How Long Is a Boat Ride From California To Hawaii? | LakeWizard

Traveling to Hawaii is a dream for many, but how long is a boat ride from California to Hawaii? It depends on factors such as speed and stopping points.

Most people find it very difficult to get this essential information. There are many pieces of information out there, each with a different answer. Since you’re here, you haven’t found the answers you are looking for yet!

The distance from California to Hawaii is about 2,300 miles. The fastest sailboats can make this voyage in less than three days, but most pleasure boats take six to twenty-one days. The time depends on the type of boat and the weather conditions.

Ships traveling from California to Hawaii have a shorter distance to travel, but they must overcome the prevailing winds and currents. Ships traveling from Hawaii to California travel a greater distance, but they have the advantage of wind and current.

Sailing from California to Hawaii is popular with those who want to explore Hawaii's many islands but don't want to pay for airfare. It's also popular with people who have a lot of sailing experience and want to try a more challenging voyage. Let’s learn more about the journey.

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What Factors Affect Travel Time

The time it takes to travel time from Hawaii to California depends on several factors, including;

Route Taken

There are several routes you can take when sailing from California to Hawaii. The most popular is the Pacific route through Mexico, which can take anywhere from 11 to 16 days depending on weather conditions and how fast your boat moves.

Another option is going through San Francisco Bay, which takes about 13 days. The great circle route is typically used by cargo ships because it's 20 percent shorter than other routes due to its shape. It takes about ten days for cargo ships, but recreational boats might need up to 14 days due to their slower pace.

Weather Conditions

The weather is the most significant risk during a boat trip from California to Hawaii. Several weeks at sea can lead to severe sun exposure and dehydration. Even if you set sail in the winter months, it's still important to bring plenty of sunscreen and water. It's also good to get warm clothing if the weather turns cold.

Weather conditions can also affect your ability to steer a boat properly. If you're traveling during storm season, usually late spring and early summer, there's a chance that you could get caught in a storm while out at sea. The best way to avoid this problem is simply not to go during these months of the year.

In addition to storms, you may have trouble navigating around other boats or ships that get in your way throughout the journey.

Type of Boat

The type of boat has a lot to do with how fast it can travel. Some boats are designed for speed and others for stability. Boats with large keels (underwater fins that act like an airplane wing) can't turn as sharply as those with smaller keels or centerboards (a board that pivots up out of the hull).

However, boats with large keels have a higher average speed than those with small keels or none at all because they have less drag.


The fastest boats can make the trip in a few days, while slower boats typically take about two weeks for the same trip. The average cruise ship typically makes the trip in about four days.

The boat's speed depends on its size, type, and propulsion method. Catamarans can sail faster than monohulls. Motorboats are faster than boats that rely entirely on wind power for propulsion.

The following chart demonstrates how long it would take to travel this distance at different speeds.

What are Some of the Risks of Sailing From California to Hawaii?

Sailing from California to Hawaii is an adventure that many sailors crave. Here are some tips for making the crossing safely:


During the winter months, when most boats set sail for Hawaii, storms can develop suddenly and grow very large. They often come with winds exceeding 30 knots, waves rising as high as 15 feet or more, thunderstorms, and lightning. A storm can be frightening for the crew, especially if the boat is not prepared for such conditions.

Rogue Waves

According to the NOAA, rogue waves are "unusually long-period waves that occur far out at sea and can be extremely tall." They can be up to 100 feet high and remain undetected until they strike a ship. Rogue waves are generated when a group of four or more waves meets in such a way that their crests add together to create one giant wave.

While most rogue waves move at about 20 knots, some have been clocked at moving at speeds up to 50 knots. If your vessel gets caught in a rogue wave, it could cause it to capsize.


Another risk of sailing in the Pacific is sharks, which could see your vessel as a threat or a potential meal. Sharks are attracted by noise and movement in the water, so swimming in the ocean should be avoided at all times. In case you do capsize, it's important to have a shark repellent on hand as well as a life raft that can be deployed quickly.

Lack of Wind

One of the most common problems when sailing from California to Hawaii is the lack of wind. The typical trade wind pattern (northeast trades) doesn't usually get going until you're well west of Baja California; this means that you'll spend a lot of time motoring or motor-sailing from San Diego or San Francisco.

This isn't a big deal for boats with plenty of fuel capacity and an engine in good working order. However, it can be a disaster for boats that have little or no fuel onboard, not uncommon aboard small cruising boats.

Sea Sickness

The most common symptom is nausea, which can occur at any time during your trip - even if you're not sailing through rough waters. This can lead to dehydration and fatigue, which can be dangerous if you're in unfamiliar territory without medical attention nearby.

To avoid getting sick while traveling, always keep some water with you when traveling by sea as well as other essential items like sunscreen, bug repellent, and hand sanitizer especially if you're going somewhere remote.

What Alternative Boat Ride Options Do I Have?

There are a few ways to get to Hawaii from California.

  • Cruise ship: You can take a cruise from the West Coast to Hawaii and back, but it will be expensive, and you'll spend most of your time in your cabin rather than in Hawaii.
  • Sailboat: It's possible for anyone who owns or can borrow a sailboat to make the journey from the West Coast to Hawaii. However, it's not advisable unless you're an experienced sailor with considerable deep-water sailing experience and good navigation skills.
  • Commercial freighter: If you own a boat, or have access to one, another option is to sail on a commercial freighter sailing between California and Hawaii. The cost is less than that of a cruise, and the trip takes about two weeks.
  • Outrigger Canoes. Outrigger canoes are typically used in races and competitions. They are very fast, but also delicate and hard to maneuver. You can rent outrigger canoes or sign up for an outrigger canoe tour if one is available in your area.
  • Kayaks. Kayaks are the perfect alternative to boat rides if you want a more adventurous experience on the water. A kayak is stable, easy to control, and has plenty of space for one or two people.
  • Rowboats. Rowboats are perfect if you want to go fishing or do some sightseeing on the water without spending too much money. You can usually rent rowboats at lakes and other bodies of water with marinas nearby.
  • Paddleboards. Paddleboarding is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, especially on the West Coast. It's a good alternative to boat riding because it gives you a chance to get some exercise while enjoying the open water.

Preparing to Sail

There is no specific sailing route that you must take when sailing from California to Hawaii. However, there are some things to consider when mapping out your voyage.

First, there’s the weather. In the winter and spring months November through April, storms are much more likely to blow through the Pacific, especially in areas north of the equator. During these months, boats sailing from California to Hawaii will typically stay south of 25°N latitude until they get past 150°W longitude. This gets them south of most of the weather systems that hit Hawaii in winter and early spring.

In summer and fall, May through October, there are fewer storms, but boats still try to stay south of 25°N because it’s cooler. Temperatures can be nearly unbearable above 25°N on a sunny day. You'll spend more time in your cabin than on deck if you're not careful about using sun protection methods like shade covers for windows and UV-protective clothing.

Once you’re past 150°W longitude, you’re almost halfway between California and Hawaii, so it doesn’t matter as much whether you go north or south after that point, unless there’s a particular weather system.