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Packing List for Hawaii Vacation: What to Wear & Essentials to Bring!

So, you’ve booked your dream vacation to Hawaii, but now it’s time to get your suitcase together! Don’t worry, because you’ve definitely come to the right place. In this post, we’ll break down what to pack for Hawaii so you don’t forget anything important at home. We’ll discuss packing essentials for Hawaii, what to pack for the beach, what to wear in Hawaii, and other pro packing tips. Get out your notepad–or maybe just print out this list–for exactly what to bring to Hawaii!

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Important things to bring to Hawaii 

View of Waikiki Beach from the Sheraton Waikiki

We’ll start this Hawaii packing list off with some of the most important items to bring in your suitcase. For example, we’ll include things to take to the beach, hiking, and more! Pro tip: if you do forget something at home–or maybe don’t have time to grab it before you leave–just head to the nearest ABC Store in Hawaii. These shops sell everything from sunscreen and snacks to souvenirs and apparel, so you’re sure to find what you need.

U.S. driver’s license

If you’re American, you don’t need a passport to visit Hawaii. However, just like with any other domestic flight, you will need a U.S. federal or state-issued photo ID. So, don’t forget your driver’s license! You’ll also need to present identification when picking up your rental car.

Portable phone charger

There’s nothing worse than going to take a photo on vacation and realizing that your phone is dead! So, why not pack a portable phone charger? Especially if you’re planning to spend most of your time outside of the resort, this item is an absolute necessity. My favorite is the Anker PowerCore 10000 Portable Charger

Pro tip: double-check that you have all the cords and plug-in chargers for your devices before you leave. This list includes a phone charger, camera charger (if you have one), laptop charger, and maybe even an electric toothbrush charger!

Reusable water bottle

Your Hawaii packing checklist should definitely include a reusable water bottle. In fact, Hawaii actually prides itself on the high quality and taste of its tap water. Plus, using a refillable bottle is one of the easiest ways to make a conscious effort to travel sustainably. 

In particular, you’ll want to bring an insulated bottle that’ll keep your water cool while you’re hiking, at the beach, or out exploring the islands. Hydro Flask is one of the most popular brands, offering a lifetime warranty on its double-wall vacuum insulated stainless steel water bottles.

Packing cubes

The best way to optimize suitcase space is undoubtedly to use packing cubes. Split your clothes for Hawaii by type, and then pack each category into its own cube. For example, separate daytime clothes, pajamas, underwear, and bathing suits/cover-ups. Just remember when using packing cubes that you’re supposed to roll your clothing–not fold it!

Camera and SD card

Are you wondering what to take to Hawaii but don’t have a camera on your list? You absolutely should! Photos can be an awesome vacation keepsake, and Hawaii has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. Although many people will opt to take pictures on their phones, we think nothing beats the quality of a DSLR photo. If you bring your camera, don’t forget a memory card!

Debit and/or credit card

Your debit and credit cards are probably the most important things to pack for Hawaii! In general, it’s much more convenient to keep up with your cards than to carry cash. Debit and credit cards are widely accepted throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Nonetheless, you may also want a small amount of cash on hand for small expenses, like parking, tips for a tour guide or valet, and farmers’ markets.

Backpack

At the bare minimum, you’ll need a backpack that can fit your wallet, phone, sunglasses, sunscreen, water bottle, and camera. To save room in your suitcase, why not use a packable backpack? No matter which backpack you choose, you should make sure it has comfortable straps so you can wear it for hours on end with no problem.

Cooling towel

For those who struggle with the heat, pack a cooling towel to regulate your body temperature. Whether you plan to go hiking, spend time at the beach, or just walk around shopping, these towels are great to throw into your backpack! In fact, they typically stay cool (about 30 degrees below your body temperature) for between 1-3 hours. 

All you have to do to activate a cooling towel is soak it in water, wring it out, and then wear it around your neck. Furthermore, these towels are machine washable, so you can easily wash them and use them again!

Leave-in hair conditioner

If you’re traveling to Hawaii, the chances are that you’ll be spending a fair amount of time in the water. However, your hair may end up being a mess between the saltwater, pool water, and even the windy climate. For this reason, you’ll want to pack a leave-in hair conditioner. We also suggest packing a detangler brush to easily brush out knots after a day at the beach!

