What do I need to know about hosting ocean or water activities in Hawai'i?
These information pages can help you get started in learning about some of the laws and registration requirements that may apply to your experiences on Airbnb. These pages include summaries of some of the rules that may apply to different sorts of activities, and contain links to government resources that you may find helpful.
Please understand that these information pages are not comprehensive, and are not legal advice. If you are unsure about how local laws or this information may apply to you or your Experience, we encourage you to check with official sources or seek legal advice.
Please note that we don’t update this information in real time, so you should confirm that the laws or procedures have not changed recently.*
I am planning on hosting an ocean activity with my Guests. Is there anything that I should consider?
Hawai‘i’s beaches and nearshore waters are highly regulated. You will probably need a permit if you plan to host an experience with ocean activity. We recommend that you contact the relevant government department or division to discuss your planned experience. Specifically, we recommend that you follow these steps to determine where and how to get a permit for your ocean activity:
Step 1: Choose your location. Start by figuring out which beach park you will be using or from which harbor you will be departing. Once you have found the right location, figure out which department or division manages the beach park or harbor.
Step 2: Obtain a permit from the department or division that manages your chosen beach park or harbor. Most departments and divisions require that you visit the department or division’s office to apply for a permit. Requirements vary by permit.
Step 3: In addition to your permit in Step 2, if you are operating a commercial vessel, watercraft and/or watersport equipment, you must obtain a commercial use permit from the Hawai‘i State Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (“DOBOR”).
Step 1: I have chosen the beach park or harbor where I want to host my activity. With whom do I need to talk regarding that beach park or harbor?
Hawai‘i’s beach parks and harbors are managed by the State of Hawai‘i or one of the State’s four counties: Honolulu, Hawai‘i, Kaua‘i and Maui. A few harbors and beach parks are privately owned. If you plan to host an activity from one of the privately owned beach parks or harbors, we encourage you to visit the website for that particular beach park or harbor to see if permits are necessary.
You will need to contact the Department of Land and Natural Resources if you plan on hosting your activity from any of the following State beach parks:
- Honolulu: Ahupua‘a ‘O Kahana State Park, Ka‘ena Point State Park, Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline, Malaekahana State Recreation Area or Sand Island State Recreation Area;
- Hawai‘i: Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area, Kekaha Kai State Park or Kiholo State Park Reserve;
- Kaua‘i: Ha‘ena State Park, Napali Coast State Wilderness Park or Polihale State Park; and
- Maui: Makena State Park or Wai‘anapanapa State Park.
There are more than 50 beach parks managed by the City and County of Honolulu. If you are hosting from a City and County of Honolulu beach park, you must obtain a permit from the City and County of Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation (“DPR”). The following is a non-exclusive list of some of the popular beach parks in Honolulu:
- Barbers Point, Bellows Field, Diamond Head, ‘Ehukai, Haleiwa, Hau‘ula, Kane‘ohe, Kailua, La‘ie, Makapu‘u, Punalu‘u, Pupukea and Sunset.
You will need to contact the County of Hawai‘i Department of Parks and Recreation if you plan on hosting your activity from any of the County of Hawai‘i beach parks. Visit the Hawai‘i County’s website for a full listing.
There are approximately 20 beach parks managed by the County of Kaua‘i. You will need to contact the Kaua‘i County Department of Parks and Recreation if you plan on hosting your activity from any of the Kaua‘i County beach parks. Visit the Kaua‘i County’s website for a full listing.
You will need to contact the Maui County Department of Parks and Recreation if you plan on hosting your activity from any of the Maui County beach parks. Visit the Maui County website for a full listing. Maui County also manages the county beach parks of the islands of Moloka‘i and Lāna’i.
You will need to contact DOBOR if you plan to depart from any of the following small boat harbors:
- O‘ahu: Ala Wai Harbor, Hale‘iwa Harbor, He‘eia Kea Harbor, Kahana Bay Launch Ramp Facility, Kane‘ohe Bay, Ke‘ehi Harbor, Maunalua Bay Launch Ramp Facility, Pokai Bay, Sand Island Launch Ramp Facility, Wai‘anae Harbor or Waikiki Beach Waters;
- Hawai‘i: Honokohau Boat Harbor, Kailua-Kona Wharf, Kaulana Ramp, Kauhako Ramp, Kawaihae Harbor, Keauhou Boat Harbor, Miloli‘i Landing, Pohoiki Ramp, Puako Ramp, Reed’s Bay or Wailoa Sampan Basin and Boat Harbor;
- Kaua‘i: Anini Ramp, Hanalei Bay and Pier, Kaumuali‘i Ramp, Kikiaola Harbor, Kukui‘ula Harbor, Waika‘ea Canal, Wailua Ramp, Nawiliwili Harbor or Port Allen Harbor;
- Maui: Hana Wharf and Ramp, Ka‘anapali, Kahului Ramp, Ke‘anae Ramp, Kihei Ramp, Lahaina Roadstead, Lahaina Harbor, Ma‘alaea Harbor, Mala Wharf and Ramp or Maliko Ramp;
- Moloka‘i: Hale O Lono Harbor or Kaunakakai Harbor; and
- Lāna‘i: Manele Harbor.
