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The Ultimate Packing List for a Hawaiian Vacation

Beautiful Hawaiian sunset vacation

Planning for Hawaii!

Well well well, another lucky duck who’s headed towards one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Packing for a big trip is one of those funny activities that really shows what type of traveller you are.

Personally, I am a chronic over-packer, specifically when it comes to clothes and books. It becomes an extra annoying problem since I tend to purchase clothing and books when I’m abroad as well.

In an effort to deal with these silly habits, I find it most helpful to make out very clear and concise lists regarding the absolutely necessities, and see how much room I have for cute outfits afterwards.

This article isn’t going to dive in too much to the things that you already know you’re going to bring, but more so the things you may wish you had remembered to bring.

So grab your tablet or iPhone or pen and paper or whatever you make lists with, and start gearing up for your incredible trip to Hawaii by creating your very own Ultimate Hawaii Packing List.

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Are you planning on camping in Hawaii? We’ve got the Ultimate Packing List for the Perfect Camping Trip here!

Backpacking across a Hawaiian Island? Lucky! We’ve got a list for that too! Click here!

Roadtripping is an amazing way to experience the most of a place you possibly can. We’ve got the Ultimate Road Trip Packing List too!

Sometimes heading to the beach can require so much planning! We’ve got you covered with the Perfect Beach Day Packing List here.

The Ultimate Packing List for Hawaii

Lei hanging over bannister at a hawaii resort

We’ve organized this section into a few different categories. That way you can pick and choose what sections best apply to your personal situation. Travelling with kids? We’ve got ya. Obsessed with minimal packing? (cough cough every ex boyfriend I’ve ever had) you’re covered.

You may notice that I have not included Hawaiian shirts anywhere on any of the lists. This is because that should be the first thing that you put in your suitcase!! If you don’t have any, you will certainly find one on your travels.

Hawaii travel can be whatever you want it to look like depending on the Hawaiian island that you decide to visit. Establish what type of activities you want to do while you’re away, and go from there!

Headed to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or to check out Mauna Kea? You’d better grab your sturdy hiking sandals or hiking boots. Are you more into a water activity like snorkeling? Well don’t forget your snorkeling gear!

The Obvious

Turtle floating in Hawaiian waters

Bathing Suit – so obvious! I usually like to pack more than one bathing suit, because it usually always happens that I leave one in my dry bag and end up having to put on the wet one the next day. It ain’t a nice feeling.

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T-shirt/Tank Top/Sports Bra – for those of you who have never been to Hawaii before, it’s hot! Even in the coldest months, the most you’re ever going to need is a light sweater and a rain jacket.

That’s why it’s best to reserve the majority of your packing space for your tank top collection. Additionally, it tends to be so warm that a sports bra is the only way to stay remotely cool on a hike, so grab a couple of those!

Shorts – pack your jorts, your Hawaiian shorts (if you must) your short shorts, your long shorts, whatever you do don’t bring only pants.

Linen Everything – there’s no better way to stay cool and safe from those UV rays than by wearing linen. Not only is it wonderfully fashionable, it breathes incredibly well. However, don’t forget that it also wrinkles!!! So much!! And you will need an iron if you don’t want to end up looking like a crinkled up kleenex.

Sun Hat – nothing I love more than a wide brim. That Hawaiian sun is hot, and a sun hat with a wide rim all around will save the back of your neck. Also, did you know that your hair doesn’t actually protect you from UV rays??? The most sun damage people experience is on their scalp! The more you know!

Polarized Sunglasses – confession: I only recently got my first pair of proper polarized sunglasses (all of my other ones had yellow lenses) and it literally changed my life. They help SO MUCH and I imagine everyone else has already learned that lesson but here we are anyway.

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Collared Shirt – Hawaii is one of those places where you can leave all of your fancy clothes behind, however, there is always going to be one of those fancy restaurants or golf courses that require you to have a collared shirt on (dress codes are so weird). So pack one just in case. Even if it’s a polo shirt.

Sunscreen – don’t worry, they’ll definitely have sunscreen for you in Hawaii, but if you’ve got your favorite fancy brand to put on your face, you may want to remember that special and pretty bottle!

Rain Jacket – depending on the time of year you go, you may experience a little bit of rain! That may especially be the case if you’re travelling during off season. Packing a rain jacket some may consider a better option than using one of those ponchos they give you at Niagara falls.

Passport & Travel Documents – even if I’m not planning on leaving the country, I always bring my passport with me when I get on a plane. Maybe it’s because I look so cute in the photo, or maybe it’s because I’m ready to be swept away by a millionaire who wants to jet me over to Paris.

On a more serious note, it’s always a good idea to check the travel restrictions and required documents of travel for wherever you’re going. If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that travel plans can change in the blink of an eye. Be prepared.