Windproof travel umbrella

Since rain showers are relatively common throughout the Hawaiian islands, it’s never a bad idea to carry a windproof travel umbrella in your backpack. Even if you don’t end up encountering rain, you may still want an umbrella to protect you from the sun!

Mosquito repellent bracelets and/or bug spray

Especially if you’re planning to spend time in Hawaii’s rainforest areas or visit a botanical garden, mosquito repellent is an absolute must. For those who can’t stand the smell, you can also opt for the waterproof bands that you slip on and wear for the day. Keep in mind that if you pack spray, this item will have to go in your checked luggage.

Aloe vera

We highly recommend packing aloe vera in your suitcase for Hawaii, although we hope you don’t actually need it! Aloe can provide some instant relief if you happen to get sunburned on your vacation. Plus, we promise you’ll be better safe than sorry with this one! Although you can purchase aloe on the islands, it can be pricey in tourist-heavy areas (Waikiki, for example).

Prescription medications

Your prescription medications are one of the most important items on this Hawaii packing list. In particular, we always suggest bringing extra medication (if you can) and packing your medication in your carry-on. You do NOT want to have to go without your medicine if your airline loses your checked bag! Additionally, the Hawaii Tourism Authority actually advises you to pack a copy of your prescriptions, the contact information for your PCP, and your medical plan details, just in case.

More Hawaii Travel Planning Tips: The 30 Best Places to Eat in Oahu, Hawaii

What to pack for the beach in Hawaii

Woman walking down Waikiki Beach with hand making a peace sign

Coral reef-safe sunscreen

One of the most important things to remember on a Hawaii vacation is to protect yourself from the sun! However, when purchasing sunblock for your vacation, make sure that you choose reef-safe sunscreen. If you’re not sure what this means, basically, you don’t want to see oxybenzone or octinoxate on the label. For example, Sun BumAveeno Positively MineralThinksport, and TropicSport Mineral Sunscreen are all big brands that are reef-safe. If you’d like to buy sunscreen that’s locally made in Hawaii, check out Kokua Sun CareMama KULEANALittle Hands Hawaii, or Raw Love Mineral Sunscreen.

Chapstick with SPF

You may have packed sunblock to protect your skin, but did you grab chapstick with SPF to protect your lips? Choose a chapstick that has at least SPF 30 and is reef-safe. Since Hawaii is both sunny and windy, chapstick is an important item to have in your beach bag or backpack.

Waterproof phone case

If you’re not ready to purchase an underwater action camera, you may still want a more budget-friendly way to take photos in the water! In this scenario, we suggest packing a waterproof phone case. Whether you’re at the beach or pool, don’t run the risk of dropping your unprotected phone into the water. 

These cases are IPX8 waterproof and are certified to keep your belongings safe for up to 100 feet/ 30 meters. Plus, they’ll also keep your phone free of sand!

Beach bag

The easiest way to make sure everything makes it to the beach is to bring a roomy beach bag! We suggest bags with plenty of pockets, and you can also find options with detachable coolers or even waterproof compartments. Our rule with choosing a beach tote for Hawaii is the bigger, the better. Especially if you’re traveling with kids, you’ll need room for snacks, toys, towels, water, and more.

Waterproof dry bag

For those who enjoy water sports and activities, we suggest bringing a waterproof dry bag. These dry compression sacks are lightweight and keep all of your belongings safe from water damage. For example, if you’re going kayaking, boating, fishing, or even hiking in a particularly wet area, a waterproof dry bag is an important essential to pack for Hawaii. Sizes range from 10L all the way to 55L, so you can keep all of your items dry and protected during your travel adventures!

Packable cooler

Make your trip more budget-friendly by packing a collapsible cooler bag! This way, you can bring snacks, sandwiches, and drinks to the beach. You’ll just have to remember to grab ice at your hotel or cold packs at the grocery store in Hawaii!

Sand-free beach towel

Your resort will most likely provide you with normal beach and pool towels. Nonetheless, I think all beach packing lists should include a sand-free towel! First of all, they make packing up from the beach super convenient, and you don’t have to worry about spraying passersby with sand. Secondly, a sand-free towel helps you to keep your rental car clean!

