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29 Top Kauai Packing List Items for 2023 + What to Wear & NOT to Bring

Kauai coast
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Hawaii is a popular destination for many, and Kauai is one of the most dreamy islands in the archipelago. Many people wonder what to pack for Kauai, especially those coming from places with drastically different climates.

That’s why I put together this packing list. I also offer some advice on what to wear in Kauai and what NOT to bring.

Don’t forget that the Hawaiian islands often operate on “island time.” To make the most of your trip, plan to bring your sense of humor and leave your worries at home!

Surfing in Kauai is totally worth trying if you're feeling athletic :)
See our product selection criteria and guidelines here.

What to Pack for Kauai – 29 Essentials

  • 1. Quick-Dry Travel Towels

    A travel towel is one of my most-used travel items so it goes without saying that it’s a must-bring for Kauai. You’ll need a towel for visiting beaches and pools, snorkeling, and swimming in waterfalls. A bulky cotton towel will only weigh you down. That’s why I always travel with a compact quick-dry towel. They are odor and sand-resistant, super lightweight, and dry 10x faster than cotton. You won’t want to visit Kauai without one!

    Quick-Dry Travel Towels

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  • 2. Swimsuit Cover-Up

    Swimsuit cover-ups are a must-have for Hawaii. You can go for a swim, throw it over your suit, and then head to lunch without much thought. This one by Jeasona is the cover-up that my wife owns and loves. It’s attractive on all body types, the lightweight fabric dries quickly and is breathable — plus, it’ll take up very little room in your suitcase.


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  • 3. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

    Did you know that your private data is at risk to creepy onlookers and hackers every time you connect to public Wi-Fi? Whether you’re traveling or just visiting places around your hometown – connecting to Wi-Fi can be risk business. That’s why we love NordVPN.

    A VPN adds a layer of encryption between your data and any potential intruders so that you don’t have to worry about your financial info and passwords being stolen. I learned the hard way on a recent trip after having my credit card info hacked! For a few dollars a month, a VPN is the best investment I’ve made in my cybersecurity to ensure privacy, anonymity, blocked ads, and even discounted flight tickets since they can’t track your IP address for geo-targeted pricing. A world traveler’s must!

    Virtual Private Network (VPN)

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  • 4. Cooling Towel

    For the times that you’re enjoying Kauai but you’re not close enough to the water to cool off, bring a cooling towel. They are a great way to stay fresh in Kauai’s warm weather. Simply get the towel wet, wring it out, and you have a refreshingly cool towel to help you beat the heat.

    towel pink

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  • 5. Mesh Slip-On Water Shoes

    These shoes can take you places both in and out of the water. They’re fantastic for hiking in areas where trails or surfaces will be wet (like in many areas of Kauai). Hiking a milder trail to see a waterfall? You’ll be able to hike to the falls, play in the water, and hike right back out without having to change shoes. We love them!


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  • 6. Travel Insurance for Kauai

    Travel Insurance is extremely important – I won’t travel without it, and neither will most other experienced travelers. Anything can happen while you’re traveling, and if something bad occurs, you really don’t want to be stuck having to pay out-of-pocket for massive expenses. Kauai has decent medical services, but for anything serious, you’ll be airlifted to the mainland. A medivac transport typically starts at $45K, and that’s before receiving treatment!

    We use and recommend Faye because they make travel insurance incredibly simple and hassle-free. You can find coverage, make claims, and get reimbursed straight from their app on your phone without having to deal with mounds of paperwork. You’ll be covered in case of cancellations, theft, lost items, or medical expenses. Insurance is the best investment you’ll make – at just a small fraction of the cost of your trip, you’ll get to enjoy peace of mind.

    Faye Travel Insurance

    Get a quote in less than 60 seconds with Faye ➜

  • 7. Portable Lipstick-Sized Charger

    Kauai is a place where outdoor sports and activities reign supreme. You’ll likely be outdoors and some distance away from your accommodations for most of each day, so you won’t have an opportunity to recharge any of your devices in an outlet should they run out of “juice”. That’s why this small portable charger is a no-brainer. It can hold multiple charges so you can charge several devices throughout your day. Plus, it can do its job while tucked safely away in a drybag if you’re taking part in messier or wetter activities.