You will need to contact the Department of Transportation Harbors Division (“DOT-H”) if you plan to depart from any of the following harbors:
- O‘ahu: Honolulu Harbor or Kalaeloa Barbers Point Harbor;
- Hawai‘i: Hilo Harbor or Kawaihae Harbor;
- Kaua‘i: Nawiliwili Harbor or Port Allen Harbor;
- Maui: Kahului Harbor or Hana Harbor;
- Moloka‘i: Kaunakakai Harbor; and
- Lāna‘i: Kaumalapau Harbor
The foregoing harbors are primarily used by large commercial shipping enterprises.
Step 2: How do I get a permit? What is required to obtain a permit?
If you are hosting from a beach park managed by the State and your ocean activity involves the shoreline:
If you are hosting from a beach park that is managed by the State and your ocean activity involves the “shoreline” or the rocky coast, you must obtain a Wiki Permit. In order to obtain a Wiki Permit, you must fill out the application, submit a Certificate of Insurance naming the State as an additional insured, and pay a permit fee. For more information, visit the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Land Division’s website or call (808) 587-0449.
If you are hosting from a City and County of Honolulu beach park:
If you are hosting from a City and County of Honolulu beach park, you must obtain a permit from DPR for the following activities:
- Swimming lessons;
- Surfing ; and
- Stand-up paddle boarding.
Visit DPR’s website for a full listing of activities that require a DPR permit.
DPR issues annual, monthly and daily permits. There is a limit of one permit for each day of operation. You may only take out a maximum of ten (10) people in your group. A Certificate of Insurance is also required naming the City and County of Honolulu and the State as additional insureds.
There is no online application. Instead, you must visit the DPR office located at 1000 Uluohia Street Suite 309, Kapolei, Hawai‘i 96707. Contact DPR at (808) 768-3003 for further information.
If you are hosting from a Hawai‘i County beach park:
If you are hosting from a Hawai‘i County beach park, you may need to obtain a special use permit from the County of Hawai‘i Department of Parks and Recreation. There is no online application available, and there is no listing of beach parks that are accessible for ocean activities. Instead, you must visit the Aupuni Center located at 101 Pauahi Street Suite 6, Hilo, Hawai‘i 96720 to fill out a special request form. The special request will be reviewed by the Department and a permit will be issued if approved. Contact the Aupuni Center at (808) 961-8311 for further information.
If you are hosting from a County of Kaua‘i beach park:
As of the date of this article, the County of Kaua‘i is not issuing permits for ocean activities from its beach parks.
You may not need a permit if you do not charge for the activity. This means that you cannot charge for the activity directly or by adding the cost of the activity to your experience fee. Nor should you accept donations or tips for the activity. You also cannot provide any instruction or lesson relating to the ocean activity.
We recommend contacting the County of Kaua‘i Department of Parks & Recreation at (808) 241-4460 for further information.
If you are hosting from a Maui County beach park:
If you are hosting from a beach park managed by Maui County, you must obtain a Commercial Ocean Recreation Activity (“CORA”) Permit from the Permits and Enforcement section of the Maui County Department of Parks and Recreation. A CORA permit is required for each activity to be conducted at each permitted beach park. A limited number of CORA permits are issued each year, and insurance is required. There is no online application. Instead, you must visit one of the Department’s offices.
Alternatively, you may apply for a special events permit if your ocean activity is a one-time activity or is very infrequent. Visit the Maui County’s website or contact the Department at (808) 270-7230 for more information.
If you are departing from a small boat harbor managed by DOBOR:
If you are departing from a small boat harbor that is managed by DOBOR, you will need to obtain a permit from the relevant small boat harbor. Fees and charges differ at each facility. Find your DOBOR small boat harbor here and contact the harbor to inquire about the permit process.
If you are departing from a harbor managed by the DOT-H:
If you are departing from a harbor managed by the DOT-H, you must obtain a use permit. A use permit is valid for one year and may be renewed within a ninety-day period preceding its expiration date. You will need to contact DOT-H for more information regarding the permit application process at (808) 587-1928.
Please note that it is unlikely that you will be departing from a DOT-H harbor. These harbors are primarily used by large commercial shipping enterprises.
