Can You Drink on the Beach in Hawaii?


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Hawaii is a land of abundant sunshine, miles of silver sand, and unlimited parties. It is easy to believe that alcohol flows freely here, and people booze into the wee hours. However, the drinking laws are strict here, and as a visitor, you must learn about them before hitting the beach.

According to Hawaiian law, it is illegal to drink alcohol or possess an open container of liquor on any public beach. However, a person can consume on a private beach or a beachfront business property with the owner’s permission. Violation of this law can attract fines and jail sentences. 

There are more places to explore in Hawaii than beaches. So, in this article, I will explain the drinking laws as they apply to public spaces, including beaches. I will also explain the state’s underage drinking laws and open container rules and list the exceptions to these regulations. 

Is Drinking in Public Legal in Hawaii?

Drinking in public is illegal in Hawaii. The Hawaiian State Department of Health specifies that drinking alcohol is banned on public beaches, streets, sidewalks, public parks, public playgrounds, public school grounds, and public off-street parking lots.

Drinking alcohol in a motor vehicle parked on a public street in Hawaii is also illegal. This rule applies to the driver and passengers of the car. 

The drinking laws in Hawaii apply to liquor, including alcohol, whiskey, rum, brandy, gin, sake, beer, ale, okolehao, porter, and wine. 

It is illegal to drink and drive in Hawaii. 

Drivers in Hawaii can be arrested for drinking and driving as per the driving under the influence (DUI) law. Here are the salient points of the law:

  • Drivers are considered “per se intoxicated” and can be arrested for driving under the influence if their blood-alcohol content (BAC) percentage is more than 0.08.
  • Drivers with a BAC percentage of 0.15 or above attract stricter DUI penalties. 
  • Drivers under 21 years will be penalized under the DUI law if their BAC percentage is 0.02 or more.
  • Drivers who refuse to take the chemical test will incur stricter DUI penalties.

Can You Have an Open Container of Alcohol in Hawaii?

You cannot possess or store an open container of alcohol in your vehicle parked on a public street in Hawaii or in public spaces, such as beaches, roads, and parks. You can be fined $200-$300 if found with an open container in a public space, while a driver can be fined more than $1,000.

A container is considered open if its seal is broken or some of its contents are missing. In other words, an open container does not exist in the state or packaging it was originally delivered in by the manufacturer or the wholesale dealer.  

Hawaii has some of the strictest open container laws for vehicles in the United States. Here’s what you need to know about the rules:

  • The laws apply to both the driver and the passengers of the vehicle.
  • The laws apply to open containers of alcohol stored in any part of the vehicle that passengers can access, such as the console compartment and the glove box.
  • The laws do not apply to alcohol stored in the trunk of the vehicle.
  • A driver can be fined up to $2,000 and sentenced to up to 30 days in jail if found with an open container.
  • A passenger in a vehicle where an open container was found can be fined up to $1,000 and sentenced to up to 30 days in prison.
  • The open container laws do not apply to passengers possessing, storing, or drinking alcohol in registered “for-hire” vehicles, such as limousines and party buses. 
  • The open container laws do not apply to RVs, but drinking alcohol is still prohibited in any vehicle, including an RV. 

How Strict Is the Drinking Age in Hawaii?

The legal drinking age is strictly 21, according to Hawaii’s minor in possession (MIP) laws. However, you can sell, serve, or possess alcohol as part of your job if you are more than 18 years old and work in a licensed establishment where you are supervised by an adult. 

It is also illegal for minors in Hawaii to buy alcohol using an unofficial age identification card with a false birth date or while impersonating another and using their ID. Minors cannot seek employment for serving or selling alcohol in licensed outlets using a fake ID.  

However, there are exceptions to the MIP law:

  • Those who are at least 18 years of age are allowed to sell or serve alcohol in licensed outlets, provided the supervisor is at least 21 years of age. 
  • Minors employed in the restaurant or food and beverage industry and required to deliver liquor as part of their routine job responsibilities can possess alcohol. 
  • Minors can possess or drink alcohol while taking part in an authorized religious ceremony, such as when drinking wine during a church service.
  • Minors between 18 and 20 years can buy alcohol if they are taking part in a law enforcement activity, such as a sting operation. 
  • Minors between 18 and 20 years can buy alcohol in controlled amounts if they are the subjects in an authorized study conducted by the Department of Health.

Where To Buy Alcohol in Hawaii

You can buy wine, beer, and spirits in private retail outlets and grocery and convenience stores. They are available for purchase usually until 11 p.m.

Bars and restaurants do not serve alcohol after 2 a.m. However, some establishments with a “cabaret license” are allowed to serve alcohol until 4 a.m

If you’re looking for a good place to eat in Maui or Waikiki, you can also check out my articles on the best restaurants in Maui and Waikiki for Hawaiian food and drinks (coming soon!).

Conclusion 

Knowing about the alcohol laws of a place you visit is as important as learning about the customs and social etiquette. You don’t want to offend the sensibilities of the locals. You also don’t want to land on the wrong side of the law.

Given Hawaii’s image as a place to frolic and have fun, most people believe that the drinking laws are lenient here. However, the state has put in place strict drinking laws for public spaces like beaches to maintain a uniform code of conduct and keep visitors and locals safe.

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