It can take as little as five days for a cargo ship to transit from the ports of Los Angeles or Long Beach to Honolulu Harbor on Oahu, Hawaii. Cargo ships bound for Hawaii’s neighbor islands—Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island—take approximately two to four additional days. That’s 7-9 days in total to transit from California to Hawaii.

The chart below sums it all up:

Cargo Ship Transit Times from California to Hawaii
(Westbound)

Transit Time from California by Destination Port 

Honolulu Harbor, Oahu > 5 Days
Kahului Harbor, Maui > 7 Days
Nawiliwili Harbor, Kauai > 7 Days
Kawaihae Harbor, Big Island (Kona) > 7-9 Days
Hilo Harbor, Big Island > 7-9 Days

What If You’re Shipping Eastbound? How Long Does It Take a Cargo Ship to Go from Hawaii to California?

It takes a little longer for Hawaii freight to move eastbound. 6-9 days is standard for trips between Honolulu and California ports. From the neighbor islands, add a few more days. Eastbound cargo from Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island can take anywhere from 9 to 14 days to move from Hawaii to a California port.

Cargo Ship Transit Times from Hawaii to California
(Eastbound)

Origin Port Transit Time from Hawaii

Honolulu Harbor, Oahu > 6-9 Days
Kahului Harbor, Maui > 9-14 Days
Nawiliwili Harbor, Kauai > 9-14 Days
Kawaihae Harbor, Big Island (Kona) > 9-14 Days
Hilo Harbor, Big Island > 10-15 Days

If you’re new to Hawaii freight, understanding transit times is just the beginning. There are several other must-know factors that affect the overall timeline of your Hawaii-bound shipments.

In other words, container ship transit times are only one piece of the puzzle. Keep reading, and we’ll show you the rest.

3 More Must-Knows for Shipping Freight to Hawaii

If you’re starting a new business that’s shipping freight to Hawaii—or you want a deeper understanding of Hawaii freight so you can optimize your supply chain—here’s what else you need to know:

Transit Times Do Not Include Loading & Unloading Time

Transit time only covers the time it takes a container ship to move from the origin port to the destination port. It doesn’t include the time it takes to load and unload the ship. It also doesn’t account for the cut-off time—the date by which your forwarder or carrier needs to receive your freight.

If you really want to get an accurate timeline for your Hawaii freight, you’ll need to account for additional time on both ends.

At the Origin Port:

  • Know your carrier or forwarder’s cut-off time—the point at which they stop accepting goods for a particular sail date.
  • For Hawaii-bound freight originating in California, this is usually the day before. The time will vary, so make sure you verify it with your carrier or forwarder—or risk getting bumped to the next sailing.
  • Certain types of hazardous freight may need to arrive earlier. Additionally, in some cases, hazardous freight paperwork may need to be filed several days in advance.

At the Destination Port:

  • Once it arrives, the ship needs to be unloaded, which can take a day or two, depending on the size of the vessel.
  • If you’ve booked a full container (FCL) shipment directly with an ocean freight carrier, they’ll let you know when your container is available. You’ll need to arrange for a trucking company to retrieve it for you.
  • If you’re using a freight forwarder, they will pick up your freight and take it to their warehouse/terminal. If you’ve booked a consolidated load/less-than-container load (LCL) shipment, the container will need to be unloaded, which may also add another business day to your final delivery.

In other words, make sure to account for additional time on either end of the transit time to get an accurate picture of when you’ll have your Hawaii freight in hand.

Transit Times Can Fluctuate

The route between Los Angeles/Long Beach and Honolulu is relatively straightforward—and shorter than, say, the distance to Guam. However, ocean freight shipping schedules can be impacted by weather, especially if ships have to divert around a major storm.

Many companies offer tracking dashboards that will help you keep close tabs on your shipments as they head for Hawaii.

Consider Direct Service

Finally, when you’re shipping freight to Hawaii’s neighbor islands, you’ll have a choice when it comes to your logistics flow.

  1. Set up a hub-and-spoke approach, with the hub on Oahu. In this model, a company ships all its freight to Honolulu. Then, they pick it up, take it back to a warehouse, and segregate out freight intended for neighbor islands. That freight gets trucked back to the port, where it’s put on interisland barges for Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island.
  2. Or, you can choose direct service right to Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island. In this approach, freight for each island is segregated out by island before it’s put on a ship to Hawaii. Cargo is then moved directly to Kauai, Maui, or the Big Island. No need to reshuffle and repackage on Oahu.

From our perspective, direct service (#2) is the way to go. It creates a more efficient logistics flow and saves many of our customers significant money. Want to learn more about how it works?

Read more about optimizing your supply chain with direct service to Hawaii.

Or, reach out to one of our Hawaii freight experts. They’d be happy to help you create the freight plan that’s right for your business.

Have More Questions About Hawaii Freight?

We’d be happy to walk you any additional questions you have. We’ve got experts in both Hawaii ocean freight and air freight solutions, and we’d love to help you set up the right mix for your needs. Get started with a free quote for your next Hawaii freight project.

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