The Perfect Hawaii Packing List • What to Wear in Hawaii

Are you wondering what to bring to Hawaii and need a good packing list? Packing for the Pacific islands can be easy once you nail down your travel plans. So, I wanted to write this Hawaii packing checklist with the most up-to-date information from our recent trip to Maui, Kauai, the Big Island, and Oahu to help you pack, too.

The best part about packing for the Hawaiian islands is that the weather is always pretty reliable. Temperatures are consistent year-round, perfect for all travelers, and sunshine can be found anytime. Above everything, you should bring two things to Hawaii, a sense of adventure and a smile!


Quick Tips on Packing for Hawaii

Natasha Smiles With A Poke Bowl On Kauai

Hawaii is a fairly easy destination to pack for, thanks to the islands’ amazing temperate climate. The only sticking point can be the high humidity and the frequent rain showers. Island life here is laid back, and you’ll find most locals in swimsuits, sandals, and relaxed t-shirts.

  • Aloha shirts are common and rarely feel out of place, but they have their time and place.
  • Don’t forget a rain jacket or umbrella. You never know when a rainstorm may pop up.
  • Pack your mask and fins if you plan to dive or snorkel.
  • Reef-safe sunscreen is a great idea to bring and protect the reefs.
  • Mesh/breathable packing cubes help separate damp and dirty clothes from clean ones.
  • You’re more likely to regret packing too much than too little.
  • Sun protection, whether sunblock, hats, or UPF clothing, is always a good idea.
  • Adventure clothes like hiking shoes, sandals, and athletic wear are great for island activities.

Hawaii Packing List


Sunglasses

Natasha Holds Up Shaved Ice on Kauai

Protect your eyes from the sun in Africa since you’re near the equator. There are many sunglasses options, and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they have UV protection for the health of your eyes. We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses.

It’s a brand name you’ll see a lot on the islands, particularly on the North Shore of Oahu, as they’re popular with surfers — and ski bums like us. Polarized glasses enhance vision in bright environments and remove glare from windshields and the water.

Sunglass Recommendations


Water Bottle

Traveling to the beach with fresh water in hand is important as it is easy to get dehydrated in the sun on the beach. We like to use insulated stainless steel water bottles at the beach because they are well insulated and keep our drinks cold. Most importantly, a water bottle discourages the use of plastic single-use water bottles polluting our oceans. Our personal favorite is Hydro Flask.


Quick Dry Travel Towel

Natasha Walks Along Kapalua Beach

We always recommend bringing a travel towel. Quick-dry towels are great when you’re out exploring Hawaii. You can make an impromptu dip in the ocean before drying off and heading to one of Hawaii’s many food trucks or poke bowl spots. They’re also tremendous when you hike to a waterfall on Maui, as the towels are small enough to throw in your backpack and leave room for other items.


T-Shirt or V Neck

Man Paddles Outrigger Canoe In Honolulu Bay

A classic tee will never go out of style. We suggest sticking with solid colors like black, white, or grey. We recommend you keep it simple when it comes to tees. Our favorite color is a light heather grey as it’s easy to stain white. We love the quality and ease of ordering from Bombas if you’re after a classic cotton tee.

However, a merino wool shirt is a worthy investment and one of the best pieces of travel clothing. Wool shirts stay fresh longer and do an excellent job at temperature management. I’ve tested a lot of wool shirts out, and our women’s travel shirts are from Unbound Merino, and men’s are from Western Rise.


Aloha Shirt

Natasha And Cameron In Front Of Hawaiian Airlines First Airplane

Or better known to many as a Hawaiian shirt. It can get hot and sticky on the islands, so you don’t need to wear a stiff dress shirt. This is the state where elected politicians wear aloha shirts daily and at official events. Hawaii is one of the few places where you do not need to worry about dressing formally or wearing long pants. You can pick one up beforehand, but they’re abundant all over the island, and you can buy one right at the airport when you land!


Shorts

Drone Shot Of Cameron And Natasha On A Lush Road On Oahu

I like to pack two or three pairs for versatility, such as gym, Bermuda, and technical travel shorts. Shorts are one of those items I find acceptable as cheap cotton items. We’ve tested a lot of travel shorts out and only been impressed by a handful.