If you are departing from a private harbor, facility or land:
If you are departing from a private harbor, facility or land, you may be required to obtain a permit or other approval from the landowner.
Step 3: I have my permit from Step 2, but my ocean activity involves the operation of a commercial vessel, watercraft and/or watersport equipment. Do I need another permit?
If you are operating a commercial vessel, watercraft and/or watersport equipment, you must obtain a commercial use permit from DOBOR. You will need to visit a DOBOR district office with a completed commercial use questionnaire and the following documents:
- State General Excise License;
- Commercial Insurance policy naming the State as an additional insured and containing sufficient coverage limits;
- Certificate of Compliance from Hawai‘i Compliance Express OR a copy of each of the following:
- Certificate of Compliance for the Hawai‘i Department of Labor;
- Tax Clearance from the Hawai‘i Department of Taxation (State Department of Taxation Form A-6);
- Certificate of Good Standing from the Hawai‘i Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs;
- Articles of incorporation or operating agreement, if applicable;
- Motor Carrier Certificate or Permit for Transportation Passengers (Form 92-001), if applicable;
- Certificate of Documentation or Certificate of Inspection for any vessels used in your commercial operation, if applicable; and
- Any relevant permits, letters or permissions allowing you to access ocean waters from the shoreline, if applicable.
A listing of DOBOR offices can be found here. The cost for a new permit is $200.00 per month or 3% of your gross receipts, whichever is greater, due and payable by the first day of each month. An issued commercial use permit is valid for one year.
An important reminder: Do not forget to obtain your permit in Step 2 from the relevant department, division or private landowner that manages or owns your chosen beach park or harbor. Issuance of a DOBOR commercial use permit does not grant you transit rights to access the shoreline or conduct commercial activities on the shore.
In addition to the DOBOR commercial use permit, if you are operating a vessel propelled by a motor greater than 10 horsepower (even vessels propelled primarily by wind/sail that are equipped with an auxiliary engine) or a thrill craft (jet ski or personal watercraft), you must take a boating safety course and show proof of certification. Acceptable courses must be National Association of Boating Law Administrators (“NASBLA”) and State approved. There are also compliant internet courses available which includes the following:
- ACEBOATER.com (Customer Service/Support – 800-607-2329)
- Boat-ed.com (Customer Service/Support – 800-830-2268)
- BOATERexam.com (Customer Service/Support – 866-764-2628)
- BoatUS.org (free) (Customer Service/Support – 800-245-2628)
You do not need to take a boating safety course if you are operating a thrill craft in a commercial thrill craft zone as authorized by the State or are operating a vessel powered by a motor rated at 10 horsepower or less.
For activities involving snorkeling, spearfishing or freediving, a red flag with a diagonal white stripe running from the upper left corner to the lower right corner must be displayed when an underwater swimmer or diver is in the immediate area.
Visit DOBOR’s website for further information regarding the permit process. You may also contact DOBOR with additional questions at (808) 587-1970.
The following guidelines for viewing monk seals, dolphins, sea turtles and whales in Hawaii have been provided by NOAA and the State of Hawaiʻi’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. Please remember, the pursuit and feeding of marine mammals is prohibited by Federal law.
- Remain at least 100 yards from humpback whales (law regulation) and at least 50 yards (best-practice guidance) from other marine mammals. Do not swim with wild spinner dolphins.
- Observe sea turtles from a distance. Remain 6 to 10 feet away (best-practice guidance) from sea turtles on the beach or in the water.
- Do not attempt to push a sleeping (basking) sea turtle on the beach into the water. Basking is normal behavior in Hawaiʻi and sea turtles should be allowed to rest undisturbed.
- Do not attempt to touch, ride or feed monk seals, dolphins, sea turtles and whales.
- Marine mammals and sea turtles should not be encircled or trapped between boats or shore.
- If approached by a marine mammal or sea turtle while on a boat, put the engine in neutral and allow the animal to pass.
- Limit your time observing an animal to 1/2 hour.
- Use binoculars and zoom lens to assure a good view from the recommended viewing distances.
The State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources and the National Marine Fisheries Service recommend observing wildlife from a distance and under no circumstances touching, riding, or feeding sea turtles or marine mammals. You can find a complete list of guidelines here. Any violation of these guidelines is punishable by state and federal laws.
Hawaii is a unique place and we should all do our part to preserve its unique ecosystems. By following the federal guidelines included above and the State’s recommended guidelines that you can access here, and reminding your guests to do the same, we can ensure that future generations have a chance to enjoy Hawaii’s native species and natural habitats.
*Airbnb is not responsible for the reliability or correctness of the information contained in any links to third party sites (including any links to legislation and regulations).