17 Top Hawaii Packing List Items + What NOT to Bring (2017 Update)

What should I bring on my Hawaii trip?

asher in HawaiiA lot of people were asking me, “What should I pack for Hawaii?” so I wrote this complete Hawaii packing checklist.

My wife and I (pictured) lived in Hawaii for 2 years and we loved it so much! We can’t wait to go back next winter 🙂

Below you’ll find our top 17 “must-have” items for a more safe and enjoyable Hawaii vacation. At the bottom, I also have some tips on what to wear in Hawaii, a list of items NOT to bring to Hawaii, and some FAQs about traveling in Hawaii.


1) Hawaii Revealed guidebooks – Hawaii is a super popular travel destination, so there are tons of guidebooks available. But if you want a guidebook which will give you the true local, insider tips and “secret spots” this series is a must-have. The locals on the different islands weren’t very happy with the author for revealing all the hidden gems but as a tourist it’s great! There is a separate book on Maui, Kauai, Oahu, and The Big Island. Several editions have come out, so be sure to get the latest one.
View on Amazon.com ➜

2) Universal Waterproof Phone Case – This case is a MUST if you want to bring your phone to the beach, on boats, hiking near waterfalls or anywhere where it can get wet, fall into the water or where it can get damaged by sand. It even makes it possible to take underwater photos and videos (with sound) and it costs less than $10!! Read the reviews on Amazon if you don’t believe us how good it is! 🙂
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3) Affordable Underwater Camera – If you want to take better quality pictures than with a smartphone (and don’t want a more expensive GoPro) then this is a great little camera that won’t break the bank. With the beaches, the turtles, the rain forests and the waterfalls, there are plenty of things you’ll be dying to take pictures of in Hawaii. But all of these activities require a camera that is waterproof and that’s why we recommend this little beauty!
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4) Flotation strap – If you’re going to bring your waterproof phone case or underwater camera out on a boat, while snorkeling or while paddle boarding etc then you have to have this flotation strap so that it’ll float if you drop it!!
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5) Travel insurance – Travel insurance might not be terribly exciting but you should absolutely consider it part of your packing list if you’re going to Hawaii. It’s local knowledge that the airline staff in Hawaii tend to be rough with suitcases throw around suitcases like rag dolls. My wife and I found this out the hard way on multiple occasions.

Another unfortunate truth is, in some parts of Hawaii, thieves target tourist rental cars parked at attractions such as waterfalls and beaches. For this reason, we highly recommend you get travel insurance which costs a tiny fraction of your trip. We use World Nomads which covers just about anything that could go wrong in Hawaii.
View their plans at WorldNomads.com ➜


