Packing List for Hawaii
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Hawaii is one of my very favorite vacation destinations! In fact I was lucky enough to live there for a year and have visited many times. The islands are a beautiful place to travel, with lots of amazing activities for nearly any type of person.
You can lie on the beach all day, dine at fancy restaurants, go hiking and camping, scuba dive or ride in a helicopter. You can even do all of this in 24 hours!
But with all this variety in activities, what to wear in Hawaii? How do you put together a Hawaii packing list? Read on for plenty of useful tips and information from a wannabe local.
Hawaii Packing List: Outfits for Hawaii Vacation
The Hawaii vacation clothes that you chose to bring will depend on the activities you enjoy doing, but there are some basics that everyone should consider.
Here is a simple one week Hawaii packing list for women and men – read on for more in-depth tips and ideas for the best outfits for Hawaii based on your plans.
Hawaii packing list female:
- 3 dresses
- 2 shorts
- 1 long pants or leggings
- 3 tops
- 1 sweater
- Light jacket
- Scarf, sarong, or turkish towel
- 5 underwear, 2 bras
- 2 swimsuits, rashguard top
- Swimsuit cover up
- Flip flops, dressy sandals, hiking sandals (check out this list of comfy walking sandals for travel)
- Sneakers or hiking boots
Hawaii packing list male:
- 2 shorts
- 2 long pants, one dressier
- 2 button down shirts
- 3 casual shirts
- 5 pairs underwear
- 2 swimsuits, rash guard top
- Flip flops or sandals
- Sneakers or hiking boots
Hawaii Travel Essentials
So now you have the basic Hawaii packing lists. Now let’s get into some details about clothes for Hawaii.
What do you plan to do on your Hawaiian vacation? Lie by the pool and dine at nice restaurants in Honolulu or at a resort in Maui? Then you can probably leave the hiking boots at home and bring a few additional dressy pieces.
Most Hawaii visitors travel to at least two islands on their vacation. If you will be hopping on an inter-island flight remember that you will need to pay extra for checked luggage. It is always smart to pack light, but consider your liquids like sunscreen as well. Perhaps if you are traveling as a couple or with friends you can put all your liquids in one bag and check only that one. More about sunscreen below.
Outfits for Hawaii Vacation
Best swimsuits for Hawaii: Whether you are visiting in winter or summer you’ll definitely have a dip in the pool or ocean. I would recommend at least two swimsuits for both men and women, unless you are a minimalist packer. For women I would recommend one comfortable, practical swimsuit that you can wear for watersports like body surfing, SUP, or snorkeling and maybe another cuter one for showing off poolside or sunbathing on the sand. Another reason for packing two bathing suits is purely related to comfort: I hate putting on a cold, wet swimsuit. Here are a few cute swimsuits you might like:
If you are very sensitive to the sun or plan to do lots of snorkeling or watersports I would recommend bringing a rash guard type top for both men and women (of course the kids too). These will protect your skin from the tropical rays and can be comfortable if you plan to do a lot of watersports like surfing. They might even protect you from the random jellyfish sting.
An even better reason to wear a rashguard is to protect coral reefs from negative effects of the chemicals in sunscreen. More about that below.
Here are some super cool rashguards for women. Click the images to see pricing and where to buy.
If your lodgings don’t provide them, you might also want to have a beach towel or even just a sarong to use on the sand. If you’d prefer not to take up the space in your luggage you can always buy one there. How cute is this Watermelon Beach Blanket?
Dressy occasions: As mentioned above, if you plan to spend much of your time at resorts and in Honolulu, you might want to pack clothes that are a bit dressier. Hawaii tends to be very casual due to the warm climate and island vibes, but some of the resort restaurants call for a more polished look. Pretty dresses are always a good idea for the ladies in the evening. Check to see if men need a sportcoat at any restaurants you might plan to visit such as the Halekulani or Four Seasons Lanai. You’ll also want to pack a pair of dressier shoes.
If you plan to do any golfing in Hawaii remember to bring the appropriate clothing. You can rent clubs and balls but some of the fancier courses like the Manele Golf Course at the Four Seasons Lanai have a dress code.
Will you be going to a luau on the beach? Perfect luau outfits for women are a pretty dress or skirt and elegant top. Remember it might be breezy, so a long maxi dress like this one could be a great idea. Did you know that in Hawaii they call a loose, floor length dress a muumuu? You might be standing on the sand, so wear flat sandals if that is the case.
