The Ultimate Checklist of What to Pack for Your Hawaii Vacation

blankAfter many visits to all the islands of Hawaii, I’ve become a bit of a pro for packing for Hawaii vacations. In this article, I wanted to share my best tips for what to pack for your Hawaii vacation.

The Core Basics

  • Casual wear for daytime sightseeing. For example, shorts and t-shirts are fine for day time wear. Ideally, we recommend wearing moisture-wicking, quick-drying clothes as they’ll dry quickly if you get caught out in a rain shower, plus they dissipate perspiration more quickly. If you have a choice of colors, choose lighter shades that are cooler to wear on warm, sunny days.
  • For dinners, you really don’t need to get dressed up for the vast majority of restaurants. Most places will say “resort wear” is their dress code. So what does resort wear mean? Men might want to wear shorts or khaki trousers and a short-sleeved, collared shirt. Ladies may want to wear casual skirts, sun dresses, capri pants, shorts, etc. (See our posts with photos showing resort wear for Hawaii for women and examples of  Hawaii resort wear for men.) Most restaurants are pretty casual and don’t make a big deal over it. We’ve seen plenty of people out to dinner in shorts and a nice t-shirt. When possible, I like to make my dinner reservations about a week or more before I leave for Hawaii. When I call to make the reservations, I ask what the dress code is. That way there is never a doubt. While we’re on this topic of what type of clothes to pack, I want to encourage you to pack light. It saves so much time, effort and airline charges for checked luggage. Please read my articles on why it benefits you to pack light and practical strategies to pack light. Note that the above photo on the right shows me holding all the clothes I packed for a 17-day Hawaii vacation.
  • blankHawaii is generally warm year-round, but sometimes you might encounter a short cold spell when visiting in the winter months. Bring a light jacket (ideally a breathable, rainproof jacket) or sweater. You’ll probably want to have a sweater or jacket just for the plane ride over. If you are staying or visiting in any of the uplands/upcountry areas like, Koele in Lanai City, Kula and Haleakala on Maui, Volcano on the Big Island and Waimea Canyon on Kauai, you’ll definitely want to bring a light sweater.
  • Bring two swimsuits per person so that you will always have a dry (or at least dry-ish) suit to wear.
  • Bring a swimsuit cover-up as most resorts request that you modestly cover up while in lobbies and common areas other than the pool and beach.
  • For the pool and beach, you’ll likely need a shoe like a flip flop. If you plan to spend a lot of time in the ocean, you might want to bring reef shoes or a hiking sandal – which we describe in more detail below.
  • A hiking sandal with a closed-toe is very multi-functional for Hawaii as we describe in this post. They’re great to wear for sightseeing and unexpected, short treks over lava rocks or dirt paths. Some tours, like horseback riding and ATVs require closed-toe shoes.
  • Long trousers, preferably moisture wicking and quick drying are useful to have. Several Hawaii vacation activities either require or are best done in long trousers– like horseback riding, ziplining, hiking over lava,  upcountry visiting/hiking, ATV tours, etc. To save packing space, I generally try to wear these on the plane ride to Hawaii.
  • Sunglasses, ideally polarized sunglasses are best in Hawaii.
  • blankBring sunscreen, with an SPF that is higher than what you would normally wear on the mainland. We have tried many sunscreens in Hawaii, our favorite is ThinkSport. It’s highly rated for safety on It blends very well, especially for a high zinc, mineral-based sunscreen. It comes in 3 oz container sizes and is relatively in expensive. Which ever sunscreen you choose, make sure it does not contain Oxybenzone, which bleaches and kills Hawaii’s coral. I also recommend a rash guard top. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to wear a high SPF sunscreen in Hawaii. The sun’s rays are exceptionally strong there. See this post on the importance of sunscreen in Hawaii and how to avoid a sunburn. Remember that if the container is larger than 3.4 oz, you will have to check your luggage. Whether you check the sunscreen in your luggage or carry it on board the aircraft with you, always put it in a zip-lock container in case it leaks in transit. (Also see this discussion on bringing sunscreens to Hawaii.)
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Hat and/or visor
  • Bring a map of the island(s) that you will be visiting. The free maps you get from the rental car company are somewhat hard to navigate by because the island is sectioned off into multiple pages. If you have a portable GPS navigation systems or mobile app for your smartphone, bring it as it can be a real stress reducer for navigating the islands.
  • Bring your guidebook. My personal favorites are the Ultimate/Revealed island guidebooks. They’re the best we’ve found with great descriptions and useful maps. These guidebooks are very well organized and easy to read. Though I will caution that you always need to check safety conditions, particularly around streams and the ocean before following advice from the Revealed guides. Also, be careful not to trespass. Here are links to the individual island Revealed series guidebooks.
  • Store (on your phone) or bring print outs of directions, confirmations, etc. I have heard many reports from readers telling me that they printed my advice and found it extremely helpful on their Hawaii vacation. If you’ve not yet explored all my unbiased Hawaii vacation advice, good starting points would be on my Hawaii vacation island guides:  Oahu vacation guide, Maui vacation guide, Kauai vacation guide and Hawaii (Big) Island vacation guide.
  • Camera with lots of memory or film and battery life. If you have a battery charger, bring it too. You might be surprised at how many photos you’ll want to take.
  • Binoculars for views, watching lava, bird watching, stargazing and humpback whale watching (January – April)
  • blankLightweight, waterproof backpack for carrying snacks, water, guidebook, and other sightseeing necessities for when you  hike, go on tours, etc. A backpack can double as a beach bag or you might consider bringing reusable shopping bag that doubles.
  • Your own personal medicine and first aid kit. See suggestions for medical supplies you might need on your Hawaii vacation.
  • Travel-sized wet wipes to have with you in your car when you are on the go.
  • Bring a breathable, waterproof jacket in case it rains. I also like to pick up a package of disposable rain ponchos to keep in the rental car as back up for when I forget to bring my jacket
  • Consider bringing a small stash of snacks to get you through emergency situations. See my article, Food For Thought – Bringing Snacks to Hawaii.
  • Don’t forget to bring your manners – so make sure you read these Hawaii vacation etiquette tips. 🙂

