Top 10 Legal Exotic Animals in Hawaii

Hawaii is one of the most strict states in the nation when it comes to what animals are allowed on the islands and even where pets are allowed to be on the islands. For example, for dogs, there are little to almost no options for off-leash play and exercise.

Moreover, only half of Honolulu's city parks allow dogs in the park, and only 25% of Hawaii's state parks allow dogs in the park. Of those that do allow dogs, all require dogs to be kept on a short leash. On the beaches that do allow dogs, they have to be kept on a leash. 

The rules for animals being allowed on the islands are even more strict. While these rules may seem tedious, they are not without reason. Hawaii is a state with a delicate and diverse ecosystem. Introducing new pets and animals can have extremely adverse effects on the ecosystem.

Hawaii is the only state in the nation that has completely eradicated rabies. Not even bats living in Hawaii have rabies! To protect the animals already in Hawaii, the state issues strict protocols in place that require pets to be fully vaccinated against the disease. More than this, the list of prohibited exotic animals in Hawaii is far longer than the list of animals that are allowed. For example, Hawaii does not even allow ferrets or hermit crabs! However, there are still quite a few exotic animals that are legal to have in Hawaii so long as various conditions and criteria are met. 


One: Peafowl

Peafowl are an especially unique exotic animal that are legal to be kept in Hawaii. However, they do require a plant quarantine Import Permit and Poultry and Bird Import Permit. Peafowl are more commonly known as peacocks, but that is the term used to specifically describe male peafowl with their beautiful plumage. Female peafowl are instead referred to as peahens. Peacocks require quite a bit of room and do best in an outdoor habitat that is at least 80 square feet per bird. However, those with more land in more rural areas find that their peafowl do just fine roaming as they don't typically stray too far.

It's important to remember that peafowl are loud creatures and will make quite a bit of noise that neighbors may not be so appreciative of. Especially during mating seasons, males tend to make loud, high-pitched, screeching noises. Peafowl are tropical birds, so they thrive in warmer climates like Hawaii.

Peacocks do require specialized care since they are an exotic animal, but most large animal or farm veterinarians know enough to provide basic care for them. These vets can help prevent and treat various ailments like lice, chiggers, and worms, as well as prevent and treat avian diseases like bird pox. Though they are not small animals by any means, many predators do go after peafowl. Peafowls' best line of defense is to move to higher ground and perch where the predator cannot reach them, so it will be important to provide plenty of high roosting places for your birds. 

Two: Rabbits

Because of the risk of rabbit hemorrhagic disease type 2 (RHDV2), rabbits are required to be examined by a veterinarian within 72 hours of entering Hawaii and must also be inspected by a livestock inspector and then quarantined for thirty days. Rabbits make surprisingly wonderful pets, and though they are considered exotic in terms of veterinary medicine, they are more common as pets than you might think.

Rabbits do have special care requirements that must be considered before adopting one as a pet. Although pet stores would make us think they are quite simple to care for, this is simply not the case. The average bunny cage sold in pet stores is far too small for any rabbit. They need room to run, jump, and play. With proper training, most do amazingly well as free-roam pets, just like cats and dogs. They can be easily litter box trained. You can even teach them to come when called and to perform various other tricks!

They are highly social animals and need constant companionship. They often do best in either same-sex or male and female bonded pairs once they have been spayed and neutered. Some do just fine on their own, but they will require a great deal of attention from their human family. 

There are various breeds of rabbits to choose from, all with different sizes, traits, characteristics, and personalities. One of the smallest pet rabbit breeds is the Netherland Dwarf rabbit, which only weighs between 1 and 3.5 pounds! The largest rabbit breed is the Flemish Giant rabbit which can weigh up to 20 pounds! Do not forget to rabbit-proof your home, though, as no matter the size of the rabbit, they can always manage to get themselves into quite a bit of trouble. You will want to provide plenty of chewing and digging opportunities, so they don't try to tear up your carpet or chew on your baseboards or electric cords! 

Three: Tree frogs


A tree frog is another type of exotic animal that can be kept as a pet in Hawaii. However, tree frogs require specialized care and aren't recommended for people who want a pet that can be frequently handled. Tree frogs have sensitive skin that does not do well with excessive handling. They also are independent creatures and do not care all that much for human attention. Many have been known to jump from their owner's hands, no matter the height, so great care must be taken whenever handling one.

