Hawaii Kayaking Laws (Rules and Regulations)

Hawaii Kayaking Laws - Rules / Regulations

Kayaking in and around the picturesque Hawaiian islands offer paddlers a variety of opportunities to explore coastlines, rivers, islets, and more. And to help you paddle safely and legally, we’ve put together a summary of the Hawaii kayaking laws, rules, and regulations so you’re prepared for your next kayaking adventure.

Not a Lawyer Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. More importantly, I am not your attorney. This article is not legal advice. If you desire legal advice, consult a competent, licensed attorney in your area.

Hawaii Kayaking Laws Summary

  • Hawaii Kayak Law – Hawaii considers kayaks and canoes to be non-motor powered vessels that have no mechanical propulsion (i.e., are paddled, poled, oared or windblown).
  • Hawaii Kayak Registration – vessels that are manually propelled, like kayaks and canoes, are exempted from registration.
  • Hawaii Motorized Kayak Registration – All mechanically-propelled vessels operating on Hawaii’s public waterways must be titled and registered.
  • Kayak Operator Licensing – There is no minimum age or minimum education requirement to operate a kayak in Hawaii.
  • Motorized Kayaking Age – The minimum age to operate a power-driven vessel in Hawaii is 16, provided you have a valid certificate from a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators approved course. No certificate is needed for vessels under 10 horsepower. Persons under 16 must be accompanied on-board and supervised by an adult (minimum 21 years old) who holds the appropriate boating safety education certificate.
  • Kayaking BUI Law – Hawaii has Boating Under the Influence (BUI) laws—0.08% BAL is considered under the influence.
  • Kayaking Life Jacket Law – One life jacket on board per person. And children 12 and under must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II or III PFD.
  • Kayak Lights Law – Non-Motorized vessels less than 23.0 feet long must have, if practical, red and green sidelights visible from two miles away on a clear, dark night, and a stern light visible from two miles away. If not practical, a lantern or flashlight shining a white light is acceptable.
  • Kayaking Sounding Devices – Vessels less than 65.6 feet long must carry a whistle, horn, or some other means of making a signal audible for at least half a mile.
  • Kayaking VDS Law – All vessels are required to carry night signaling devices. Manually propelled vessels are exempt from carrying day signaling devices. On federally controlled waters (coastline), all vessels are required to carry U.S. Coast Guard-approved night VDS devices.
  • Other Communication Devices – Most vessels going one mile off shore are required to carry a U.S. Coast Guard-approved radio beacon or VHF radio. Manually propelled vessels are exempt.

That only summarizes Hawaii boating laws applied to kayaking and canoeing. The details are more in-depth and specific. Read on to find out more on how to paddle legally in Hawaii.

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Hawaii Kayak Registration Laws

Do you have to register a kayak in Hawaii? The quick answer is no. Kayaks, Canoes that have no mechanical propulsion (i.e., are paddled, poled, oared or windblown) are exempted from registration.

Do you have to register a kayak with a trolling motor in Hawaii? The quick answer is yes. Each mechanically-propelled vessel that is operated, used, or stored on the “waters of the state” of Hawaii must be titled. Except that manually-propelled vessels (like kayaks and canoes) are exempted from registration.

But, if you mount a trolling motor on your canoe or kayak it becomes a mechanically-propelled vessel and thus has to be registered.

Related Article: Paddle Board Registration

Hawaii Motorized Kayak Registration Resources

Hawaii Kayaking Education Laws

Do you need a license to kayak in Hawaii? The short answer is no. Hawaii doesn’t have a kayaking license/age/education requirement.

Who can operate a motorized kayak in Hawaii? If you are operating a vessel with more than 10 horsepower you must successfully complete a NASBLA-approved boater education course and carry the certificate with you. If you’re in Hawaii for less than 60 days, you’re exempt from that requirement.

Beginning 11/10/2014, all individuals who operate a motorized vessel in Hawaii’s State waters must have taken a boating safety course and show proof of certification.

DLNR – Department of Boating and Recreation

For ages 16 and up: you can only operate a motorized boat in Hawaii if you pass a NASBLA course and you are accompanied and supervised buy an adult at least 21 years old who has also completed a NASBLA course.

