Your First-Time Hawaii Drivers License Guide

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: June 5, 2021

Most first-time drivers in Hawaii must complete a drivers ed course to learn how to drive safely. This step is required by the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HI DOT) to obtain a driving permit or a drivers license. Fortunately, it’s not difficult going through one of these courses, and there are plenty available to choose from.

Steps to Getting Your Hawaii License

If you’re looking to get your Hawaii drivers license, we’re here to help. Welcome to our step-by-step guide to get you off of your couch and out onto the road. We know you have a lot of questions, so let’s get going.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, getting your first license can be an exciting, scary, and confusing time, sometimes all at the same time. First off, let’s clear up some Hawaii DMV terms. In some cases, it seems they’ve gone out of their way to make it confusing.

Terms (and abbreviations) you should know:

See? I told you they made it confusing!

Who Must Take Hawaii Drivers Ed?

No matter your age, it’s probably not a bad idea for anyone to take a drivers ed course before getting their first license. However, Hawaii only requires drivers ed for driving candidates younger than 18. You can enroll in drivers ed at age 15 1/2.

The Path to a Hawaii License in a Nutshell

The quick and dirty looks like this:

Now let’s take a look at what it’ll take to get those four steps done.

Step 1—Getting Your Permit

Application for a permit will happen at a local licensing center. You’ll need to make an appointment online to submit your application.

When you arrive, be sure to have the following:

Check out the list of acceptable documents to see exactly what you should bring.

You’ll also need to bring:

Now it’s time for your written permit test

The test will include questions about:

To pass the 30-question multiple-choice test, you’ll need to score 80%. Here are some suggestions on how to prepare.

Another way to give yourself a leg up on passing the permit test, you might want to consider one (or more) of the following:

A permit practice test has everything the “real” test does, except the pressure. That’s because practice tests feature questions taken from actual DMV exams. It’s like seeing all the answers before the test even begins! Don’t head to the DMV without a dress rehearsal, you want to pass the first time.

What If Your Test Didn’t Go Like You Planned?

What if you get to the testing center and, despite all your best preparation, your nerves get the best of you, and you wind up failing the test? First, don’t panic. Nearly 1 out of 3 test-takers fail on their first attempt.

If you do happen to fail, you will be given more chances, but there are some rules.

Another Note—If you’re new to Hawaii and started this whole license dance somewhere else, here are some tips that might help.

Step 2—Take Drivers Ed

A Hawaii drivers ed course is comprised of:

The classroom portion teaches topics like:

The classroom portion of Hawaii drivers ed can be completed at an approved driving school, or, if it is offered, your high school.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Currently in Hawaii, online drivers education is not accepted by the Hawaii Department of Motor Vehicles. However, this does not mean that online course will not be helpful for test preparation and to instill good driving habits.

At the end of your course, you will receive a certificate of completion. Hold on to it! You’ll need it when you apply for your provisional license.

Here is some helpful information for when it comes time to pick where you want to take drivers ed.

Step 3—50 Hours of Practice Driving

Now it’s time to put that learners permit to good use, and you are required to use it for six months before you can apply for your license.

Before you can take a driving test, you’ll have to complete 50 hours of practice driving, and at least 10 of those will need to happen after dark.

Your permit does come with some restrictions. You must be accompanied at all times by a licensed driver who is 21 or older riding in the front passenger seat. To drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., this licensed driver must be your parent or guardian.

While you might be nervous at first, do your best to enjoy this time and always pay close attention to what’s going on around you. You never know the kinds of things, good and bad, that you might learn from the drivers around you. Take time to learn all you can from the licensed driver who is with you.

Also, do yourself the favor of driving in as many conditions as you can, places like:

It’s better if you don’t see these things for the first time on your own.

Since you’ll be using your permit for six months, there’s no reason not to drive WAY more than 50 hours! It can only do you good.

BTW—If you are planning a family road trip, you may get the chance to do some practice driving in another state. Check this out to see if you can.

Step 4—Pass a Driving Test

Finally, the last hurdle, your driving test. It’s all good. You got this.

You must be 16 years old to apply for a provisional license. You must also have:

You must schedule an appointment for your driving test. When you arrive for your appointment, be sure to have the following with you:

When the time comes to take the driving test, relax and remember all you learned during your practice driving. During the test you will most likely be asked to perform maneuvers like:

Using Your New License

Per the rules of the Hawaii Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Program, your new license will come with some restrictions concerning when you can drive and who you can have in the car with you.

According to the website,

The provisional licensee driver SHALL NOT TRANSPORT more than one person below the age of 18 without being accompanied by a licensed driver that is the provisional licensee’s parent or guardian, unless that person is a household member.

The provisional licensee SHALL NOT TRANSPORT more than one person under the age of 18 between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. without being accompanied by the licensed parent or guardian of the provisional licensee

The provisional licensee driver SHALL NOT DRIVE between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., unless accompanied by either a parent or guardian that is licensed to drive the same type of motor vehicle and is seated in the passenger seat beside the licensee

The person granted a provisional driver license MAY drive between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. without a licensed parent or guardian in the motor vehicle only under the following conditions: Traveling to or from the licensee’s place of employment,…traveling to or from a school-authorized activity

A Final Note

Any licensed driver will tell you that you will never face a driving situation as complicated, nerve-wracking, and time-consuming as getting your license. By no means should you let your guard down once you’re behind the wheel but, rest assured. You’ll never face anything on the road that will compare with the process it took to get you your license.

Good luck as you work your way through this. Can’t wait to see you out on the road!

A Final Final Note

If you’ve made it this far, may we suggest you bookmark this page? You’ll probably be coming back to it often as you work your way through this!