Wondering what to bring to Hawaii and need a good Hawaii packing list? Packing for the Pacific islands can be an easy task 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 pretty reliable all the time. Temperatures are consistent year-round, perfect for all travelers, and sunshine can be found any time of year. Above everything, the two things you should bring to Hawaii are a sense of adventure and a smile!
Quick Tips on Packing for Hawaii
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 a swimsuit, sandals, and a relaxed t-shirt.
- 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 own mask and fins if you plan to free 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 is always a good idea, whether that is sunblock, hats, or UPF clothing.
- Adventure clothes such as hiking shoes, sandals, and athletic wear are great for the activities on the islands.
Hawaii Packing List
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun since you’ll likely spend a lot of time outside. There are a lot of options for sunglasses, and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do 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. It’s a brand name you’ll see a lot on the islands, particularly on the North Shore, as they’re popular with surfers — and ski bums like us. Polarized glasses are great at enhancing vision in bright environments and removing glare from windshields and the water.
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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.
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Quick Dry Travel Towel
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
A classic tee will never go out of style. We suggest sticking with solid colors like black, white, or grey. There’s also the option of a v neck for a more stylish look, but it all depends on personal preference.
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 in the world 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!
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In case you didn’t know, Hawaii receives a lot of rain — as in 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 really help in inclement weather.
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I recommend everyone pack a few travel items, and one of them is a down jacket. This is up to you and your travel plans in Hawaii, as a warm jacket may be unnecessary. 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 the winter months 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.
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I pretty much live in loose pants when at the beach. My favorite pair of pants is prAna’s Fernie Beach Pant. The pants are airy and made from a Fair Trade Certified™ TENCEL fabric. I have white and red and love both of them!
For men, Prana makes the amazing Vaha Pant. They are perfect for beach destinations and blend in well for a stylish beach look when paired with a linen shirt. They’re super lightweight and made from hemp so that they can last for multiple wears without a wash.
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Men’s Vaha Pant
Women’s Fernie Beach Pant
Flip-flops are never a bad idea at beach destinations and should be on every traveler’s Hawaii packing list. Our favorite brand is Rainbow Sandals, as they last forever and are super comfortable once the leather forms to your foot.
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Almost every island presents visitors with some great opportunities to go for an incredible hike. IF you expect to trek to epic viewpoints, swim in secret waterfalls, or wander through tropical forests, bring a pair of hiking shoes.
Due to the abundance of rain that falls on the islands, trails are often very muddy with standing water. A good pair of hiking shoes come in handy if you plan to explore the island on foot. A great hiking boot/shoe that is good for most hikers is the Merrell Moab II. However, we typically opt for an aggressive trail running shoe like the Salomon Speedcross 5.
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Women’s Hawaii Packing List
It’s a tremendous idea to have a sundress. Not only is it more comfortable, but it’s also cute. When you’re walking around the islands or cute seaside towns, a loose-flowing dress is a great wardrobe choice. 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 these days and right at home in Hawaii.
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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. Other great rompers that I have loved came from Salty Crush and Patagonia’s Fleetwith Romper.
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You aren’t going to need pants too much, so make sure to pack a few pairs of cute shorts. I like a loose cute with a cute print or denim shorts. They’re also great for a short hike to a beach as I can easily throw them back on after getting wet. Finally, they make for a super cute outfit when combined with a tank top, blouse, or cover-up.
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 that can be worn under a blouse or alone with a pair of jeans or capris.
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 their one thing you don’t skip in Hawaii, it’s the beach.
When I travel, I always bring at least two suits to have a dry one if they don’t dry overnight. It’s been a long journey, but after six years of working as a travel blogger, I finally found my favorite swimsuits from Andie Swim.
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Yoga is all over the islands. Most of the 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. For a more fun design on yoga pants, check out Yoga Democracy. They make their pants out of recycled nets that they find in the ocean! Use the code TWP20 for 20% off your purchase.
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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 just easier to forget a sports bra.
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Beach cover up
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.
It gets sunny in Hawaii, and you’re going to spend most of your time outside. Make sure to protect your face with a nice sun hat.
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Men’s Hawaii Packing List
Short Sleeve Button
A short-sleeve button-down is a great option to beach casual while avoiding the tee-shirt look. I like to go for the linen as it has a more relaxed beach look, and it holds up better in the heat than a cotton shirt.
When we’re traveling in foreign countries, I avoid graphic t-shirts for the most part. However, in Hawaii, they’re perfectly intertwined with surfing culture and the laid-back vibes. So go ahead and throw on your favorite graphic tee and some board shorts.
Dress Shirt & Chinos
I’d look pretty 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. I like to stick with a classic color like blue or white that will never go out of style. Pair the dress shirt and chinos for a classic look. Or you can opt for a relaxed look with a white linen shirt and loose pants like the Vaha Pant.
Bluffworks specializes in men’s travel clothes and makes some awesome pants, shirts, and blazers. Their travel clothes are all comfortable, wrinkle-resistant, and stain-resistant. Amazing for travel!
