Updated: September 1, 2023
Eliminate the guesswork when you pack for Hawaii with our comprehensive packing list. We outline the best things to take on your Hawaii vacation.
Start Your Vacation with Hawaiian-Style Packing
You booked this beach vacation to get away from stress. Right? A little time in paradise to reset your batteries and refresh your attitude is just what you need.
So why not start now?
Set the tone for your upcoming vacation to the Hawaiian Islands by packing the aloha way. Keep it simple, leave the fuss behind, and connect with the rhythms of the land and sea.
Not sure how to do that? We have you covered.
Below is the ultimate Hawaii packing list, and a few travel tips, so you can relax and enjoy your tropical vacation. Within each essential category, we outline items you might need—or an idea or two you hadn’t thought about— for your unique dream vacation.
Your Vacation Itinerary Will Impact Your Packing List for Hawaii
What you pack for Hawaii will depend on several factors, including the activities you have planned, the islands you visit, the time of year, how long your are staying, and even which side of an island you are staying on.
Before packing, it is helpful to consider what you want to do on your vacation.
What Are Your Vacation Goals?
If your Hawaii vacation goal is to relax by the ocean and read a few good books, warm clothes, and beachwear should suffice. However, if you plan to take part in activities like hiking, water sports, or exploring the many cultural attractions, you’ll need a few more essentials.
For example, warmer clothes and mosquito protection will be important in the mountains and rainforests. A rain jacket is essential for the windward sides of the islands or if you stay on a rainier island like Kauaʻi. And if you plan to hike in tropical forests, bug spray and hiking boots should be on your Hawaii packing list.
Don’t Worry About Forgetting Something
If something gets left behind, you can purchase anything you need when you visit Hawaii. There is even a Costco on Oʻahu, Maui, Kauaʻi, and the Big Island, which has just about everything you could need—and more.
Below is a comprehensive list of everything from essentials to nice-to-haves to ensure you’re prepared to kick back and relax and enjoy your dream vacation.
15 Essential Items to Pack for Your Vacation to Hawaii
1. Travel Documents: Keep Important Documents Together
Getting to the airport without the necessary travel documents can put a chink in your vacation—but it happens. Prevent mishaps by gathering documents in one easily accessible place, especially when traveling as a family.
- IDs: driver’s license or passport (TSA does not require IDs for children under 18 traveling domestically with an adult)
- Plane tickets (download the airline app on your smartphone to use electronic tickets)
- Resort or hotel reservations
- Hawaii vacation itineraries
- Tickets for any pre-booked excursions or events
- Transportation details (car rentals information or shuttle details)
Health Travel Requirements
Check the CDC website for any health documents required to enter the Hawaiian Islands within the U.S. or for international entry.
2. Comfortable Summer Clothes: Dress for Warm Weather
To stay cool and fit in with the relaxed island environment, pack comfortable clothing for your Hawaii vacation. Whether you’re shopping in Waikīkī or dining on Lahaina’s waterfront, casual clothing is a staple for both Hawaii residents and tourists.
Hawaii’s Endless Summer
There’s no bad time to vacation in Hawaii. The tropical climate means that temperatures vary little throughout the year.
Check the weather before you go, but you can expect temperatures in the upper 70s to low 80s during the summer months (June-October). However, some days can get hot, especially on the leeward sides of the islands where most hotels are located.
Wrinkle-Proof Fabrics Work Best for Vacation Travel
Choose easy-breezy and wrinkle-proof fabrics when packing for Hawaii. Nobody wants to spend their tropical vacation ironing clothes! When visiting Hawaii, your only job is to kick back, breathe in the sweet Pacific Ocean air, and take it easy.
Shorts, T-Shirts, and a Sarong
Shorts, t-shirts, and tank tops are perfect for the island’s relaxed vibe and should be the first items on your Hawaii packing list—along with a bathing suit, they are what you will wear most often.
If you’re heading from the beach to town, a light summer dress can go over your bathing suit. Plus, an aloha shirt will easily shake off the sand and dress up a pair of board shorts.
One handy piece of clothing to have on an island vacation is a sarong. It’s versatile and can be worn as a skirt, dress, or bathing suit cover-up. You can even use it as a beach blanket when you are lounging by the ocean. If you don’t have one, no worries! You can find plenty of beautiful prints to choose from in local stores.
In addition to the usual undergarments, ladies might include a sports bra for the days they go hiking or want to work out in the resort gym. You are likely to spend most of your day in flip-flops but bring a few pairs of socks for hiking and exercise.
Do You Need Exercise Clothes on Vacation?