Our recommendations for men’s shorts are the Western Rise Evolution, Quicksilver Amphibian, and Outlier OG Freeway. Recommendations for women include the prAna Elle Short, Lululemon Cinchable Waist Shorts, Vuori Dash, prAna Kanab, and Patagonia Baggies. We suggest whatever suits your style and recommend they do not involve cargo pockets.


Rain Jacket

A Drone Landscape Shot Of The North 
Shore Of Kauai

In case you didn’t know, Hawaii receives a lot of rain — more than any other place in the United States. The chances are high that you will experience one of the islands’ frequent thunderstorms. For that, we recommend a packable rain jacket.

We both have rain jackets made by Arc’teryx and Patagonia. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof. Any rain jacket will do, but the top-dollar ones will hold up and help in inclement weather.

See Our Recommendations


Jacket

The Summit On Haleakala At Sunrise

One of the few travel items we recommend everyone pack is a down jacket. This is up to you and your travel plans in Hawaii, as a warm jacket may not be necessary. However, two of the most popular activities include visiting Manua Kea and Haleakalā.

The two sacred volcanoes are a place to witness a dizzying number of stars and one of the most spectacular sunrises in the world. However, they’re also bitterly cold in winter and regularly fall below-freezing temperatures due to the elevation. If you have plans for either of the peaks, I’d suggest bringing some warm clothes.

Down Jacket Recommendations


Loose Pants

Natasha Enjoys A Glass Of Prosecco At Sunset Along The Ocean

Tasha’s favorite pair of pants is prAna’s Fernie Beach Pant, but they often go out of stock as they are so popular. The pants are airy and made from a Fair Trade TENCEL fabric, but you’ll have to keep checking their website. Lulus has some fantastic flowy beach pant selections as well.

For men, Prana makes the excellent Vaha Pant. They are perfect for beach destinations and blend well with a linen shirt for a stylish beach look. They’re lightweight and made from hemp, lasting for multiple wears without a wash.


Sandals

Natasha Walking Along A Beach State Park At Sunset On Kauai

Sandals are never bad at beach destinations and should be on every traveler’s Hawaii packing list. We both travel with sandals from Olukai that have lasted for years — best of all, they’re a Hawaiian sandal brand. They are sandals with leather accents and feel stylish enough.

They’re super comfortable, too, and they get us around the beach. Women should also check out the Sanuk Yoga Sling for an affordable, lightweight, stylish sandal. You can pretty much wear sandals any and everywhere on the islands as it’s a pretty laidback destination.


Hiking Shoes

Cameron Looks Out To Viewpoint After Hike On Kauai

Almost every island presents visitors with great opportunities for an incredible hike. Bring hiking shoes if you expect to trek to epic viewpoints, swim in secret waterfalls, or wander through tropical forests. Due to the abundance of rain on the islands, trails are often very muddy with standing water.

A good pair of hiking shoes is handy for exploring the island on foot. The Merrell Moab 3 is a great hiking boot/shoe for most hikers. However, we typically opt for an aggressive trail running shoe like the Salomon Speedcross 6. It was great for islands like Kauai and Oahu that are very popular for their hiking trails.


Women’s Packing List


Sundress

Natasha In A Beach Cover Up With A Huge Shaved Ice On The Big Island

It’s a tremendous idea to have a sundress. Not only is it more comfortable, but it’s also cute. A loose-flowing dress is a great wardrobe choice when walking around the islands or cute seaside towns. I’d leave most pants behind as they’re heavy, restrictive, and hot in the sun. I just picked up super cute and affordable sundresses from Salty Crush. All of their dresses have a bohemian style that feels super trendy and right at home in Hawaii.


Romper/Playsuit

Natasha On The Back Deck Of A Catamaran Cruise

Rompers are probably one of my favorite travel outfits because they’re stylish, comfortable, practical, pack light, and keep me cool in the summer. You really can’t go wrong here. I’d suggest throwing at least one or two rompers in your suitcase for Hawaii.

