Aloha, fellow Hawaii-bound vacationers!
Let me tell you, there’s nothing I love more than a getaway to the sunny beaches of Hawaii. After countless trips with my boyfriend, we’ve pretty much become packing wizards for any Hawaiian adventure. I know firsthand how essential it is to pack just right – trust me, it can make or break your entire trip.
As someone who has been on this island-hopping journey multiple times, I understand the struggle of trying to figure out what to bring and what not to bring. Whether you’re heading out for sunbathing in Maui or hiking in Kauai, I’m here to help ease all your packing-related anxieties. That’s right; we’ll cover everything from carry-ons and clothing essentials to toiletries and outdoor gear (plus some extra items you might not have thought of).
Now before we dive into that ultimate list designed just for folks like you and me who are itching for some tropical fun, let me share a quick word of caution.
Warning: You might end up wanting even more vacations after mastering this packing skill!
So grab your suitcase and join me as we conquer the art of Hawaiian vacation packing together. Are you ready? Let’s do this!
What to Pack for Hawaii: For Your Carryon
Each person with an airplane ticket has the right to a carry-on suitcase to take onboard and a small personal item bag (purse, laptop bag, small backpack that can fit under the seat). If you are flying with Hawaiian Air or American Airlines, the carryon size cannot be bigger than 22 in. x 14 in. x 9 inches (including the handle and wheels). And is limited to a total weight of 25 lb. The personal bag should not exceed the size 18 in. x 14 in. x 8 inches. Medical or mobility devices do not count as a personal item.
When packing the carryon luggage, you need to think about:
What do I need for a few days, if my large suitcase gets lost?
1. Change of clothing
This should include undergarments (including socks), shorts or a skirt, a T-shirt, and hat. You should already be wearing comfortable shoes for traveling, a light jacket or sweatshirt, with your t-shirt and shorts. Even though Hawaii is warm all year round, the nights can get cold. And so can airplane travel!
2. Essential medication and prescriptions
This is the medication your doctor prescribes for regular use (with your name on the bottle and prescription). Also should include Ibuprofen or Aspirin and daily vitamins. Use a pill box for your vitamins and supplements to save space in your carry-on.
3. Passport/other ID
To travel to Hawaii, from any other U.S. state all you need is a valid government ID (driver’s license). If your ID is close to expiring then take your passport as well. For more information, accepted forms of ID can be found on the TSA website
4. Cash, credit cards, ATM cards
Some cash when traveling is always needed because there are still shops and service providers that don’t accept cards. Before your trip, check if your bank has ATMs near the place you will be vacationing. I prefer to take several credit cards with me, but also leave some at home. In case my cards get lost on vacation.
5. Hotel booking information
Though most reservations are completely digital now. If you have your confirmation e-mail, make sure you print out your reservation and keep it with you. This is just extra insurance since sometimes you won’t have access to the internet or your email. Also, it will make your checking faster.
6. Booked tour information
Hawaii is a popular destination. That means that most of your bookings for restaurants, tours, and admissions to events and museums should be booked ahead of your arrival. Since millions of people book the same events each year, it’s reasonable that there could be a mix-up. Don’t let something like that bring you stress. Bring printed proof of your reservation.
When bringing electronics, make sure to bring just the essentials. This should include your phone, IPad, and camera (if you prefer to bring one separately). Make sure all items have a locked screen to protect personal information. Leave items you are not using in the room safe. Don’t forget the appropriate chargers!
8. Glasses/ Contacts/ aids
If you use airs, for hearing, or wear glasses and use contacts make sure to bring everything you need. The case should be hard for these items to keep protected. Find the closest stop on your vacation where you can fix your aids, just in case something breaks.
What to Pack for Hawaii: Clothing
The trick to packing clothes for Hawaii is to be ready for any occasion, but not to overpack. Regardless of how many days you will be on vacation think about what activities you have planned and booked. There are 4 to 5 occasions to keep in mind (the beach, the hike, the colder day, and the night out).
Keep in mind that you can always buy basic toiletries at the grocery store, but clothes are generally harder (and more stressful) to find. I like to research the closes mall to my vacationing spot, just in case.
August is the hottest month in Hawaii with an average temperature of 81°F during the day, and the coldest is January at 73°F. In the winter, the days are more humid, and in the summer they are much drier. Keep this in mind when packing.
Pick clothing items that are usable on multiple occasions. For example, pick sandals that can be worn for a night out and during the day. Think about mixing and matching the same few shirts and shorts in multiple combinations. Use clothes washing services at your hotel or apartment, and get the most out of what you packed.
If your luggage is still under the allowed weight, but you can’t fit any more items in, try a vacuum bag. It will create more room by shrinking the space your clothing takes up (without adding weight). The downside is there might be a few more wrinkles at arrival.