The Not-so-Obvious

Beautiful mountain views from aerial view in Hawaii

SPF Lip Balm – woof! Have you ever had a sunburn on your lips? I do not recommend. Sometimes folks aren’t prepared for just how powerful the sun can be in tropical places and forget to sunscreen places like their lips and hands.

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Reef Safe Sunscreen – this is something I just learned about! Did you know that 4-6 thousand tons of sunscreen are known to pollute coral reeves each year? That is completely and totally awful! Reef safe sunscreen is made from all natural ingredients and goes up to SPF 50. Be that guy! Be the reef safe sunscreen guy! Tell everyone you know!

Motion Sickness Bands/Tablets – I once went on a catamaran ride where one of the motors failed and we ended up being on the water way longer than anticipated. It was a very choppy day, and let’s just say that you had to keep your feet off the ground because every person on the boat got motion sickness. This type of afternoon can be prevented!

Waterproof Phone Case – this one is a life saver for those of you who can’t seem to leave their phone in the hotel room! Whether you’re going out for a paddle, on a wavy beach, headed out in a sailboat or you always hold your phone while you’re going to the bathroom, a waterproof phone case will help!

Quick Dry Towel – honestly, I don’t understand how beach towel makers have gotten away with this for so long. They got so full of sand, they take up so much room, take forever to dry, and end up being so stinky! I just recently got a quick dry beach towel that’s huge with a super fine weave, so sand doesn’t stick to it, and it rolls up to be really small. I’m obsessed!

Dry Bag – if you’re the type of Hawaii traveller who is planning on being at the beach the whole time, bring yourself a dry bag! It’s a great way to keep the soggy stuff soggy, and the stuff you don’t want to be soggy, not soggy!

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Water Bottle – you better be bringing your own water bottle I can’t be having any of you out there with your single use plastic bottles killing those beautiful Hawaiian sea turtles or I’ll FLIP.

Mini First Aid Kit – this one has actually saved me more than once! I don’t like water shoes so I almost always end up getting little scrapes and cuts all over my toes when I go swimming. Sometimes a slice is big enough for me to whip out my mini first aid kit and I feel so cool!

Water Shoes – I see the appeal to water shoes, I just can’t get behind them. It ruins my bohemian appeal.

Rash Guard – a rash guard is a superb invention for those who are planning on really just tossing their torsos around. They’re great because the thick fabric protects you from sand rash, rash from surfboards, and they’ve got great UV protection as well!

Power Adapter – Hawaii has the same power outlets as the rest of the United States (which are outlets A&B), so if you’re travelling from outside of North America, make sure to pack your adapter!

Packing Cubes – I’ve personally never used packing cubes but I hear that they’re all the rage! Apparently you dedicate each cube to a different type of activity (sleeping, swimming, hiking, going out, etc) and then you just pick up that cube and everything else stays all organized!

Hiking Boots – if you haven’t already picked out some hikes to do in Hawaii, I highly suggest that you do. There is so much gorgeous stuff to see out there, and all the better to do in on foot! Bring your lightweight hiking boots, or your hiking shoe, or they even make hiking sandals out there which is perfect for the hot weather!

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The Fun Items

Two coconut cocktails on poolside in Hawaiian resort

Snorkel Gear – renting snorkel gear can cost around $15 a day at tourist sites! If you have your own, you’ll save a ton of money if you pack your own. They don’t have to be super high quality if you’re just piddle paddling around.

Collapsible Cooler – this may seem a little bit like over kill, but you can always bring a collapsible cooler! They pack down pretty small and it allows you to bring your own libations and snacks to the beach! It’s a great way to save on some money and get some veggies in (which can be hard when you’re travelling).

Hammock – there ain’t nothin’ like laying down under the shade of some giant palm trees. The hammocks they make these days pack down to be so tiny and you could easily fit it in your carry on!

Books/Kindle – if you’re anything like me, you bring more books than you could possibly read on vacations. I honestly don’t mind lugging around the extra weight, since I never know what kind of book I’m going to want to read at any given moment! Or, you could save the heavy lifting for the gym and get yourself a kindle.

The Leave Behinds

Aerial view of surfers in Hawaiian ocean

Beach Towel – chances are that you’re going to be staying in a hotel, resort, or air bnb, and luckily all of those accommodations are going to provide you with your own fluffy beach towels. These tend to take up a ton of room, so just save the space and pack those quick dry-thin towels we were talking about earlier.

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Hairdryer – same case with what we just mentioned, chances are the place you’re staying is going to provide you with one of these. And let’s face it, why would you blow dry your own hair when Hawaii comes equipped with its very own fruit-scented warm breeze to do it for you?