Most luaus are held indoors or in open sided spaces with paved floors. The dress code is usually casual with many people wearing shorts and tshirts. But I prefer to look nicer than the average sloppy person, don’t you? It’s easy to step it up by putting on a cute dress, a pretty top, or a collared shirt and long pants or nice shorts as luau clothes for men.
Are you looking for cute dresses for Hawaii trip? Here are a few ideas, click the images below to see prices and where you can find them.
Do I need a sweater in Hawaii? For the most part Hawaii has ideal weather. Not too hot, not too humid, but just enough to remind you that you are in the tropics. Wondering what to wear in Hawaii in November vs what to wear in Hawaii in summer? In both times of year the evenings and indoors can sometimes be cool and breezy, so definitely bring a light sweater. If you plan to visit the higher elevations you will also want something warm to throw on. More about that below.
What are the best outfits for Hawaii? Sightseeing during the day you’ll want to dress cool and comfortable. The perfect Hawaiian attire for ladies is a sundress or shorts and a light top. If you don’t like to expose your legs, look for comfortable capri pants. It will likely be warm and humid, so wear clothes in natural fabrics like cotton or linen that won’t stick to your skin. Think cool and colorful for outfits to wear in Hawaii and you’ll look adorable in those photos of you eating rainbow shave ice in Haleiwa. Click here to find the best shave ice in Hawai’i!
Two piece sets are a cute way to stay cool in the tropical sun. Check these out!
If you like to shop while on vacation you might even find a special patterned Aloha shirt or dress to bring home with you. You’ll find many shops selling the typical colorful clothing.
Lounging by the pool or at the beach you might like to have a swimsuit cover up that doubles as a sun dress, or just throw on a sundress or shorts and a tank over your bathing suit. Don a big floppy sunhat to protect your skin in style. Here is one I like that rolls up for easy packing.
Check out these simple sundresses for a Hawaii trip:
What to wear in Hawaii at night? Your evening Hawaii outfit can be almost as casual as daytime clothes if you won’t be doing anything too fancy. For women, a light and flowing dress with pretty sandals and a scarf to throw over your shoulders would make a great outfit. Men can swap a tshirt for a collared shirt and maybe the shorts for long pants.
As you can see, planning your clothes for Hawaii trip doesn’t need to be too complicated.
Hiking clothes to wear in Hawai’i: If you are at all outdoorsy I recommend you do some hiking in Hawaii. There are amazing trails on every island, both short and long adventures. You might hike up Diamond Head for a view of Waikiki, walk to waterfalls on Maui, see lava flowing from the Kīlauea volcano on the Big Island, or trek the muddy Na Pali coast in Kauai. There are also short trails to blowholes, petroglyphs and walks through botanical gardens. To visit these wonders in comfort, you should be sure to pack sensible close-toed shoes. Sure you’ll spot people doing these activities in flip flops (I did! oops.) but it’s not the best idea. Lava rocks (especially a’a) are rough and sharp and one small scrape will tear up your skin.
Depending on how much hiking you plan to do, you can just pack some cute and comfortable sneakers that you can also wear when walking around town or on the plane. Of course backpackers and serious hikers will plan to bring more sturdy footwear, I recommend something waterproof but lightweight like these boots from Ahnu. If you don’t mind open toed shoes, I love these Teva Terra FI sandals for hiking across lava to get to the best snorkeling spots. I wear them for short hikes in the humid summer.
Wear light, fast drying layers when hiking in Hawaii. You may be subjected to a sudden downpour. Full rain gear is not usually necessary but you’ll definitely want clothing that dries quickly. If you will be doing long hikes on the rainy sides of the islands you might want to pack a rain jacket or a poncho like this one that won’t make you too hot but will keep the drops off of your skin.
Be sure to bring a light packable daypack like this one to carry your extra layers, sunscreen, bug spray plus water and snacks on day hikes. If you don’t have one already, get a nice stainless steel bottle like this one to always carry with you to stay hydrated.
Will you take a trip to Haleakalā to see the sunrise or go hiking in the rainforest at Volcanoes National Park? I recommend you do! If so, bring a warm layer. It can be 10 to 30 degrees cooler at the higher elevations.
Toiletries: What to Take to Hawaii
- Shampoo and soap
- Small scissors and tweezers
- Sunscreen (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide based)
- Bug spray
- First aid kit
Bring along your normal toiletries such as toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, and medications. You’ll want to tote a minimal makeup kit since the heat and humidity will melt it right off your face. In the evening you might want a touch of lipstick and mascara but after a day outdoors you will be glowing and not need a lot of makeup.
