Legal Age for Driving a Jet Ski in Hawaii

Whether you live in Hawaii or love vacationing there, it is important to know the rules of jet skiing. Who can drive and who can’t? All of your questions can be answered in this article.

You have to be at least 15 years old to operate a PWC, and complete two courses to get your boating license. One course is based on basic PWC use and the second is about towing operations.

Steps to Becoming a Young Operator

In order to get your Hawaiian boater education card, you will need to:

  1. If you are 15 years or older, you will need to take a boaters safety course. It will need to be approved by the state, or be taken through the NASBLA (National Association of State Boating Law Administrators). You can take the course online (around $30), in the classroom, or by home study.
  2. Once you have completed the course you will have to pass the exam by getting at least 80 percent. get a stamp of approval in order to operate a PWC.
  3. Once you send in your approved certification you can request a Boater Safety Education Card.

Getting a Boater Safety card is like getting a drivers license because you have to take a course and study the content of the state’s laws.

Each state has its own registration rules, regulations, prohibitions, requirements, and exemptions. It is important to remember this when traveling to another state because there will be regulations you will not be aware of.

As of 2005, Hawaii has made it a law for all PWC operators to be certified in the safe use of their PWC. Even if you did not need a license before, you will need one now.

Understanding Hawaii’s Boating Rules

Jet skis have gotten more popular over the years, especially in Hawaii. The more people out on the water the more dangerous it can be. Fun can be had on the water, but so can accidents. When operating a jet ski, you are responsible for the safety of yourself, anyone else on the jet ski, and all those who are on the water with you.

Here is a list of the boating rules in Hawaii:

  • Everyone on board the jet ski needs to be wearing a fitted USCG approved life jacket when in the water
  • The driver of the jet ski has to wear a lanyard that connects the safety switch to their wrist
  • Jet skis cannot be operated on the water between sunset and sunrise unless the watercraft has proper navigation lights
  • PWCs must be operated in a responsible manner:
  • watch out for skiers, divers, swimmers, boats, and other jet skis
  • Do not jump waves and keep a lot of distance between yourself and other vessels
  • Do not use alcohol before or during operation
  • Keep the “slow, no wake speed” rules within 300 feet of the shore
  • Do not drive any kind of watercraft within a marine life conservation district or marine natural area reserve
  • No going more than two miles from land
  • Follow direct routes when traveling to and from designated PWC operating areas
  • When in designated Ocean Recreation Management Areas (ORMAs) operate only in PWC designated areas
  • Do not operate within 500 feet of the shoreline or inside the seaward edge
  • Do not operate seaward beyond two miles from the nearest land off Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii
  • Do not operate around the islands of Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, or Niihau
  • Only land and/or pick up passengers at approved launch sites

Regulation Enforcement in Hawaii

You are required to carry a Boater Safety Education card at all times when on the water, no matter what age you are. If you fail to carry the card, you may be fined.

Boater Safety Certification Requirements for Residents of other States

If you are visiting Hawaii on a trip and are from another state there are a few things you need to do before you can operate your PWC.

If you are certified in your home state through the National Association of Boating Law Administrators and you complete some of the portions of the Hawaiian course you can operate a PWC in Hawaii.

You will need to complete the portions including local ocean safety principles and practices, the historical, cultural, and customary practices of Hawaii’s ocean users, and any rules or laws pertaining to protected species and PWC operation in the state.

This requirement of completing a portion of the Hawaiian safety course is something to remember when traveling because most other states only require you have a Boaters Safety Education card from your home state.

Although it is an extra step to take to get on the water, it is crucial to know the local ocean rules so you can have a fun time while doing things legally.

Requirements for Towing in Hawaii

When towing riders on a jet ski it is important to remember that the same laws apply. The driver must be at least 15 years old and should have fulfilled all legal requirements in order to drive. Adults being pulled behind a jet ski do not count as adults ON the jet ski.

When towing a person or multiple people on skis, tubes, etc. operators must follow all towing laws listed below:

  • All persons being towed need to wear a USCG-approved life jacket that fits
  • Any vessel towing a person on water skis, aquaplanes, or similar devices must have a ladder, step, or similar device that the person being towed can use to get back on the jet ski
  • The jet ski or vessel needs to have a competent observer (in addition to the driver) that is on board to observe the person/persons being towed OR the PWC or vessel needs to have a rearview mirror that lets the driver see the person/persons being towed up to a 75-foot line and their hand signals
  • No towing a person/persons on skis, tubes, etc. between sunset and sunrise
  • Any kind of vessel towing a person on water skis, aquaplanes, etc. must be operated in a careful manner and at a reasonable distance from other people or property
  • It is against the law to operate the PWC/vessel or manipulate the tow rope, water skis, or other devices such that the towed device or person collides with another person or object
  • When operating your jet ski in an Ocean Recreation Management Area, a jet ski towing a person on any device (other than a surfboard for tow-in surfing operations) must stay in the designated thrill craft riding zones


There are a few cases where a person will not need a Hawaiian Boater Safety Education card:

  • People who have a valid merchant mariner credential to operate a vessel issued by the United States Coast Guard
  • People who ride in a commercial thrill craft zone as authorized by the United States
  • If their PWCs HP is under 10
  • Received a safety briefing approved by the State and are operating a rented vessel

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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