6) Swimsuit cover-up – To make getting to and from the beach as easy as possible, women traveling to Hawaii might like to bring a swimsuit cover-up like this one. The lightweight fabric dries quickly, and it’ll take up very little room in your suitcase.
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7) Rain jacket: Women’s and Men’s – Hawaii may be known for warm and sunny weather, but don’t be fooled into thinking it never rains. If you’re visiting during the fall or winter or you’re heading to Kauai (the wettest island), a rain jacket is a necessity. On all the islands, though, it can rain any time of year, so you should always bring a rain jacket to be on the safe side.
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8) Flip flops and/or Chacos or Crocs: Women’s and Men’s and/or Chacos: Women’s and Men’s or Crocs: Women’s and Men’s – Lots of visitors to Hawaii wear sandals every day of their trip, and you’ll definitely want to bring at least one pair. Flip-flops are great for going to the beach or walking around your resort, and sturdier sandals or slip-on water shoes (see below) are a good idea for water activities and light hiking.
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9) Reef Safe Sunscreen! – If you want to spend your Hawaii vacation exploring the islands and not nursing a painful sunburn, you absolutely need to pack sunscreen. But I urge you to PLEASE only use “reef safe sunscreen” that is safe for the reefs and turtles too. Hawaii has a very fragile ecosystem and studies have shown that the chemicals in normal sunscreen destroys the coral reef! In fact, there are even plans to ban oxybenzone-based sunscreen from Hawaii altogether.
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10) Mesh Slip On Water Shoes: Women’s and Men’s – Hiking in Hawaii is beautiful, but it can be intense and often covers muddy terrain. It might be tempting to skip hiking shoes to save space in your bag, but they’ll make your hikes much more comfortable and enjoyable. To handle the rain and mud, look for shoes that are waterproof, like these styles from Merrell.
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11) Fleece jacket: Women’s and Men’s – Some of the most stunning parts of Hawaii are also the coldest, namely Mt. Haleakala on Maui and Mauna Kea on The Big Island. Both summits are very popular spots to watch the sunrise and sunset, but the elevation of both is over 10,000 feet and temperatures can drop below 30°F (with windchill much colder). This breathtaking experience can be miserably frigid if you’re not prepared, so pack a warm fleece jacket and a warm hat. Even if this is the only time you wear it, it’ll be well worth bringing.
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12) Packing cubes – Whether you’re traveling with a suitcase or a backpack, a few packing cubes will make it much easier to stay organized. They do take up a little bit of extra space, but it’s worth it for the ease of finding things. Instead of having to dig around for your swim trunks or bikini top, just grab the cube your swimsuits are packed in and you’ll be ready to hit the beach.
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13) Deet-Free Insect repellent – Though last year saw an outbreak of Dengue fever, there’s generally very little risk of mosquito-borne diseases in Hawaii. That said, there are still mosquitoes, and you’ll want to protect yourself against bites. Pack some deet-free insect repellent (again this helps protect coral from harmful chemicals), and be especially vigilant about applying if you’re going hiking.
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14) Daypack – If you can tear yourself away from the beach, I definitely recommend exploring some of Hawaii’s hiking trails. A lightweight daypack like this one is a good choice for carrying all your hiking needs, like a camera, rain jacket, snacks, and water.
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15) Aloe Vera Gel for Sunburn! – Inevitably someone in your family or group will get some sunburn in Hawaii. The sun is much stronger than in mainland USA or Europe and most people forget to cover up at one point or another. The best antidote to this in our experience is to immediately put this organic aloe vera gel on the affected areas and keep re-applying until the burn goes away.
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16) Beach bag – For your days at Hawaii’s beaches, you should definitely pack a beach bag. This one is lightweight and won’t take up much room in your main luggage, but it’s plenty big enough to hold a towel, snacks, and other beach necessities. It’s also waterproof and super easy to clean.
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17) Leave-in hair conditioner – Lots of time in the sun and salt water may be the staple of a Hawaii vacation, but it can wreak havoc on your hair. To protect your hair from the elements and keep it from drying out too much, bring a leave-in conditioner to apply at the end of your beach days.
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Other packing list items to consider bringing to Hawaii


What should I wear in Hawaii?

What you should wear in Hawaii varies a bit depending on what you’ll be doing and what areas of the state you’ll be in.

In general, though, Hawaii is warm and fairly casual. You’ll be most comfortable if you stick to clothes made of breathable, lightweight fabrics, and shorts, sundresses, and sandals are acceptable for most occasions.

If you’re planning on going out for nice dinners or attending shows, you might want a couple dressier outfits for evenings. Also note that if you don’t want to look like a tourist then don’t wear a Hawaiian shirt! 🙂

Many parts of Hawaii can get chilly at night too, so a lightweight jacket is a good idea, and it’s a must if you’re planning on visiting any higher elevations.

Finally, if you’re going to do any substantial hiking, you’ll probably want to wear long pants and hiking shoes.


What NOT to take to Hawaii

1) 🚫DON’T PACK too many clothes. Bringing lots of clothes will weigh down your luggage, and you really don’t need a ton of different outfits for a vacation. If you run out of things to wear while you’re in Hawaii, you can always do laundry at your hotel or a Laundromat.
2) 🚫DON’T BRING unnecessary valuables. There’s always some risk of things getting lost or stolen on the road, even in safe destinations like Hawaii. Unless they’re things you’ll really need during your trip, bringing lots of valuables just isn’t worth the risk.
 
3) 🚫DON’T TAKE heavy books. Books are heavy and bulky, making it hard to pack them when you need to keep your luggage under a weight limit or want to fit everything into a carry-on. Bring a Kindle instead, and leave the physical books at home.
4) 🚫DON’T PACK a regular towel. You’ll definitely need towels in Hawaii, but nearly any hotel there will provide them. It’s not a bad idea to bring your own too, but take a quick-dry travel towel, not a bulky regular one.
 