Yes, I know the photo above is from Key West. I just got the romper for 2021, and it’s become my absolute favorite. The compliments help, too. We love Patagonia’s Fleetwith Romper and prAna Railay for travel, but you can shop on Free People and Lulus for more great options.


Tank Tops

A few comfortable tank tops and shirts are always in my bag, and they’re perfect for Hawaii. I typically pack solid colors so that they can work with everything. They’re super functional clothes worn under a blouse or alone with jeans or capris.


Swim Suit

Natasha Alden On a Beach Swing In Oahu

You’re heading to Hawaii, so you will probably hit up a few of their splendid beaches. Hawaii is all about the beaches, and the ocean is an integral part of Hawaiian culture. If there is one thing you don’t skip in Hawaii, it’s the beach.

For a fantastic women’s swimsuit brand, we recommend Londre and Carve Designs. They make high-quality swimsuits for women. Many of their pieces are stylish yet supportive. So, if you plan to go surfing, bodyboarding, kitesurfing, or play beach volleyball and want to ensure your ta-tas stay intact, these swimsuits are for you.


Yoga Pants

Natasha On The Oahu Looks Over Landscape At Kualoa Ranch

Yoga is all over the islands. Most big resorts even offer yoga classes in the morning or evening. I like to have at least one pair of yoga pants in my suitcase.


Sports Bras

Natasha Walks Down Lush Hawaiian Road In Sports Bra And Leggings

There is no need for push-up bras when you’re active. I always bring a few pairs of sports bras when I’m traveling. It’s easy to forget to bring a sports bra as you might not be headed to the gym, but they’re tremendous for active or hot summer days. I love sports bras from Handful! But, of course, you should pack your usual undergarments like bras and underwear; it’s easier to forget a sports bra.


Beach cover-up

Natasha Alden In Front Of Smoothie Truck On Maui

A beach cover-up or sarong is essential when traveling to Hawaii. You can purchase a cute one made for the beach or opt for a large men’s shirt or airy wear.


Sun Hat

It gets sunny in Hawaii, and you will spend most of your time outside. Make sure to protect your face with a nice sun hat.


Men’s Packing List


Short Sleeve Button

Cameron And Natasha Enjoy A Drink In Beach Attire On A Dock

A short-sleeve button-down is a great option for beach casual while avoiding the tee-shirt look. I like to go for the linen as it has a more relaxed beach look and holds up better in the heat than a cotton shirt.


Graphic Tees

When we’re traveling in foreign countries, I avoid graphic t-shirts for the most part. However, they’re perfectly intertwined with surfing culture and the laid-back vibes in Hawaii. So throw on your favorite graphic tee and some board shorts.


Dress Shirt & Chinos

I’d look ridiculous wearing a T-shirt to a nice meal at a resort. Men should pack at least one dress shirt for a trip to Hawaii. Men will look ridiculous wearing a T-shirt or a flannel to one of the country’s fine dining restaurants. We suggest every man travels with at least one nice outfit that fits their style. We love Western Rise for travel clothing that looks smart. My favorite outfit is the Western Rise Evolution Pants with the Limitless Merino Button-Down.


Board Shorts

Catching A Wave On The North Shore Maui

Since Hawaii is the birthplace and epicenter of surf culture, board shorts will never go out of style. I’ve had a lot of board shorts over the years, but I love the latest trend of shorts that resemble regular shorts.

I tried out a ton but landed on Quicksilver’s Amphibian shorts as my favorite. The material looks like heavy cotton but is super lightweight and durable. Best of all, they look great on the beach or in town. I’d even feel comfortable wearing these on a hike…they’re a fantastic pair of shorts!


Relaxed Sneakers

Hawaii is very relaxed, but that doesn’t mean men should always wear sandals. I like to have nice leather sneakers or loafers when I travel. They’re appropriate in a multitude of environments and when well maintained. I wear Ecco sneakers, and they’ve treated me well. Yet, they manage not to feel too casual.


Accessories to Pack for Hawaii


Fins and Snorkel Gear

Natasha Swimming With A Sea Turtle In Hawaii
Don’t you love turtles?

