Wondering what to bring to Hawaii? Packing for the Pacific islands can be an easy task once you nail down your travel plans. 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 year round. Temperatures consistent year round, perfect for all travelers and sunshine can usually be found any time of year. Above everything, the two things you should bring to Hawaii are a sense of adventure and a smile!
When considering what to wear in Hawaii…
- 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.
- The Hawaiian summer runs from May to October while the winter starts in November and lasts until April. Summers are hot and dry, but can still see rainfall. Winters are cooler and a light fleece jacket and rain jacket are a good idea to pack.
- 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.
- Hawaii is one of the great surf destinations of the world. If you’re a surfer remember your surf essentials.
- 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 eco-friendly sunscreens.
The Ultimate Hawaii Packing List
Cameron laughed at me a few times when we were exploring the waterfalls, but I got the last laugh with my beautiful feet protected by water shoes. If you plan on spending time hiking around any of waterfalls in Hawaii and going in the water it’s worth it to pick up a pair of cheap water shoes. They will help you grip the slippery rocks and protect your feet from sharp rocks.
Most hotels in Hawaii won’t provide this and will charge a premium to purchase so make sure to bring yours from home. We personally choose eco-friendly sunscreen when we are going into the ocean so that we don’t release chemicals into the environment. This is the exact kind we traveled with to Hawaii. If your packing for Hawaii in a carry on consider at least bringing a travel sized bottle with you.
Proper trekking footwear
Hawaii is great for beaches, but that’s not all the islands have to go for them. Oahu and Kauai are known for having some epic hiking routes. Some of these hikes are long and extremely dangerous so don’t go hiking in flip-flops. There is nothing else I would rather be hiking in than a pair of ankle high hiking boots. Or if you don’t feel like investing in hiking shoes a pair of quality tennis shoes should suffice, in most conditions.
Flip-flops are never a bad idea at beach destinations and should be on every traveler’s Hawaii packing list. My favorite brand is Rainbow Sandals as they last forever and are super comfortable once the leather forms to your foot.
My other favorite, more fashionable sandals for women at the beach are Plaka. Plaka sandals are handwoven women’s sandals with a hard rubber sole that is good to wear anywhere in the summer. All of these sandals are hand-made and water resistant and can really dress up a beach casual look. I have a pair in almost all of their styles! (Psst here is a code for 20% of your next pair on Amazon: PLAKAS18)
You’re heading to Hawaii so you will probably hit up a few of their splendid beaches. When I travel I always bring at least two suits so that I have a dry one to always change into. Hawaii is all about the beaches and ocean is an intergral part of Hawaiian culture. For all of that, you’re going to need a bathing suit.
If you’re wondering what to bring to Hawaii I would recommend at least a few outfits of light and loose clothing. It can get very hot and sticky on the islands so you don’t want to bring all stiff clothes that cling to your body. This is the state where elected politicians wear aloha shirts on a daily basis and at official events. What you wear in Hawaii is anything, but formal wear.
My favorite casual pants are these from prAna, Mantra Hemp pants, they’re antimicrobial, look stylish, fit a number of occasions, and keep you cool. Cameron refused to wear informal pants for a long time but has since found the men’s Vaha Pant, to be his favorite pair of pants ever.
I typically have at least two pairs of yoga pants in my suitcase. My black yoga pants from Alala go with just about anything, and if you plan on being active and going hiking in Hawaii activewear is definitely the way to go. Use the code TWP15 at Alala for an exclusive 15% discount.
Asun hat or baseball cap is never a bad idea when traveling to tropical destinations especially if you are prone to sunburn or have sensitive eyes. .
Beach travel towel
We always travel with a microfiber travel towel just in case we find ourselves in a situation without a towel. Unless you are camping most accommodation providers will provide you with bath towels, but they won’t want you taking those bath towels to the beach and ruining them. The Youphoria travel towel is quick try, antibacterial, and doesn’t hold on to sand like a regular bath towel. Plus it packs up light and small! Of course, many resorts do provide you with beach towels!
