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. 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 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!
The Ultimate Hawaii Packing List
The first thing you need on your Hawaii packing list is a pair of quality sunglasses. Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun since you’ll likely spend a lot of time in the Hawaiian sun. There are a lot of options for quality 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 it’s popular with surfers — and ski bums like us.
Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses; however, we love ours and will never buy cheap ones again. Polarized glasses are great at enhancing vision in bright environments and removing glare from windshields and the water.
Hydroflask 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. Our personal favorite is Hydro Flask.
Hydro Flask water bottles are everywhere these days and for good reason. They’re an awesome product. The container has the ability to keep drinks hot or cold. The double wall aluminum construction does a great job at keeping products at a consistent temperature without added weight. Most importantly a water bottle discourages the use of plastic single-use water bottles that are polluting our oceans.
Quick Dry Travel Towel
We always recommend bringing a travel towel for just about every destination. Quick dry towels are great when you’re out exploring Hawaii. You can make an impromptu dip in 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 daypack and leave room for the items.
The biggest complaint about travel towels is that they often feel nothing like the plush cotton towels we are accustomed to at home and in hotels. However, with the PackTowl you can forget about all of that because they set out to create a towel that mimics its cotton counterparts with the technical features of a travel towel.
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 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.
It’s one of the few places in the world where you do not need to worry about dressing formal 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!
In case you didn’t know, Hawaii sees a lot of rain — as in more than any other place in the United States. Chances are high you’ll be caught in one of the islands’ many frequent thunderstorms.
You’re going to need a packable raincoat or jacket. No matter the season a rain jacket is always essential for traveling to Hawaii (and the rest of the world). 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.
There are only a few travel items I recommend everyone have and one of them is the down jacket. A down jacket is one of those staples and it’s tremendously versatile. This is up to you and your travel plans in Hawaii as a warm jacket may be totally 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 winter months and regularly fall below freezing temperatures due to the elevation.
With that in mind, we always recommend you always bring a great packable down jacket on just about any extended trip. If you have plans for either of the peaks I’d suggest bringing some warm clothes.
Marine Layer Jeans
This is another one that all depends on your preferences and what you’re doing. However, I found myself wearing a pair of jeans once or twice in the evenings and the morning we went up the Haleakalā for sunrise. In Hawaii, jeans are definitely not necessary.
We stick with the classic look in jeans. That means fitted jeans that are a dark color. No fades, light blues, or rips! I love marine Layer jeans and other pants – they are so comfortable.
I pretty much live in loose pants when at the beach. My favorite pair of pants is made by prAna. Their women’s Summit Pant is made out of hemp and recycled polyester while offering 50+ UPF protection. Men can get relaxed in the Vaha Pant.
They are perfect for beach destinations, especially if you find yourself in more conservative areas. These pants are lightweight and weigh nothing in a carry-on bag. I could literally live in these pants if it were acceptable to wear them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner out.
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.
Hawaii is home to some fantastic hiking, almost every island presents visitors with some great opportunities. Expect to trek to epic viewpoints, swim in secret waterfalls, and wander through tropical forests. Due to the abundance of rain that falls on the islands trails are often very muddy with standing water. A good pair of hiking boots will come in handy if you have plans to explore the island by foot. We love the Merrel Moabs II that come in both women’s and men’s versions.
Women’s Hawaii Packing List
It’s a tremendous idea to have a comfortable sundress. Not only is it more comfortable, but it’s also cute. Tasha got the Cantine Dress from prAna this year and has loved the sundress.
It has built in support and sturdy straps, so you can be active in this dress. It’s even possible to take easy hikes in the dress, like in Waimea Canyon on Kauai.
I always love to have a loose blouse for those warm Hawaiian days. It’s comfortable and stylish you can’t go wrong with this look when in tropical destinations.
Rompers are probably one of my favorite travel outfits because they’re stylish, comfortable, practical, and keep me cool in the summer. You really can’t go wrong here and I’d suggest throwing at least one or two rompers in your suitcase for Hawaii.
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 light color.
Cute Summer Dress
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 love to wear a cute summer dress in Hawaii like an exposed shoulder top or a slip dress and go with light colors for the classic island look.
This is a great time to bring up one of my favorite new companies for travel fashion. Vacay Style is a selection of five versatile articles of clothing that can be mix and matched to create 18 different outfits. I really can’t recommend picking up one of their collections enough, as it makes packing a breeze! I’ve also negotiated a very special discount of 25% for readers of The World Pursuit – use the code WORLD at checkout (good for one month).
Women’s Bathing Suit
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 integral part of Hawaiian culture. For all of that, you’re going to need a bathing suit.
One of my favorite brands for swimsuits is prAna. prAna makes high-quality swimsuits for active women. Many of their pieces are stylish, yet supportive. So if you’re planning to go surfing, bodyboarding, kitesurfing, or play beach volleyball and want to make sure your ta-tas stay intact these swimsuits are for you.
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 bringing a sports bra as you might not be headed to the gym, but they’re tremendous for active or hot summer days.
I love this one from Patagonia as it provides support in a more a subtle cut.
Beach cover up
A beach cover-up or sarong is essential when traveling to Hawaii.
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.
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 with everything. They’re super functional clothes that can be worn under a blouse or alone with a pair of jeans or capris.
