Your Hawaii vacation is coming up fast, but you still have one big task ahead of you: packing your bags. You’ve looked forward to this time when your trip is within reach, but somehow packing has become daunting.
Maybe you’re unsure what to bring and what to buy here in Hawaii. Perhaps you only have so much room in your suitcase, especially after packing 10 sun hats and 12 pairs of shoes. Or maybe you’re traveling with children, a venture as rewarding as it is overwhelming.
You need a comprehensive Hawaii packing list, so we’ve made one for you! Ahead, we’ll share the top things to pack for your vacation and what to leave behind. Whether it’s your first visit or your 10th trip, you might find some ideas worth noting. Before you know it, you’ll be zipping up your luggage and heading to the airport with ease!
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WARM WEATHER CLOTHES
Hawaii is hot any time of year, so definitely pack your summer clothes – even if you’re heading out in the winter months. In most areas of the state, winter days reach the low 80s and rarely fall below the high 60s at night.
This means that tank tops, pairs of shorts (maybe some that are quick dry), and light dresses are your friend. We’ll talk later about when and if you’ll need any cool-weather clothes, but for the most part you’ll want to count on hot, sunny days in this tropical climate.
The good news is that these breezy items take up less space in your suitcase, so you’ll have room to pack the many other things you’ll need to bring to Hawaii.
*Don’t forget to pack your sports bra and comfy clothes for your warm-weather adventures.
I’m not sure who will travel to Hawaii without their swimsuit, but here is the reminder just in case you need it.
I guess many people are more interested in the sights and adventures than the pools and oceans, and that’s ok. But you’ll be surprised by how tempting the bright blue Hawaii waters are, and you want to be ready to jump in.
Read More: 14 BEST BEACHES IN HAWAII FOR FUN IN THE SUN
Looking for fun in the sun? Here are some great activities you’ve got to check out during your Hawaiian vacation!
- Take in the Ka Moana Luau Dinner & Show at Aloha Tower. Experience Oahu’s award-winning entertainment and a one-of-a-kind Luau and show that starts and finishes with fire.
- See giants on a Kailua-Kona Whale Watching Cruise. Whale season starts in December and lasts until mid-April. Whales arrive yearly in the Hawaiian Islands after a 3,000 mile journey. If you are visiting Hawaii during this time, don’t miss out and reserve your seat to see these magnificent creatures.
- Enjoy an Afternoon Glass Bottom Boat Tour in Waikiki. Join the Haleiwa Queen cruise from Oahu, enjoy the clear view of the Pacific Ocean floor as you cruise over live tropical reefs and one of Hawaii’s shipwrecks on a glass-bottom boat.
We’ll talk more about sunscreen soon, but for now, let’s have a word on rash guards. This is every mom’s best friend. Your family will spend a lot of time in the sun. You can slather sunscreen all over your kids non-stop, or you can let a long-sleeve rash guard do some of that work for you.
The sun in Hawaii is intense, and the last thing you want is a sunburn while you’re here. Rash guards with sun protection are a great option to keep your shoulders, back, and chest protected while you have the best time in the sun. And they make really cute ones now too, so kids, teens, and adults can wear them and still feel stylish.
I used to avoid the rash guards because I wanted a tan, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve prioritized sun protection during every beach vacation. Just get a spray tan and preserve your skin once you’re here!
A SWEATER AND LIGHT RAIN JACKET
Ok, we’ve covered the swimsuits and tank tops. Now it’s time to talk about cool-weather clothes. What kinds of jackets and winter wear will you need during your Hawaiian vacation?
Some places in Hawaii get really cold, even in the summer. But you probably won’t spend a lot of time in these areas.
If you plan to spend any time at higher elevations, prepare for temperatures in the 50s or 60s. And it gets even colder overnight and early morning. So if you’re hiking on the Big Island or stargazing on Mauna Kea (the Big Island), viewing the caldera glow at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (the Big Island), or watching the sunrise at Haleakala (Maui), you’ll want a full jacket and a pair of long pants. These high altitudes can get super cold.
Beyond these extreme circumstances, it doesn’t get too cold in most of the tourist areas of the Hawaiian Islands unless it’s a rare rainy day. Eastern-facing coasts are more likely to have cool, cloudy days during the rainy season, and you may need to layer on sweaters for time in the air conditioning.
So don’t overpack with warm clothes, but be prepared for your specific adventures. Sweatshirts and sweatpants are a great choice for casual travelers, plus you can re-wear them for your flights.