If you are a yoga or meditation enthusiast, pack clothes that fit your purpose. Retreats are scattered throughout the islands, but you can often find a local class to join while visiting.
Runners might enjoy an early jog on the beach as the sun rises. If that is your thing, bring the gear you need.
Pack your summer pajamas to stay comfortable during warm summer nights. Remember, mountain air is cooler. So if you are staying inland and are a cold sleeper, it is a good idea to pack something a bit warmer to keep yourself cozy.
Understand Hawaii’s Microclimates Before You Pack
Hawaii is renowned for its warm weather year-round, but the islands are full of microclimates. Temperatures can vary from makai (ocean) to mauka (mountain) by up to 15 degrees.
If your hotel or resort is “up country” (another term for higher elevations), you’ll want to pack a few warmer pieces of clothing. But even if you stay near the ocean, you may want a jacket or shawl during the cooler months.
Pack for Volcano Viewing
Seeing an active volcano is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You may have an opportunity to see Kīlauea in action when you visit the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Big Island.
Check weather conditions before you go up in the mountain. If the viewing platform is open, it can be cold and windy, so you’ll want to dress for it.
Likewise, the weather can be chilly in Haleakalā National Park on Maui. If you plan to view the stunning sunrise from the top, pack a light jacket and wear jeans. It will be worth the early morning wake-up call.
Wash Clothes in Hawaii
Most resorts or hotels will offer a laundry service, so there is no need to overpack. If you are island hopping, packing and repacking as well as transporting overpacked and heavy suitcases is a burden. Pack light and use packing cubes to maximize space.
3. Dress-Up Clothes
Resort wear in Hawaii still leans toward comfort— flip-flops, bathing suit cover-ups, and sun hats are common around the pool bar. However, you may be expected to sharpen up for dinner in the restaurant. So add a nice outfit to your Hawaii packing list for this purpose.
Restaurant Dress Code in Hawaii
Restaurants in Hawaii tend to be informal, but the nicer the restaurant, the more you are expected to dress up.
Dinner jackets are rarely required. But even though Hawaii’s dress code is more relaxed than the mainland, you’ll want to look presentable. Consider pairing khakis with a nice Aloha shirt or polo shirt. For ladies, a simple dress or linen slacks will do.
What to Wear to a Luau?
When attending a luau, it’s customary to wear Hawaiian attire. You can pick up an Aloha dress or shirt at a local shop once you arrive. Otherwise, wear what you would to a restaurant, as it is not mandatory to wear Hawaiian prints.
Keep in mind that luaus are often held outside on the soft ground or at the beach, so flat sandals are recommended.
4. Beach Gear
Pack Your Bathing Suit
Water temperatures average around 70 degrees, making a dip in the ocean a daily activity. Pack at least one bathing suit or a pair of board shorts.
If you are bringing the keiki (children), double up on their suits. They tend to go through them more quickly.
It is not necessary, but pack water shoes for children to cut down on pool-side injuries like scrapes and stubbed toes.
Swimwear is Everywhere in Hawaii
Treat yourself to a new bathing suit after you arrive in Hawaii. Being an island, swimwear is a year-round staple, and our stores are stocked with all shapes and sizes.
Since you will likely cool off in the ocean more than once a day, it helps to have one suit at the ready, while the other is drying.
Should you Bring a Beach Towel?
Your resort or hotel will usually provide standard beach towels, so you don’t need to bring one. If you want a sand-resistant beach towel, add that to your packing list or pick one up in a local store.
Pack a Beach Bag to Carry the Essentials
If you’re spending most of your days at the beach, a beach bag is handy to have.
You can carry the essentials in a beach bag and avoid multiple trips back to your hotel room. You’ll need your room key, perhaps a good book, beach towel, and sun gear. If the beach is your only vacation goal, you might also consider packing a collapsible cooler for cold drinks.
You can buy a beach bag locally, but a lightweight, breathable cloth bag that can be easily folded is a good option—and can double as a grocery or shopping bag (which will definitely come in handy, since there is a state law that requires all bags at the grocery store to be purchased). You might also consider a waterproof tote with different compartments that can double as your carry-on.
If you have little ones who need frequent clothing changes, it’s worth considering including a dry bag to separate wet from dry items.
Pack for the Water Sports on Your Itinerary
No Hawaiian vacation is complete without experiencing a surfing lesson in the very place where the sport was born. Gentle waves on the leeward sides of the islands make learning a breeze, and it is easy to book lessons.
But if surfing is not your cup of tea, there are many water sports to choose from. Stand-up paddle boards, boogie boards, or snorkeling equipment is easy to rent.