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)
Hawaii is a destination for the health conscious people and with that yoga is all over the islands. Most of the big resorts even offer yoga classes in the morning or evenings.
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.
For more 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.
Men’s Hawaii Packing List
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.
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 hold up better in the heat than a cotton shirt. The one above is from prAna.
I’d look pretty ridiculous wearing a T-shirt to a nice meal in Hawaii. Men should pack at least one or two dress shirts for a trip to Hawaii. I like to stick with a classic color like blue or white that will never go out of style.
I recently ordered a new selection of shirts and ties from the Tie Bar and so far I’ve loved my clothes. All stylish, nice quality, and affordable. Plus their online website makes it easy to order a new wardrobe with suggestions for what matches and inspirations for outfits.
prAna Vaha Short
These shorts from prAna are fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about these shorts as they are super comfortable and durable. I have several pairs of the Vaha Pant both shorts and pants. They’re made from
The material dries fast and hold up to any activities and show little sign of wear. I like to wear them when working out, heading to the lunch, or relaxing around the house. They look great anywhere you can get away with casual attire, which means almost anywhere in Hawaii.
If you have plans for a night out then plan to have dress pants like chinos. It’s a classic look that when combined with a dress shirt has a classic look. I always pack a pair of these pants in my bag! Men should opt for more neutral colors like grey, blue, brown or green, but can break the trend with a deep red, white, or even pink.
For men, Cameron loves a good pair of board shorts from Billabong or Dakine. Both make great quality shorts that are lightweight and built for surfing so they stretch and move with the body. When purchasing board shorts it’s best to stick with darker colors as they hold up longer and to get a shorter cut above the knee. As for material a great blend of polyester and elastane is a solid choice as it’s lightweight and comfortable.
The right watch is the perfect accessory for men. I’m not a fan of big gold or silver watches and find them to be overstated. Opt for something more stylish and modern like this leather and silver watch. As a plus, they’ll match a pair of brown boots lending to more versatility in everyday life. I just picked up this one from Michael Kors and think it’s a perfect blend between casual and formal.
Hawaii is a very relaxed place, but that doesn’t mean men should always wear sandals. I like to have a relaxed sneaker like Vans when I travel. They’re appropriate in a multitude of environments and when well maintained. they manage to not feel to casual. My personal favorite are the Van’s Sk8 Hi Tops.
Accessories to Pack for Hawaii
As Lonely Planet Pathfinders who regularly go on assignment for the guidebook company we love to have a physical guidebook when traveling. 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.
Motion Sickness Wristbands
If you’re prone to seasickness or motion sickness it’s a good idea to pick up some motion sickness wristbands or medication. Many of the best things to do on the islands include boat rides. You can paddle an outrigger canoe, go snorkeling, a coastline tour, whale watching, and more experiences out on the open water so it’s a good idea to bring something to cope.
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. As full-time travelers, we often use our daypacks for trips to the beach since a tote is unnecessary.
However, a classic tote that everyone as they travel well as and can fold flat/lie in your luggage. For family beach goers 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.
Fins and Snorkel Gear
An absolutely must have Hawaii packing list items is underwater fun essentials. If you’re into snorkeling then pick up some fins, a mask, and snorkel so you don’t get stuck paying to rent the set up. Personally, we travel around the world with our gear – yes, I’m serious. My fins fit right in my suitcase while the mask and snorkel sit comfortably in any backpack or suitcase.
Since Cam has freediving fins his don’t fit in his suitcase but he doesn’t mind carrying them on a plane and the airlines never even notice them.
Alternatively, if you’re staying a resort or hotel on your vacation check to see if they have free equipment you can use!
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.
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.
Most hotels and resorts in Hawaii won’t provide this and will 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.
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. We love to buy outdoor gear on REI.
Hawaii is an easy place to lounge around and do absolutely nothing, one thing to put on that Hawaii packing list is a hammoc. If you are wondering 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 a multitude of cheap ones online as they’re easy to manufacture in China and people love to buy and sell them on Amazon. Personally, I’d just stick with the original.
Every day we were chasing a new waterfall, going on hikes, or enjoying the beach. For all our excursions we had the Osprey Daylite to carry our knick 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.
Electronics to Pack for Hawaii
A high-quality camera is an important packing item for Hawaii if you want some great shots while on your vacation We travel with a bunch of cameras, but the one we universally recommend is the RX 100.
They make a number of models at different price points, but it’s a simple to use point-and-shoot camera that anyone can operate. It also takes superb images with a 20mp resolution and full manual controls.
This is the perfect camera to bring to Hawaii and you’ll see them everywhere. Hawaii has plenty of adventures from surfing to hiking or ATV Tours to Snorkeling. GoPros are made for all of that!
Don’t risk bringing a fancy camera to the beach and getting sand in it. Or even worse, water. We just picked up the newest GoPro and love it so far. The Hypersmooth motion capture is a total game changer. Just make sure to attach it to a wrist strap so it doesn’t get lost! The Indian Ocean may or may not have swallowed one of our cameras before.
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.
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.
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 is might be personal vendetta, but unless you’re golfing 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. 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.
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. 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 on our last two-week trip I saw countless tourists standing on reefs. 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. It is illegal in Hawaii, both in federal and state law, to touch sea turtles or to 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. Hawaii receives a lot of rain which falls primarily in the mountains and valleys on the windward side or Northeastern side of the islands.
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.