5) 🚫DON’T BRING high-heeled shoes. Hawaii is a casual enough place that most women who pack high heels never wear them. Leave your heels at home, and bring a pair of nice flats or strappy sandals for dressier occasions.
6) 🚫DON’T TAKE diving equipment. Unless you’re a super serious diver who can’t stand the thought of rental equipment, there’s no need to bring your own. It’s bulky and heavy, and you can rent everything you need at any dive shop.
 
7) 🚫DON’T BRING heavy sweaters or jackets. While there are cooler spots at higher elevations and it can get chilly in the evenings, Hawaii is still a tropical location. Bringing one light jacket or sweater is definitely recommended, but you’ll have no need for a ton of heavy clothes.
8) 🚫DON’T PACK lots of electronics. Bring any electronics you know you’ll want to use during your trip, but there’s no reason to take extra gadgets and risk having them get lost or stolen. We highly recommend your bring this universal waterproof phone case for your phone!
 

FAQs about travel in Hawaii


1) When is the best time of year to visit Hawaii?

The weather in Hawaii is fairly consistent year-round, so you don’t need to plan too much around the climate. The spring and fall months tend to see the fewest tourists, making them the best times to escape the crowds and get good discounts.

2) Which Hawaiian Islands are the best to visit?

Hawaii is made up of eight main islands (and over a hundred smaller ones), but the four most popular islands to visit are Maui, Kauai, Oahu, and the Big Island of Hawaii.

3) What is there to do in Hawaii away from the water?

Hiking is a very popular activity in Hawaii, and all four of the main islands have plenty of options. Hawaii is also home to two national parks, Haleakala National Park on Maui (pictured at sunset) and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, and there are five active volcanoes in the state. Viewing the lava flow at Halema’uma’u crater on the Big Island is one of the most popular tourist activities, and it’s especially breathtaking before sunrise or after sunset. Other common attractions include luaus, museums and cultural centers, Pearl Harbor tours, nightlife, spas, and lessons in hula dancing, ukulele, and lei-making.

4) What is the weather like in Hawaii?

Hawaii’s weather varies by island and by elevation, but the average monthly temperatures are generally in the 70s. The weather is fairly consistent year-round, though it’s slightly cooler and rainier in the winter months. Also it depends where you are on an island. Generally the northern and eastern coasts are wetter, while the southern shores (where most hotels are) is very dry year round.

5) What is the best way to get between the islands of Hawaii?

There are some boat options for inter-island travel, particularly to and from Maui, but flights are much more common. Six airlines operate within Hawaii, and most flights last under one hour.

6) Are there any health concerns for visitors to Hawaii?

Visiting Hawaii poses no more health risks than visiting the continental U.S., and common sense will protect you against most potential issues, like dehydration.

7) How much does it cost to travel in Hawaii?

Options for both budget travel and luxury travel are plentiful in Hawaii. On the expensive end, there are hotels that run several hundred dollars a night and rental cars can cost around $75 per day. It’s easy to spend $50 or more on dinner at nice restaurants, and adventure tours can cost $100 per person for a half-day. On the other hand, Hawaii has B&Bs costing $50-$100 and hostels for less than that, and public transportation is widely available on Oahu. You can dine cheaply at local diners or pick up groceries at a farmer’s market or grocery store, and visiting the beach is free. If you’re really pinching pennies, you can probably travel in some parts of Hawaii on a budget of $75 a day. Of course, flights to Hawaii are non-negotiable; they can start around $400 from major West Coast cities (depending on the time of year) and go up from there.

8) Where is a good place to travel off the beaten path in Hawaii?

To find less touristy destinations in Hawaii, skip the four most popular islands (Kauai, Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island). The island of Molokai is the least visited and the least developed– there are no resorts, no fancy restaurants, not even a stoplight. There aren’t many attractions, but that’s part of what makes it so peaceful.

9) What are the best hikes in Hawaii?

There are far too many great hikes in Hawaii to list, but some of the best are: Kalalau Trail and Hanakapiai Beach Hike (Kauai); Pipiwai Trail (Maui); Manoa Falls Trail and Diamond Head Crater Summit Trail (Oahu); and Muliwai Trail and Kilauea Iki Trail (the Big Island).

10) Where should beginners learn to surf in Hawaii?

There are great surfing spots on many of Hawaii’s islands, but the most popular for learning are on Oahu (Waikiki Beach and the North Shore) and Maui (Lahaina and Kihei).

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