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Hawaii is the tropical paradise I’d always dreamed of, so when I visited this summer, I knew I had to pack according to how many islands I would be visiting and what types of activities I would be doing. On my trip, I visited Oahu, Big Island and Kaua’i. While some visitors are content to spend their entire trip lying on the beach, there is lots of exploring to do for the more adventurous travelers. Spend some time in the famed national parks, climbing to waterfalls, surfing and visiting active volcanoes. This packing list should be suitable for two weeks of inter-island travel in Hawaiian summer.
3 dresses – For nice dinners and using as swimsuit cover ups. Try the Infinity Skirt on for size.
2 pairs of shorts – Better suited for hiking and more adventurous activities.
2 tank tops or T-shirts – If you don’t pack enough, there’s plenty of shopping in Waikiki to fill up your suitcase.
1 pair of jeans – This one is a judgment call. It got rather cold and windy on my day at Volcanoes National Park and I was glad I had them.
2 bras – I usually pack one nude bra and one black bra and it seems to fit my wardrobe well.
5 pairs of underwear – Maybe less if you have access to laundry facilities or are packing ExOfficio underwear.
1 light jacket – You may not expect to get cold in Hawaii in summer, but it gets very breezy, especially near the coast.
1 windbreaker/rain jacket – Hawaii has the craziest weather. One minute it can be sunny and one minute it will be raining.
2 swimsuits – Following the wear one, wash one pattern, two should last you the entire trip.
Towel – I didn’t bring one with me, but instead bought one for $5 at one of the many tourist shops.
Sarong – Good to use as a beach cover up or towel.
>> Perhaps some wicking clothing would be a good idea for the active types.
One Turkish towel can do the job of a beach towel and a sarong. Plus they are packable and quick-drying!
Closed toed walking shoes – Many activities, like helicopter tours, require sturdy shoes, and they’re also good for hiking in the national parks.
Flip flops – For a day at the beach or for hostel dorms.
Nice flats or sandals – For a nice dinner in town.
>> Read more about different types of shoes for travel.
Shampoo/Conditioner – Travel sized and TSA friendly.
Soap or Body Wash – I brought body wash instead, but soap is usually easier to pack if you’re flying carry-on only.
Toothbrush/Paste – Also get a snap-on case so you don’t get anything on your toothbrush.
Deodorant – Keep yourself smelling nice!
Razor – You only need one.
Brush – Travel sized worked for me.
Hair ties – Necessary to keep the hair off your neck on those hot days.
Motion Sickness Medicine – Depending on what you are doing, this can be very handy for helicopter rides, boat tours and flights between islands.
Sunscreen – I cannot reiterate this enough! I got seriously burned on my first day there because I was mostly in the shade and didn’t put any on. Find out more sun protection ideas in this beach travel pack list.
Birth Control – You can never be too safe.
Diva Cup – The last thing you want on your trip is to be tied down by lady products. The Diva Cup is ideal for this trip since you will be active and won’t always have time to change.
Prescriptions – If you forget anything, there’s Walgreens on nearly every corner, just be sure to bring all your paperwork.
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Protection from the Elements:
Sunscreen – It’s probably better to buy when you get there because of TSA liquid regulations.
Hat – Keep yourself from getting sunburned and spending the day inside!
Sunglasses – I brought two pairs, just in case I lose or break one.
1 Flashlight/headlamp – For navigating your way through lava tubes.
Laptop – I found that many hotels had free wireless internet, as did the Starbucks on every corner of Honolulu.
Camera – Capture every rainbow, waterfall and sunset.
Underwater case – As I mentioned with my Croatia packing list, my underwater camera case served me well in Hawaii. It’s ideal for scuba divers.
Chargers – No converters or adapters necessary if you’re coming from the US.
Lock – If you’re staying in a hostel, it’s always a good idea to have a lock for your backpack.
iPod – Necessary for inter-island flights and lounging by the pool.
Water bottle – If you’re hiking Honolulu’s Diamond Head crater, a bottle of water is a must, since there is nowhere to get one once you leave the parking lot. I recommend using a refillable plastic one.
Books – I went through many books on my trip and bought even more.