If you’re into snorkeling, we suggest picking up some fins, a mask, and a snorkel. We travel around the world with our gear – I’m serious. They’re almost always better than any rental gear and save us a fair amount of money.

Both of our masks are Aqualung masks, and we use them for snorkeling and free diving. I have Oceanic fins and use them everywhere, while Cam loves Hammerhead’s brand for his underwater gear. Alternatively, if you’re staying at a resort or hotel on your vacation, check to see if they have free equipment you can use!


Hawaii Guidebook

We spend enough time attached to our phones in everyday life and planning our trips. We traveled to Hawaii on our last trip in partnership with Hawaiian Airlines and Lonely Planet. Pick up a guidebook on Hawaii here.


Beach Tote

No matter what, you will need a beach bag or tote when heading to the beach. This is to throw in anything like towels, a book, a speaker, sunglasses, snacks, and sunscreen. A classic canvas tote that everyone travels and can fold flat/lie in your luggage. I recommend a large yet durable beach tote like this for family beachgoers. Another great reason to bring is a beach tote for grocery store trips — No need to use a plastic bag on the islands.

See Our Tote Recommendations


Insect Repellant

Hawaii has year-round warm weather and lots of rain, so in other words, it is a breeding ground for mosquitos. They love to hand around forests, ponds, lagoons, or anywhere with still water. We’d recommend packing a bottle of insect repellant (I like the all-natural stuff)so you’ll scare away those annoying biting demons.


Dry bag

Whether or not it is a beach vacation, we always travel with a dry bag. They pack up quickly and are lightweight, so there is no reason not to have one. They have saved our electronics several times and have quickly paid for themselves when we’ve traveled to beach destinations like The Seychelles, Cyprus, or yachting in the Mediterranean. We found them essential when we went on a traditional outrigger canoe.

Dry Bag Recommendation


Water Shoes

Cameron laughed at me a few times when we explored the waterfalls, but I got the last laugh with my beautiful feet protected by water shoes. So, if you plan on hiking around any of the waterfalls in Hawaii and going in the water, it’s worth picking up a pair of water shoes – I love Tropicfeels!

They will help you grip the slippery rocks and protect your feet from sharp rocks. I’ve been caught a few times without them, and my feet have paid dearly for my mistake. The other option would be to bring along a pair of hiking sandals that hold better than traditional sandals.

Water Shoe Recommendations


Sunblock

A Drone Shot Of The Hilton On Waikiki At Sunset

Most hotels and resorts in Hawaii won’t provide this and charge a premium to purchase, so make sure to bring yours from home. Skin cancer is for real! We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house, as you’ll pay high prices for low-quality sunblocks once you’re in Hawaii.

We highly recommend getting an eco-friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals. They’re mineral-based and usually only cost a few dollars more to help protect our oceans. Also, Hawaii is the first state in the U.S. to ban Oxybenzone-based sunblocks! You don’t want to be the person who brings bad products over from the mainland.

Sunscreen Recommendation


Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are great for any backpack or suitcase. They keep all of your clothes and toiletries organized. I’ve had these Eagle Creek cubes for three years and think they were worth the investment to stay organized and create space in my luggage.


Headlamp

A Glamping Yurt On Oahu

After camping in Africa, we learned that a headlamp is never bad. Our headlamp came in handy when we were glamping in Hawaii and walking around at night. It’s also great for any sunrise or sunset hikes on the islands. It’s one of those travel essentials we always have with us that’s come in handy countless times.

Headlamp Recommendation


Portable Charger

I love traveling with a power bank to ensure my phone never dies. I usually don’t need to use it on long flights as some nicer airlines provide entertainment systems with USB ports! We also find a charging point during layovers, but getting to a new city without your hotel reservations and map can be a major pain.

Power Bank


Kindle Paperwhite

Check out some of the best-sellers right now and pick up a copy. I like to read on days when I feel like sunbathing and relaxing. Cameron is impatient, so having a book on the beach provides much-needed entertainment. I’ve recently upgraded to the Kindle Paperwhite and love it. It’s small, has touchscreen functions, and has a backlight so I can read at night without a harsh glare.