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  • 8. Universal Waterproof Phone Case

    Another must-have item is a reliable waterproof phone case since you’ll be around water all the time and it rains a lot. This one is also shock-resistant, dirt/dust proof, and compatible with touchscreens so you can still use your screen and camera while your phone is protected or even under water. And the price tag is extremely affordable.

    waterproof phone pouch

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  • 9. Affordable Underwater Camera

    A good waterproof camera is vital when you’re snorkeling, surfing, hiking in rainy areas, and checking out tidal pools. This one is fantastic and affordable, and will allow you to capture the Kauai memories you don’t want to forget!

    underwater camera

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  • 10. Windproof Travel Umbrella

    Kauai is home to one of the wettest places on earth, Mount Wai’ale’ale. Whether or not you plan on visiting this shield volcano, an umbrella is essential in Kauai. This is my absolute favorite travel umbrella. It’s extremely sturdy and comes with a sleeve and zippered case that makes it easy to stow away a wet umbrella without wetting your other belongings.


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  • 11. Flotation Strap

    Please trust me on this one: every device you plan to have with you while adventuring near water should float or you’ll risk losing it to the depths of the Pacific. Most devices can’t float on their own, of course, so a flotation wrist strap is the answer. It’s comfortable to wear around your wrist and buoyant enough to hold most devices at the surface of the water should you drop them in by accident, making retrieval significantly easier.

    Flotation Strap

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  • 12. Packing Cubes

    If you haven’t traveled with packing cubes yet, what are you waiting for! They make living out of a suitcase while on vacation a breeze. You can have a designated cube for beachwear, tops, bottoms, and undergarments, making it super easy to find exactly what you need. These packing cubes even come with index cards so you can label exactly what is inside each one. Gone are the days of rummaging through messy suitcases!

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  • 13. Discounted Tickets for Kauai Attractions

    Between its rich culture and stunning nature, Kauai has so much to offer. Attend a traditional Hawaiian Luau, marvel at Kauai’s jaw-dropping landscapes on a helicopter tour, or sail along the Napali Coast at sunset.

    When it comes time to plan what excursions we want to do on a trip, I always find myself going through Get Your Guide for the quality and variety of tours they offer. I feel confident booking through them because of the trustworthy reviews and their flexible cancelation policy.

    Discounted Tickets for Kauai Attractions

    See all Kauai attractions at ➜

  • 14. Filtered Water Bottle

    Drinking water is available on Kauai, but it probably won’t taste like the water at home. A filtered water bottle like these Brita ones will give you a cleaner taste and a more reliable source of water so that you don’t risk dehydration during the day. Sun and activity can dehydrate you quickly in Hawaii!

    Filtered Water Bottle

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  • 15. Luggage Locks

    Since luggage locks cost next to nothing in comparison to everything else inside your luggage, they are a no-brainer. I learned the hard way when my favorite pair of sunglasses were stolen out of my checked bag. I didn’t want that to happen again, so I purchased these affordable yet durable locks, and I’m happy to report I haven’t had anything stolen since.

    luggage locks

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  • 16. Reef Safe Sunscreen

    Many of the chemicals in standard sunscreens have been proven to be toxic to plant and animal life in aquatic ecosystems. That’s why Hawaii banned sunscreens with coral-harming chemicals in 2021. For the sake of the fish and turtles you’ll be seeing while snorkeling and for the reefs that provide vital habitats for sea animals, please use a reef-safe sunscreen. It’s the law! This one works well and is proven safe.

    Reef Safe Sunscreen

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  • 17. Neck Wallet

    Traveling can be chaotic, especially if you’re like us and travel the world with two little ones. A neck wallet has been a huge lifesaver for keeping our most important belongings safe and in an easy-to-access place. This neck wallet fits all four of my family’s passports, bank cards, room cards, and even an iPhone. If we’re out exploring busy sites, I just tuck it under my shirt and thieves are none the wiser.

    Neck Wallet

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  • 18. Leave In Hair Conditioner

    Your hair will be exposed to some fairly harsh conditions while you’re on the island of Kauai. Sun, humidity, seawater, and being tossed around by sea breezes can really damage your hair if you’re not careful to protect it. Leave-in hair conditioner will help keep your hair strong and protected from the elements, and it smells nice, too!


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  • 19. Waterproof Dry Bag

    A dry bag like this Earth Pak will be a valuable addition to your daypack. When used correctly (it’s easy to use), it’s an affordable way to ensure the total safety of your items that have to stay dry. Once sealed, it can be submerged completely without leaking, so it’s vital for water sports like kayaking where you’ll need a backpack for your phone, camera, sunscreen, and snacks, but you can’t afford to get those items wet.