It’s important that you make sure you know what not to pack for Hawaii. Don’t waste valuable luggage space on things that you don’t need. Save that space for bringing home chocolate macadamia nuts and Kona coffee.

If you plan to hike:

  • Mosquito repellent – We like the pre-moistened towelettes, which are very convenient for packing and carrying with you. We order these pre-moistened, mosquito repellant towelettes from Amazon. They’re convenient and don’t leave a sticky or oily residue.
  • Anti-itch solution (like Benadryl or Tricalm) in case the mosquito repellent didn’t work or got washed off.
  • blankHiking shoes or sneakers that you wouldn’t mind throwing away if they get muddy. Unless you plan hike many, many miles and technical trails, a good hiking sandal with a closed-toe works well. Hiking sandals are also good to wear for simple walking in Hawaii for sightseeing. Plus, some tours (like horseback riding and ATV tours) require closed-toe shoes.
  • Collapsible hiking poles can be useful, but not essential. If I’m planning to hike a trail that’s difficult I stuff mine in my luggage when I can.
  • Lightweight back pack with water bladder or a belt-like pack that conveniently holds water bottles.
  • Quick dry clothing.
  • Bring some energy bars to have on hand.

If you plan to go to higher elevations like Haleakala or Mauna Kea:

Note: if you are going on an organized tour, the tour company will usually provide a parka. So check what will be provided before you pack a heavy coat.

  • Thermal underwear
  • Windproof gloves
  • Windproof jacket
  • Winter weather hat, headband, and/or ear muffs.  Note if you plan to go on a guided tour of Haleakala or to Mauna Kea, the tour company will most likely provide a parka and gloves.
  • Long pants and shirts for layering
  • Flashlight if you plan to be there for star gazing.
  • If you plan on staying in the Upcountry like Lanai City on Lanai, Volcano on the Big Island, or Kula on Maui for examples, you’ll want to bring long pants and a sweater for evenings. Even the Volcano area on the Big Island can get chilly at night.

If you plan to watch lava flowing on the Big Island:

  • Hiking shoes or trail trainers for walking over uneven lava surfaces.A good hiking sandal with a closed-toe would also work. We do not advise you walk over fresh lava, however, if you should decide to take that risk, you will need a shoe with a thick sole.
  • Hiking poles
  • Long pants – like hiking pants.
  • Flashlight for finding your way in the dark. (Night time lava viewing is best.)
  • Gloves can be helpful in case of a fall.
  • See our advice for seeing lava activity in Hawaii.
  • Binoculars
  • Backpack to carry snacks and water
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen

If you plan to do water sports including snorkeling, kayaking, etc.

  • blankBring a waterproof floating case or other waterproof bag that will protect your keys, cash, cards, etc. Never swim with your rental car keys unprotected in your pocket.
  • Reef shoes can be helpful, especially if you plan to spend a lot of time in the ocean, but lately I’ve been leaving my reef shoes at home. Instead, I’ve been bringing my water/hiking sandals that serve multiple purposes.
  • Rash guard tops are very nice to wear for watersports. They usually have a built in SPF 50. We really really love our rashguard tops. If you don’t have one, a couple of good places to order them is Amazon, Zappos and LandsEnd.