More Hawaii Travel Tips
Another thing to remember for your trip to Hawaii is that if you are traveling between islands, you will be constantly unpacking and repacking. Traveling with a carry-on was the only option for me since you have to pay to check bags on each leg. Any liquids we had, like sunscreen and shampoo, went in one bag that got checked, with the rest going carry-on.
If you are coming from the mainland United States, you may be subject to quarantine, which protects Hawaii’s fragile ecosystem. You cannot bring plants or fruits without prior consent and if you’re traveling with pets, they will be subject to inspection, which takes additional time at the airport.
American dollars are the currency of choice and most national bank branches are found throughout the islands. While using a credit or debit card may be easier in the cities, some restaurants and the famous North Shore food trucks only accept cash.
Book ahead! Hawaii is a major tourist destination and accommodation can book out early in the high season. Don’t get stuck overpaying for hotels or sleeping in grungier hostels. Click here to search for accommodation deals in Hawaii now.
Anything else a must-pack for a trip to Hawaii?
P.S. Hawaii Prep, Pack & Plan Travel Guide
Book a Viator Tour for Your Trip to Hawaii
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Unless you are going to the big island, you will never have need of pants in Hawaii. The only time I ever wore shorts when I lived there was to go hiking. Do yourself a favor and pack sundresses. Or, hit a local Ross (there’s one in every town) when you get there and buy a few lightweight dresses. Cheaper than the tourist shops and a bigger selection. Make sure you pile on the sunscreen and don’t forget to reapply. The sun is much stronger than the mainland and you can pick out the tourists because they are lobster red.
Thanks for the feedback! I’m heading to Hawaii in November and thinking about what I need to pack right now.
I have been to Hawaii many times and i found it useful to bring along some ziplock bags to carry shells, or a wet swimsuit.
That’s a really cool idea. Never thought of that
Hi, Hawaiian beliefs are you are not bring anything off Island to the Mainland, including shells, rocks etc. It is supposed to bring bad luck. And if by chance you do sneak some off Island…..bring them back next trip and all will be restored.
D Loosen says
So true Heather!
It took me awhile to learn, but dresses are the way to go in Hawaii! Much cooler than shorts and a top. Stay away from waistbands if you can. Think breezy styles, a maxi is ok, and loose sleeves are ok. Just keep the air flowing.
Also avoid polyester! A lot is sold in the islands, but you want cotton and rayon fabric.
Shorts and pants only for hiking, horseback riding or ziplining. Honest!!
Thanks for the information. We are headed to Hawaii in October. Super excited to visit each island!
Thanks great info!
Cash is a good idea ANYWHERE in hawaii as a lot of local places ONLY accept cash (but there’s atm’s and banks around everywhere in Oahu)
Good to know, Candice! I’m going to Oahu next week 🙂
Thank you for all the suggestions above. This site is amazing. I will be heading to Oahu and Maui for an 11 day trip in 2 weeks.
God bless you, I’m packing right now and your list is exactly what I needed!
Great advice I am heading to Waikiki in 2 weeks and will definitley be packing light.
We’re headed to Kaua’i for our honeymoon. Being both pasty white, we’re bringing loads of sunscreen for sure. But we also got UV blocking rash guards for our snorkel trip. I’ve found that when I swim, I can’t reapply the sunscreen enough to not get burned. The rash guard protects my arms, back, and chest, so I only have to worry about my face and legs. If those get burned, it’s way better than all of me. I’d recommend a long-sleeved rash guard if you’re going to be doing a lot of swimming/snorkeling/surfing. There’s a reason surfers wear them!
pat ti says
Just a note: Regarding the statement that “American dollars are the currency of choice”, Hawaii is the 50th state in the United States so the currency system is not any different from the mainland USA. Also the statement “No converters necessary if you’re coming from the US”-Hawaii is not a foreign country so you wouldn’t need converters for your chargers since they are a part of the United States and have the same voltage system. Also the quarantine system in Hawaii is rather strict and your pet needs to meet very strict requirements to be allowed into Hawaii. Please check the State of Hawaii Animal Quarantine information to see the requirements if you are thinking of bringing a pet with you. You probably don’t want to spend your vacation with your pet in quarantine for the duration of your stay.
I am sure the converters and currency suggestion was for Europeans, Australians, Asians, etc…coming from other countries in which case those things would absolutely be necessary.
Many businesses accept yen because there is such a large Japanese tourist population…..hence that statement about American currency when Hawaii is clearly part of the US.
