Hawaii is one of the most irresistible destinations in the world, and a huge draw to visitors from all corners of the world. It’s also a paradise for dogs, but traveling there with them can get complicated.

Hawaii is a rabies-free state, and it requires dog owners to go through complex procedures that can potentially involve a lengthy quarantine process for their dogs. To avoid this, preparation for the trip has to start months in advance of departure, and a strict checklist has to be followed.

If you’d like to travel to Hawaii with your dog, read on to find out more about this process and how to avoid a long stay in quarantine for your four-legged friend.

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Why Are There So Many Restrictions?

As an island state, Hawaii has to exert some care in preserving its natural habitat. When it comes to allowing dog owners to bring their pets along for a visit, the main issue is that Hawaii is the only completely rabies-free state. Dog owners who live there don’t need to vaccinate their dogs against the virus, and the restrictions are there to protect them.

It would be easy for a dog contaminated with rabies to bring the disease into Hawaii and pass it on to feral animals. At that point, there would be widespread contagion that would be very difficult to control on the islands. Quarantine for dogs has been in effect since 1912 in Hawaii, and the duration of it only started having shorter options in 1997.

Hawaii has the strictest rules in the United States when allowing entry to pets from abroad. It shares this quality with island nations like Australia or New Zealand. These are territories that are very aware of how little it could take to destroy the environment, and their procedures reflect that awareness.

Preparing to Travel to Hawaii with Your Dog

The most important step of the process required to travel to Hawaii with your dog is to make sure you have plenty of time to accommodate everything you need to do in the timeframe you are supposed to do it in. The preparation stage is essential, and it can mean the difference between a direct release and a four-month quarantine.

Steps to Take Before Travel

While problems could still arise with your paperwork or timeframe, make sure you research exactly what traveling to Hawaii with your dog entails before attempting to do it. It is recommended to start preparing for this matter four to five months before your intended departure, as some of these steps will be time-sensitive.

Microchip Your Dog

Microchips have become essential for dogs everywhere. This chip is a straightforward way to ensure that your dog will be safe and able to be found no matter what happens. You do not need to microchip your dog before taking the rabies vaccine, but you do have to do it before testing for rabies antibodies.

Get them the Rabies Vaccine

If you’ve been a dog owner for a long time, you’ll know that the rabies vaccine will play a huge part in your life and that you will pay a lot of attention to rabies vaccination certificates. 

To qualify for a smooth process when you get to Hawaii, make sure your dog has had two rabies vaccines and that the most recent one is still active and taken more than 30 days before your arrival in Hawaii. You should also make sure to have all your dog’s vaccinations up to date, but this one is the most important.

Test for Rabies Antibodies

This is known as the FAVNE rabies antibody titre test and, as its name suggests, it will determine if your pet is carrying rabies antibodies. This test should be done around a month after the rabies vaccine, and not earlier than three weeks following the vaccine. This will ensure the maximum standard of accuracy.

Gather and Submit Required Documents

You will need to attach several documents to this form:

  • Form AQS-279: This indicates that you wish to travel to Hawaii with a dog (or a cat) and it is also known as the ‘cat and dog import form.’
  • Two vaccine certificates: These should be original copies that have been signed by a vet.
  • Original health certificate: You should send this to the airport’s Animal Quarantine Station in the two weeks that precede your arrival in Hawaii. If this can’t be done, bring the original certificate with you on arrival to prevent your dog from getting quarantined.
  • Proof of tick treatment: Your health certificate should include the full details of tick treatment received in the two weeks before you arrive in Hawaii.
  • Proof of payment: You will have to pay a fee before you can proceed with this application. The fee for ‘5-days or Less’ quarantine is $244. The fee for Direct Airport Release is $185. 

Avoid the Need for Quarantine

While quarantine can’t always be avoided, doing everything in your power to shelter your dog from going through this ordeal can lead to promising results that can help in the long run with this process. First of all, you should be certain of the timing. This stage can be grueling and leave little time for anything else, so research is an unbeatable ally.

Meeting all the requirements set out for entering Hawaii is doubly important, as it will allow you to reach your destination while avoiding the hassle of a potential 120-day quarantine. Make sure you check the guidelines shown on the Hawaii Department of Agriculture website, as they will be the most detailed and up-to-date.  


There are several exceptions to the travel preparation process discussed thus far:

  • People who are normally residents in Hawaii.
  • Some travel areas are designated as safe when it comes to dog travel, especially when it comes to similarly regulated island nations. Examples include New Zealand, Guam, the British Isles, and Australia.

Options for Entering the State with Your Dog

Most travelers choose Honolulu Airport as their safe bet and access point to Hawaii because it is the most straightforward one to navigate. You can also fly to other Hawaiian Islands like Kona, Kahului, and Lihue, but other restrictions will apply to the situation.

You will have three options to proceed after you land in Hawaii: 

5 Days or Less

This is the option you’ll be aiming for throughout the process. Apart from the requirements listed above, this outcome also requires an exact thirty-day waiting period between a dog’s second rabies vaccine and arrival in Hawaii.

Direct Airport Release

A direct airport release is part of the 5 Days or Less program. It can be achieved upon arrival if every criterion has been met and if you arrive at specific airports with enough time to clear customs within normal inspection times. These are usually before 4:30 pm and one to two hours after your flight landing. 

The eligible airports are Kahului Airport in Maui, Lihue Airport in Kauai, Ellison Onizuka Kona International on the Big Island, and Daniel K. Inouye International in Honolulu.

120 Days

This is the four-month quarantine that your pet has to go through if something has gone wrong with the application or if documentation hasn’t been received in time. However, if the issue can be resolved earlier than the duration of the quarantine period, your dog can leave containment at any stage. 


Traveling to Hawaii with a dog can be a complicated process that requires a lot of time and patience. This process has become more straightforward recently, and it is now easier to bring your pet along to this island nation paradise.

The key to ensuring an effortless arrival in Hawaii with your dog is to have enough time to spend on the application, and on following the criteria to the letter.

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