I hope these packing tips will help you as you prepare for your vacation to Hawaii. Please feel free to add any of your special packing tips in the comments.

  1. Thank you for the time you put into this….very helpful…few things on your list I never thought about. Thanks again 🙂

  2. If you don’t want to carry all your baby gear with you. Paradise Baby Co. offers a baby equipment rentals island wide. Cribs, strollers, high chairs, beach gear, toys, even bikes for the older kids. FREE pick up and delivery!

    1. Aw shucks, thanks, Janet. 🙂

      I just updated the list to include that photo of honest to goodness — all the clothes I packed for a long Hawaii vacation. The 3-oz spray bottle of Febreeze was my best friend. 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for your wonderful and indespensible site!! We are headed to Oahu next Monday for a week (my English husband’s first trip to Hawaii and my second, but first time visiting Oahu) and I have studied your site religiously 🙂 I can’t wait for a great trip! Thanks for all the wonderful articles!

    1. There are some services that will provide/deliver baby equipment and stuff, Search for those.
      Hawaii’s sun is so strong, son make sure the baby is protected.

  4. I am going to Hawaii in March in spring break time this year. What to you feel is best place to eat dinner with my boyfriend were 25yrs old. he loves chicken? i am also going with a big family ages 2yrs old to 50yrs old is there a restaurant you recommend? this list you provided has been very useful and i will definetly bring this to the attention to my rest of the group going with us to Hawaii Oahu i am so excited!

    1. Diana — there’s so many good restaurants in Oahu. There’s probably more restaurants in Honolulu alone than all of the rest of Hawaii. I believe I’ve seen chicken on just about every menu in Hawaii, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding chicken dishes.

      Check out each of the links listed here: to get some ideas. That should help guide you to restaurants that sound good to you.

  5. Great list. Thanks! Very helpful.
    I’m puzzled about one thing though – why would you have to throw your sneakers away if they got muddy? Couldn’t you just wash them?

    1. Chad – I don’t throw away things easily, but these shoes had to go. They were muddy and they had gotten wet from having to cross a stream. It wasn’t as if the soles alone got muddy — the entire shoe had hit the mud. Not wanting to get the interior of our rental car dirty from the shoes, I put them in the trunk where they soured within a couple of days. So, there were several reasons for tossing these, but I would have tossed them just on the mud alone as I didn’t want to spare the vacation time and effort to try to clean them.

  6. 1st time for me visiting hawaii. was to go w/ a friend but he bailed on me. i have no idea “where” which island, accomadations.
    i prefer private,looking for small cottage to rent, close to beach. cook on my own.
    glad i found your site thank you HELP. i want to make this simple, fun and enjoyable w/out mistakes.

  7. My wife and I are off to the big island in 3 weeks and are wondering how great is the helicopter tour in Hilo with the doors off… By the way I purchased the, Hawaii Big Island Revealed, guide book you recommended and it’s a great guide book.

  8. I think we’re gonna try the “doors off” tour. Thank you so much for the wealth of information. We have found your down to earth advise to be very helpful.

  9. I was wondering if you had any information about the Kazamura Cave tours. I was reading some information about a tour off of a local residents property, on tripadvisor, and apparently it gets a lot of good reviews. Is this tour something you would recommend?

  10. I am honeymooning on Oahu and Maui in June this year, and really appreciate this detailed list as well as all of your other tips. My fiance and I have never been to Hawaii, so thank you for the great packing suggestions!

  11. thanks a lot! this was very direct and to the point about what to pack for hawaii, not to mention detailed!

    just what my fiance needed for figuring out what to pack for our wedding and honeymoon.. although he will need to add his tux and accessories, and my ring to the list!

    thank you!

  12. Oh, I’m going to Hawaii tomorrow and I am so excited! 🙂 The sights, tips, and suggestions are helpful, useful, and wonderful. :0 Well, g’day, and wish me a good seven-days at Hawaii! 😉

    (By the way, it could also be “7-days”)

  13. The packing and preparation can stress you out a bit, but it’s the key to a fun and safe vacation. It will save you tons of headaches, and money as well.

  14. Wow, those are all the clothes you brought for 17 days? Did you stay somewhere with a washer/dryer? I tend to over pack, but I’m not sure I can get by with only a few items. Thanks!

    1. Jenn – yes we did stay in a condo with a washer and dryer for the last portion of that trip. I don’t remember us doing much laundry, though.