They make rash guard pants as well if you are concerned about the back of your legs getting burned. It also helpful to have the the shirt and pants when you know you are going to be snorkeling in a shallow reef. Helps protects from cuts!
Very true! A burn on the back of the legs can be quite painful – at least I know it is for me. Irritating every time you sit, or if you wear shorts and they rub.
Hi, it is my understanding that it is best to buy sunscreen on the island as the ecosystem is fragile and they like you to use more eco friendly sunscreen so it isn’t as hard on the aquatic life. Any truth to this? Thanks. M Kelly
This doesn’t say what is good, but what you should avoid. Check your labels. Zinc oxide may be safe, but not sure.
Another good article on good sunscreen choices. No SPF over 30 or aerosols.
I like this packing list, but I would never be content bringing only two shirts. This is paradise, so that means pictures, pictures, pictures! I always bring a shirt and shorts for each day that I will be gone…and I didn’t think I was the only one!
Thank you so much! I am going to Hawaii in February for my honeymoon, and I’m trying to think ahead so I don’t have to stress over packing!
Thank you so much for all the helpful hints. My list for packing is almost complete but thought I would check yours to see if there was anything different. I am so HAPPY I did. I forgot about the sunscreen. I would have turned lobster red for sure.
Thank you! My list is quite similar, though to save a bit of money I am bringing reef shoes (water shoes) and goggles. I pack almost all toiletries in gallon sized ziplock bags- in the case that anything bursts open in flight. (In my checked luggage) My first trip I packed much too light- needing to buy clothes for myself was not fun! (Need- not want) Mahalo and Aloha!!!
I would definately bring pants (jeans) if you plan on horseback riding, going to Halealala to watch the sunrise (oftentimes it drops to 40 degrees) or flying in small aircraft.
I bring more hiking clothes/shorts as the rest of them get pretty sweaty and covered with red mud. (I do a ton of hiking on Kauai). For hikes that cross rivers or streams, hiking shoes or boots will not work. I found that keens with closed toe, or chacos or tevas usually work well and dry fast, but I bring two pair to rotate them.
One thing, headbands! Great for keeping the hair blowing off the face. I usually buy a colorful one there.
Thanks for the great tips, Sarah! How often do you travel to Hawaii? Sounds like you really know you’re stuff 🙂
Hi Brooke, I just saw this! I’ve been going to Hawaii several times a year since 1999. I was going to move there but decided it was more magical to visit regularly. I like to do things off the beaten path: hiking, diving, boating, flying (ultralight and small fixed wing aircraft.)
I also pack a small beach shelter (like otentik) in my duffel that can withstand the trade winds, is portable and packable. (Burning Man trips taught me a lot about scaling down). You can rent beach umbrellas in Hawaii, but the winds really throw them around. It was worth the $$ investment to keep in the shade when needed.
I use small daypacks for carry-ons and for hiking. S-Carabiner clips are great for attaching stuff like water bottles to the outside of the bag.
I totally agree with the poster regarding ziplock bags. I use/reuse them all the time. Before I leave home, I put spices like cinnamon etc In a few for cooking so I don’t have to buy whole containers there, and save some money. If one is staying at a regular hotel where they eat out at all meals, this wouldn’t apply. I find that VRBO etc have much cheaper acommodations.
Beauty & the Beers says
This list was helpful and reminded me to pack light–but 2 shirts for 2 weeks?! I like to change mid-day when possible in a hot sweaty climate, and I REEEALLY do not want to do laundry every day of my honeymoon! Plus, who wants to be wearing the same 2 shirts in every vacay photo?
Hi there! There are 2 shirts listed, but there are also 3 dresses, which also mean your tops are covered when wearing those. We like to provide base packing lists, and you can then add or subtract from them as necessary. In reality, we don’t need the extra clothes, but if you feel like they are important, then add a few more 🙂
Brooke is right! You don’t need that many clothes! You’re going to find that even though you bring a lot, you will probably only wear a fraction of it. Besides, people care more about what is behind you in the picture than what you’re wearing! They understand that you are on vacation and can’t take it all with you. Besides, it’s an excuse to buy something new!