    EarthPak Dry bag

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  • 20. Lightweight Rain Jacket

    It rains a lot on Kauai. There are times of year with less rain, but on any trip, you can expect to see some rain. You’ll need a rain jacket, but it will need to be one that can do a great job of keeping you dry while also being easy to roll up, pack, and carry when you’re not using it.

    Columbia’s rain jackets are extremely well-reviewed, and the ones we recommend here are ultra-light and packable so that they’ll take up as little room in your daypack as possible. They also use micropore technology to keep you dry from the rain while still allowing heat and vapor to escape from within the jacket so you don’t have to endure excess heat and sweat! Trust me, you don’t – venture out during the day without it.

    Columbia Womens Arcadia Jacket Dynasty

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  • 21. Daypack

    There’s a reason this pack is so popular. It’s light, colorful, comfortable to wear, and it has plenty of space for your daily items that you’ll be carrying with you, plus items you may purchase while you’re out. As a bonus, it takes up almost no space in your luggage because it folds up so compactly into its own zippered pouch!

    Venture Pal Daypack

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  • 22. Mosquito Wristbands

    Mosquitoes can be counted on wherever it’s humid, and Kauai is no exception. Mosquito wristbands are a great option if you’re looking to avoid chemical sprays, as they are simply worn like a bracelet and will protect you all day. Some are more effective than others, which is why we recommend these ones. They’re comfortable and safe, and they do a good job of protecting you from biting insects.

    Mosquito Wristbands

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  • 23. Swim Rash Guard

    Many people don’t know this, but rash guards are actually very important protective layers to wear when spending extended time in the Hawaiian sun. Not only do they offer a UPF protection of 50+, they’re also crucial to protect your skin from impact and friction caused by using surfboards, boogie boards, paddle-boards, or inner-tubes. Whether you’re fair-skinned like me or olive-toned like my wife, you’ll want as much protection from the sun in Hawaii as you can get – it’s easy to get sunburnt there!

    Swim Rash Guard

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  • 24. Jet Lag Relief

    Unless you live on the West Coast, Kauai is a long flight away. To help combat the fatigue of traveling to a very different time zone, we always recommend this jet lag relief to friends and family who come to visit us in Hawaii. Instead of relying on stimulants like caffeine that will only leave you feeling worse later, these supplements use homeopathic ingredients like chamomile to reduce stress and fatigue from travel and help your body’s circadian rhythm adjust to Kauai time.

    jet lag relief

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  • 25. Travel Beach Mat

    We love this huge beach mat that fits our whole family. It stuffs into its own compression sack, making it super easy to travel with, and the parachute material is lightweight and sand-resistant. Take my word for it; it’s much more comfortable than being confined to a small beach towel.

    Travel Beach Mat

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  • 26. Motion Sickness Patches

    Between the windy mountain roads and rocky boat trips, motion sickness patches will be real life savers if you’re prone to car or sea sickness. My wife has tried every remedy in the book, and these natural patches came out on top. She says they even work as well as drugs like Dramamine but without the drowsy side effects.

    Motion Sickness Patches

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  • 27. Hanging Toiletry Bag

    From reef-safe sunscreen to after-sun aloe, a trip to Kauai requires a variety of toiletry items. This hanging toiletry bag is the most efficient way to keep your self-care products organized in one leak-proof bag. The four large plastic zippered comportments fit all of my family’s favorite products while also containing any accidental spills.

    Hanging Toiletry Bag

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  • 28. Kauai Revealed Guidebook

    This guidebook offers true local insider tips so you can discover all the hidden gems that Kauai has to offer. The locals of Kauai weren’t very happy with the author for revealing all the “secret spots” but as a tourist it’s great! Be sure to get the latest one as several editions have come out.


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  • 29. "Just in Case" Bag

    This is my hack for bringing back all of the souvenirs and gifts I want without having to worry about whether or not everything will fit in my suitcase – I call it my “just in case” bag! When it’s folded up, it’s the size of a wallet, but when it’s time to fill it with goodies, it expands to the size of a personal item bag. With one of these, you’ll be able to bring back Hawaiian coffee, chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, ukuleles, and any other Hawaiian specialties your heart desires.

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What to wear in Kauai?

asher-and-lyric-fergussonThe best clothes for Kauai will depend on what you’re planning to do on the island. In general, fairly casual clothes made from lightweight, breathable fabrics should be the staple of your Kauai wardrobe. Visitors to Hawaii tend to wear shorts, tank tops, sundresses, and sandals most of the time, and might bring one or two nicer outfits for going out in the evenings.

