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Hawaii is a tropical paradise with pristine natural landscapes that should be preserved for generations to enjoy. When visiting the islands, be a respectful visitor by leaving prohibited and environmentally harmful items at home.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to what not to bring to Hawaii: Invasive species like snakes and insects, banned fruits and vegetables, illegal drugs, fireworks without a permit, and anything that could harm Hawaii’s sensitive ecosystem should be left at home.

In this guide, we’ll cover 15 things you should not pack in your suitcase when traveling to the Hawaiian islands. We’ll explain why these items are prohibited or harmful and give recommendations for better alternatives you can bring instead.

Invasive Species

Fruits and Vegetables

Bringing fresh produce like fruits, vegetables, or plants to Hawaii can introduce damaging insects, diseases, and other pests that can harm Hawaii’s environment. For example, in the 1950s, the Rosy Moth was accidentally introduced via shipments of roses from the mainland, causing widespread damage to shrubs and trees.

To protect Hawaii’s fragile island ecosystem, leaving fresh produce at home avoids risking further invasive damage.

Plants and Seeds

Like fresh produce, bringing plants, soil, or seeds to Hawaii can allow invasive species passage to the islands. Whether in a tourist’s luggage or agricultural shipments, seemingly harmless plant materials can carry microscopic pests, fungi, or bacteria that can propagate in Hawaii’s tropical climate.

For example, a crop-devastating plant disease called Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense tropical race 4 arrived in 2020 via infected banana plant materials. To avoid further introductions, tourists should leave all plants and seeds behind.


While visitors may wish to bring pets on vacation, Hawaii mandates strict quarantine regulations for incoming animals to prevent the spread of rabies and diseases harmful to people or local species. Breaking pet quarantine in Hawaii can lead to fines over $200, even for first infractions.

Exceptions exist for guide dogs or animals with proper pre-entry permit and vet checks. Still, unregulated pets pose an unacceptable risk. For example, past incidents introduced wildlife diseases or led to invasive animal releases, like a mainland mosquito species in 2021.

Leaving pets in their secure mainland homes helps keep Hawaii protected.


Insects like ants, snails, centipedes, or spiders may find their way to Hawaii by hitchhiking in luggage, vehicles, or shipped goods. For instance, the venomous centipede Scolopendra subspinipes and the giant African snail likely arrived via cargo from Southeast Asia.

These insects can threaten native species, spread disease, or even harm people in some cases. With climate change warming trends, insects also gain more opportunities to thrive in Hawaii’s environment year-round if introduced.

Careful inspection at ports has led to many interceptions, but travelers should remain diligent about keeping insects out of Hawaii by thoroughly checking clothing, shoes, bags, and items before packing for a visit.

What may seem harmless on the mainland could become a costly invasive species on the islands.

Hunting Equipment

Hawaii has very strict laws regarding the possession of firearms and hunting equipment. While hunting and recreational shooting are popular activities in many parts of the United States, these activities are highly regulated in Hawaii.

In general, it is illegal to bring any kind of firearm or ammunition into the state without proper permits and registration. Hawaii also has bans on certain types of semi-automatic firearms and large capacity magazines.

Transporting prohibited firearms or ammunition can potentially lead to felony charges.


Except for valid firearm permits issued to Hawaii residents, all firearms entering the state must be registered within 5 days of arrival. The process involves registration with county police departments, background checks, fingerprinting, and fees.

Permits for concealed carry or unconcealed carry are essentially impossible for non-residents to obtain.

Instead of dealing with the hassle and risk of bringing your own firearms, consider enjoying Hawaii’s natural sights and activities instead. Leave the hunting rifles, handguns, and accessories at home.

Ammunition and Accessories

Hawaii state law also places tight restrictions on ammunition. It is advisable for visitors to refrain from bringing along any ammunition, magazines, scopes, silencers, or other firearm accessories and parts.

Attempting to bring ammunition or firearms accessories into Hawaii without proper authorization can still lead to weapons charges or possible confiscation.

General hunting with rifles or other long arms is prohibited in Hawaii. As a result, related equipment like camouflage hunting apparel, archery equipment, knife holsters, or game carts should be left at home.

The only legal type of hunting allowed for non-residents is game bird hunting, which requires a special permit only obtainable after legally registering and checking firearms within 5 days of arrival to the islands.

Rather than dealing with burdensome regulations and the risk of accidentally breaking strict state laws, leave all hunting equipment behind when visiting Hawaii.

If longing to take home a Hawaiian hunting trophy, consider picking up a decorative replica at one of the state’s many gift shops instead.

Recreational Drugs

Bringing recreational drugs to Hawaii is extremely unwise and risky. Despite the laidback reputation, Hawaii has strict drug laws that are vigorously enforced. Getting caught with illegal substances can lead to heavy fines, jail time, and possibly deportation.

Hawaii’s Drug Laws

Hawaii’s drug laws classify substances into 5 schedules based on dangerousness and potential for abuse. Penalties get progressively more severe from Schedule V to Schedule I. Marijuana is illegal in Hawaii outside of medical use and ranks as a Schedule I substance.