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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 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 they’re 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 an amazing pair of shorts!
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Hawaii is a very relaxed place, 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 personally 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
If you’re into snorkeling, we suggest picking up some fins, a mask, and a snorkel. Personally, we travel around the world with our gear – yes, 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 the brand Hammerhead 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!
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We spend enough time attached to our phones in everyday life and planning our trips. In fact, the reason we traveled to Hawaii on our last trip was in partnership with Hawaiian Airlines and Lonely Planet. Pick up a guidebook on Hawaii here.
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. For family beachgoers, I recommend a large yet durable beach tote like this one. Another great reason to bring is a beach tote for grocery store trips — No need to use a plastic bag on the islands.
Hawaii has year round warm weather and lots of rain so in other words, 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.
We always travel with a dry bag whether or not it is a beach vacation. They pack up easily and are lightweight so there really is no reason not to have one.
They have saved our electronics a number of times and have easily paid for themselves when we’ve traveled to beach destinations like The Seychelles, Cyprus, or yachting in the Mediterranean. We found them really important when we went on a traditional outrigger canoe.
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 spending time hiking around any of the waterfalls in Hawaii and going in the water, it’s worth it to pick 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.
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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. Not only that, Hawaii is the first state in the U.S. to ban the old Oxybenzone-based sunblocks anyways! You don’t want to be that person who brings the bad products over from the mainland.
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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 now and think they were worth the investment to stay organized and create space in my luggage.
After camping in Africa, we learned that a headlamp is never a bad idea. 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 you may plan on the islands.
Hawaii is an easy place to lounge around and do nothing. One thing to put on that Hawaii packing list is a hammock. If you wonder what to pack for Hawaii for more than a week, consider a travel hammock that you can string up between trees. It’s perfect for those times when you want to relax in nature.
The ENO hammock was the original producer. Now, you can find many cheap ones online as they’re easy to manufacture in China, and people love to buy and sell them on Amazon. Personally, I’d stick with the original.
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Every day we were chasing a new waterfall, going on hikes, or enjoying the beach. We had the Osprey Daylite to carry our knick-knacks and snacks for the day for all our excursions. You can also get a cheap foldable backpack that will do a good job securing your things. Here’s a review of all of our favorite backpacks.
I love traveling with a power bank to make sure my phone never dies. The majority of the time I don’t need to use it on long flights as some of the nicer airlines provide entertainment systems with USB ports!
We also make sure to find a charging point during layovers, but getting to a new city without your hotel reservations and map can be a major pain in the ass.
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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 pretty impatient so having a book to read on the beach provides some much-needed entertainment.
I’ve recently upgraded to the Kindle Paperwhite and absolutely love it. It’s small, has touch screen functions, and a backlight so that I can read at night without a harsh glare.
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You Need This to Travel to Hawaii
We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. Natasha is a bit of a worry wart and would rather stay safe than sorry. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!
You never know if the worse could happen while you’re abroad and often your insurance plan at home will not cover medical emergencies abroad.
Or if you have lost luggage, delayed flights, or a canceled trip travel insurance can step in to save the day. Having the peace of mind that we have good backup plan helps us sleep at night.
What Not to Wear in Hawaii
This might be a personal vendetta, but unless you’re on the golf course or you’re currently in a frat, it’s time to ditch the polo shirt.
Hawaii is a relaxed place, and a pair of dress pants are great for a night out or a Luau. However, that does not mean wear your Dad’s Khakis. No pleated khaki pants with the polo shirt tucked in like above — it just looks out of touch.
We’re all about functional travel clothes. A dumb big floppy hat with embroidery is anything but functional, it’s just obnoxious, and it doesn’t make for good vacation photos.
Hawaii is a laid back place and showing up with 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 as home.
More Tips on Packing for Hawaii
Type of Holiday
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 you are traveling between islands. Please stick to one checked bag and one carry-on to make life easier on yourself. Honestly, 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 that you can be fined if bringing in fruits and plants.
The Island Tax
Basic goods and groceries are more expensive in Hawaii than on the mainland so keep that in mind when packing. Keep in mind that it’s an island in the Pacific and everything other than some fruit and coffee has to be shipped in via boat.
Don’t Discredit Snorkel Gear
If you plan on snorkeling a few times it may be worth purchasing fins and a mask. With our two weeks in Hawaii, we went snorkeling 10 or so times. With rentals costing $15 a day for snorkel equipment it just made more sense for us to buy our own gear on the island.
Respect the Reefs
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 are going to enjoy for 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
Hawaii enjoys easy weather year-round with only slight differences in temperature. As far as seasons, there are only two — 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 we talked about earlier in the post, Hawaii has some diverse micro-climates and has a ton of different biomes. In addition, Hawaii receives a lot of rain, which falls primarily in the mountains and valleys on the islands’ windward side or Northeastern side.
The majority of the rain falls in the wet months from November to March. However, it’s often in thunderstorms that are very localized, meaning it’s often sunny somewhere on the island.