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How Long is a Boat Ride From California to Hawaii?

Written by J. Harvey / Fact checked by S. Numbers

how long is a boat ride from california to hawaii

The answer to “How long is a boat ride from California to Hawaii?” depends on the vessel’s speed, size, and route. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t arrive at precise numbers.

For instance, back in 2009 and 1997, respectively, the Alfa Romeo II and Bruno Peyron finished the trip in just a little over 5 days. Both took part in races when they set those records.

If we’re talking about more casual boat rides, the maximum range would be 21 to 24 days. Faster sailboats can match the racing boats above or reach the destination in exactly 6 days or even shorter.

How Long It Takes to Reach Hawaii From California by Boat

Take note that the distance between these two states is around 2400 miles or exactly 2148 nautical miles.

Traveling from Cali to Hawaii by boat can take days or weeks because there are numerous types of watercraft you can use for the voyage. There are different possible routes as well, which may shorten or lengthen the number of days.

We also need to account for weather conditions, the captain’s navigation skills, and sailing speed. Add to that the other factors said above, and you pretty much end up with just a range at most.

Here’s a list of routes along with the number of days.

1. Great Circle or Direct Route

Most boats can finish the trip in roughly 5 to 10 days or a week, in short. However, these often take the direct-sail route that involves capitalizing on the trade winds or the Great Circle route.

The headwinds in the said route can be a double-edged sword in that they’ll shorten the journey. However, you have to know how to tame them, so to speak, and your boat has to be able to handle them.

In fact, these winds can be quite ferocious at times to the point that boaters are sometimes dissuaded from making the return journey! That being said, you should definitely anticipate making a one-way boat journey, depending on the season in which you set sail.

Obviously, this route is reserved for only the most experienced boaters and isn’t really recommended for most.

2. Southern Route


This is the safer route and is considered the primary one by many. You can start from any of the coastal cities, but you’ll be heading south in the direction of Mexico, following the coastline.

How far south you need to sail depends on the season you start. Assuming it’s the best time (i.e. summer), you’ll need to head southerly for 35°N at the minimum.

You’ll then turn west and start sailing toward the Hawaiian Islands from there. The whole point of this “diversion” is to avoid coastal waters and offsetting winds prevalent in the North Pacific High – in short, it uncomplicates your journey, even if it’s the longer, slower route.

If you look at the map of Hawaii and California, it doesn’t really take long to see why the Southern Route is the most logical one.

Going from California to Hawaii by boat time via this route can take three weeks or up to 24 days, but once you pick up those trade winds, expect it to be shorter.

3. Transpacific Yacht Race


If you want to add more thrill to your journey, then you can consider taking part in the biennial Transpacific Yacht Race. It starts from San Pedro, California to the Diamond Head in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The fastest time sailing from California to Hawaii was set there by the Mighty Merloe. It only took the crew 4 days to complete the journey.

The race involves a lot of trade-wind sailing, though, so you’d better have the skills and significant sailing time under your belt before you consider taking part in it.

What is the Best Time to Sail to Hawaii?

If you ever want to sail to Hawaii from California, look no further than the sailing schedules of the Transpacific Yacht Race. You’ll see that they begin their races in late June, when summer is still just starting in the US.

It’s considered the best because it’s the safest time. You won’t encounter the usual hurdles when it comes to the weather, so the waters tend to be at their calmest for the whole trip.

That only means smooth-sailing navigation in general.

How Long Does It Take?

Your entire boat trip may take a week or 3 weeks tops. Sometimes, you can get to the islands at a considerably faster time if you have a highly experienced skipper, crew, and a sailboat that’s at least a 30-footer.

Should you decide to travel via other means and sea vessels, head to the ‘Alternative Options’ section below.

Factors That Affect Travel Time

For better reference, I’ve compiled a list of every factor that may affect travel time:

  • Vessel’s size and type – Even a slight difference in size can make a difference. Shorter boats travel slower.
  • Navigational and sailing skills of the captain – More experience means fewer hitches.
  • The route you decided to take – The routes outlined above are categorized as slow or fast, and their respective travel times readily reveal this.
  • Weather – The season dictates whether you’ll encounter friendly waves and wind or not.
  • Sailing speed – Without getting too technical, I’ll just say that most types of boats have different hull speeds, engine power, and weigh All of these determine the overall sailing speed besides factors you can’t control, such as current and visibility conditions.
  • Don’t overlook any stops you may have to make and possible maintenance you may need to perform on your boat should other issues arise.

Some Risks of Sailing From California to Hawaii


The general consensus among most sailors is that it’s relatively dangerous to sail from California to Hawaii. Even old salts plan their voyages carefully and put together the ablest crew possible.

Here are some of the major risks you’ll have to be mindful of:

  • Unpredictable weather that you may encounter while traversing near the North Pacific Ocean.
  • If you’ll allow me to categorize it as a “risk”, the cost to take a boat from California to Hawaii should also be considered. In cases where you decide to pay for a cruise ticket, expect to spend $1,000 at the minimum.
  • The possibility of suffering from seasickness and other sailing-related maladies.
  • Not every crew and captain is perfect. You can’t cross out making errors while making decisions not only limited to navigation but in everyday sailing life as well.

Alternative Options (Cruise Ship, Sailboat, Kayaks,…)


  • Cruise ships often take the direct route, and at most, they only stay at sea for 9 to 10 days. If you’re not really confident with your sailing skills or just want to experience a boat ride, then you should consider going by ship.
  • A container ship can make transit within just 4 to 5 days, taking the direct route.
  • Only two people completed the trip with a kayak thus far. It took Mr. Cyril Derreumax over 90 days to achieve this feat.
  • Performance-oriented sailboats can achieve the same sailing speeds as racing yachts, so expect their window to be between 7 to 14 days.

If you want some inspiration, I recommend watching this video by Sam Holmes. It took him 27 days to finish the transit, and he rode a 23-foot sailboat, which is way below the ideal size.

How Long is a Boat Ride From Other States to Hawaii?

State of Departure Sailing Time
Oregon 18 days
Washington (Seattle) 28 – 35 days
Washington (Vancouver) 9 – 13 days


Are you still excited to begin your trip now that you know the answer to “How long is a boat ride from California to Hawaii?” Can you handle three weeks at sea?

If you’re too daunted to start sailing, that’s completely understandable. It goes without saying that taking on this challenge is quite an achievement for many sailors.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to expert sailors for advice or ask them about what other things to expect.

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