Many who travel to Hawaii come with the intent of getting tattooed while visiting. Hawaii’s tattooing roots run deep and it is a wonderful lifetime reminder of not only the beauty of our islands but the deep cultural heritage of the ancient art of tatau’. There are a few things a visitor should keep in mind while looking for a tattooer in Hawaii: 


Hawaii was one of the first states to implement tattoo regulations back in the 80’s. Today we are still one of the forerunners for licensing, shop inspections, etc. in the U.S. ALL tattooers working in Hawaii must take and pass the state test which is only offered twice a year. They can ONLY work in inspected, licensed studios. Anyone caught tattooing unlicensed or tattooing (licensed or not) outside of a studio faces a $5,000 fine per tattoo. If you are inquiring with a person for tattoo work ask for their license number and verify at the state’s website You can also verify their studio’s license at the same site. Support professional tattooing, please.

There is no allowance for guest artists unless they have taken and passed the state test. There is no reciprocity for those holding licenses in other states or countries. Our regulations state clearly the guidelines for studios and tattooers. Please review at the above website and if you have any questions feel comfortable calling our DOH!


Hawaii is one point in the Polynesian Triangle of tattoo origins and many visitors come with the idea of getting their tattoos done the ancient way, hand tapped. It is imperative that you inquire about sterilization and the sanitation protocol of the tattooer. Many of the ancient tools can NOT be autoclaved and rendered free of bacteria and virus spores which can regenerate if not killed via autoclaving. A few tattooers have developed tools using steel needles that are single use only AND can be autoclaved. It is your right to know exactly what is being used on you and how it has been sterilized for your protection. Also inquire about the work environment. As with modern tattooing all surfaces must be non-porous and barrier protected.

In today’s world we must protect ourselves against a myriad of dangerous diseases too easily transmitted through exposure to body fluids. Be smart, ask questions and expect thorough answers.


It is important to know that after your tattoo you MUST stay out of the ocean, the sand, swimming pools, saunas and the sun for at least a week. Even though we are in the middle of the ocean our shorelines contain a myriad of blood born pathogens. Any open wound can lead to dangerous exposure to staph, strep, MRSA and even necrotizing faciitis (flesh eating bacteria). Try to plan your tattoo for the last few days of your journey. If you are being tattooed the day you leave make sure to tell your tattooer. They may choose to bandage you for travel. Most bandaging should come off a few hours after application but the chance of exposure on an airplane may warrant a longer bandaged period. PLASTIC WRAP IS NOT A BANDAGE AND IS OUTLAWED IN HAWAII. If you are tattooed below the knee make sure you are up and moving on that airplane! Lower leg tattoos will swell and get angry after a flight. Do not hesitate to call your tattooer with any questions once you get home. A professional knows their obligation to their clients and will be there for you.


  1. Nice post Peggy, thanks!  I got my very first tattoo at Skin Deep in Lahaina, Maui.  I think I'm about due for another one; it's been a few years since my last. 😀

  2. I love looking at Tattoo's on other people and hearing about the stories that these tattoo's tell.  Absolutely amazing stories are told via tattoo's.  Tattoo's are too permanent for me, so no tattoo's on my body.  But I've got to admit, I've seen beautiful tatto's on friends that look insane!  Some of these tattoo artists are so talented, its incredible!

  3. The State of Hawaii Department of Health will no longer be conducting tattoo artist license examinations effective January 19, 2013. Hawaii Revised Statutes Section §321-375 Examination, fee required. States that:

    a) No license shall be issued unless the applicant takes an examination as prescribed by the director and receives a passing score or meets the criteria specified in section 321-374(c). No license shall be issued unless all fees required by the director have been paid.

    b) The department may contract with a professional testing service to prepare,administer, and grade the examination for licensure as a tattoo artist. For these purposes, the department may require applicants to pay the examination fee directly to the testing service.

    In order to obtain a State of Hawaii Tattoo Artist License, you must Obtain a certificate from a blood borne pathogen course developed specifically for the tattoo industry.

    Biologix Solutions LLC is the Hawaii Department of Health Approved Online Bloodborne Pathogens Course for Body Art Professionals.

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