Shampoo & Conditioner – that’s another nice thing about staying at an air bnb or hotel, they tend to have really nicely smelling cosmetics there for you.

Formal Clothes – now you just go right ahead and take those neckties and heels right outta your suitcase. Hawaii is a place where being formal is more of an attitude than anything else. Take the opportunity to be comfy!

Extras for the Kiddies

Kids snorkelling in Hawaii with little fishies

Underwater Camera – you don’t need kids around as an excuse to bring an underwater camera! These are so much fun and the photos end up turning out remarkably well!

Kids Travel Journal – when I was little, my folks encouraged me to bring a little notebook and journal about the day when we were on vacation. This habit has followed me through adulthood and it helps so much with establishing long term memories! If your kid isn’t so much into writing, maybe photo and drawing journalling is for them!

Inflatable Floaties – instead of renting them or purchasing them while you’re in Hawaii, why not bring the inflatable floaties that you surely already have at home? They really don’t take up too much room and let’s face it, when you’re travelling with kids, you usually end up having to check an extra suitcase anyway.

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Travel Games – there are all sorts of travel games out there available for your kiddies, and they don’t have to be on an iPad! Keep your kids entertained on the plane ride and car rides around the Hawaiian islands with games you can play as a family.

Collapsible Buckets – you don’t have to be a kid in order to enjoy building sandcastles. Instead of purchasing some while you’re in Hawaii and then leaving them behind when you leave, you can always invest in some collapsible ones.

Plant ID Books – this type of activity isn’t for everyone, but there’s something super fun about identifying and learning about the local flora when you go travelling.

Surfer walking down the beach in a Hawaiian sunset


What is the big island of Hawaii?

The island of Hawai’i itself is actually also referred to as the “Big Island” since it is the largest of the cluster.

What are the top best things to do on a Hawaii vacation?

There is a good reason why Hawaii is one of the top vacation spots on the planet. If you’re headed to a Hawaii vacation, be prepared to spend the majority of your time outside, having nice chats, and eating delicious good.

The best things to do on your vacation depend on what you enjoy doing! If you like hiking, swimming, eating, surfing, scuba diving, or just lazing on the beach, there will be plenty of opportunity to do all of those things.

What is a good outdoor activity to do in Hawaii?

Hawaii is the ultimate place to visit if you’re keen on spending your entire vacation outdoors. There probably isn’t a single outdoor activity you can’t do there, other than winter sports.

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Hawaii has ample opportunity for hiking, swimming, surfing, fishing, beach lazing, boating, ziplining, horseback riding, and pretty much anything else you can think of!

What are the 10 essential items for a Hawaii packing checklist?

If you’re headed out on a Hawaiian vacation, there’s probably going to be a ton of items on your ultimate Hawaii packing list, but here are some of the most essential ones:

1. Sun Hat

2. Sun Protection

3. Water Shoes

4. Bathing Suits

5. Lightweight Clothing

6. Flip Flops

7. Rain Jacket

8. Beach Bag

9. Entertainment Items

10. Aloe Vera

What is the best kind of sun protection?

What you choose as sun protection totally depends on how sensitive you are to the sun. Some folks prefer using a lotion or spray sunscreen, while others think that using UV protection clothing is the safest way to keep out of the sun.

What are some good travel tips for going to Hawaii?

Each person has a good idea of what they want their Hawaii vacation to look like, so travel tips are mostly going to sound like how to be best prepared and the like.

My only travel tip I’d like to provide is to respect the local community. Tourism is the biggest industry in Hawaii, but tourism definitely comes with its negative impacts.

Sometimes tourists can forget that the islands don’t exist just for their own personal pleasure, and end up being disrespectful of the local culture. The best way you can respect the local culture is by only taking photos, and leaving only footprints. Respect signs, don’t be in a rush, and if someone offers you a lei, take it.

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Should you get travel insurance for a Hawaii trip?

If you’re the responsible type of person (I am not) you’re probably keen on getting some travel insurance for your Hawaii trip. World Nomads is an awesome international travel insurance company with reasonable rates and great coverage.

Should I bring cold weather clothing on a Hawaii trip?

The Aloha State is known for having gorgeous, tropical weather all year long, and that’s true for the most part! The best time to travel there is going to be in the early spring or in the fall.

This is the best time because that’s when the rain and high winds subside. However, if you’re planning on doing some intense hikes at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, it would be a good idea to pack some warmer clothing.

This is because once you reach higher elevation, warmth doesn’t linger in the air as much as you can get pretty cold, especially if you’re a little bit damp and the wind picks up.

Are Hawaiian Airlines a good airline company?

Hawaiian Airlines have actually been voted most punctual and most reliable 18 years in a row! That’s quite an impressive record!