The 20-year-old passenger only discovered the reptile had stowed away in his bag when it slithered out of his rucksack once he’d arrived at a holiday rental property in Pukalani, Maui.
About 30cm long and 63mm in diameter, the black racer snake was non-venomous, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
However, snakes are illegal in Hawaii as they have no natural predators and pose a threat to indigenous species.
The Virginia resident said he did not intentionally bring the snake into the island state, reported KGMB-TV.
The owner of the rental property where the reptile was discovered quickly alerted police, who worked with the Department of Land and Natural Resources to catch it.
“It is fortunate that the owner of the rental was aware of the seriousness of the snake being transported to Hawaii and took appropriate action and reported it,” said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture.
The snake will now be transported to Oahu.
Knowingly smuggling an illegal pet into Hawaii is a felony carrying a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $200,000 fine.
It’s not the first reported case of snakes on a plane.
In February, a woman who opened her suitcase after flying home to Scotland from Australia was shocked to discover a snake hiding inside one of her shoes.
Moira Boxall realised the spotted python had made the almost 10,000 mile journey from Queensland to Glasgow with her when she found it curled up in a slip-on sandal.