You, however, may think a sunset boat tour is the best way to enjoy the ocean. Regardless, there is something for everyone. Check with the hotel or resort concierge for the best places to book activities.
Pack a Rash Guard and Protect Your Skin
If you are planning on participating in one of the island’s many water sports, pack a form-fitted UV rash guard to shield your skin from equipment chafing and rashes.
Rash guards are also an excellent idea for children, providing double protection from sunburn when combined with reef-safe sunscreen (Hawaii has banned most sunscreens, so buy yours after you arrive).
Rent Snorkel Gear
If you have snorkel gear, you could put it on your Hawaii packing list but it will take up a fair amount of space in your suitcase. We recommend renting while on vacation.
For the best snorkeling experience, book a guided snorkeling tour—especially if you visit Maui where the waters are strikingly clear. Local guides will know where you can see the most fish and they will help you snorkel responsibly.
Protect Endangered Coral Habitats When you Visit
Overfishing and pollution have taken a toll on Hawaii’s fish population and coral reefs, spurring an increase in conservation efforts and reef-safe sunscreen requirements. However, there are still many ways to enjoy Hawaii’s underwater residents responsibly.
Book a tour to swim with Manta rays at night with trained guides. In the summer months, you can swim with the honu (sea turtle) on the North Shore of Oʻahu.
5. Comfortable Shoes
Get Your Daily Steps in While Exploring
You won’t see a lot of high heels around the islands, except on special occasions. Keep your feet happy and pack low-heeled sandals or tennis shoes when you are out and about.
Exploring the historical and cultural attractions on the islands, such as the Polynesian Cultural Center or the Bishop Museum, can require a lot of walking. The wrong shoes will equal sore feet, and nobody wants that on vacation.
Steps can quickly add up even when you go holoholo (strolling) around town, so remember to give your feet some care and aloha.
Get a Pair of Flip-Flops After you Arrive
If you plan to spend time in the surf, it’s a good idea to purchase a pair of ‘slippahs’ or flip-flops once you arrive on the islands. These are a popular choice among locals and are perfect for the beach. You can usually find them in stock at most of the local ABC stores, which are ubiquitous throughout the islands
Hawaii Hiking Trails are Some of the World’s Best
Hawaii boasts some of the world’s best hiking trails, and with 9 national parks, there is something for everyone. If you’re a hiking enthusiast, make sure to pack your hiking boots and prepare to be amazed by the breathtaking scenery.
For those who dare to tackle the challenging 11.5-mile trail through the Haleakala Crater, it’s important to have sturdy shoes to protect your ankles on the sharp rocks and slippery paths.
Other trails throughout the islands will often lead you to ancient ki’i Pōhaku (petroglyphs), heiau (temple sites), or stunning waterfalls. However, these trails can be difficult to navigate, even for experienced hikers, so hiking poles may come in handy, especially on slippery rainforest trails. Keep in mind that TSA bans hiking poles as carry-on items, but a collapsible set will fit in your suitcase.
Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced hiker. Hawaii has trails suitable for all levels. You can look on AllTrails for trail rankings, categorized as easy, moderate, and hard.
Bring the Basics
Your hotel or resort will provide you with shampoo, conditioner, and soap. If you prefer a particular brand of shampoo or shower gel, you should pack them.
We recommend using travel-size reusable containers that help protect the environment and are economical. According to TSA, containers in your carry-on must be under 3.4 ounces and fit in one quart-size reusable bag.
Add these essentials to your packing list if you need them:
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Moisturizing skin and face lotion
- Lip balm
- Hair supplies: scrunchies, curling iron, brush
- Shaving kit
Do You Really Need Bug Spray?
If you plan on hiking or spending any time in tropical rainforests, you’ll want mosquito repellent. You probably won’t need it at the beach but it’s always good to have it on hand if you are going inland. But you can easily buy this after you arrive.
Pack Medicines in Your Carry-On
If you are bringing medicine, pack those in your carry-on in case something goes wrong and your bag doesn’t make it to Hawaii when you do. If you are worried about losing your bag, an AirTag is a worthwhile investment.
7. Rain Gear
Islands and Rain go Hand in Hand
The Hawaiian language has over 200 words for rain. Most of the time, the rain is in the form of kili ʻohu (mist). Rainstorms (ua loa) are infrequent in the summer months and may pass quickly.
Islands have wetter (windward) and dryer (leeward) sides. The rainiest months are November and December. But regardless, if you spend much time on any of the islands, you are probably going to experience rain, so be prepared.
Add a Light Rain Jacket to Your Packing List for Hawaii
Bring a light rain jacket or waterproof poncho that can be folded up small and stashed in your backpack or beach bag during the day.