That being said, however, tree frogs can make wonderful additions to homes, especially when they are provided with a naturalistic vivarium, so it can look like you have a little bit of the rainforest right in your living room. Many people enjoy adding live plants to their tree frog's vivarium to try to mimic as closely as possible their natural environment in the wild. A couple of examples of plants that can be used include philodendrons, bromeliads, peperomia, ferns, and even orchids. Tree frogs are arboreal, meaning they love to climb high, so a tall vivarium with climbing plants will be important. Other, more sturdy climbing equipment will also be necessary, like pieces of bark and wood. However, do not use just any piece of bark or wood, as they can contain harmful pesticides. Instead, buy from a reptile shop that has properly sanitized the climbing equipment.

There are many different breeds of tree frogs. One of the most commonly known breeds is the red-eyed tree frog. Other common breeds include the American green tree frog, the canyon tree frog, and the Pacific tree frog. 

Four: Turtles

Most turtles are legal to be kept as pets in Hawaii. A few popular ones are the various kinds of box turtles, Mississippi map turtles, and painted turtles. It's important to keep in mind that, like many exotic pets, turtles do not make good pets for young children. Most do not enjoy frequent handling, and there is also the risk of salmonella bacteria being transferred from the turtle to children if they don't have good hygiene practices, like washing hands thoroughly before and after touching the turtle.

With that being said, some turtles are more friendly than others, like the red-eared slider or western-painted turtle, which tend to be more active and more sociable. Most turtles require a tank that is at least forty gallons and allows room for both swimming and basking under a heat lamp.

Turtles can eat a wide variety of foods, and while most pet stores supply daily turtle feed, turtles also enjoy various fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as snails, worms, slugs, and crickets.

Similar to a fish tank, a turtle tank requires quite a bit of upkeep. It will be important to frequently clean out the tank and water filter and do routine water changes. No one likes swimming in their own mess! Despite the work involved with owning a turtle, they can be surprisingly rewarding pets to keep. Many owners report that their turtles recognize them and swim up to the sides of the tank to greet them! (Probably because they want to get treats!) 

Five: Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are incredibly fun little animals that can make great pets in Hawaii for dedicated pet owners. Guinea pigs are believed to have been domesticated around the year 5,000 BC in South America. In fact, the Moche people of Peru used to worship guinea pigs!

Today, there are more than ten popular breeds of guinea pigs, but many others exist, too. These different types of guinea pigs come in all sorts of colors, hair patterns, and hair textures. One of the most popular is the Abyssinian guinea pig, a short-haired piggie with between 8-10 distinct cowlicks, sometimes called rosettes. There are also long-haired guinea pigs like the Sheba with rosettes, as well as guinea pigs with short straight hair, guinea pigs with curly hair, and hairless guinea pigs. Guinea pigs can make great pets for most people and families so long as a responsible adult supervises any handling by young children and is in charge of the guinea pig's care. Guinea pigs are highly social creatures and usually do best in pairs.

Some enjoy being held and pet, while others are more interested in what kind of treats you have to offer. Guinea pigs eat a wide range of foods, including hay, fresh fruits, and vegetables. They especially like dark leafy greens like collard greens, kale, and even dandelions. It is also important to mention that guinea pigs, much like rabbits, require much more room in their habitats than pet stores would have us believe. They are incredibly active creatures who love to run, jump and play. 

Six: Chinchilla

Chinchillas are an exotic animal that is legal to own in Hawaii. They can often be an excellent pet for adults and older children. They have incredibly dense fur that is so soft to the touch! Chinchillas are highly sociable animals and are best kept in pairs. In the wild, they are known to live in communities of over a hundred chinchillas! Chinchillas are a big commitment as they can easily live for as long as ten to even twenty years.

They also will require an unlimited amount of hay. Their teeth never stop growing, so they need plenty of hay to chew on to keep their teeth from becoming too long. Chinchillas are also nocturnal animals, so they primarily are most active at night time and tend to rest and sleep during the day. It is also imperative to know that while they are busy playing at night, they may not be quiet! They actually are quite vocal animals when they feel safe and are known to make all sorts of noises. These noises can include hiccup-like noises, chirps, squeals, and even bark-like noises.

Like rabbits and guinea pigs, chinchillas need plenty of room in their habitats. Unlike rabbits and guinea pigs, chinchilla habitats should have plenty of vertical space with lots of platforms as they love to jump up. In fact, some owners have reported that their chinchillas can jump as high as six feet. Some have even jumped on top of the fridge!

Chinchillas also require plenty of toys, plenty of spaces to hide, and a dust bath every day. Because their fur is so dense, chinchillas cannot bathe themselves with water, and they would become water-logged and likely become hypothermic. Instead, they roll around in what is often called chinchilla dust to help clear out debris, dirt, and excess oils from their skin. 


