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Knowing what to pack for Hawaii can be such a pain in the butt. You’d think that packing for a tropical Hawaii vacation would be a breeze, but it’s so easy to miss something!
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely HATE getting to where I’m going only to realize that I didn’t pack something essential. So since I’m a huge fan of making pretty packing list printables and being prepared, I’ve put together a checklist of absolutely everything you need to pack for Hawaii.
Whether you’re trying to figure out what to bring to Hawaii for a week, or what to pack for a trip to Hawaii in December or July, I’ve got you covered!
I’ve also included some suggestions on the Hawaii clothes to wear, essentials for Hawaii, best shoes for Hawaii and much more!
Just as equally important, I’ve included tips for what NOT to pack for a Hawaii vacation!
Make sure you get your FREE printable Hawaii packing list at the bottom!
Everything You NEED to Pack for Hawaii
When you’re trying to figure out what to pack for a trip to Hawaii, you need to make sure that you include the items below. These are absolute must haves for your trip.
While you could buy some of these when you arrive in Hawaii, I think it’s easier to pack these in advance and bring them with you.
1. Reef Safe Sunscreen
I can’t overstate the importance of sunscreen, especially if you’re spending a ton of time outside (which you’ll definitely be doing in Hawaii!)
But when asking yourself, “what should I pack for Hawaii?”, you can’t just add any regular sunscreen to your list, you specifically need reef-safe sunscreen.
Reef-safe sunscreen is free of many harmful chemicals (like oxybenzone and octinoxate) which cause damage to the beautiful Hawaiian coral reefs. Not only is it better for you and the environment it’s actually required by Hawaii state law!
My absolute favorite sunscreen brand is SunBum. Their mineral sunscreen smells amazing and doesn’t contain harmful chemicals.
A good alternative is also the All Good brand. You can find it on Amazon here.
2. Waterproof Phone Case
If you’re spending your time at the beach in Hawaii, chances are your phone’s going to get wet. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be spending hundreds of dollars to replace my phone!
To prevent that, invest in a waterproof phone case. You’ll have peace of mind, and you’ll be able to take your phone with you on all your water adventures.
3. Swimsuits to Pack for Hawaii
I think it’s safe to assume that you’ll be spending a lot of time at the beach in Hawaii, so you’ll need plenty of swimsuits!
The number of swimsuits you should pack depend on how long you’ll be in Hawaii but I think it’s smart to pack one swimsuit for every 1-2 days you’ll be there or plan to be at the beach.
Swimsuits are lightweight and shouldn’t take up too much space in your bag. Plus, you’ll be happy to have a clean option available when you need it. Of of my favorite things to wear in Hawaii is a cute swimsuit with some shorts and a pretty cover up!
Swimsuits to Pack for Hawaii for Women
Swim Trunks to Pack for Hawaii for Men
4. Beach Towel
You definitely need to bring a beach towel on your Hawaii vacation, but not just any old towel will do!
When packing for Hawaii, you’ll want to bring a sand-resistant beach towel or blanket to lounge around on.
For drying off, I suggest a quick drying microfiber towel. Leave all other bulky towels at home!
5. Printed Confirmations & Tickets
I’m one of those people who need to bring printed tickets with them. I just don’t have peace of mind unless I have these ready accessible!
While you can use figital tickets for most things nowadays, I think it’s important that you plan in advance for those tickets you absolutely must bring.
Especially if your hotel or condo doesn’t have a printer, do you really want to hunt down a FedEx or library to print at?
The last thing you want is to be turned away from a tour that cost a bunch of money because you don’t have the printed confirmations you need. I avoid this by simply printing them at home and bringing them with me!
6. Portable Power Bank Charger
Something super important to pack for Hawaii is a portable power bank charger.
You’ll want to keep your phone charged on the long plane ride to the islands, and for directions while you’re there.
7. Beach Bag
Get a water resistant beach bag or tote to bring with you to the beach. It’s a good way to keep all your belonging in one place.
Plus, you can pack some snacks for your time at the beach and feel super smart for saving money on your Hawaii vacation.
You definitely don’t want to forget any prescriptions as part of your packing list. Consider packing these in your carryon bag and keeping a list of these must have essentials on your phone to double check before you leave the house.
9. Water Bottle
Bringing a reusable water bottle with you will ensure that you don’t have to shell out money for overprice water bottles at the airport.