Most Hawaii restaurants keep things casual and are okay with guests wearing tank tops and shorts. But there are a few nicer places that ask for resort wear: no t-shirts, jeans, or shorts.
But even if you aren’t making reservations at a place with a listed dress code, you’ll probably want to dress up for a nice dinner out at least once during your trip. Wear your rubber flip-flops instead of high heels, and polo shirts might be more comfortable than full button-ups.
Traveling on a budget or with small kids? Skip the fancy restaurant but still dress up for DIY portraits on the beach. It’s a good reason to rock Hawaii-inspired resort wear without having to get the kids to sit through an entire meal.
Water shoes are one of the best things to have in Hawaii. If you have water shoes, go on and pack them in your suitcase. You can buy them at Walmart once you arrive, though. The main thing is to remember to bring them with you when you’re out and about.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been exploring in Hawaii and said, “Man, I wish I had brought my water shoes.” Don’t be like me. If you’re going on any outdoor activities, bring your water shoes with you, just in case.
They’re great to wear if you cross lava rock, slick streams, graveled pathways, and other tricky terrains.
I love carrying along compact binoculars while sightseeing. If you’re prone to forgetting things, bring two pairs: one you can keep in the rental car and one in your beach bag at the hotel.
These are my favorite things to have when whale watching, cruising near dolphins, sea-gazing from the hotel room balcony, or catching the sights at scenic overlooks.
REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE
The sun and salt water take a lot out of you, so you’ll want to stay hydrated while you’re here. The easiest way to do this is with a refillable water bottle. Bonus points if you can carry it on the plane so you can stay hydrated on your travel days too.
Most hotels make it super easy to refill water, and you’ll be doing your part to minimize single-use plastic in Hawaii.
SHOES & FLIP FLOPS
You don’t need a billion pairs of shoes in Hawaii. Just bring a pair of flip-flops, water shoes if you have them, and a pair of closed-toe shoes (like sneakers).
You won’t want to stop and buy flip-flops before hitting the pools, so have a pair ready to go when you get here. And you’ll need tennis shoes to go horseback riding, ziplining, or hiking. The best shoes for your Hawaii trip are the most comfortable shoes.
WATERPROOF PHONE CASE
A waterproof phone case will keep you from having a cell phone catastrophe while you’re enjoying water activities. It happened to a friend while she was visiting me, and it was heartbreaking and such a hassle.
Bring a case and bring a good one. And while many cases offer underwater capabilities, I think a separate underwater camera is the way to go. It’s just less liability if something goes wrong. So bring that too, or buy a disposable one when you’re here. Then you can capture your memories with Hawaii’s marine life (from a legal and respectful distance)!
A waterproof bag is a great way to carry belongings for water sports. Bring it to the beach, on a boat, or into the tropical forests to keep your essentials dry. Add it to your day pack or beach bag, which you can buy here or bring with you.
ESSENTIAL ITEMS & IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS
Things are pricey in Hawaii, and buying new contact solution, shampoo, soap, and moisturizers will add up. Yes, that may mean you have to pay to check a bag, but it will save you so much time and money once you arrive here.
And definitely remember your photo IDs and Insurance Cards!
Worried you’ll forget the most important things? Make a list in advance and check it off as you pack. Glasses, medication, and electronics chargers are so easy to forget, so make your list, check it twice, and avoid sweating over what you’ve forgotten to pack.
It’s a long flight to Hawaii, especially if you’re with antsy kids. This won’t be the best part of your vacation, but it doesn’t have to be completely miserable, either.
Anytime I’m packing for a flight, I consider two warring thoughts: This will be such a hassle to carry through the airport, and What if I need this on the plane?
For this long flight with risky layovers, bring everything you think you need for the flight. One time, I packed two days’ worth of baby formula for a flight from Nashville to Maui, and I needed every bit of it.
Bring the headphones even if you think the plane will provide them: both the kind that goes into your iPhone and the ones that go into the headphone jack on the back of the seat. Bring your e-reader and its charger. Bring all the snacks.
This is such a headache to have with you as you go through security and endure your layover, but it’s better than being miserable without these items throughout your flight.
AN EXTRA SUITCASE
It’s a good idea to max out your luggage allowance when flying to Hawaii. You’ll want that extra space when you return. You’ll buy souvenirs. You’ll decide to keep the extra beach towel you purchased at the ABC Store. The clothes you brought will somehow take up more space than when you came.
Don’t spend your last hours in Hawaii trying to squeeze your belongings into your luggage. Leave extra room in your suitcase when you’re flying here – it will make things go so much more smoothly when it’s time to leave.