Seven: Mice

Mice are probably one of the easier to own and care for animals on this list. However, like chinchillas, mice are nocturnal and most active at night, so you will likely mostly see them tucked in and sleeping during the day. Mice are also highly sociable animals and do best kept in pairs. The easiest pairing is two females, but male littermates can sometimes be kept together so long as their habitat has plenty of room for them to get some space away from each other.

Mice are incredibly intelligent creatures and will need plenty of room to explore as well as lots of toys to keep them entertained and their brains stimulated. They will also need an exercise wheel. Mice aren't quite as big of a commitment as some of the other long-lived pets on this list. On average, their lifespan is about three years. Mice usually make great pets for adults or older children who are able to interact calmly and handle the animal gently. Mice can be squirmy if they aren't used to being handled, so it may take some time and patience to encourage them to want to be held.

Mice also make great pets because they are relatively easy to care for. They require fresh food and water daily and weekly or biweekly cleaning of their habitats. Some mice can be quite messy, though, so it may be necessary to scoop out droppings every couple of days to keep the habitat from becoming too stinky. Other than that, they have very few demands! 

Eight: Rats


Rats are another member of the rodent family that can make surprisingly great pets! They are highly sociable and intelligent. Despite being small animals, they do require a fair amount of room to run around and play. They also need lots of toys that can provide mental stimulation to keep them from getting too bored.

Toys should also include chew toys like various-sized wood blocks. Rats' teeth grow continuously, and they need things like wood to chew and gnaw on so they can keep their teeth filed down to an acceptable length.

Like mice, rats are quite easy to care for. Simply provide them with fresh food and water daily and clean out their habitats weekly or biweekly, depending on how messy they are. Rats are also highly sociable animals that do best when kept in same-sex pairs or groups. Rats are incredibly intelligent and can be trained to come when called and can even be trained to perform tricks. They'll do just about anything for a treat!

However, they are nocturnal animals, so they will mostly rest during the day and will tend to be much more active at night. Rats really like their food, too, so it will be important not to overfeed or let them eat too much because they are more prone to obesity than other rodents. Male rats are especially more at risk for obesity because they tend to be lazier and less active than female rats. Also, keep in mind that rats are escape artists! Their cage or habitat will need to be completely secure, so they can't escape and run around the house! 

Nine: Amazon Parrot

The Amazon parrot is one of several species of exotic birds that are allowed in Hawaii. They are a medium-sized, affectionate, and gentle bird that can make an especially good pet, especially for those new to the world of pet birds. There are various types of Amazon parrots, too, up to thirty, in fact! A few examples include the yellow-napped Amazon, the blue-fronted Amazon, the double yellow-headed amazon, and the orange-winged Amazon.

Though they are fun, outgoing, and affectionate birds, it is important to remember that they are a huge commitment. Amazons, on average, live for 40 to 50 years! Some have even been recorded as living as long as 80 years! Moreover, birds, as fun as they can be, can also develop behavioral problems and sometimes just become destructive for the fun of it. However, that being said, most agree that the Amazon parrot is one of the most easily trainable and intelligent parrots that exist.

Amazon parrots do require extensive specialty care from a veterinarian specializing in avian medicine. They also require large habitats and will take up much of your time as they love spending time with their owners. But if a constant companion is what you are looking for, an amazon parrot may just be perfect for you. 

Ten: Lovebirds


Lovebirds are another exotic animal that can make a great pet, even for those with very little bird-keeping experience. Though they can't speak or mimic words like Amazon parrots can, they are still incredibly sweet and affectionate little birds. There are various types of lovebirds, including the peach-faced lovebird, the black-cheeked lovebird, the Fischer's lovebird, and the Madagascar lovebird, just to name a few. 

They are still a big commitment, though, as they have an average lifespan of twenty-plus years. Lovebirds, as the name suggests, form extremely strong bonds with other lovebirds. They will need to be kept in a male and female pair. Lovebirds can live alone but will likely form an extremely strong bond with their owner and require almost constant attention.

One of the downsides to keeping lovebirds is that they can sometimes be quite loud. They often vocalize loudly in what is often called a scream when they are wanting to communicate with other birds. That being said, though, they do have a lovely singing voice and whistling voice that can make any screeching or screaming worth it! 

Final thoughts


For being one of the strictest states in the U.S., in terms of what animals are and are not allowed, there are still surprisingly quite a few unique and exotic animals that can make great pets for people living in Hawaii! However, all animals coming into the state need to be declared, and some may have special conditions and contingencies upon which they will only be admitted. It's also important to check with local jurisdictions like cities and townships to be sure they don't have any special requirements or rules in regards to animal ownership. So, if any of the exotic animals on this list have caught your attention, make sure you do your own research on what your state's requirements are since laws, rules, and regulations are constantly evolving and changing.