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What to pack for Hawaii
So you’ve decided to plan a Hawaii vacation, yay! Now you have some things to figure out, where to stay, things to do in Hawaii, and what to pack for Hawaii. This is the ultimate Hawaii packing list and will help you figure out exactly what to bring for your Hawaii vacation.
When it comes to what to bring to Hawaii, everyone will need a few basic items. My number one tip is not to overpack. Make sure you have some room in your bags (or an extra bag) to bring home souvenirs from the Hawaiian islands.
By the way, you’ll definitely need a rental car; I recommend Discount Hawaii Car Rental. You’ll find the best prices on rental cars in Hawaii.
If you’re still planning your Hawaii trip, make sure to check out the best island in Hawaii, the worst time to go to Hawaii, and all of my Hawaii itineraries:
My simple method for what to pack for Hawaii
I have a very simple method for putting together your Hawaii packing list. I create a note on my iPhone and make a checklist of items. Then, I check the items off the list as I pack them.
I know this is very simple, but it works for me and ensures I don’t forget anything on my Hawaii packing list. I do the same when I return home to make sure I don’t leave anything!
If you are traveling with young children, or even if you aren’t, make sure to have some sort of system to ensure you bring everything you need.
The best luggage for Hawaii
Now, let’s start on this Hawaii packing list. The first thing you’ll need is the luggage. I like eBags for an affordable luggage option.
I am a big fan of packing as little as possible. The Amazon Basics Underseat Bag is the perfect under-the-seat bag, with a handle! I also love the eBags Mother Lode Mini 21″ for a carry-on.
I personally use Star Wars luggage from FUL; they have fun Disney prints and plain luggage too.
The eBags packing cubes are great for keeping everything organized. I use them every time I travel.
As a former photographer, I have quite a few pricey camera bags, but most people won’t need those. If you do have any expensive camera equipment, make sure it’s well packed!
We also have this DSLR backpack that’s perfect for hiking. It has just enough room for a camera, one or two lenses, a GoPro, and water. It also fits under the airplane seat.
My all-time favorite “personal item” bag is this $40 bag from Amazon. In fact, I talk about it in one of my most popular YouTube videos.
What clothing to pack for Hawaii
Everyone is different when it comes to clothing. I’m definitely not going to tell you what to wear on your vacation! However, I will say that Hawaii is very casual.
You don’t need to bring very many formal outfits if any. You’ll find. that most people wear a pair of shorts and a t-shirt or tank top just about everywhere. T-shirts, sundresses, and flip-flops (slippers) are the norm in Hawaii.
You can also check out: What to Wear on Vacation in Hawaii. However, we’ll go over it here too.
What to wear in Hawaii
A collared shirt or sundress will be dressy enough for almost any restaurant. When in doubt, ask your resort (or your travel agent) about restaurant dress code requirements. Even resort wear will be on the casual side, if you see someone in high heels, they are likely a tourist and not a local!
You may wonder if you need a light rain jacket if you travel during the rainy season. I personally don’t find it to be necessary, but you can always pack an emergency poncho.
You’ll probably be walking a lot. Make sure to bring comfortable shoes. For me, this means my Teva sandals.
For you, this might mean athletic shoes or other closed-toe shoes. If you plan to visit somewhere like Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, remember that the lava rock could hurt your feet, so wear appropriate shoes.
Also, please do not step on the coral reef in your water shoes or at all!
Again, remember that everyone in Hawaii wears slippers (flip flops), so make sure to bring those too.
Does it get cold in Hawaii?
The Hawaiian Islands have a warm climate, even during the winter months. I talk about this more about the best island to visit in Hawaii in December.
The short answer is that Hawaii is very warm no matter what time of year, even in the winter. You will need long pants and even a sweater or jacket if you visit places of higher elevations, such as Haleakala on Maui or Mauna Kea on the Big Island. Many tours of either of these places provide jackets or blankets.
You may hear that Hawaii has a humid climate, but if you live in the south, you’ll disagree. It’s nothing like Florida. Oh, and don’t worry about bug spray; I’ve never found the need to bring it. If you do, you can always buy some during your trip.
I recommend wearing pants and a sweater or jacket on the plane and then using those during your trip up Haleakala or Mauna Kea. Did you know that it can snow there?