If you plan on hiking rainforest trails, consider packing a waterproof hat.
8. Sun Protection
Hawaii is Close to the Equator
Being close to the equator, the sun in Hawaii is direct. Some visitors are surprised to get sunburned because the cool trade winds mask the heat.
Put a Sun Hat and Glasses on Your Hawaii Packing List
A wide-brimmed sun hat will keep the harsh rays from burning your skin.
Baseball hats keep the sun out of your eyes, but your ears are still exposed. If you go that route, be sure and lather up your ears a few times a day with reef-safe sunscreen, which we recommend purchasing after you arrive.
Keep Valuables Safe in a Fanny Pack
You will spend the majority of your visit to Hawaii out and about and you don’t want to run back to your hotel room every time you need your credit card. A fanny pack is a great place to store room keys, money, lip balm, or reef-safe sunscreen for quick access. Some even have a hidden zipper to hide your valuables.
A Daypack Makes the Exploring Easier
As you explore the islands, having a small daypack is useful. A collapsible backpack is another handy option to carry snacks and a reusable water bottle. As a bonus, you will also have a place to stash souvenirs before it is time to head back to the hotel.
Leave Your Computer at Home
You’re on vacation, so before packing anything ask yourself if it passes the stress test. Will your computer spark relaxation or will it remind you of all the work emails you are missing? Set an out-of-office notice, leave the computer at home, and let go of worries.
Still, you may need some electronic devices to fully enjoy your vacation time. You might pack an iPad to keep children entertained during the plane ride, but limit its use to novels you’ve downloaded while on your vacation.
If you plan to use your iPad or e-reader poolside or at the beach, consider a waterproof cover to protect from water damage.
Smartphone and Charging Cords
Your cell phone should work fine regardless of the service provider, although AT&T has the most coverage in Hawaii. International travelers can either buy a prepaid phone or switch SIM cards.
It is not a bad idea to bring a waterproof phone case and don’t forget charging codes.
Get in the Aloha Mood with Hawaiian Music
To enjoy your favorite music while lounging at the pool or beach, bring your earbuds. Download popular Hawaiian artists like Keali’i Reichel, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, or Kainani Kahaunaele to put you in the island mood.
You may even be inspired to take ukulele lessons on your vacation. More than a few people have left their Hawaiian vacation with an ukulele and a deep appreciation for Hawaiian music.
11. Vacation Reading
Learn About Hawaiian History and Culture
If you love to read about the places you visit, books about Hawaii will not disappoint. Hawaii has a rich literary culture with many local authors both past and present.
Whether you prefer fiction, nonfiction, or even obake (ghost) stories, there is a variety to choose one. Stop by one of our local bookstores when you are here or pack a good book in your carry-on for the ride over.
To help you discover the literary treasures of Hawaii, here is a short list of suggested books that cover various aspects of Hawaiian culture and history:
- Read Shark Dialogues or Moloka’i for novels about Hawaiian culture.
- To learn about island history, pick up a copy of On the Road of the Winds, a history before European contact, or Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen, which tells how Hawaii became a state.
- Read about Popular Hawaiian Slang Words before you visit and sound like a local (or see our article on Hawaiian Slang).
12. Vacation Journal
Spend Time in Personal Reflection
Taking a break from the hustle and bustle of your daily life can give you the mental space you need to reflect on your life. Travel can be transformational.
One way to make the most of your vacation is to keep a journal. Record your inner feelings or write about your new experiences. Whether you’re lounging on the beach, exploring a historical site, or trying out the local cuisine, jotting down your thoughts and feelings can help you better appreciate the moment and keep those memories alive for when you get home and need a reminder of tropical bliss.
Pack a Deck of Playing Cards
Playing a game of cards on a lanai (porch) as the ocean breeze cools you is not a bad way to escape the heat. Pack a deck of cards or a travel game like UNO in your suitcase for lazy afternoons.
Travel Games to Keep Children Occupied
If you are traveling with children, games may come in handy if boredom strikes.
Some resorts have games or toys, so check with the front desk when you arrive. There are so many activities from surf lessons to boat tours, that you can always find something to entertain you in Hawaii.
A Smartphone Might Not Be Enough to Capture the Beauty of Hawaii
For most pictures, a smartphone will do the job nicely. You may want the sharper definition of a digital camera for something like whale watching or bird photography.
Hawaii is a Bird-Watchers Paradise
If you are a backyard birder, you’ll think you have died and gone to heaven when you see the sheer variety of Hawaiian birds. Bring your telephoto lens to capture their beauty.