Plus, if you plan to do any hiking or spend some time at the beach, you’ll need a water bottle that can keep your drink cold and help you save some cash while you’re at it.
10. Best Camera to Pack for Hawaii
Even though the cameras on our phones are getting more and more sophisticated, I find myself still wanting a real camera when I’m on vacation.
If you’re going snorkeling, you’ll want to bring an underwater camera to get some cool pictures. And while I would love to own a GoPro for occasions like this, they’re just too pricey for now.
11. Sun Hat
Have I mentioned how it gets super hot and sunny in Hawaii? It seems obvious, but you need to pack a good sun sun hat for Hawaii.
12. Breezy Dresses for Women to Pack for Hawaii
You don’t have to wonder what people wear in Hawaii because I’ll tell you: the women wear lots of pretty dresses! And I’m so happy they do, because I LOVE the fact that I can just slip on a cute dress and don’t have to think about coordinating a two-piece outfit.
Plus, Hawaii can get really hot, and having clothes that breathe is a definite must have.
Nothing screams beach vacation like a fun pair of sunglasses.
When you’re packing for Hawaii, make sure you pack a pair. They’ll keep the sun off your eyes and make it easier for you to be outside.
14. Flip Flops
I’m not gonna lie, I live in flip flops. Living in California, the right flip flops are acceptable shoes for most situations.
A good pair of flip flops is an absolute must have in every Hawaii packing list! And don’t be cheap here! I’m a huge fan of these Rainbow flip flops, and I think they’re the BEST shoes for Hawaii.
You’ll be spending a lot of time in these flip flops so you’ll want to make sure they’re supportive and comfortable.
The last thing you want is a cheap pair of rubber flip flops digging into your feet ruining your vacation.
15. Water Shoes
Water shoes are one of those items that you never really think you’re gonna need until you’re at a rocky beach and your feet are killing you. (True story)
I neglected to pack water shoes for Hawaii the first time I went, and my feet paid the price for it when I was snorkeling in some rocky beaches.
Learn from my mistake and make sure you pack some quick drying water shoes. Future you will thank you.
16. Breathable Shorts
Even though I pretty much live in dresses, you need a good pair of breathable shorts in your Hawaii vacation clothes list!
Shorts are a perfect thing to wear for hiking in Hawaii! And comfort is the absolute key to dressing for Hawaii!
Plus, you can wear a cute pair of shorts over your swimsuit for a comfy outfit you can switch back into.
Make sure you include some good breathable t-shirts in your Hawaii packing list, especially if you’ll be hiking in Hawaii!
You can throw these ones over your swimsuit, when you go hiking, or even to sleep in. While I prefer t-shirts, you could easily swap these out for tank tops if that’s your preference.
18. Plenty of Underwear & Socks
Seriously, pack more underwear than you think you’ll need. It’s hot in Hawaii and you’ll probably be outside a lot.
For me that means a couple of showers and fresh underwear right after! Also make sure you don’t forget to pack some breathable socks while you’re at it!
You don’t need heavy pajamas or sweatpants for your Hawaii trip, but you will want to bring some lightweight pajamas.
Did you know the most of the major US banks don’t really have a presence in Hawaii? Chase, for example, only has one ATM in the entire state.
To avoid paying ATM fees, or scrambling for cash for tips and other things while you’re there, making sure you pack some cash in advance.
What Toiletries You Need to Pack for Hawaii
Below you’ll find a list of the absolute Hawaii essentials (toiletries version) that you need to bring with you on your trip. Don’t forget these!
Optional but Recommended Items to Pack for Hawaii
While you don’t NEED to bring everything included below, but it’ll make your trip a little bit easier if you do.
Ok, so this could go in the “absolute must haves” category but I didn’t pack one for my Hawaii trip and I was fine. However, for maximum sun protection when you’re spending the whole day out in the sun, a rash guard is key.
A rash guard is THE thing to wear when snorkeling in Hawaii. It’ll help prevent sunburns, especially when you’re snorkeling and the sun is just continuously hitting your back.
The last thing you want is to get a nasty sunburn that prevents you from enjoying your vacation.
While you can rent a snorkeling set in Hawaii, I think it’s more cost efficient to buy one. A set is relatively inexpensive and you can use it over and over again to go snorkeling on your own.
Plus, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of having to find a rental place to get one at.
