Choosing a freight mode always involves a consideration between speed and cost.

When you’re moving cargo from Asia to Hawaii, air freight offers a fast, but pricey solution. Ocean freight offers a more cost-effective avenue—but a much slower one.

In this article, we’ll walk through the two options for moving cargo from Asia to Hawaii. Understanding both can help you strike the right balance between cost and speed—and establish a freight mix that keeps your business moving forward while protecting your bottom line.

Option #1: Air Freight from Asia to Hawaii

Transit Time: 1-2 days

Cost: $$$

There’s no question: Air freight is the fastest way to get goods from Asia to Hawaii. When time is a factor, air freight is the obvious choice.

However, it’s also the most expensive.

Additionally, some items simply aren’t suited for air freight, including oversized freight with measurements greater than 20′ long x 8′ high x 8′ wide. Hazardous freight may also be challenging to move via air, depending on the airline.

The Bottom Line

Air freight is best for moving time-sensitive goods to Hawaii. When time is your most important factor, air freight is the right choice.

(Tip: Looking into air freight consolidations can assist with lowering your freight bills.)

Option #2: Ocean Freight Direct from Asia to Hawaii

Transit Time: 17-22 days days from mainland China ports to Honolulu

Cost: $

As you can see, there’s a significant difference in transit time between Asia-Hawaii air freight and ocean freight. While air freight can arrive in a matter of days, ocean freight takes a few weeks.

However, the cost is considerably lower when you’re using ocean freight.

Additionally, some items simply aren’t suited for air freight—like hazardous materials. We ship a significant amount of freight containing lithium batteries to Hawaii via ocean freight. Oversized and overweight freight also has to travel over the ocean.

The Bottom Line


If budget is your primary consideration, ocean freight from Asia to Hawaii will be your top choice. Additionally, if your freight contains hazardous materials, or would be considered oversized or overweight, you may need to move your goods by sea.

(Tip: Don’t have enough to fill a container? Less-than-container load options are available as a cost-effective method for moving smaller loads from Asia to Hawaii.)

The Green Factor: Your Carbon Footprint

If your company is focused on reducing your environmental impact, consider ocean freight. It’s the greener choice, by a significant margin. According to statistics from the International Chamber of Shipping, air freight releases 435.0 grams/tonne-km in CO2 emissions, versus the 3.0 released by very large container vessels.

Bonus Option: A Mix of the Two

The costs to run a business in the Aloha State are considerable, and our Hawaii customers are always looking for ways to lower their freight bills.

For many Hawaii-based businesses, the answer lies in finding the right mix between air freight and ocean freight.

  • When you’re able to plan ahead and order in advance, ocean freight can be the right solution for moving your freight. (And it will keep your landed cost down!)
  • When you have a time-sensitive need—such as a critical order for a key customer or an important restock—you may need to use air freight. Although the shipment will be expensive, it might be necessary for keeping your business moving forward until your next ocean freight shipment arrives.

Looking for Storage Options on Oahu?

Our sister company, Royal Hawaiian Movers, offers warehousing and storage solutions on Oahu, as well as on-island delivery to make restocks simple. To learn more, reach out to our team.

Making the Right Choice for Your Business

At the end of the day, selecting between transportation modes—and routes—can be complex. For many companies, it’s about establishing a mix that gets cargo where it needs to go, while protecting their bottom line. Understanding all the available options will only help you make better decisions in this arena, while keeping your freight bills as low as possible.

Want some help establishing the right freight mix for your Hawaii business? Our experts would love to help! We have decades of experience helping Hawaii-based businesses get the freight they need to keep their businesses moving, while balancing cost and speed. Just reach out for a quote to get started.

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