1. Underwear and socks
You would be surprised how many people forget to pack this. I make sure to get my underwear, socks, and bras ready first. Then I fill in spots in my suitcase with them after I’ve packed everything. It’s a way to save space.
2. T-shirts, polo shirts, tank tops
As mentioned above, make sure to pick pieces that can be mixed and matched. Creating multiple outfits. Because of the hot and sometimes humid weather in Hawaii, pick breathable materials like cotton. Make sure that you have enough pieces that are appropriate for each activity. If you plan to eat while going from and to the beach, consider a cover-up for your swimming suit. You can find great ones on your vacation too.
3. Shorts (nice ones, and lounge ones)
Everyone should bring at least two pairs of shorts. They are practical for hiking, walking the beaches, or exploring the town. Most activities can be done in nice neutral shorts. Think about khaki shorts, black ones with buttons, and a cotton drawstring version.
4. 1 pair of long pants
You should enjoy at least one fine dining experience on your trip. Check the dress code at your reserved restaurant before packing. Even if you don’t, a comfortable pair of jeans will go a long way on a rainy day, or evening cruise. Evening activities can get cold or windy, and a good pair of pants will keep you comfortable.
5. Rain jacket (light raincoat)
Don’t let yourself get caught unprepared. Hawaii has over 150 days with (some) rain per year. Even if you are not visiting during the rainy season, bring a light rain jacket or raincoat. It will make your hike worry free and much more comfortable. Most can be packed into small travel-size packages.
A comfortable sweatshirt doubles as so many things. Use it instead of a light jacket, wear it as a cover-up in the evenings or even sleep in it. I take one almost everywhere I go because it is lightweight and I can tie it to my bag.
Make sure your sunglasses are not just fashionable. You will be spending many days in the sun, so protect your eyes. Even if you do not look up at the sun, there is a lot of glair in the water and sand.
8. Swimming suits (and swimming suit bag)
I bring 2 swimming suits to fit my mood. Also, it takes away from the stress of waiting for my favorite one to dry. If you visit more than one beach in a day (and you should), don’t go through the hassle of putting on a wet bathing suit. Bring a swimming suit bag with a strong zip, to keep your wet clothing away from the dry. You can keep it in your bag during the day, so you don’t have to go back to your hotel as often.
Sandals are a great multitasking shoe. It will let you walk the cities, attend cruises and have some fancy meals. Flip-flops are not safe or allowed in all areas, so make sure to bring a pair of sandals appropriate for day and night.
10. Flip flops
To get around your hotel easily, run to the store or make your way to your beach spot, flip-flops are a must. They are lightweight and easy to carry. They are also great if your dancing shoes give you blisters.
11. Hiking shoes or running shoes
Depending on your activity level and plans, you need to bring comfortable walking shoes. For those looking to beat a longer jungle trail, hiking shoes are a must. Otherwise, short easy hikes and evening walks can be done in running shoes. I prefer to travel in them as well.
What to Pack for Hawaii: Toiletries
Most hotels have available basic toiletries. Also, most, of us prefer to use the items we are accustomed to. Your personal toiletries shouldn’t take up more than a small bag in your luggage. Find travel-friendly sizes of your favorite products, or re-package your products into smaller (travel) bottles, to save space.
Try to keep in mind the types of products you are putting on your skin before swimming. Hawaii is home to many protected and endangered species. For everyone’s health and safety, use biodegradable and eco-friendly products. The way I think of it is as – if I would eat it, I would wear it.
With that said, it’s very important to protect yourself and your loved ones from the sun and bugs. Remember this is a tropical place, so you can be exposed to sun, wind, bugs (in the jungle), rain, and tourist areas.
1. Sunscreen SPF 50 (biodegradable / reef safe)
Even if you wish to tan, don’t skip out on sunscreen. The sun here is much stronger than your skin is accustomed to. Make sure not to burn. There are many reef-safe sunscreens to choose from. Some of the keywords to look for when purchasing sunscreen are reef-safe, biodegradable, all-natural, broad-spectrum UVA/UVB, water-resistant, and moisturizing. Try my favorites from Reef Repair and Sun Bum (vegan).
2. Bug Spray
Even if you will not be exploring the lush jungles of Hawaii, make sure to bring a quality (and effective) bug spray. You will feel better having it with you if you decide to venture out or watch the sunset from a park. Look for an effective spray that is practical to carry and nature-friendly. The OFF. Botanicals Insect Repellent with a pump spritz is a good choice or Alba Botanica Deet-Free Insect Repellent for a foamy application.
3. Toothbrush & toothpaste
Depending on your routine, this is something you can pack into your personal carriage. Thankfully, even if you forget, it’s a cheap and easy item to replace anywhere.
