September 13, 2020

My Ultimate Hawaii Packing List

Need a little Aloha in your life? I feel you! Hawaii is one of my favorite go-to’s for more reasons that I can count and as soon as we can be travelling again, I’ll be booking a flight.

This ultimate Hawaiian packing list will make sure you leave nothing behind – as well as help you find where to pick up the things you don’t have.

In the mean time we can dream of planing our trip to Hawaii to swim in gin clear water and picture-perfect beaches relaxing just to think about, let alone stroll along or jump into. But I’m also in love with the culture – the Hawaiian people take great pride in their state and are the embodiment of what true hospitality should look and function like. 

So whether you’re craving luaus or waterfalls, shopping in Waikiki, heading out to the Big Island or visiting the best beaches on Oahu, this packing list for Hawaii will prep you for your much needed vacation!

*Note, this post contains affiliate links to products and places I like and think you might like too.

Cocktail on the beach
Pick a flower for your hair!

1. Light, comfortable clothing

You don’t need your entire closet for an adventure in Hawaii. Let’s face it: you’ll be spending most of your time in the water or on the beach, so think resort wear. Pack a couple of nice dresses for dinner, but for the most part, you’ll be wearing tops, shorts, skirts, and swimsuits.

My personal easy-to-pack beachy look is 3/4 leggings/pants and a breezy top (that hides a multitude of sins!) with a sunhat that I can easily fold into my luggage. Pro tip: if your sunhat doesn’t fold up, pack it in your suitcase first and fill it with clothes taking care to retain its shape.

I also love a wrap/pashmina or poncho. They’re great to wear on the plane and easy to throw on of an evening.

I’m pretty ruthless when it comes to taking shoes on vacation and Hawaii is even easier. Take no more than three pairs of shoes. I usually only take two pairs on a beach vacation. Truly, you won’t need more than that! I take a pair of sandals/flip flops for the beach and mine are so cute I can also wear them to the mall. And a pair of shoes to wear to dinner. Done. Unless you plan on outdoor activities like a hike, then pack hiking boots.

A light rain jacket is always a good idea. Hawaii is tropical, so rain is fairly common.

Download my free packing checklist here >

2. Waterproof phone case

If you’re like me, most of your Hawaii memories will be photos on your phone. A waterproof phone case is a must, especially if you want to capture those epic shots while kayaking, paddle boarding or jet skiing. Add a flotation strap to your case, just in case your phone ends up in the water. This prevents it from sinking and makes it easier to grab.

3. Daytime essentials

No one goes to Hawaii to sit indoors! Whether you stay in the water, on the golf course, or do extreme adventures, you’ll need the following outdoor gear:

  • UV-protective sunglasses
  • Reef-safe sunscreen
  • Lip balm (with SPF)
  • Backpack
  • Water bottle
  • Small umbrella
  • Bug spray
  • Sun hat

4. Mesh water shoes

If you know you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the water, I highly recommend mesh water shoes. These shoes are made for getting wet. They offer more grip than sandals and are more breathable than sneakers. 

I have a pair of Omega shoes and they are quick drying and look good to wearing on land and sea. You can read my review of them here.

5. Dry bag

If you’re planning on any water sports, a dry bag can protect your belongings from waves or accidental drops in the water as well as being super handy for a day at the beach as a general hold all for all the essentials above.

6. Sand-resistant beach towel

The magic is real, there really are sand-resistant beach towels. The fibers are woven in a way that doesn’t trap sand. Just shake it out and fold it up. PS these make great gift ideas too!

7. Underwater camera

If you have some extra money to put toward your trip, I highly recommend an underwater camera. Hawaii is just as beautiful below the water as it is above, and the entire island chain is brimming with unique sea life. Best of all, you don’t have to dive deep to get great shots. 

8. Rash shirt

Long-sleeve rash guards can be lifesavers under the brutal Hawaii sun, especially for the kids, and even in the winter. These are ideal for anyone with fair skin and it reduces your chance of sunburn and doesn’t require you to lather up with sunscreen every 30 minutes. Wear it as a swimsuit top or over your swimsuit.

9. Clutch/Wrist wallet

If you’re like me and spend most of your day outside, the last thing you want to do is carry a heavy purse or bag on your sun kissed shoulders. Bring a wristlet or clutch purse to give your shoulders a break. 

Swimming in Waikiki
Waikiki is all sun, sand and sea!

10. Beach bag

Stash your book, suntan lotion, sunglasses, towel, water bottle, snacks and any other little necessities into a stylish beach bag. It makes time at the pool or beach a breeze.

11. Packing Cubes

Packing cubes have been game changers for my travels around the world. They’ve not only freed up space in my suitcase, but also make me more mindful (or should I say picky?) about what I pack. I assign a cube to each “category” of items (e.g. one for daytime clothes, one for bathroom stuff, etc.). If it doesn’t fit in the cube, it doesn’t go. It also keeps my suitcase super organized. When I need something, I just grab that cube and crack it open. Easy peasy.

12. Empty Space

This one is so easy to overlook, but leave room in your suitcase! Hawaii is a bevy of souvenirs, and I’m not talking about your typical little trinkets and magnets. Not to mention the fabulous Ala Moana shopping centre which is worth a visit (or two). You will thank yourself for leaving enough to bring home a few “show and tells”.

Other Essentials

There are some things you’ll need to put on your Hawaii packing list that are so obvious you might forget them. Consider this your Public Service Announcement to include basic yet super important things in your suitcase:

  • Toiletries, such as shampoo, conditioner, lotion, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, toothbrush, makeup, and soap. 
  • Travel documents, including travel insurance papers (if applicable), passport, ID, emergency contact information, itineraries, flight information, and hotel booking confirmation.
  • Electronics chargers for cell phones, tablets, laptops, and other devices. 
  • Emergency cash.
  • Prescription medications, as well as over-the-counter medications for allergies, motion sickness, or headaches.
  • Something to read while you relax and unwind

I hope this packing list for Hawaii is helpful. What have I missed?

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About Megan Singleton

Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!

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