of valuable information about the past and diminish the overall cultural experience for future generations.

4. Economic Consequences

Illegal exports can have negative economic impacts on local communities and the state as a whole. Removing certain items from their natural environment can disrupt local industries, such as tourism and agriculture, that rely on the preservation and sustainable use of these resources.

Additionally, illegal exports can undermine the market for legally obtained goods and diminish the value of legitimate businesses.

5. Reputational Damage

Violating export laws not only carries legal and environmental consequences, but it can also tarnish an individual’s or organization’s reputation. Being associated with illegal activities can damage trust, credibility, and relationships within the community and beyond.

It is essential to respect and abide by Hawaii’s export laws to preserve its natural beauty, cultural heritage, and overall well-being. If you are unsure about the legality of removing or exporting certain items from Hawaii, it is always best to consult with local authorities or relevant experts in the field.

How to Legally Export Hawaiian Items

If you are visiting Hawaii, it is important to be aware of certain laws and regulations regarding the exportation of items from the islands. Hawaii is known for its unique culture and natural resources, and it is crucial to preserve and protect these treasures.

To ensure that you are following the law and respecting the local culture, here are some guidelines on how to legally export Hawaiian items.

Research the Laws and Regulations

Before you consider exporting any items from Hawaii, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations governing the exportation of specific items.

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture website ( is a valuable resource where you can find detailed information about what is legal to export and what is prohibited.

Obtain the Necessary Permits

Depending on the type of item you wish to export, you may need to obtain permits or certifications.

For example, if you plan to export certain plants or plant products, such as seeds or cut flowers, you will need to apply for a Plant Quarantine Permit from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

Similarly, if you want to export certain animal products, such as shells or coral, you may need to obtain permits from the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Respect Cultural Artifacts

Hawaii is home to a rich cultural heritage, and it is important to respect and preserve its artifacts. Many cultural items, such as ancient Hawaiian artifacts or items of cultural significance, are protected by law and cannot be exported without proper authorization.

If you come across such items during your visit, it is best to leave them undisturbed and report their location to the appropriate authorities.

Support Local Artists and Businesses

While it may be tempting to purchase and export items that are unique to Hawaii, it is important to support local artists and businesses.

By purchasing items from local artisans and retailers, you not only contribute to the local economy but also ensure that the items are ethically and legally sourced.

Look for labels or certifications that indicate the item was made in Hawaii or by a local artist.

Also read: Is It Bad Luck To Take Shells From Hawaii?


Hawaii’s natural splendor and cultural heritage make it a one-of-a-kind travel destination. However, preserving its uniqueness requires strict protections. By understanding and respecting Hawaii’s export laws, visitors play an important role in safeguarding its environment, traditions, and history for future generations. Though you may be tempted to take home some island memories, do so in a legal and culturally considerate manner.

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