Only take the ones you need, if you can skip them, don’t drag them across the country. The best way to go is with a good multivitamin to keep your immune system up. Do take a supplement, however, because travel and change of climate can be taxing on your body.
5. Hand Sanitizer
This is also something to keep with you at all times. Due to crowds and touching (intentionally and unintentionally) many surfaces, it’s an easy way to kill germs. It’s mostly useful during air travel and group tours, or public transportation.
6. Body lotion and/or Aloe gel
Even if you don’t regularly use a lot of lotion. The sun and water can be drying. A great alternative to body lotion is aloe gel, which is used for after-sun care, sunburn, and general moisturizing.
7. Lip Balm
Make sure to have a lip balm with SPF protection. The lips burn the fastest, and we don’t notice until it’s too late. Try the Sun Bum SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen Lip Balm or a zero-waste lip balm option.
This is something most people forget. Regardless of hair length, you will be active and this is a must. If you forget, grab a travel size at a nearby drugstore.
What to Pack for Hawaii: Outdoor Gear
Even if you don’t plan on being active in hikes and sports, make sure you have the gear that will protect you and your valuables from the outside elements. On the other hand, if you are interested in water sports, all Hawaiian cities have gear rental shops with maintained equipment. The only equipment worth taking is snorkeling gear because it is relatively light (and will save you money from renting).
1. Waterproof case for your smartphone
Even if you don’t plan on taking your phone close to the water (but you will), make sure to invest in a waterproof case for your smartphone. Your phone can get wet in your bag, as you will be carrying towels, swimming suites, and water bottles. Cases are cheap and well worth it.
2. Water shoes
Hawaii has a diverse collection of beaches including lava rock, and sand. Wear water shoes even on soft sandy beaches. The water is full of sea life, which includes some that can poke and cut you. With water shoes, feel safe to explore and swim (even by the coral).
3. Reusable water bottles
Most places in Hawaii have safe tap drinking water. Save money and the environment by re-filling your favorite bottles. Even if you prefer your favorite brand, buy large bottles and refill your smaller ones. It will be well worth it.
Not all beaches and hikes have shade. Keep safe by wearing a sun-protective hat that creates shade for your face.
5. Snorkel Gear
My advice is that you do not keep on renting equipment for the whole week or more! Snorkeling gear is lightweight and easy to bring. On a couple of family members, the price can add up. All other gear should be rented due to sheer size and cost of transport.
6. Beach bag
This might be obvious, but make sure to bring a big bag (or two). Beach bags can be easily rolled up and don’t take up a lot of space. But they are vital for quickly grabbing your stuff and heading to the beach.
Bird watching, whale and dolphin watching, and daytime hiking can all be made better by binoculars. I love having them at the beach, whether to check out something great or (to see where my boyfriend is). They are more fun than you think.
What to Pack for Hawaii: Women
Sometimes if we pack for the whole family or our partner, we concentrate so much on that, we forget something we women need. Here is a simple and short list of a few specific things that will make the vacation better for the woman.
Before packing check with your hotel or apartment if it includes a hairdryer, clothing iron (for that sexy dress), and what towels they provide.
1. Leave-in Hair Conditioner
This is an important one because the ocean and sun will ruin your hair if you don’t treat it. Using just regular or hotel conditioners will not be enough for most. So go for a spray on or leave-in option. If your hair is thin or damaged, go with a detangle spray as well.
2. Make-up (and makeup remover)
Regardless of how much or how little makeup you wear, you should bring at least something that makes you feel special. This is an island paradise, and you will have great opportunities to have fine dining, romance, and group activities. Don’t overdo it, because chances are some of it will melt during the day.
3. Face lotion
Protect your face from sun damage and saltwater exposure. Even though you will be applying (and reapplying) sunscreen, it’s not enough for your face. Make a quality base with your favorite lotion to prevent breakouts and other damage. Also, replenish and feed your skin before sleeping.
4. Hair ties and accessories
I have forgotten hair ties multiple times. It’s not that you can’t go out and buy some here, it’s that you will need one at the oddest time. Tying up your hair is also a good way to protect it from sun damage. Grab a few small accessories too, to make your night out extra special. If you are looking for something more, check with your hotel if they have a hairdresser.
5. Evening wear for cruises or fine dining
Go prepared. Even if you are not big on dressing up, everyone has that one black sexy dress. Simple (or fabulous) evening wear will make your experience fun, and make sure you are dress code compliant.
6. Easy bathing suit cover-up
Many stores and restaurants (even those by the beach) will not let you in if you are just in your bathing suit. In order not to change several times while at the beach, get a fun swimming suit cover-up. They have great jumper options or body wraps and dresses. Whatever your style, it will allow you to be decent for most occasions in under one minute. Just throw it on over your suit (no changing room required).
