Can You Drive To Hawaii?

Can You Drive To Hawaii

With palm-fringed beaches, colorful reefs, lush rainforests, and live volcanoes, Hawaii calls out to mainland travelers craving a true island escape. But when constantly surrounded by water, hitting the open road by car seems next to impossible. So, can you drive to and around Hawaii’s enchanting islands?

From assessing if you can ship your car to the islands to scenic driving routes around paradise, read on for the lowdown on wheels and road-tripping. There might not be direct highways to Hawaii, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take in breathtaking sights from behind the driver’s seat during your Hawaiian getaway.

How Far Is Hawaii From the Mainland?

The Hawaiian Islands sit nearly 2,400 miles southwest of California, the closest mainland US state. To put into perspective what a road trip would entail, Seattle lies around 2,700 miles from Miami and is spaced clearly across the entire continental United States. So buckle up because traversing Hawaii’s home in the vast Pacific certainly constitutes going the distance!

Can You Drive To Hawaii From The Mainland US?

No, you can’t drive to Hawaii from the mainland US. No roads link any Hawaiian Islands to the mainland USA, dashing continental road trip dreams. And before you get cute thinking about trying to pave your path, federal law protects surrounding seabeds from human development in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, where Hawaii resides.

Can You Drive To Hawaii From The Mainland US

So land rovers and highway cruisers must make peace with the fact that reaching Hawaii requires booking a boat or air passage. But just because you can’t drive directly to Hawaii doesn’t mean your automotive adventures end when touching down. Read on for information on navigation by car within and between the tropical islands.

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Bring Your Car to Hawaii

Shipping your trusted four-wheel ride directly to Hawaii for exploration once there often proves cheaper than weekslong car rentals. But what’s involved in the logistics and cost of mobilizing your car over open ocean waters?

Can you ship your car to Hawaii?

Yes indeed! Specialized auto shipping companies like Matson Navigation and Pasha handle the hassle of transporting passenger vehicles from the US mainland to Hawaii by sea. Door-to-port shipping enables you to load up your car, SUV, or truck in California and have it arrive in Honolulu or other Hawaiian ports as little as 5 to 7 days later, ready to cruise!

Can You Drive To Hawaii From Mainland US

How much does it cost to ship a car to Hawaii?

Of course, epic journeys across the Pacific don’t come cheap. Budget around $1,500-$2,000 to ship an average midsize car ferry to Hawaii. Cost varies based on vehicle size, time of year, and other factors.

Summer high season unsurprisingly racks up steeper rates. However, ensuring your trusted ride awaits upon arrival could save money over booking multiple rental cars for island hopping.

Flying to Hawaii and Renting a Car

Given the 2,000+ miles of separation, flying to Hawaii rather than shipping your vehicle makes the most sense for many travelers. Luckily, scoring a set of rental cars to roam freely across Oahu or over to Maui proves a breeze, thanks to abundant agencies.

Every island overflows with rental companies featuring efficient airport pick-up lots, like Alamo, Hertz, Enterprise, Budget, and Avis. Compact economy cars start around $200-$300 weekly, but keep your eyes peeled for deals.

Just prepare for sticker shock gassing up your ride thanks to island fuel prices hitting over a dollar more per gallon higher than US averages!

Can You Drive To Hawaii

Why You Can’t Drive From the United States to Hawaii

Technically, Americans DO build highways running several miles offshore thanks to barrier islands dotting mainland coastlines. So, what exactly prevents civil engineers from pulling off the same feat and connecting Hawaii to the continental masses? Two tricky obstacles, namely:

Sheer Distance – Building roadways across open ocean waters stretch construction budgets beyond feasibility. At nearly 2,500 miles separated, Hawaii floats way further out than other US island territories like the seaside Outer Banks archipelagos linked to North Carolina.

Seafloor Topography – Overseas highway innovators battle the Pacific seafloor’s dramatically deep contours blocking pathways between Hawaii and California. We’re talking depths plunging over 5 miles straight down! So unless construction crews fancy trenching the Mariana Trench, highway plans would be an enormous sinking investment.

How Long Does it Take to Drive to Hawaii?

Can You Drive To Hawaii From The Mainland US

Direct highways linking the Hawaiian Islands with the continental USA still exist only in fantasies and engineering plans collecting dust. But even IF engineers managed to sculpt a land bridge to withstand volatile Pacific conditions, how long could it take to drive to Hawaii?

Here is a best-case scenario:  engineers pave a straight shot from Los Angeles to Honolulu, covering a direct ocean distance of around 2,375 miles. Given interstate speed limits averaging 75 mph, nonstop motorists would require 31.6 hours behind the wheel before pulling into Waikiki if an LA-to-Honolulu ocean bridge someday allows cars to motor to paradise.

Can You Drive to Different Islands in Hawaii?

Oops, we’re back to reality from highway daydreams! So once you touchdown in Hawaii, what wheels await to channel your inner island hopper?

Can You Drive To Hawaii From Mainland United States

Sadly, no bridges link Hawaii’s six major tourist islands either. Regular passenger ferries connecting islands only exist for commuters living on Molokai and Lanai. Visitors must charter private ships for island hopping by sea, which is costly.

Then how do travelers access Hawaii’s various islands? Island hop by flight instead! Multiple quick daily routes shuttle tropical adventurers between tourist hotspots like Honolulu, Kona, Maui, and more via affordable puddle jumper flights.

Can You Drive Around Maui?

NOW comes the payoff for all this Pacific planning, exploring heavenly Hawaii by rental car upon arriving! Each island overflows with amazing sights within relatively easy driving reach. On stunning Maui, scenic stretches of coastline like the legendary Road to Hana with waterfalls and black sand beaches tie together by roadway ready for motoring. 