Bring a day pack if going to do any active things or a tote bag that zips if just beach hopping and sight seeing. Tote can be as simple or fashionable as you like. You will want something to carry your sunscreen, sarongs, etc in. Zipper helps keep sand out. There is usually a bit of a walk from the parking lot to the beaches. One of this mini insulated lunch bags would keep your water cool.
I would bring 3-4 sarongs or buy there (cheap and everywhere) for wraps, picnic table cover, beach blanket, wrap when cold, easy skirt or dress. It can be cold inside with air conditioning blasting in many places. Many beaches have rinse off showers and I rinse off and put on a sarong over my suit and go, During the day it’s fine to wear a sarong over your suit as a skirt with a top or t- shirt. Sarongs I bought 10 years ago for $5 bucks on the side of the road are still vivid!
Don’t pack a beach towel. Either buy there or if at a hotel, pick up pool towels. Just remember to bring them back. Some places even have towel drops in the lobby or driveway.
honestly this is what you need to pack:
Shorts, tank tops, underwear/bras, (although I found myself wearing my bikini rather than bra & underwear often- you never know where you will end up,- beach, waterfall) hat or cap, sunglasses, hair tie, short socks w/ comfortable hiking/running shoes (they will get dirty), sunscreen, Mosquito/ bug spray, backpack, phone charger for hotel, waterproof camera would be nice, flip flops, 2 swimsuits, Chapstick, & beach chairs/ unmbrella. Oh and Waterproof mascara if you’re a girly girl like me.
Bam, the rest is optional, i.e. Skip the jewelry, you can always buy there if you want (souvenirs), fancy dress isn’t super necessary you will be overdressed. Fancy, expensive, uncomfortable but cute shoes aren’t necessary especially stilettos. Skip jeans, pants, long sleeves, & jackets. It may rain out if nowhere for minutes at a time, but it never gets cold.
And please do research prior to going on hikes. Some are miles long, so prepare with food & plenty of water, toilet paper, bug spray, etc. also if going on any hike, take a towel for yourself; you may find a gorgeous waterfall to cool off in.
lol I’m glad I’m reading through the comments because this list is awesome! Thank You
Great tips from everyone! This really helped me!:) I am leaving for Oahu tomorrow and it was really helpful reading everyone’s comments! Thanks a bunch!:)
Michelle Caskey says
My husband and I are going to Hawaii on a 15 night cruise. My tentative packing list is—1 pair of pants, 3 pair of shorts, 6 tops that mix and match with the pants and shorts. Planning on 2 laundry days. 2 dresses for formal nights. Shoes: sandals for daytime on board, tennis shoes for excursions, dressy for my dresses. Of course swimsuit, flip flops. Only 1 swimsuit, don’t own more. Any suggestions? Does this amount seem fine?
Karen P says
Great list, thank you very much for the main list and in the comments. I’m also adding in a permission to travel with a minor (divorced with joint physical and legal custody).
Yes, this is the US, however my daughter and I always get side-eye and the notarized permission to travel gets all who care to cool their jets a bit.
what all of you forgot-
-things to entertain the on the plain (color, card, i pad, ect.
-tooth brush and tooth paste
-micellar water and cotton pads?
-shampoo and comnditioner
-straightener and curling wand
-snacks for plane
-razor, shaveing cream and sugar scrub
That`s some of the things in my list. I have done a lot of reaserch about Hawaii and this is some of the things you forgot. Anyways have fun in Hawaii! Aloha!
this was helpful i am heading to moui for my birthday with my family!
in maui in february i never had to wear pants the closest thing to pants i wore were 3 quarters. i always overpack but i didnt need much because you are in your swimsuit all the time utill you go to bed
Ladies. One thing that’s actually missing from Miss Brooke’s list: humidity hair care! Dear god… if I don’t bring a balm or a serum for my hair, it’s Hawaii Hagrid Hair city for me. Between the trade winds, humidity, swimming and natural drying of hair… it’s a Spanish Afro. My hair isn’t picky about what brand of serum or balm, it just needs it!! Also a cute hippie head scarf for that topless Jeep rental drive is a MUUUUST!!!
Leaving in 2 weeks for Hawaii for the 5th time. 😊
Great list! You forgot to add pyjamas and socks! 🙂
I’m going to Hawaii in November does anyone know what the weather is like in November and type of clothes to bring ? My first time going 😊