Dry bagDry bags are great if you’re going to spend time at the beach. They will protect your phone and any other electronics from the ocean, or more importantly if it starts to rain. We found them really important when we went on a traditional outrigger canoe.
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. We love to buy outdoor gear on REI, check out their headlamps.
Hawaii is an easy place to lounge around and do absolutely nothing. If you are wondering what to pack for Hawaii for more than a week consider a A travel hammock that you can string up between trees. It’s perfect for those times when you want to relax in nature.
Just in case you run out of juice having a backup charger is never a bad idea.
Beach cover up
A beach cover-up or sarong is essential when traveling to Hawaii. Most of my cover-ups come from Pitusa. Pitusa only uses Peruvian and Indian cotton and employs women from Peru, Bali, and India to make the products. As a fan of fair trade that these are made in ethical work environments. These Pitusa dresses are also so beautiful they double as a night out dress (but are sheer so wear something underneath).
Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Hawaii. Our favorite pocket sized point and shoot camera for quick trips is the Sony RX100V. It takes fantastic photos and video and is the size of your palm.
We bought this camera specifically for Hawaii as we could easily add on underwater housing for an affordable price. It came in handy when we were snorkeling with sea turtles! Check out our other travel cameras here.
Every day we were chasing a new waterfall, going on hikes, or enjoying the beach. For all our excursions we had theOsprey Daylite to carry our knicks knacks and snacks for the day. You can also get a cheap foldable backpack that will do a good job at securing your things too. Here’s a review of all of our favorite backpacks.
Hawaii is said to have some of the best drinking water in the world. Consider purchasing a travel water bottle before you arrive so that you keep refilling up on the delicious tap water and save on plastic waste. Here are a few of our favorite water bottles for travel.
No matter what you will need a beach bag when heading to the beach. This is to throw in anything from towels to books, to sunscreen. Depending on the size of your beach party you may only need one medium sized tube. For family beach goers I recommend a large yet durable beach tote like this one.
There are many opportunities in Hawaii to dress up and have a nice evening out. Women should consider bringing at least one dress while men should have a casual beach outfit to wear out. Suits and formal dresses are best suited for the weddings in Hawaii, but even then it’s a very informal place. For men, it’s tough to go wrong with a pair of chinos and a light colored linen shirt.
Check out some of the best sellers right now and pick up a copy. I like to read on days when I just feel like sunbathing and relaxing. Cameron is pretty impatient so having a book to read on the beach provides some much needed an 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.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun on your beach trip! I personally can’t even go outside without sunglasses. We just invested in our first pair of high-quality sunglasses and love them. Smith Optics are well known in the optical field and their ChromaPop sunglasses have color-enhancing lenses. Polarized glasses are great at enhancing vision in bright environments and removing glare from windshields and the water
Essential Hawaii Packing Tips
- The less you pack the better, especially if you are traveling between islands. 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.
- When coming from the US mainland know that you can be fined if bringing in fruits and plants.
- Basic goods and groceries are more expensive in Hawaii than on the mainland so keep that in mind when packing.
- 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.
- Hawaii has a mild climate year round. Temperatures are always comfortable so packing should never cause too much confusion.
Plan Your Visit to Hawaii
We rely on a few trusted websites that help save us money and time when booking hotels, flights, and car rentals. Check out some of our preferred partners below:
- Accommodation in Hawaii: Airbnb is a great option when in Hawaii. Read more about choosing a good Airbnb here. Here is a coupon for your first stay with Airbnb!
- Car Rental: Renting a car is one of the best ways to get around Hawaii. Compare rental prices here.
- Travel Insurance: 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 is ideal for flexible and great plans!
- Water: Hawaii is said to have some of the best drinking water in the world, if you want extra assurance then we love traveling with our Lifestraw Go Waterbottle.
- Read: The Descendants.