Clothes made from fabrics like linen, rayon, and cotton blends will be the most comfortable in Hawaii’s tropical climate. A light jacket is also necessary for evenings and at higher elevations. If you’re planning to do much hiking in Kauai, you’ll want to bring a pair of long pants and some good hiking shoes as well. Lastly, no matter what your plans are, a rain jacket and umbrella are essential things to take to Kauai!

What should WOMEN wear in Kauai? – (Click to expand)
What should MEN wear in Kauai? – (Click to expand)

What NOT to take to Kauai

  • 1.DON’T TAKE high-heeled shoes

    Like the rest of Hawaii, Kauai is a pretty casual destination. A pair of cute sandals or nice flats should be dressy enough for most anything you’ll do there – and your feet will thank you.

  • 2.DON’T BRING unnecessary valuables

    Unless it’s something you’ll really need on your trip, like a camera, there’s no reason to bring items that are valuable or sentimental and risk them getting lost, stolen, or broken on the road.

  • 3.DON’T PACK lots of cold-weather clothes

    You’ll definitely want a jacket and some rain gear when you visit Kauai, but you’ll have no need for tons of winter clothes, even if you go in January.

  • 4.DON’T BRING a bath towel

    Regular bath towels are super bulky, so if you want to bring your own towel, pick up a quick-dry version instead.

  • 5.DON’T PACK heavy books

    Most people will want to do some reading during the long flight to Kauai or while relaxing at the pool or the beach. But physical books will weigh down your bag, so consider leaving them at home and packing a Kindle instead.

  • 6.DON’T TAKE dressy clothes

    Most visitors to Kauai have no need for formal eveningwear. While you might want one or two nicer outfits, depending on your plans, a maxi dress for ladies and a polo or button-down shirt for guys will usually be fancy enough.

FAQs about travel in Kauai

  • 1. What are the best beaches on Kauai?

    It’s probably no surprise that there’s a lot of competition for the best beach on Kauai. Poipu Beach is the most popular, and has a sandbar that divides a calm, protected cove from the busier areas. Hanalei Bay is definitely another contender, with soft white sand and great surfing for all levels. Nearby Tunnels Beach is renowned for its snorkeling and diving, as well as calm family-friendly waters.

    On the east side, Lydgate Beach Park is one of the island’s best snorkeling spots, thanks to a lava rock wall that creates a natural lagoon and shields the area from the open ocean. Kekaha Beach is a favorite local spot on the far west side of the island, though the winds and currents there can be strong. Lastly, you may recognize Lumahai Beach from the movie South Pacific, but although it’s stunning, the waters are typically too rough for swimming.

  • 2. What are the top things to do on Kauai?

    Like Hawaii’s other main islands, there’s so much to experience on Kauai that it would be hard to ever get bored. Of course, spending time at the beach tops most visitors’ lists of things to do on Kauai, and the island offers a wide range of water activities – swimming, snorkeling, diving, surfing, and more. Inland, the Wailua River offers even more water activities, including rafting, kayaking, and water-skiing.

    Kauai also has some spectacular hiking, particularly along the Napali Coast and in Koke’e State Park and Waimea Canyon State Park. Even if you don’t go hiking, Waimea Canyon is a must-see for any visitor. Other top spots to see away from the beach include Limahuli Garden and Preserve, Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, Kilohana Plantation, and Grove Farm, as well as the unexpected Kauai Hindu Monastery. A scenic drive along the island’s north coast is another must, and if you can splurge on it, a helicopter tour over Kauai is truly the best (and most memorable) way to see the island.

  • 3. How can I get to Kauai?

    Visitors generally arrive at Kauai’s only commercial airport in Lihue, located on the island’s southeast coast. The most convenient way to get to Kauai is on a direct flight from the continental US, and Lihue is served by flights from several West Coast cities. There are no international flights to Kauai, though, so if you’re coming from another part of the world, your itinerary will probably include a layover in Honolulu and a 40-minute inter-island flight.

  • 4. What’s the best way to get around on Kauai?

    A car rental is easily the most convenient way to get around Kauai and will allow visitors the most flexibility and the chance to enjoy the island’s scenic drives. Otherwise, it’s possible – though pricey – to get around much of the island by taxi or Uber/Lyft. There’s also a public bus system, which travels the major highway between Kekaha and Hanalei with stops including Poipu, Lihue, Princeville, and Kapaa. The buses are not terribly frequent, though, and don’t access many parts of the island of interest to visitors, so be sure to check the routes and schedules ahead of time. Within Poipu, the Aloha Spirit Shuttle runs between the area’s various resorts and restaurants and is free.