Here, drivable lifetime-list toppers tempt at nearly every bend: sunrises at 10,023-foot Haleakala Crater, whale sightings off the Pali Highway, and farm-to-table feasts in Upcountry’s fertile ranch lands. Put the pedal down, taking in Maui’s marvels via car!

Can You Drive To Hawaii

Can You Drive Around the Big Island of Hawaii?

Over on Hawaii’s namesake Big Island, views as dramatic as active erupting volcanoes and snow-capped Mauna Kea unfold from behind the driver’s seat. Circle the island, stopping to get sprinkled by immense waterfalls along Hamakua Coast, hiking through rainforests in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, and freshly scooped Kona coffee ice cream. With sights this stunning on Hawaii’s roads less traveled, who needs transoceanic highways anyway? 

Driving spots in Hawaii 

Ready to map out Hawaii’s hottest driving destinations for your rental ride? Check out these 5 top spots for your road trip.:

Hanauma Bay

Cruise dramatic scenic overlooks along Kalanianaʻole Highway in Hanauma Bay’s vibrant reef sanctuary, perfect for snorkeling and sunbathing post-sightseeing.

Road to Hana

On Maui, allow ample time to safely navigate the cliffside turns and jungle waterfalls, overwhelming the legendary Road to Hana revealed mile by breathtaking mile.

Can You Drive To Hawaii From Mainland US

Pearl Harbor

On Oahu, paying solemn respects at Pearl Harbor remains a top priority for many visitors. Access the memorial by driving 15 minutes from Waikiki to immerse in complex chapters of American military history.

Kualoa Ranch

At this sprawling private nature reserve on Oahu’s northeastern tip, hop from lush mountain vista views to the pristine pocket beach in a single afternoon of driving through film-set landscapes alive with a rich Hawaiian heritage.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Cruise the 11 miles of Crater Rim Drive, skirting precipitous caldera cliffs for daring views of Kīlauea volcano’s bubbling lava glowing after sunset, a spectacle unmatched anywhere stateside. Talk about going out in a blaze of glory, closing down Hawaii sightseeing roads less traveled!

Is Hawaii Worth Visiting?

Absolutely, yes, a hundred times over! Hawaii’s rare blend of vibrant natural diversity, rich cultural traditions, tasty cuisine, welcoming locals known as “kanaka maoli” and barefoot, carefree vibes create the ultimate warm weather escape.

Getting to Hawaii may require some strategic navigation. But once you land, paradise awaits around nearly every hairpin turn, be it coasting between golden beaches or gazing upon dancing lava flows lighting up the night.

Can You Drive To Hawaii From The Mainland US

3 Ways How to Get to Hawaii

Is a private yacht still the sole option, leaving you high and dry? Before tossing in the beach towel, remember visitors STILL have three viable transportation modes for crossing the Pacific and arriving refreshed in Hawaii:

By Plane

Several major airlines run regular nonstop routes to Honolulu on Oahu from major mainland hubs like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, with flight times averaging around five hours one-way. Inter-island puddle jumper flights then shuttle travelers affordably onwards to other Hawaiian islands.

By Cruise Ship

For sailors enchanted by ocean voyaging, luxury cruise lines like Norwegian, Holland America, and Princess sail weeklong Hawaii itineraries from the West Coast along picturesque Pacific routes to the islands of Maui, Kauai, The Big Island, and more. Just beware of the open ocean conditions!

By Boat

If planes and cruise cabins still don’t float your vessel, skipper your private boat across the Pacific! Yes, this option remains reserved solely for the most ambitious. But recent innovators have pioneered 21st-century state-of-the-art racing catamarans capable of Hawaii passages in under a week. Talk about empowering island dreamers and extreme adventurers alike!

The Challenges of Driving to Hawaii

Among America’s 50 states, Hawaii still claims the crown as the sole destination completely inaccessible by car from the mainland. What factors impede building an interstate freeway-to-paradise?

Extreme distance

We already highlighted how Hawaii stretches over 2,400 open ocean miles from California. But to gain a fuller perspective, stack New York City atop Los Angeles and Hawaii, and STILL journey over 500 miles further into the remote Pacific! That kind of length requires some long and winding roads.

Can You Drive To Hawaii

No roads

Precisely the problem! No roads currently link Hawaii in ANY direction, whether west from California or east from Asia. Undeterred engineers frequently contemplate ambitious proposals like underwater tunnels or floating bridges to motorize Hawaii. But backbone funding to support such infrastructures remains lacking!

It would require a boat

Barring teleportation breakthroughs lowering travel times, all earthly visitors MUST book a boat or air passage covering above-water distance to reach Hawaii. Otherwise, it’s swim trunks ON attempting your own Channel Islands mapping misadventure!

So, Can You Drive to Hawaii?

While no land-based drive-thrus to Hawaii exists, four-wheel transportation still gears up paradise adventures across the archipelago’s stunning islands. Visitors flying or cruising to Hawaii can easily rent cars or ship personal vehicles to unlock freedom exploring Oahu, Maui, and beyond by scenic stretches of roadway.

You can’t fall victim to the “mainland mindset” expecting cross-country style navigation to such a beautifully remote Pacific chain. Hawaii’s middle-of-nowhere location prevents direct driving BUT rewards travelers richly through breathtaking island landscapes uncovered along routes revealing waterfall-lined Hana Highways to alive volcanoes.

Just arrive mentally prepared to swap wheels out at sea. Because amid scenery this heavenly, who really cares HOW you got to Hawaii anyway?

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