Underwater camera

Hawaii is the perfect place to use an underwater camera to document all of your adventures! Unfortunately, your iPhone camera just isn’t going to cut it. The good news is that, nowadays, there are plenty of affordable options for waterproof cameras. If you’re looking to invest in a durable action camera, check out the GoPro Hero9 Black. However, for a more budget-friendly choice, you can opt for the AKASO V50 Elite. This camera is waterproof up to 131ft / 40m with its case and provides superb video stabilization. Especially if you love snorkeling and other water sports, add an underwater camera on your packing list for Hawaii.

Kindle

If you like to read on the beach, why not save room in your suitcase by bringing a Kindle? The Kindle Paperwhite is waterproof in up to two meters of fresh water for up to 60 minutes and 0.25 meters for three minutes in seawater. Plus, the built-in adjustable light is perfect for reading under bright sunlight!

Flotation strap

After you’ve taken the time to secure your phone in a waterproof case, it would be awful to drop it and have it sink into the ocean! To avoid this scenario, pack a flotation strap. You can use these floats to keep all of your valuables safe, including your phone, underwater camera, or other gear. This item is particularly important if you’re planning to go snorkeling in Hawaii.

Read More: 18 Things to Know Before Visiting Oahu, Hawaii

What to wear in Hawaii 

When packing clothes for Hawaii, keep in mind that the atmosphere on the islands is pretty casual. Unless you’re planning a fancy dinner or attending an event, you probably won’t need formalwear, heels, or loafers. Instead, focus on activewear, beach clothing, and whatever feels comfortable to you! 

Light, breathable clothing 

As we mentioned above, Hawaii attire is all about being comfortable–especially in the warm weather. For this reason, linen is an extremely common fabric to wear. For women, pack tank tops, shorts, sundresses, and at least one maxi dress. Popular dresses to wear in Hawaii include casual dresses–particularly those that can double as a cover-up.

For men, a fun aloha shirt (also called Hawaiian shirts), t-shirts, and chino shorts are the way to go. If you’d like to wear aloha attire (shirts and dresses), we highly recommend buying these pieces locally in Hawaii. Just remember to be respectful with the patterns you choose. For example, avoid patterns that are way too bright or loud.

If you’re planning to go hiking during your vacation, you should also pack separate athletic clothes. For women, pack a sports bra (or two), a workout top, athletic shorts, socks, and maybe even leggings (it can be chilly in the early mornings). For men, don’t forget a quick-dry shirt, outdoor shorts, and athletic socks. Pro tip: keep in mind that you’ll need a pair of pants if you’re going horseback riding or zip-lining during your trip.

Bathing suits

Packing at least three separate bathing suits is probably a good idea. This way, you can let one or two suits dry from previous days and still have another suit to wear. Women may prefer to pack a mix of one-piece suits and bikinis, while men can alternate between board shorts and swimming trunks.

If you’re hoping to buy new swimsuits for your vacation, we suggest shopping local once you get to Hawaii! There are tons of well-known Hawaiian swimsuit brands for both men and women, including Issa De’ Mar, Sundaze Bikinis, and Honolua Surf Co.

UV rash guards

Not everyone needs a rash guard on their packing list for Hawaii; however, if you’re a particularly active person, we highly recommend purchasing one! As the name suggests, a rash guard or “rashie” protects your skin from rashes. Additionally, people use them nowadays to prevent sunburn and to keep warm in cooler water. So, you may like wearing a rash guard while surfing, snorkeling, or participating in other water activities.

Cover-ups

Whether you’re heading to the beach or the pool, you’re going to want an easy cover-up to throw on. Choose cover-ups that are made from quick-drying material so that you can wear these items multiple times on your vacation. If you’re worried about space in your suitcase, one solution is to pack dresses that can double as cover-ups. A sarong is also a fun option!

Sunglasses

The sun in Hawaii is really bright! So, you’re going to regret it if you don’t bring a good pair of sunglasses. To best protect your eyes from sunlight, invest in a pair of frames that are polarized and offer UV protection.

Sun hat

You’ll be spending a lot of time outside on your vacation to Hawaii. Therefore, you’re going to need a sun hat that you can combine with your polarized sunglasses for the ultimate protection. 