Basic Hawaii packing list for men
- polo shirts
- pairs of shorts
- one pair of pants (if you want to wear them to a nicer restaurant-optional)
- two pairs of swimming shorts
- one lightweight jacket or sweater
Basic Hawaii packing list for women
- tank tops,
- a few pairs of shorts
- skirts/dresses/maxi dresses or jumpsuits (if you wear them)
- two bathing suits
- one light jacket or light sweater
Again, you will probably need a jacket! If you plan to visit higher altitudes like Mauna Kea or Haleakala, a jacket is a necessity.
It gets cold and even snows sometimes at higher altitudes in Hawaii. I like to wear my jacket on the flight because flights are always cold. Check out how to survive to flight to Hawaii for more tips.
Pro tip – Unless you’re staying in a very rural area, there will be plenty of opportunities to do laundry. Most resorts and hotels have laundry facilities. Most condos and villas have a washer and dryer in the unit or the building, and hotels will have a guest laundry. Pack light and plan to do some laundry in the middle of your trip.
Yes, you’ll need two bathing suits. One to wear and one to dry! If you tend to burn, you might also consider a rash guard. The Hawaiian sun is very intense.
One of my top packing tips is to roll your clothing instead of folding it. You’ll have a lot more room.
What to pack for adventure days in Hawaii
There are so many great things you can do in the Aloha state. From horseback riding to ziplining to snorkeling tours, the outdoor activities and water activities are almost endless. It would be silly to go all the way to Hawaii and spend all day in your hotel room or vacation rental. So, what should you pack for a day of adventure?
I recommend bringing a small bag along that has anything you might need for the day, from sunscreen to medication (especially if you need something for motion sickness) or even an extra change of clothes. If you’re doing something like kayaking or snorkeling, it may be best to bring a dry bag.
If you’d like to learn more about the best adventure activities in Hawaii, from waterfall hikes to swimming with sea turtles or other marine life (from a distance!) check out some of my favorite things to do.
- 30 free things to do in Oahu
- 50 things to do on Kauai
- 50 things to do on the Big Island
- 50 things to do in Maui
Bring a camera to Hawaii.
Bring a camera! Not just your phone. I’m a big fan of putting the phones away and enjoying your vacation. At the very least, bring a GoPro Hero or another waterproof camera.
Hawaii is the perfect location to use a GoPro. You can take it underwater on a snorkeling adventure or even on a Dune Buggy. Most places will offer GoPro rentals, so you might as well bring your own. An underwater camera is one of the most important things on this list of what to pack for Hawaii!
If you only have your phone, make sure to bring a waterproof phone case so that you can take photos during all the fun things like ATV tours, snorkeling adventures, and more.
Pack a refillable water bottle and at least one reusable bag
Hawaii has banned plastic bags, so bring at least one reusable bag for shopping. Of course, you can always buy a reusable bag on the island. Choosing reusable items is an easy way to lessen the waste involved with your vacation.
You might want to check out 10 things to know before going to Hawaii to learn more. This is one of my most popular blog posts!
Back to the reusable, we love our tropical theme Target bags! Make sure also to bring a refillable water bottle to fill up at the airport and for outings. There is so much plastic in the ocean already; avoiding plastic water bottles is a great way to make a small difference.
My favorite reusable water bottle is definitely the Hydroflask. It keeps drinks cold all day, even in Hawaii! Lately, I’ve been traveling with my Berkey Sport. It filters water right out of the bottle. Great for nasty airport water.
I like using foldable reusable grocery bags while traveling. If you make any trips to the grocery store during your Hawaiian vacation, these bags are a great option.
Don’t forget your chargers.
Don’t forget a charger for your phone, camera, etc. You might also want to get extra memory cards for any camera. This is one of the most important things that you won’t want to forget when trying to figure out what to pack for Hawaii.
Pack your documents in your carry on
The last thing you want to do is lose your important documents.
If you’re checking a bag, make sure to keep items like your license, credit cards, insurance cards, and passport in your carry-on. I also advise keeping a bathing suit and at least one set of clothes in your carry-on, just in case something happens with your luggage.
Unfortunately, luggage does get lost, so I recommend putting as much of your stuff as you can in your carry-on. I see luggage lost all the time as a Hawaii travel agent, so I never check a bag. The extra cost and extra risk are not worth it to me!
Even if you do check a bag or two, make sure to keep all important documents plus your Hawaii essentials in your carry-on.
Beach Bag essentials for Hawaii
You’ll need a few essential items for those beach days during your Hawaii vacation. Sun protection like, such as sunscreen or a wide-brimmed hat are always a great choice.