Possession of even small amounts of marijuana or other illegal drugs is subject to legal penalties. Around 13,500 people are arrested for drug law violations in Hawaii each year. Over 80% of these arrests are for marijuana possession.

Getting Caught and Punishments

Visitors should be aware that drug enforcement in Hawaii is strict. Technologies like ion scanners and drug dogs are used widely in airports and traffic stops to detect illegal substances.

If caught by police, punishments can include:

  • Up to 30 days in jail for any amount of marijuana
  • Up to 5 years in jail for substances like cocaine or heroin
  • Fines up to $10,000
  • Loss of driving privileges
  • Deportation for non-citizens

Hawaii also has some of the strictest DUI laws in the nation when it comes to driving under the influence of drugs. Just a tiny amount of THC in the system over cut-off levels can lead to a DUI.

Avoid Unnecessary Risk

Ultimately, it’s best to avoid recreational drugs altogether when visiting Hawaii. The potential legal consequences simply aren’t worth it. Hawaii offers amazing natural beauty to enjoy with a clear mind.

If you do happen to use marijuana or other substances illegally, be extremely cautious and discreet. But the wisest choice is to refrain from bringing any illegal drugs to paradise.


Bringing fireworks to Hawaii is illegal without a permit. While lighting up the night sky with bursts of color may seem fun, there are good reasons to leave fireworks at home.

Strict Laws

Hawaii has very strict laws regarding fireworks. Only certain fireworks are allowed, and private citizens need a county permit to set them off. Getting caught with illegal fireworks can result in fines up to $2,000 and even jail time.

Fire Danger

The warm, dry climate makes Hawaii prone to brush fires. Just one stray spark can easily start a destructive blaze. In fact, fireworks cause an estimated 20,000 fires and $95 million in property damage in the U.S. every year according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Injury Risk

Fireworks are dangerous and can cause serious burns and other injuries. About 10,000 people per year have to go to the emergency room because of fireworks mishaps based on U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission data. Protect yourself and your family by not using fireworks.

Environmental Impact

The chemicals and debris from fireworks can harm delicate ecosystems in Hawaii. Marine life like sea turtles and dolphins can mistake falling firework particles for food, eating them and getting sick. Residues can also contaminate water and soil.

Noise Pollution

The loud bangs of fireworks can terrify pets and wildlife. Dogs have sensitive hearing and may panic at the noises. Endangered Hawaiian birds often abandon their nests due to fear from the racket. Have consideration and skip the fireworks.

With strict regulation, fire dangers, safety issues, environmental impacts, and noise pollution, it’s best not to pack any fireworks when visiting Hawaii. Enjoy safer and permitted fireworks shows instead for your aloha spirit.


Plastic Bags

Plastic bags are extremely harmful to Hawaii’s environment and wildlife. Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, which can lead to suffocation or starvation once ingested. It’s estimated that over 15 million plastic bags end up as litter on Hawaii’s coastlines each year.

For this reason, Hawaii has strict laws banning businesses from distributing plastic bags. Travelers should avoid packing any unnecessary plastic bags and utilize reusable cloth bags instead.

Plastic Straws and Utensils

Many parts of Hawaii have enacted local ordinances prohibiting businesses from automatically distributing plastic straws, stirrers, and utensils to customers in an effort to reduce plastic pollution. Maui County bans all polystyrene foam containers, cups, and utensils as well.

Travelers should bring their own reusable straws, utensils, and containers rather than relying on single-use plastics.

According to the Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources, over 712 million pieces of plastic pollution end up on Hawaii’s beaches each year. A staggering 25,000 tons of plastic debris enters Hawaiian waters annually.

Packing reusable alternatives helps preserve the islands’ famous natural landscapes.

Plastic Bottles

Disposable plastic water bottles significantly contribute to the plastic pollution crisis in Hawaii. Plus, bottled water often costs 2 to 3 times more than tap water on the islands. Saving money while reducing waste can easily be achieved by packing reusable water bottles and filling up for free at water fountains, sinks, or hotel accommodations.

Below is a comparison of the environmental impact from disposable vs. reusable water bottles in Hawaii:

Metric Disposable Plastic Bottles Reusable Bottles
Plastic waste generated yearly About 300 million Virtually none
Ocean plasticscontribution Significant source None
Carbon emissions from production + transport High Extremely low

By leaving disposable bottles at home and utilizing reusable options, travelers can reduce their environmental footprint in Hawaii by over 90% according to scientists. Reusable bottles are inexpensive, convenient for refills, and vastly more sustainable.


By being mindful of what you pack for your Hawaiian getaway, you can help preserve the islands’ ecological heritage. Focus on bringing reusable, sustainable items that won’t harm the environment.

Hawaii’s tropical biodiversity is unmatched, but also fragile. Follow local regulations prohibiting invasive species and environmentally damaging products to protect paradise for future visitors.

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