The Sea is Full of Color
If you spend any time underwater on your Hawaiian vacation, you will notice that the sea is not just blue. Add an underwater camera to your packing list for Hawaii and capture all the beauty of tropical fish and coral reefs.
15. Reusable Containers
Reduce First, Reuse Second, Recycle Third
Islands have fragile ecosystems that require special care to maintain and the Hawaiian islands are no exception. Tourism has taken its toll on both land and sea, spurring Hawaiian residents to take action. As kamaʻāina (people of the land), we have a deep connection and sense of responsibility to nature.
You can do your part in protecting the islands by packing reusable containers that you take home with you. Single-use plastic bags are not allowed in Hawaii. If you are planning on grocery shopping at all, bring a reusable shopping bag.
Pack a Reusable Water Bottle
Hawaiian tap water is safe and delicious. Everyone in your family should bring a reusable water bottle and keep more plastic out of the ocean.
For coffee drinkers who plan to enjoy as much delicious Kona coffee as possible on vacation, bring a reusable coffee cup.
Keep the islands clean by using recycle bins when you can and do not leave trash on the beach.
3 Items to Leave Off Your Hawaii Packing List
If you follow the categories in the list above, you should have everything you need to fully enjoy your vacation. But there are a few things we want to encourage you to leave at home.
As noted, island environments are delicate ecosystems and as such, Hawaii has rules about what you can bring—rules created to maintain the beautiful place we call home. We ask for your kōkua (help) to protect the Hawaiian islands for generations to come.
1. Sunscreen: Protect Hawaii’s Natural Resources
Leave your sunscreen at home.
Throughout this article, we have encouraged you to buy reef-safe sunscreen when you arrive—and for good reason. Certain chemicals in sunscreen are banned in Hawaii because they damage fragile reefs.
Donʻt take a chance and accidentally purchase an unapproved or harmful sunscreen. Help do your part to conserve and keep our natural resources safe.
2. Pets: Leave Fido at Home
Animals entering Hawaii are quarantined and subject to strict guidelines. Your animal will be much happier with a pet sitter at home.
If you need a service dog, know the requirements before showing up.
3. Fruits, Vegetables, and Invasive Plants
Delicious Fruits and Vegetables are Abundant in Hawaii. Plus, the Department of Agriculture has strict guidelines prohibiting the introduction of foreign organisms that put Hawaii’s unique plant and animal life at risk.
Before you arrive on your tropical vacation, help by cleaning your backpacks and hiking boots. They may have picked up seeds during previous use, which then could fall off and introduce an invasive plant species to the Hawaiian environment.
Many fruits and vegetables are also prohibited. There are plenty of grocery stores on the Hawaiian islands and they carry the same items as the mainland, so there is nothing you will miss.
Besides, you will want to leave plenty of room in your tummy so you can try uniquely Hawaiian snacks like shave ice or spam musubi, which are both ʻono (delicious).
Quick Reference Hawaii Packing Checklist
To recap, you can use this checklist when packing for your Hawaii vacation.
Pack a little more or less, depending on the amount of time you will spend on the Hawaiian Islands, where you are staying, and what you plan to do during your vacation. As long as you stick to the main categories, you will have all the essentials to ensure you have a worry-free vacation.
- IDs or Passport
- Plane tickets
- Resort or hotel reservation
- Itineraries and additional documents
- Tank tops
- Summer dress(es)
- Exercise clothes
- Pair of jeans
DRESS UP CLOTHES
- Aloha shirt or polo
- Dress or linen slacks
- Bathing suit or board shorts
- Sand-resistant beach towel
- Beach bag
- Rash guards
- Sandals or tennis shoes
- Water shoes
- Hiking boots (clean the dirt off first to prevent the spread of invasive fungi or bacteria)
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Brush or comb
- Hair ties and curling iron
- Toothbrush and paste
- Face and body lotion
- Lip balm
- Shaving kit
- Bug spray
- Light rain jacket
- Waterproof hat
- Sun hat
- Reef-safe sunscreen (buy in Hawaii)
- Fanny pack
- Ipad or Kindle
- Charging cords
- Book or e-book
- Travel games
- Digital camera
- Underwater camera
- Shopping bags
- Water bottles
- Travel coffee cup
Bonus: The Most Important Hawaii Packing List Advice
Pack light and save space in your suitcase or carry-on so you take home a couple of Aloha shirts or dresses, a Hawaiian quilt, or locally-made jewelry. There are so many uniquely Hawaiian gifts that you will be glad you have the room to take home a few.
Packing Hawaiian-style means embracing the aloha spirit every step of the way by keeping things simple and leaving the stress behind.