Boat-ed.com has a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) approved Hawaii Boater Education Course. (affiliate link)

Hawaii Kayaking Alcohol and Drug Laws

Can you get a DUI on a kayak in Hawaii? Yes. It is a violation of Hawaii law to operate a vessel while impaired by alcohol or other drugs. You’re considered under the influence if your blood or breath alcohol (BAL) level is 0.08% or more, or if drugs are detected.

Related Article: Can You Get a DUI on a Kayak?

Hawaii BUI Penalties

Hawaii BUIs carry the following penalties:

  • First offense – $150 to $1,000 fine and up to five days in jail; 72 hours community service. Convicted boaters may also have their license revoked for one year and have to complete a 14-hour substance abuse program.
  • Second Offense – $500 to $1,500 fine and either 240 hours of community service or up to 30 days in jail. License revocation can be from 18 months to two years.
  • Third Offense – $500 to $2,500 fine, ten to 30 days in jail, and a two-year license revocation.
  • License revocation can include the installation of an ignition interlock device in all the boater’s vehicles.

Can the police search your kayak in Hawaii? Yes. Enforcement of boating regulations is handled by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources – officers of that agency as well as all other enforcement officers are legally able to stop and board your boat to ensure compliance with regulations.

Hawaii Kayak Life Jacket Laws

Do you have to wear a life jacket on a kayak in Hawaii? The quick answer is yes. All vessels are required to have a wearable USCG-approved personal flotation device for each person. PFDs must be the appropriate size, easily accessible, and in serviceable condition.

Hawaii PFD Age Rules

Children under 13 must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II or III personal flotation device while onboard any vessel docked or underway.

Related Article: Kayak Life Jacket Laws by State (50 State List)

Hawaii Kayaking Lights Laws

What lights do I need on my kayak at night?

Unpowered Vessels Less Than 23 Feet When Underway

Kayakers are required to carry a white light onboard their kayak. The kayaker is to display the light if another vessel approaches, to avoid a possible collision.

  • If practical, exhibit the same lights as required for unpowered vessels less than 65.6 feet in length, meaning green and red bow lights and a white stern light.
  • If not practical, you must have on board a 360-degree white light visible all around on the horizon for a distance of two miles.

These lights must be displayed:

  • Between sunrise and sunset
  • During periods of restricted visibility

NOTE: Red or blue lights are reserved for police.

Lights While Moored or Anchored

Whenever moored or anchored away from a mooring area, between sunset and sunrise, you must display a white light that can be seen in all directions.

Hawaii Kayaking Sounding and Visual Distress Devices Laws

Sounding Devices

Do I need a whistle on a kayak in Hawaii? On any Hawaiian waters, vessels less than 65.6 feet must have a sounding device. This could be a whistle or horn, or any other device that makes a sound audible for half a mile. This includes kayaks and canoes.

The best “sounding” device for kayakers and canoes is a whistle attached to your PFD in a place that’s easy and quick to reach.

Here’s what we consider to be the best whistle for kayaking.

VDS – Visual Distress Signaling Devices

At Night

Vessels on federally controlled waters must be equipped with USCG–approved VDSs. All vessels, regardless of length or type, are required to carry night VDS signals when operating between sunset and sunrise.

During the Day

Most vessels must carry day signals, except:

  • Recreational vessels less than 16 feet
  • Non-motorized open sailboats less than 26 feet
  • Manually-propelled vessels (canoes and kayaks)

Hawaii Kayaking Fire Extinguisher Laws

Do I need a fire extinguisher on my motorized kayak in Hawaii? The quick answer is no. One USCG-approved B-1 type fire extinguisher is required for all recreational motorboats except Class A or Class 1 boats that don’t permit the entrapment of flammable gasses or vapors. (That’s your kayak with a trolling motor)

Non-motorized boats are exempt from fire extinguisher requirements.

Additional Hawaii Kayaking Resources

Hawaii Kayaking Laws and Enforcement

Hawaii kayaking laws and all other boating laws are enforced by:

Hawaii Boating Safety Education Resources


I'm Steve, the research and technology workhorse behind Paddle Camp. I do tons of research on all our family's paddling gear before I buy or recommend anything. I grew up canoeing with my dad and brother. A few years ago I bought paddle boards for my daughters, myself, and my wife. Ever since then, we plan most of our vacations around kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding.

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