Hiking shoes

We highly recommend investing in a pair of sturdy hiking shoes with good traction for your Hawaii trip. For example, some of the best hiking shoes for Hawaii include the KEEN Newport H2 and the Merrell Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe. Trails on the islands can often be muddy and slippery, so close-toed shoes are typically the best option. Also, be aware that if ziplining or horseback riding is on your itinerary, both close-toed shoes and a pair of pants are a must. If you prefer open-toed hiking sandals, we suggest Chacos.

Water shoes

If you’re not a serious hiker, one of my best travel tips is to skip hiking shoes and opt for water shoes instead. There are a few key scenarios where you’ll definitely need water shoes. For example, if you’re going snorkeling, we highly suggest them since snorkelers often cut their feet on sharp rocks or coral! Additionally, if you plan to road trip and explore some off-the-beaten-path beaches, you’ll also want water shoes. It’s very common to have to climb over slippery rocks to enter the water at these spots. 

Flip flops 

Flip flops are the ideal shoes to have with you to slip on and wear to the beach or the pool. Plus, it’s easy to wash them off if they get sandy. However, remember to pack something sturdier if you plan to go hiking in Hawaii.

Lightweight rain jacket

The windward side of the Hawaiian islands tends to receive the most rain, and therefore, tends to be greener. With this in mind, you may need to bring a packable rain jacket if you plan to spend time in these areas. Plus, this item can double as a light jacket for cool evenings.

Sweatshirt

Although Hawaii is generally warm, you may want a sweatshirt to wear on the airplane or in your hotel room. Furthermore, a sweatshirt or jacket may be necessary based on the activities you plan to do on your trip. Certain locations can be windy, and you can expect higher elevations to be chilly in the mornings or evenings.

For example, if you’re visiting Haleakalā National Park, you should include some sort of a jacket–and maybe even a heavy one–on your Maui packing list. Temperatures at the summit lookout range between 30 to 65 °F (-1 to +18 °C) and can even drop below freezing due to wind chill. You probably also need to pack a jacket or sweater for Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island.

Read More: The 25 Best Instagram Spots in Oahu, Hawaii

Additional important items

  • Aleve, Tylenol, or other pain relief
  • Hand wipes or hand sanitizer
  • Deodorant
  • Underwear
  • Socks 
  • Band-aids and other first-aid supplies
  • Cortisone cream
  • Brush or comb 
  • Hair ties
  • Sleep mask
  • Pajamas
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
  • Travel-sized shampoo and conditioner
  • Moisturizer
  • Make-up and remover
  • Razer

Other tips on packing for Hawaii 

Woman standing on rock next to water in front of green mountain in Hawaii

  • If you plan to buy souvenirs, leave extra room in your suitcase or pack an additional bag. For example, if you stick a duffel bag in your suitcase on the way to Hawaii, you can then fill it up and carry it onto the airplane.
  • Don’t feel like you have to walk around with much cash. There are plenty of ATMs on the Hawaiian Islands, so you can always take out more cash if you need it. I would suggest having about $50 in your wallet for possible small expenses like parking, food, or farmers’ markets.
  • As far as beach supplies and snorkeling gear, it’s much easier to rent these items than to try to fit them into your suitcase. For example, you can rent boogie boards, beach chairs, snorkeling and scuba diving equipment for affordable prices in Hawaii.
  • When making your packing list for Hawaii, choose items based on the activities you plan to do on your trip. For instance, I recommend mentally walking through each day on your itinerary to see what you think you’ll need. If you’re going surfing, pack a rash guard. For those who want to go hiking, pack hiking shoes or at least water shoes with good traction. 
  • If you’re a Costco member, don’t forget to pack your Costco card! Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island all have Costco locations, so shopping or filling up gas here is an easy way to save money.
  • Hawaii was the first state in the U.S. to ban single-use plastic bags. Therefore, you may want to throw a packable grocery bag in your suitcase. Nonetheless, you can always buy grocery bags there if you don’t have room!

Read More: 20 Free Things to Do in Oahu, Hawaii

Hawaii guide books

If you’re ever in doubt of what to do in Hawaii or looking for recommendations, you may want to purchase a guidebook for your trip. You can find some options that are general travel guides to Hawaii or others that are specific to one island. To save room in your suitcase, we suggest purchasing the Kindle version. This way, you won’t have to carry around an actual physical copy. Plus, even if you don’t have your Kindle with you, you can still access the guide book via the Kindle app on your phone.

Oahu guide books

Maui guide books

Big Island guide books

Kauai guide books

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