  • 5. Are there any safety concerns on Kauai?

    Visiting Kauai doesn’t require any special health or safety precautions beyond practicing common sense. Ocean and water safety are the main concerns, so be aware of the ocean conditions before you go for a swim. Hiking in Kauai can also be risky for those who aren’t prepared, and only the most experienced hikers should attempt the Kalalau Trail. Otherwise, there’s not much to worry about beyond standard precautions like locking up your valuables, parking in well-lit areas, and obeying local laws and posted signs.

  • 6. What is the best time of year to visit?

    Weather-wise, Kauai is remarkably stable year-round, as average temperatures only fluctuate about 15 degrees throughout the year. Fall and winter are the rainiest seasons on Kauai, and high-season for tourism generally runs from December to March and again from July to August. To avoid both the crowds and the rain – and save some money, as flight and hotel prices tend to drop outside of peak season – late spring and early fall are the best times to visit.

  • 7. Where should I stay on Kauai?

    Kauai’s most popular area for visitors is Poipu, though it’s also the most expensive. This town on the south shore is known for stunning beaches that are great for swimming, snorkeling, surfing, and other water activities, and many of the island’s major resorts are found here. On the north shore, Hanalei is another of the most popular areas, thanks largely to the famed Hanalei Bay, which is often regarded as one of Kauai’s best beaches (and best surfing spots). The north shore is also home to Princeville, an upscale resort area with modern condo developments. Kauai’s eastern shore is known as the Coconut Coast for its groves of coconut palms, and Lihue and nearby Kapaa are the island’s main commercial hubs. The Old Town area of Kapaa is especially charming.

  • 8. Where are the best viewpoints?

    There is no shortage of places to take in a great view on Kauai. The Hanalei Valley Outlook is one of the most photographed spots in the state, with its views of the valley, the coast, and the mountains. The drive along Waimea Canyon Road is one of Kauai’s most popular, and there are several different lookouts along the road. Kalalau Lookout is another top viewpoint on Kauai, and is one of the only places on the Napali Coast that’s accessible by road.

  • 9. Is Kauai an expensive place to travel?

    Yes, in many ways it is. Geographic isolation means that Hawaiians depend on imports from the mainland for much of their goods and food products. A few kinds of products can be grown locally but most things have to be shipped at significant cost, which means they’re more expensive to buy. Don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to make your trip cheaper! Below are some Kauai budget travel tips.

  • 10. How can I travel on a budget on Kauai?

    As in the rest of Hawaii, there are many places to splurge for luxury on Kauai – but there are also plenty of options for traveling on a budget. If your schedule is flexible, visiting the island during low-season (spring and fall) will cut down on airfare and accommodation costs. No matter what time of year you visit, the good news is that Kauai tends to have slightly lower hotel prices than Hawaii’s other major islands. On Kauai, the cheaper hotels are farther from the beach and away from the popular tourist areas of Poipu, Princeville, and Hanalei.

    To save even more on accommodations, opt for a homesharing-style rental or one of the few hostels on the island, or consider camping for part of your trip. To stick to a tight food budget in Kauai, you can save significantly by eating at the island’s many food trucks or picking up groceries at a local supermarket. Restaurants outside of the tourist areas will also be much cheaper (food in Poipu is more expensive than anywhere else on the island). You might also consider renting a car for only the days you’ll really need it, and walking or taking the bus where possible. Lastly, don’t forget that many of the best things to do on Kauai – relaxing at the beach, hiking, taking in scenic views – are free.

  • 11. How can I plan to hike the Kalalau Trail?

    The Kalalau Trail is an 11-mile (one-way) hike that gains a total of 5,000 feet in elevation, and is as stunning as it is treacherous. While the first few miles of the trail can be done as a day hike, the second stretch is only suitable for experienced hikers. The trail is extremely muddy, even during dry season, and sections of it are incredibly narrow with steep drop-offs. It also requires crossing Hanakapi’ai Stream, which can be fatal if the water is too high or flowing too fast.

    If you’re confident that you’re prepared for the challenge, plan to spend at least one night on the trail, preferably two, or even more if you have the time. Though many people camp illegally in this area, there are two designated campsites along the trail (at Hanakoa and Kalalau). Hiking the Kalalau Trail and camping at the campsites requires a permit, which must be obtained in advance. Make sure you bring camping gear, a waterproof cell phone, hiking poles, a water purification system, a fire starter, and a First-Aid kit.