Bring any medications you might need including pain killers and motion sickness medicine. You’ll be happy to have a small first aid kit with bandaids, antibacterial cream and maybe something to soothe sunburn or insect bites. Mosquitos are big and hungry in Hawaii too, so pack some bug spray to wear if you will be going hiking in the jungles and sitting outside in the evenings.
You can also of course buy these things on the islands if you need them.
If you are headed to Hawai’i with only a carry on, good for you! You’ll probably want more sunscreen than TSA rules allow, so bring a small tube and buy more as soon as you arrive.
A note about sunscreen: research has shown that the active chemical in most sunscreens – oxybenzone – can be very harmful to coral reefs. For that reason it is best not to wear it if you will be going to the ocean. Use a zinc oxide or titanium dioxide based sunscreen instead, wear a hat, sit in the shade, and don a rashguard if you go swimming.
Here are some options for reef-safe sunscreen:
Gear & Gadgets: What to Take to Hawaii
Are you planning to do a lot of sporty things in Hawai’i? You can bring your gear with you or rent it on the islands. Check first to compare whether bringing golf clubs, a surfboard or even your mask, fins and snorkel on the plane is more or less cost effective than renting these items in Hawai’i. Keep this in mind when deciding what to take to Hawaii.
Although Hawaii is quite safe, unfortunately there can be problems with theft and car beak ins especially at remote beach and trailhead parking lots. Yes, it happened to me too. Don’t leave your valuables in your rental car. If you don’t need the items that day, lock them up in the hotel room safe or leave them at your lodgings. Never leave items like cameras or wallets visible in the rental car, but also beware of leaving things in the trunk of the car. I would leave valuables like fancy jewelry at home – not that you will be robbed but they might get lost while swimming.
One piece of gear you might appreciate on the beach is a waterproof pouch for holding valuables like your room key, cash or credit cards. Most people prefer a hard shell case like the Otterbox because the seal is most reliable. Here are a few options for protecting your stuff on the sand:
- Otterbox Drybox: protect your phone, keys, ID and wallet in a small waterproof box good to 90ft depth. Attach it to your swimsuit with a carabiner like this one
- Aquapac Keymaster: this small plastic pouch has a good waterproof protection rating and fits in your pocket, it has an attached drawstring as well to wear it around your neck
- Blue Sky Pouch: this amazing waterproof pouch straps around your waist or chest and will hold your phone, passport and documents securely.
- Lock your bag to your chair: thieves probably won’t take the time to rifle through your things, preferring to grab and go. If your bag is locked to your chair it might deter them. Bring a cable lock like this to go through zipper pulls and attach your bag to your pool lounger or beach chair.
- Bury stuff in the sand: when I go to the beach alone sometimes I put valuables like my car keys and ID in a ziplock bag and bury it in the sand under my towel. Thieves are lazy and probably won’t dig around too much while I am taking a quick dip in the ocean. Be discrete, of course don’t let anyone see you doing this. And don’t forget where you buried the treasure. 🙂
Unless you will be working on vacation, leave that laptop at home and enjoy your holidays! But you will probably want to bring some gadgets to record your adventures in paradise. Here are some favorites:
- Underwater camera
- Waterproof GoPro or one of the popular imitation versions like this one and this one from Campark
- Underwater camera case: If you already have a camera you love, look for an underwater case like this one
- Underwater phone case: prefer to take photos with your phone? Get a waterproof case like this to capture images in the water too.
- Extra batteries and data cards
- Bluetooth speaker
- External battery for smartphone
- Kindle or e-reader
Hawaii uses the same plugs as the USA and Canada. (120 Volts and 60 Hertz)
Oh and lastly just a little note about pronunciation and spelling. Hawai’i should be spelled with the “okina” or glottal stop mark in the name, I didn’t always do so in this article because most searchers use the spelling “Hawaii”. Also the W is correctly pronounced as a soft V. So the name is pronounced more like “Ha-vah-ee” and not “Ha-whyeee” as many people say it. The Hawaiian language is wonderful and it’s worth spending a bit of time learning about it. Make sure to learn aloha, mahalo and humuhumunukunukuapua’a! Did you know that of the 50 states only Hawai’i and Alaska have official languages in addition to English? By the way, check out our packing guide for an Alaska cruise too!
I hope this Hawaii packing list helps you figure out what to wear in Hawaii and best of all helps you get the most from your trip. Enjoy the beautiful, magical Hawaiian islands!
Looking for the best place to stay in Hawaii?
Compare lodging prices in Hawaii across booking engines at Hotels Combined. Or take a look at Airbnb and use this link to save around €30 off your reservation. If you prefer to use Booking.com you can register at Booking.com using this link and get $20 cash back after your stay!
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