If you are out during the sunniest part of the day, you’re going to want to pack sunscreen. Make sure to pack reef-safe sunscreen, no matter where you are.
You can read all about why to choose reef-safe sunscreen here. My favorites are All Good and Coola.
I love to read! Although I prefer “real” books, books can get heavy. I like to read on my Kindle when I am traveling. I use a Kindle Unlimited subscription during the times that I travel often.
Do you have any favorite beach reads? I am always looking for more, so let me know your favorites in the comments!
Make sure to use one that’s safe for your body and contains sunscreen. Again, I like the All Good brand.
You may not need this until after, but it’s good to keep in your bag. I don’t use the chemical-filled green goop. My favorite is from a brand called Hanalei.
Such a simple thing, but you don’t want to be stuck at the beach without hair ties if you have long hair as I do. Grab this set of 27 on Amazon for just over $2!
If you like listening to music or listening to audiobooks on the beach, headphones are a must. They’re also great if you decide to go for a walk or jog along the beach. I use Bose QuietComfort headphones and love them. I’ve tried many different headphones, and these are a great choice.
Waterproof phone pouch
The beach is full of things that can ruin your phone—sand, water, etc. Keeping your phone in a waterproof pouch will keep it protected.
If you are out all day, make sure to keep some type of hat with you. I switch between my ridiculous large beach hat and my CC ponytail hat.
Protect your eyes by keeping a pair of sunglasses in your beach bag at all times. Quay is a popular brand and fairly inexpensive too.
Another important beach bag essential is some leave-in conditioner. I like Sun Bum because it’s gluten-free, vegan, paraben-free, and color-safe.
It has fairly natural ingredients, but coconut oil works great if you want something all-natural. You’ll have to wash it out later. 🙂
A wristlet is great for holding your keys and money. I love this one because it has pineapples on it!
I like Turkish towels because they double as a plane blanket on travel days or a beach towel on beach days. They also hold up nicely and don’t take up too much space in your luggage.
Toss a simple beach cover-up or romper in your beach bag, and you’ll be good to go. In Hawaii, almost everyone dresses very casually. You can go straight from the beach to dinner with a cute cover-up top and a pair of shorts.
A good beach bag
I recommend having a nice, large bag to keep everything in if your visit to Hawaii is because you want a nice beach vacation. Here are a few of my favorites on Amazon:
One of the best things to do in Hawaii is to snorkel! Snorkeling is one of the most popular things to do, and with good reason. Hawaii is one of the best places for snorkeling and other water sports.
Yes, you can rent snorkel gear on any of the major islands in Hawaii. And yes, any tours will have snorkel gear included. However, I find it kind of gross to rent snorkel gear. So, I like to bring my own. Plus, renting can be expensive, so it can be a great value to bring your own.
You can check out some of my favorites on my Amazon storefront or in the links below.
If you plan to hike or if you (like me) enjoy traveling light, bring a fanny pack! I like to keep my cell phone, credit cards, and maybe some sunscreen or lip balm on me. A fanny pack is often considered “clothing” during your long flight and may be a great addition to your luggage.
Just keep in mind this is at the airline’s discretion. I’ve walked onto Spirit Airlines with a fanny pack without a word said, but I’ve had someone yell at me for my fanny pack in Business Class on American Airlines. So your mileage may vary using this tip for extra luggage.
I prefer a Lululemon Belt Bag, but any fanny pack/hip bag will work!
Hawaii Packing List
Did this Hawaii packing list help you figure out what to pack for Hawaii? Did anything on this list of what to pack for Hawaii surprise you? If you have anything to add, please share it in the comments!
If you’re looking for more Hawaii travel tips, make sure to check out:
- What not to do in Hawaii
- Is Hawaii safe?
- Maui vs. Kauai
- How much does it cost to go to Hawaii?
- The Best Time for Whale Watching in Hawaii
- The 12 best scenic drives in Hawaii
Although I am a Hawaii Travel Agent, I only take on a select amount of clients per month to provide the best service. You can contact me if you’d like more information. I would recommend starting with my Hawaii travel guide if you plan to DIY your vacation!
The best way to get Hawaii travel tips and the most current travel information is to sign up for my email list. I send out one weekly email with the latest news, travel deals, and more. Sign up below.
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judy l andrews
I found a carry-on size cooler to take to Kauai that we will use for carry-on and then for our excursions to the beach and other travels packing out water, snacks, drinks set,
Oh I love that idea! Where is it from?