Kindle Paperwhite


What Not to Wear in Hawaii

The Road to Hana On A Cloudy Day With Lush Landscape

Polo Shirts

This might be a personal vendetta, but it’s time to ditch the polo shirt unless you’re on the golf course or in a frat.


Traditional Khaki

Hawaii is relaxed, and dress pants are great for a night out or a Luau. However, that does not mean wearing your Dad’s Khakis. No pleated khaki pants with the polo shirt tucked in like above — it just looks out of touch.


Massive Sunhats

We’re all about functional travel clothes. A dumb, big, floppy hat with embroidery is anything but functional. It’s just obnoxious and doesn’t make for good vacation photos.


Formal Clothes

Hawaii is a laid-back place, and wearing too many formal clothes will either make you look stiff, or they’ll never be worn. Bring one or two nice outfits and leave the rest at home.


More Tips on Packing for Hawaii

A Glamping Yurt On Maui

Type of Holiday

Determine if you are traveling to Hawaii for a relaxing beach vacation or a rugged and adventurous vacation (or both!). It will determine your necessities.


You Camp in Hawaii

Hawaii is great for campers and those looking to get more in touch with nature. If you’ll be camping, check out our truck camping checklist.


Pack Less Stuff

The less you pack, the better, especially if traveling between islands. Please stick to one checked bag and carry-on to make your life easier. If you can get it down to a carry-on only, it will save you on baggage fees and hassle.


No Fruits or Veggies

When coming from the US mainland, know you can be fined for bringing in fruits and plants.


The Island Tax

Basic goods and groceries are more expensive in Hawaii than the mainland, so keep that in mind when packing. Remember that it’s an island in the Pacific, and everything other than some fruit and coffee must be shipped via boat.


Don’t Discredit Snorkel Gear

If you plan on snorkeling a few times, it may be worth purchasing fins and a mask. During our two weeks in Hawaii, we snorkeled ten or so times. With rentals costing $15 a day for snorkel equipment, buying our gear on the island made more sense.


Respect the Reefs

A Turtle Swims Through Hawaiian Waters

Please be conscious of the environment when applying sunscreen. Hawaii just banned the sale of over-the-counter sunscreens containing harmful chemicals that are harmful to marine life. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t buy the inexpensive sunscreen and bring it in yourself, but this is frowned upon. Respect the environment you will enjoy on vacation, and only wear reef-safe sunscreens in the ocean.

Most importantly, please, please, please do not stand on coral reefs. This is such a duh thing, but I saw countless tourists standing on reefs on our last two-week trip. There is a reason that reefs have disappeared from the most popular beaches for tourists… You are a guest on the Hawaiian Islands and should act as such.

This extends beyond the physical environment and includes wildlife. For example, it is illegal in Hawaii, both in federal and state law, to touch sea turtles or encroach on their personal space.


Weather and Climate in Hawaii

Our White Mustang Rental Car Outside Waimea Plantatoin

Hawaii enjoys easy weather year-round with only slight temperature differences. There are only two seasons: summer from May to October and winter from November to April. It’s an average of 85 degrees in the summer and 78 in the winter months.

As discussed earlier, Hawaii has diverse microclimates and many different biomes. In addition, Hawaii receives a lot of rain, which falls primarily in the mountains and valleys on the islands’ windward or Northeastern side. The most rain falls in the wet months, from November to March. However, it’s often in very localized thunderstorms, meaning it’s often sunny somewhere on the island.

About Natasha Alden

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years, across 7 continents, experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.

1 thought on “The Perfect Hawaii Packing List • What to Wear in Hawaii”

  1. I loved this article about the big island, it’s our favorite places, glad to know in 45 trips we haven’t missed any of the places on your list. We bought our own snorkeling gear about our fifth trip, much easier on the budget. But now my husband wears glasses, we found a dive shop that fitted him with prescription lenses. I wish I could rennet the name to pass it on. I will find it and forward it to you. I loved reading your post, we were supposed to be in Kona for ten days, from Oct 7, Booked a small house. Then I ended up in a wheel chair, the house was not American with disabilities act, compliant. Understandable, but my money for the ten days was not returned. Lesson learned. We will get back to the place we call home soon.

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