I have this one and love it. It served us well during our last Hawaii trip when we went snorkeling on our own.
Waterproof Dry Bag
If you’re going out on a snorkeling tour or kayaking, you’ll definitely want to bring a waterproof dry bag.
You can put all of your belongings in this bag to ensure nothing gets wet. It’s perfect if you’re in a situation where your belongings may get wet.
If you want to pack light and stay organized, you need a good set of packing cubes. They’ll definitely help you fit everything into your suitcase.
Plus, these are a great way to keep your dirty clothes separate for when you return.
Reusable Travel Bottle Kit
I love a good reusable set of travel containers! A set like this one is perfect to bring your favorite shampoo, conditioner, makeup, and other products!
One of my favorite things to do is go to the beach and read a good book. It’s great way to enjoy your vacation without spending a ton of money.
But when you’re packing for Hawaii, you don’t want to weight down your bag with a ton of books. A good way to get around that is by buying a Kindle.
I love the convenience of being able to have my favorite books easily accessible while I’m on vacation without having to haul around heavy paperbacks. Plus, did you know you can get a Kindle Unlimited Subscription for FREE for one month? That’s not a typo! Sign up here!
If you’re packing liquids in your suitcase, you definitely need to bring some ziplock bags.
Putting your liquids in ziplock bags gives you an extra layer of protection from any potential spills.
You don’t want to get to Hawaii only to find that you has to wash everything you brought because your shampoo spilled in your suitcase.
Get some plain (or reusable, if you’re feeling eco-friendly) ziplock bags for your Hawaii trip and you’ll protect your belongings from pesky spills.
Hiking gear: Hawaii edition means some good hiking sandals or hiking boots! These sandals above are the the must have hiking shoes for Hawaii.
Planning a lot of hikes? Wondering if you need some bug spray? You probably do need to pack some natural bug spray (like this one). You definitely want to repellants insects as much as you can when you’re going into their natural habitat.
What to Pack for Hawaii Trip in December (Hawaii Winter Months)
The Hawaii winter season runs from November to April, and temperatures will drop a little bit compared to the hotter summer months.
Below are some recommendations of additional things to take to Hawaii during the winter months: add these to your Hawaii vacation list accordingly!
While Hawaii has a tropical climate, you may want to pack a sweater if you’re planning to go to one of the high elevation points, like Haleakala for the sunrise.
If you go during the winter months when whale watching is at its prime, you may want to consider packing some binoculars like these ones.
Different sides of the same Hawaiian island can have very different weather. If you’re staying in the rainy side of your island, pack a lightweight rain jacket. You’ll be happy you did.
What Not to Bring to Hawaii
Below you’ll find some of the things that should not be on your what to pack for a trip to Hawaii list.
- A lot of books. Unless they’re in your kindle. They’ll just take up a ton of space in your suitcase. Get a kindle to help you pack light.
- Heavy sweaters. It just doesn’t get very cold in Hawaii. I would avoid heavy sweaters unless you have a trip to Haleakala planned. If you do, read this article for some of the best tips to prepare and bundle up!
- High heels. You won’t use them. Even if you plan to go out to a fancy dinner, you’ll be fine in some sandals.
- Expensive jewelry. You’ll be out in the sun and doing outdoor activities most of the time you’re there. Leave your expense jewelry at home.
- Food. Unless you’re packing light snacks for the airport, you can get all the food you need when you get to the Hawaiian Islands.
- Beach toys. I gotta be honest, I was half tempted to buy a cute float for the pool when I went to Hawaii. But I’m glad I didn’t, because I had zero use for it. Besides, some condos come with beach toys (like pool floats, boogie board, etc) included.
What to Bring on The Plane to Hawaii
Here are the things that you should bring with you on your carryon bag on the plane to Hawaii. Because the trip to Hawaii can be 5+ hours long, the following items will help keep you comfortable.
FREE Hawaii Packing List Printable!
Additional Hawaii Travel Tips
- If you’re looking for an affordable way to plan your Hawaiian vacation, read this post. You’ll learn the best tips and tricks to plan a cheap Hawaii vacation.
- Interested in learning how I booked a FREE trip to Maui? Read this post where I walk you through my step by step process to getting free flights and hotels in Hawaii with credit card points and sign up bonuses.
- If you’re going to Maui and looking for some of the best things to do, check out this post where I give you the ULTIMATE list of things to do in Maui.