Undoubtedly when you get back from Hawaii and arrive on the mainland you’ll have cravings for some of those juicy golden pineapples from Hawaii.
But can you bring pineapples from Hawaii over to the mainland? And if so, how can you do it?
In this article, I’ll show you how to bring pineapples over from Hawaii in a 100% legal way.
I’ll also answer a lot of common questions like how many pineapples can you bring and whether or not you can bring them as a carry-on or a checked item.
TSA rules on food
Let’s start off with a brief breakdown of the TSA rules on food being brought on airplanes.
When traveling back from Hawaii to the mainland you’ll have to go through the standard TSA procedures and the security screening is exactly the same it would be on the mainland.
TSA allows you to bring lots of different food items on a plane and normally bringing pineapples on a plane would not be an issue.
But when coming from Hawaii to the mainland you also will be subject to USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
They have increased restrictions on bringing items to the mainland including fresh fruits. That means that bringing pineapples back to the mainland is slightly more complicated.
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USDA’s pineapple rules
USDA prohibits you to bring in a lot of items into Hawaii but also prevents you from bringing them back to the mainland.
Items that are prohibited include most fresh fruits and vegetables and certain types of plants and flowers.
It’s not so much that they’re worried about you bringing a plant over to the mainland and then growing that fruit or vegetable.
Instead, they are worried about the pests that can live inside these plants.
Some of these pests can be difficult to detect and if they are brought back to the mainland they can cause serious damage to crops.
For example, Mediterranean fruit flies have appeared in California and obliterated crops in the past.
These type of infestations can end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars and so the stakes are pretty high especially for states that depend heavily on agriculture output like California.
Pineapples are definitely fruits and so a lot of people may be worried that you can’t bring pineapples back into the mainland.
But luckily, there is a USDA exception for pineapples.
Pineapples are on the list of common items allowed back into the mainland.
In fact, other items on this list include:
- Commercially canned processed foods which can include fruits and vegetables
- Fresh flowers, leis, and foliage, except any citrus or citrus-related flowers, leaves, or other plant parts, as well as jade vine or Mauna Loa
- Hinahina (Spanish moss)
- Irish or white potatoes
- Plants and cuttings
- Some States may require rooted plants to be certified by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture before they may be moved to the U.S. mainland.
Note: Your pineapples still need to be declared and pass inspection. It’s just that they are not banned.
Why is there an exception for pineapples?
You might be wondering why there is a special exception for pineapples?
There may be several reasons for this but one major reason is that, according to the USDA agent I spoke with, they are proven to not be a host of fruit flies.
Hawaii has major issues with different fruit flies including the: Mediterranean fruit fly, Oriental fruit fly, melon fly and Malaysian fruit fly.
But lucky for us none of those pose a major threat when it comes to hitching a ride inside a non-host pineapple.
How to bring pineapples from Hawaii to the mainland
Some people think that in order to bring a pineapple back to the mainland you have to purchase it from the airport. But this is not true.
You can purchase pineapples or acquire them from pretty much anywhere in Hawaii and bring them back to the mainland as long as they can pass inspection.
So if you end up buying a few from the Dole Plantation and want to take them back home that is perfectly fine. Or if you get them from an ABC store that’s also okay.
If you’re trying to spend efficiently you might want to look into purchasing pineapples from Costco since they are known for having some of the best deals for pineapples.
You can also have pineapples delivered to your hotel in Hawaii by certain services. Reportedly, you can even get them pre-certified and inspected although I’m not sure exactly how that works when you arrive at the airport.
If getting pineapples delivered to your hotel, you can usually request for them to deliver them on your last day so that they are fresh when you depart.
When buying your pineapple you just need to make sure that the pineapple is in good condition and avoid pineapples with marks of decay, holes, etc. Not only will they not be as good but they likely won’t pass inspection.
When bringing pineapples from Hawaii to the mainland you need to make sure that they are clean. Give them a close look and wash them free of any dirt or debris. And definitely make sure they don’t have insects on them.
This will allow them to pass through the inspection at the airport without any issues.
You also want to make it easy to access the pineapples.
Don’t have them taped up in a box or stored in a bag that is impossible to untie. Make it easy for yourself and for the inspectors to get access to the pineapples.
How many pineapples can you bring?
You’ll be happy to know that you can bring as many pineapples as you would like from Hawaii to the mainland. There are no stated limits on pineapples.
So essentially you can bring over as many as you can fit.
Pineapples usually weigh around 2 to 6 pounds, depending on the variety. So for every 2 to 3 pineapples you’re looking at about 10 pounds of weight. So keep that in mind when it comes to your baggage fees.
Carry-on or checked
You can bring pineapples in your carry-on or checked bag (or both), whichever is more convenient.
If you are putting them in your checked baggage you’ll need to get them inspected before you check your baggage.
If you are bringing them in your carry-on you will pass through a USDA screening station after you go through TSA security. In some cases, the USDA screening station might be adjacent to your gate.
Some airlines may allow you to bring a package of pineapples for free in checked luggage and because a (small) package of pineapples may count as a personal item/carry-on item they would also be “free” to carry on.
Usually, when relying on the free checked baggage perk you will have a limitation such as 10 pounds which will come out to two or three pineapples so you can’t bring all of your pineapples for free if you exceed that.
Shipping pineapples to the mainland
If you don’t want to mess around with airport inspections (which usually don’t take very long) you can also ship pineapples to the mainland from Hawaii.
You can accomplish this a lot of different ways.
For example, you can purchase pineapples from the Dole Plantation and have them shipped over. You can also use a provider like GoldBelly to order Maui Gold Pineapples.
It’s going to be pricey though. It may cost you $60 to have two pineapples delivered.
Usually, things become much more economical if you order a larger quantity of pineapples. For example, 8 pineapples may run you $90 with GoldBelly.
So try to pool your pineapple fans together when making these orders.
You can also bring other types of fruit to the mainland but you first need to make sure that they are treated at a USDA-approved facility and packed in sealed boxes that are properly marked and stamped.
If properly treated you can bring in: papaya, abiu, atemoya, banana, curry leaf, dragon fruit, longan, lychee, mangosteen, rambutan, starfruit, and sweet potato.
Based on my conversation with the USDA, it may not easy to find fruits that have been treated and are properly packaged and sealed. This tends to be something done in bulk so it might require a good amount of research for you to find someone who is doing this.
If you are successful just remember that once you purchase these items you cannot open the box until you arrive back at the mainland. Otherwise, the fruit is considered no longer sterile and you will not be able to bring it with you.
Pineapple lovers can rejoice because you can absolutely bring pineapple from Hawaii to the mainland.
You can get your pineapples from just about anywhere and you don’t have to worry about getting them sealed or stamped with any kind of certification.
However, you do need to make sure that they are clean and that after you declare them, they can pass the inspection which will take place at the airport.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.