What to Pack for Hawaii: Children
If traveling with children (yours or your friends) the key is to have filler activities. Asides from electronics that will be at your disposal, try some lightweight overlooked tricks. Some of these will be appreciated by both older and younger kids.
1. Coloring books and crayons
This is the trick kid-friendly restaurants use. It’s a great way to keep them busy while waiting for your food after they don’t want to swim anymore, or even before bed. The best part its lightweight and doesn’t take up a lot of space. Look for travel-friendly versions.
2. Journal or scrapbook
This is a great activity before dead time for children of all ages. It’s a way to remember their trip and keep them exploring. If you visit some great botanical gardens and tours, they can scrapbook some unique stuff.
3. Reusable snack bag and snacks
A good reusable snack bag is a good idea for any traveler. Especially those with children. Make sure to always have some fruit gummies, hard pretzels, and nutrition bars with you. A snack at the right time can go a long way for a child’s mood and will save you some stress and money. Make sure your snacks don’t easily melt (that’s what the bag is for).
4. Comfort toys
Even on the best vacations, there comes a point where we become homesick. This is especially true for small children. Make sure to bring their favorite stuffed animal, pillow, or action figure. This will make sleeping in a new place much easier for everyone.
5. Flotation toys
Though they are a hassle to blow up, flotation toys are light and small for packing. They are a great safety feature for kids and a toy for the water.
What to Pack for Hawaii: Miscellaneous Items
The miscellaneous list isn’t any less important than the other categories. Go through these items carefully and think about your specific situation. Do you get seasick? Do you have sensitive ears and need earplugs? This list can be as short or as long as you choose. Here are the most important things I pack.
1. Towels (if not included in the hotel)
Most hotels we stay at provide towels. Still, I have my favorite beach towel (and face towel) I don’t travel without. It’s a good idea to check first with your hotel because towels are bulky. Most people just bring beach towels.
2. Seasickness prevention
This is an often overlooked item! Even if you have not been seasick before, or don’t have motion issues, this is a small cost that will go a long way. Many people realize they have seasickness once it’s too late. It’s also a must for kids. Make sure to look for a formula that won’t make you drowsy.
3. First Aid Kit
For your first aid kit, don’t bring a boy! Use a zip bag and bring some ointment for cuts and bites, band-aids in different sizes, small scissors, painkillers, an elastic bandage, and a thermometer.
I put probiotics as a separate item because it’s something you should start taking a few days before your trip and continue throughout. You don’t have to drink bad water, eat lousy food or be in crowds to get diarrhea. It’s a preventable thing that can ruin your vacation. Probiotics are totally beneficial for everyone so no need to worry about adverse reactions.
5. Travel umbrella
A travel-size umbrella is light and small. However, it can serve several purposes. It protects us from the rain, and the wind, and it creates shade! If you are not a raincoat fan, this is a good option for you.
6. A good book to read
Most people read their books on their IPad now, but I love an old-fashioned book to fall asleep to. Don’t bring more than one. And set a goal to finish it while at the beach, or before bedtime. It’s also a great way to pass time when there is no internet access.
What NOT to bring to Hawaii
Sometimes we are emotionally connected to some of our things and use them as comfort when traveling. Make sure to make rational choices when packing. Take into consideration that you have many fun activities planned for your trip, and you won’t have time or need for a lot of your stuff.
1. Don’t bring unnecessary valuables
Sure you will need some cash. But many places take credit cards. Also, you have a lot of pre-paid activities booked. If you are struggling with how much cash to take, check for ATM options near or at your hotel. No need to bring expensive jewelry or other items you can easily lose (including additional technology), collectibles, and expensive clothing. Remember, this trip is much more about the experience than what you brought. Also, losing something valuable is a sure way to stress out and ruin your vacation.
2. No heavy jackets
Even in the winter, Hawaii has a tropical climate. No need to bring heavy jackets that take up so much space in your luggage. If you enjoy the evenings in Hawaii or want to visit the mountain, a small blanket is a good choice (may be available at the hotel).
3. A full suitcase!
Make sure to leave space in your suitcase. No matter what your budget is, you will want to buy some souvenirs, gifts, and treasures from your trip. If you fill up your suitcase going to Hawaii, you will not have enough room for the things you buy. Paying for additional luggage is an unnecessary cost. Plan ahead.
Regardless of how long you plan to spend in Hawaii, there is a fast and easy way to pack for your trip. Remember, bring all the essentials without overpacking.
I have endless experience in this and want to help you. So go through my list several times.
Think about re-using the things you bring for different things.
Check what is provided at your hotel or apartment. Do they provide towels? Hairdryers? Is the tap water drinkable?
Do some research about what stores are close to the place you are staying (including banks and ATMs).
And follow my instructions for the best-packed suitcase for Hawaii. Stress-free guaranteed!
Last Updated on April 6, 2023 by Brigitte