A frail former president Ferdinand Marcos arrived here today aboard a U.S. Air Force transport plane to begin a life in exile. The man who had governed the Philippines with a strong hand for two decades appeared to be ill and tired.

Marcos received a restrained, almost somber greeting from Hawaii Gov. George Ariyoshi, his wife Jean, and Air Force Gen. Robert W. Bazley, commander-in-chief of the Pacific Air Forces at Hickam Air Force Base.

The unsmiling Marcos, forced out of office Tuesday by his own people, wore a windbreaker and golf hat in the bright Honolulu sun. He was accompanied by his wife Imelda, his three children, other relatives and aides, among them Gen. Fabian Ver, his former armed forces chief of staff.

American pressure had played an important role in leading Marcos to his decision to avoid a bloody battle with his opponents, and now the former leader was accepting an offer of sanctuary from President Reagan.

There was speculation here that Marcos will make Hawaii his new home.

Ariyoshi said at a news conference that Marcos had told him he planned to sit down with his family tonight and decide whether to remain here or move on. The governor said the family was expected to decide within about 24 hours.

Ariyoshi said that despite Marcos' tired expression, he appeared to be in relatively good spirits and about the same state of health he was in when the governor saw him in December.

In contrast with several earlier visits that he had made to Hawaii, Marcos heard no cheers or welcoming speeches here today. After exchanging a few words with members of the small group that met him, Marcos stepped into a black limousine that took him to guest quarters at the Air Force base.

Marcos and his family had left Manila last night, in haste, aboard American helicopters for Clark Air Base in the Philippines. Marcos was then carried by stretcher to a U.S. Air Force plane that took him to Guam for a stopover and medical check. The last leg of his journey into exile was a grueling flight of more than 10 hours aboard a C141 Starlifter transport plane to Hawaii.

The C141 is a no-frills transport, which one military officer at Hickam described as "a little bit noisy and a bit cold."

After many days of turmoil and sleeplessness in Manila and two long airplane flights, Marcos was clearly fatigued. But he seemed determined to walk on his own off the plane once it arrived here.

After having difficulty getting down the steep metal stairs from the Air Force plane, he then walked slowly but steadily up to the welcoming party.

A military spokesman at Hickam Air Force Base said he knew little about Marcos' plans except that the former leader would be spending the night here. But Ariyoshi had said earlier that he was personally inviting Marcos to stay on in Hawaii.

Speaking yesterday upon his return from a national governors' conference in Washington, Ariyoshi said that he was a friend of Marcos and he reminded reporters that President Reagan had called Marcos an ally.

"If we are going to have allies, we need to be sure we don't turn our backs on them when they need assistance," the governor said.

Ariyoshi said he understood that the federal government would provide security if Marcos settled in Hawaii.

Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi told reporters that he did not oppose Marcos' coming here but that he would not spend taxpayers' money to help protect the former president of the Philippines.

Hawaii State Sen. Duke Kawasaki introduced a resolution yesterday urging Reagan, Ariyoshi and Fasi to deny Marcos sanctuary. But Hawaii has a history of providing refuge to exiled leaders. One of the most recent was Cambodia's former president, Lon Nol, who lived here from 1975 to 1979. He died last year in California.

According to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, two friends of Marcos own homes in Makiki Heights here and Marcos and his family have stayed in those homes in the past.

The local Filipino community here appears to be divided over Marcos' presence. A group called the Union of Democratic Filipinos said it was unfortunate that the United States was offering him asylum. But a pro-Marcos group, the United Filipino Council of Hawaii, said he would be welcomed by Filipinos here.

Imelda Marcos has been known to carry dozens of pieces of luggage with her on overseas trips. But this time only one Air Force backup plane arrived with luggage for what appeared to be scores of people accompanying the former first family.