      You can always hand wash a few items in your room – like hiking clothes that might get sweaty — and air dry them in your room or discreetly (out of plain view) and securely (anchor them down if it’s windy) dry them on your lanai (balcony).

      Downey and Febreeze both make spray clothing refreshers that’s the next best thing to doing laundry.

      1. hi Sheila ,
        I am travelliing to hawaii on Spring break which is from March 15 to March 22nd . me my husband and one 7rs old daughter and a 6 month baby. Plase advice which are the specific items i need to carry during spring seasons

  15. Hello! Your list is great and it will certainly help all of us pack for our trip to Hawaii coming up. It will be myself, my husband and our two grown kids – 23 yr old son and 21 yr old daughter (who thinks she needs a couple suitcases!) We are visiting three islands – Oahu, Kauai, and Maui – we will be gone Dec. 29 – Jan. 10. We will be gone 12 nights. Coming from MN in the winter time, we won’t have a problem with having jeans and a heavy coat available!
    My question to you is how many shirts/shorts/t-shirts/dresses, etc. did each of you bring? You mention the type of clothes, but not how many of each. If you could provide that information, I should would appreciate it! 🙂
    Thank you!

    1. Mary – there’s no set number of shirts, shorts, dresses, etc. to bring. We pack differently for each trip based on the level and type of activities we have in our plans. For example, if one day we plan to do mostly beach and ocean activities, we may not pack shirts and shorts for that day. If we plan to do a lot of hiking, we might plan to bring more moisture wicking t-shirts and shorts. If we aim to sight seeing, we might be able to re-wear shorts and/or shirts another day — especially if we bring a fabric refresher like Downey or Febreeze.

      Because we tend to only wear our “nice” shirts, shorts and dresses for a few hours around dinner time, we usually re-wear those clothes on another evening during our stay. If we’re moving islands or resorts, it’s easier to re-wear those items without worrying if anyone would notice us re-wearing the same clothing.

      Take a look at your vacation plans and then use that to guide you to the number of shirts, shorts, dresses, etc. to pack.

  16. We will be going Honolulu & staying in Waikiki beach area from 4/18-26. I am packing sleeveless shirts, spring sweaters, light jacket, shorts, Capri pants , jean, skirts, dress, thong sandle, & a sneaker. It will be in low 80f. Wouldn’t it be too hot to wear polo shirts? I tend to over pack. If you could give me advice on what not to pack I would very much appreciated.

    1. Unless you need the jeans for atv riding, horseback riding, etc., I wouldn’t bring jeans. Jeans would be too hot! You might want to wear jeans on the flights to and from Hawaii only.

      Please don’t get hung up on polo shirts. There’s nothing magical about them. I tend to wear both short-sleeved and elbow-length shirts in Hawaii with no problems.

  17. Bringing firearms to Hawaii: A warning.

    If you are planning to bring firearms to Hawaii, please be aware that the gun laws in Hawaii are strict and the penalties are severe. Their laws are among the strictest in the U.S.A.

    It is important that prior to traveling to Hawaii, you check with the Hawaiian authorities regarding local firearms laws and regulations and licensing requirements. While in Hawaii you must be fully knowledgeable and compliant of Hawaiian firearms laws and regulations.

    Firearms in Hawaii are subject to the laws of Hawaii, not the state of Texas or any other state. In the State of Hawaii, a firearms violation, however minor, can be considered a FELONY CRIMINAL OFFENSE subject to time in prison under Hawaii State law.

    The conceal – carry licenses and permits issued by other states are not recognized by the Hawaiian authorities and local conceal – carry permits are issued only on rare occasions to certain local law enforcement and security personnel. Under some circumstances (such as having a criminal record) some individuals may not be allowed to possess any firearms at all in Hawaii.

    Considering that the gun laws in Hawaii are strict and the penalties are severe, for your protection from falling into a legal trap over a misunderstanding or lack of knowledge of Hawaiian gun laws and regulations, you are urged to seriously and carefully consider the wisdom of bringing guns and/or ammunition of any kind into Hawaii.

  18. I am packing for our trip to Maui in August. I m unaware of what else to bring, All I have so far is 6 tees, 2 shorts, 3 swimming trunks, 3 boxers, 1 pair of socks, track pants and a sweat shirt(because of the sunrise tour), a video camera, earbuds, a charger and a towel. We are going for 1 week and booked a condo at The Palms at Wailea. Is this enough for the time we’ll be there?

    1. If you feel that’s all you need after you read the entire article, that could be enough for you.

  19. We will be visiting Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island (Volcano area) over 2 weeks. We do plan on doing some snorkeling may 2-3 times at our leisure. Do you recommend bringing our own snorkel and mask? We have brought them in the past on other trips.