Pro Tip: Only need one small suitcase for your trip over? Nest it inside a larger one so you have much more packing room for your return flight.
CASH & CREDIT CARDS
Want to be a conscious and welcomed visitor to the Aloha State? Tip your service providers. This is an extra cost you’ll want to budget for. Bring along a hefty collection of ones, fives, and tens to share with valets, musicians, taxi drivers, hula instructors, pool attendants, tour guides, and restaurant workers.
While many of these professionals will have a Venmo to share, you’ll still want to be prepared to share cash as a thank-you for their service.
Additionally, some shops and restaurants are cash-only, especially in the rural parts of the islands.
If you aren’t comfortable flying with money, just be prepared to pay ATM fees or get cash back at a retailer in Hawaii. Nearly all the ATMs are through local banks, not national institutions.
You also want to bring your credit cards – you’ll need these for room, car, and activity reservations. They’re accepted in most places around Hawaii’s major islands.
WHAT TO BUY IN HAWAII
If you want to pack light, there are many things you can (and may want to) buy in Hawaii. Here are a few of the things that might be worth picking up once you’re here:
- Reef-Safe Sunscreen: Hawaii has banned the sale of sunscreen with specific ingredients that are harmful to the coral reef. While you may be able to find your favorite brand of reef-safe sunscreen at home, it’s best to purchase once you’re in the state to ensure you are buying the most environmentally-friendly product possible.
- Mosquito Repellent: Mosquito repellent is a must if you plan on doing any hiking in Hawaii to a waterfall or on a forest adventure. Grab it on your first shopping trip so you don’t forget later. It’ll be a great addition to your day pack.
- Beach Towels: Most hotels have a towel service, so don’t worry about bringing these with you. If you need something larger, Hawaii’s stores offer many super cute options to enjoy during your beach days.
- Food Items: Bring whatever items you want on the plane, then purchase any other groceries here. You’ll have no problem finding a grocery store where you can get food, snacks, and drinks. You’ll definitely want to stock up if you’re staying in a vacation rental.
- Produce: Any produce coming into Hawaii has to be inspected, so don’t bring any fruits and vegetables with you. The best places to buy fresh produce are local grocery stores and roadside markets.
- Island Attire: I like to buy my Aloha wear in Hawaii, but that’s just personal preference. This means waiting to buy a beach cover-up, a sun hat, and resort wear once I’m here. Of course, I’m not rebuying every trip. But if you can’t find something tropical at home, you’ll have no problem finding it here. The North Shore of Maui and Oahu have lots of cute boutiques to shop in.
Now that you know what to (and not to) pack, you’re ready for your trip to Hawaii. But if you’re still struggling to fit everything into your suitcase, here are a few tips to save as much space as possible.
- Use packing cubes to organize your suitcase.
- Plan on doing laundry once you’re here and re-wearing outfits.
- Make a packing list for Hawaii ahead of time and stick to it. The list of what to pack will ensure you don’t under or over pack.
- Know there are stores in Hawaii, so try not to have too much anxiety around packing. You can get a phone charger, a hair straightener, and free & clear laundry detergent here – almost anything you’d need. So prioritize the most important items — like contact lenses and medication — that may be harder to replace and then relax knowing that forgetting something won’t be the end of the world.
HAWAII PACKING LIST FAQ
What not to pack for Hawaii?
Now you know what to pack, but do you know what not to pack? Don’t bring your beach umbrella, boogie boards, or snorkeling fins. You can rent beach umbrellas and boogie boards, and use your water shoes instead of fins for snorkeling.
Can you take a lei home with you?
You can usually take your lei home with you. Usually. Make sure there are no parts of a citrus plant u002du002d like flowers or leaves u002du002d on your lei, though. Citrus plants and products are strictly forbidden.
How many clothes should I pack for a week in Hawaii?
If you’re spending a week in Hawaii, you probably don’t even need enough clothes for every day of the week. You can re-wear sweatshirts and light jackets, and you’ll be in your swimsuit quite a bit!
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO HAWAII
- YOUR HAWAII VACATION
- WAIKIKI: 24 Best Things To Do In Waikiki You’re Gonna Love
- HONOLULU: 22 Absolutely Amazing Things To Do In Honolulu
- HILO: 16 Spectacular Things To Do In Hilo, Hawaii
- KAUAI: 22 Breathtaking Things To Do In Kauai You’ll Love
WHERE TO STAY IN HAWAII
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