    1. If you have a mask that fit you well and you have the room in your luggage, bring it. We used to just rent masks or use the ones that are provided on snorkeling tours until about a year ago. After having some issues with loaner masks leaking and not fitting well, we invested in our own. We’re still able to find room in our carry-on only luggage for the masks.

  20. Hi Sheila, thank you so much for all the hard work you’ve put into this website! I was wondering if deodrant and wipes would be considered liquids/aerosols/gels that we would need to put in our quart size bagggies for our carry on? We are trying to minimize what we bring. Thank you!

    1. Hi Jessica – if the deodorant is a “solid” it would not have to go in the quart-sized baggie for carry on. If it’s a gel or aerosol, it would need to go in the baggie. I don’t believe pre-moistened wipes are considered a liquid and therefore wouldn’t need to go in the baggie — at least that’s been my understanding and practice.

  21. Hilo, September weather….what type of clothing??? Cooler? Warmer? I’m in The Midwest and a first timer to Hawaii! We will be in Hilo for 11 days. Thanks 🙂

  22. Do you have any experience with renting motorcycles? We have 2days with a motorcycle on the big island. I’m wondering if you know what to pack for that? I have a long sleeve, light hoodie and was planning a riding jacket?? We do have rain gear packed as well. Thanks

  23. Thanks for the list! My first time. We are heading to waikiki on Wednesday and staying a week! My biggest fear is the jelly fish.
    Any advice?
    We want to do the shark cage diving and snorkeling.
    I am a heavier, thicker young lady so being in a rash guard that will be stuck to me is dreadful.

    Thanks for the advice.

    1. perhaps you’re concerned about the box jelly fish that tend to come to Oahu’s south shores once a month… if so, enjoy looking at the beach, but take a dip in the hotel pool instead of the ocean. You could also go to a beach that’s not south facing.

  24. Thanks for all of the info. My husband and I will be first time visitors this summer. Any suggestions for not so active elderly visitors?

    1. There’s lots of wonder sightseeing to be done on all the islands. If you don’t want to do the driving, you can find tour companies.

      Going to a luau is fun, especially for first time visitors.

      Catamaran tours are nice — for snorkeling or a sunset cruise.

      Walking around a botanical garden is a lovely way to spend a good bit of a day. (Make sure you wear mosquito repellant.)

      Helicopter tours are a thrilling way to see the islands.

  25. Great packing tips, thanks!
    We will be going to Kona the end of July besides going to a luau and under water submarine ND a dinner cruise what other activities or point to of it Teresa are in Kona?

  26. Thank you for providing such wonderful information. I’m travelling to Hawaii from Sydney Australia in September next year for the first time and unless I pack everything but the kitchen sink I was feeling quite anxious of how much to pack.

    I love the idea of febreeze to go, that’s an awesome idea and makes me rethink my planning. (yes I’m in the planing and budgeting stage now as I’m not a last minute person.

    With your suggestions, I think I will be able to pack a lot less than I was planning.

  27. Sheila,

    When I first started dreaming about moving to Hawaii, I came here several times, however only now, three years later, I’m finally moving to Oahu on the 29th – what a way to celebrate the new year! So I came back here as I’m doing all my final prep and planning and your posts are invaluable to me now. Just ordered the Thinksport sunscreen you recommended, and a few rashguard tops, from Amazon – to be delivered to my mailing address that I set up already. That way they’ll be waiting for me when I arrive. Once I get there I’m going to look for some good hiking sandals, and some options for dinner wear based on Andy’s article about attire!



    1. Aloha Alan- Nice to hear from you. How exciting that you’re moving to Oahu!

      We LOVE our rashguards and ThinkSport.

      Sending you our best wishes for your move!

  28. I like to pack a hometown t-shirt or two to wear. They are great conversation starters. Then buy souvenir shirts to show off back home.

    I pack a collapsible duffle with a day’s worth of clothing, etc for my carry on. It’s folded in my suitcase for the vacation, then filled with souvenirs as a carry on again for the trip home. Also, inside the duffle, I have a small tote with snacks and activity misc that stay at or under my plane seat when the duffle is in the overhead bin.

  29. I would like to know what’s the weather like in November The first week my partner an I are going for my birthday and what should we pack

  30. I am going for 21 nights to celebrate my retirement. I’m only 60, do you think I can do laundry between hotels? Staying at Marriott’s and Hyatt in Maui. Also what should I do in Maui besides Hana trail?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hawaii Vacation Must Haves
You May Also Like