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Hawaii is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world, and for good reason. With its stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and endless activities, there’s something for everyone in the Aloha State.
Whether you’re planning a trip to Maui, Oahu, Kauai, or one of the other beautiful Hawaiian islands, it’s important to pack the right items to ensure that you have a comfortable and enjoyable time.
We’ll cover everything you need to know about what to pack for a Hawaii vacation, including the must-have items, the optional items, and the items to leave at home.
After you read through this list to help decide what you want to pack, and what to leave home during your Hawaii Vacation, you will find a printable packing list.
Hawaii Packing List: The Hawaii Essentials
If you are unsure what to pack for your Hawaii vacation, we have you covered.
First, of course, you will need your ID, credit/debit cards, cash, travel documents, and so on. But then what? Check out this list as we share what you will want to pack for Hawaii, what you may find useful, and what to leave at home.
One of the most important things to pack for a Hawaii vacation is sunscreen. The Hawaiian sun can be intense, even on cloudy days, so it’s essential to protect your skin from sunburn and skin damage.
Look for a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, and make sure it is water-resistant for maximum protection. Be sure that you bring reef-safe sunscreen.
A Bag for Those Beach Days
If you plan on spending some time on the sand, a beach bag is a must-have item for any Hawaii vacation. It should be large enough to carry all of your beach essentials, such as a towel, sunscreen, and water bottle, but not too big that it becomes cumbersome to carry around. Look for a durable and water-resistant bag that can withstand the elements.
I get it though, you may be saying “this isn’t really essential.” I thought that myself when we had our first trip to Hawaii. Boy was I wrong. I should have known after all of our Beach Days near Disneyland, but how quickly we forget… kids hate carrying stuff while trying to walk in the sand. And so do I. That doesn’t magically change just because you are in Hawaii.
Of course, swimwear is a must-have item for a Hawaii vacation. Pack at least two or three bathing suits, so you have a backup if one gets wet or dirty. Make sure that your swimwear is comfortable and fits well, as you’ll be wearing it a lot during your trip.
A rash guard is also a good idea, especially if you will be snorkeling or surfing.
If you plan on walking the beach a lot, you may want a beach cover-up if that makes you feel more comfortable.
Shoes – Sandals and Water shoes
Comfortable sandals are a must-have item for a Hawaii vacation. Look for sandals that have good support and are easy to slip on and off, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking on the beach and in and out of the water. Avoid high heels, as they will sink into the sand and can be difficult to walk in.
My personal favorite shoes (for everything, but also for a Hawaiian vacation) are my Chacos. They are built for outdoor activities like hiking and have great arch support.
Water shoes are also a great idea to have in your bag. Some beaches (such as stretches of Waikiki) can be very rocky, so having high-quality water shoes is a good idea.
If you are used to flip flops, and have invested in a higher quality pair, these can also be nice to have for when you go to the resort pool.
Lightweight clothing is a must-have item for a Hawaii vacation. The Hawaiian climate is warm and humid, so you’ll want to wear breathable and lightweight clothing that will keep you cool and comfortable.
Pack a mix of tank tops, short-sleeve shirts, pairs of shorts, sundresses, and skirts, and be sure to bring a pullover hoodie, sweater, or light jacket for cooler evenings.
If you are going during the rainy season (or if rain is in the forecast) a light rain jacket or poncho is a good idea as well.
If you will be hiking in areas with heavy vegetation, you may want to pack long pants to provide additional protection for your legs during a hike.
And of course, no Hawaii packing list would be complete without adding a Hawaiian Shirt or floral dress. These clothing items are the perfect thing to wear to a luau, or even just as resort wear.
Hat and Sunglasses
A hat and sunglasses are essential items for a Hawaii vacation. A wide-brimmed hat will provide your face and neck with sun protection, and sunglasses will protect your eyes from the glare of the sun. Look for sunglasses with polarized lenses to reduce glare and eye strain.
Staying hydrated is important, especially in a warm climate like Hawaii. Pack a refillable water bottle, and fill it up regularly to ensure that you’re getting enough water. You can find water fountains in most public areas, or purchase bottled water at a convenience or grocery store. My current favorite reusable water bottle is my Owala as it offers both a straw and regular mouth opening.
If you will be doing any hiking or other physical activity, I also suggest a sling for your water bottle to make it easy to bring along. This came in handy not only during our hike at Manoa Falls, but also at the Polynesian Cultural Center, so we could carry water but have our hands free to do activities.
Of course, you will need many of the personal items you would pack for any trip. Be sure to bring your favorite toiletries, toothbrush, hair care items, and other necessities.
Be sure to pack any prescription medications. If you will be going on a whale watching or other boat activity, and tend to get motion sickness, be sure to pack Dramamine and possibly a sea band.
Packing for Hawaii: Optional Items
These items are nice to have, but not necessary. The need for these items will vary based on the length of travel, planned activities, resort amenities, and beyond.
A beach towel is an optional item for a Hawaii vacation, but it can be useful to have one. Most hotels will provide towels, but if you will be doing water activities away from your resort, a beach towel will come in handy.
Look for a towel that is quick-drying and has good absorbency. Sand Cloud is my favorite brand for the beach.
In addition to a beach towel, I also love these family-size beach blankets to set up our family’s spot on the beach. They have tent-style stakes to make sure they don’t get kicked up and the sand comes right off them.
Snorkeling is a popular activity in Hawaii, and many of the islands offer amazing snorkeling spots. Whether you are hoping to see some sea turtles (remember to keep your distance) or just looking at a coral reef, or the beautiful fish, snorkeling is a must-do for most visitors.
You will also want to invest in the floating handle and other accessories so your camera doesn’t end up at the bottom of the ocean. A waterproof camera will help you capture all those memories.
Waterproof Phone Case or Pouch
Between the resort pool, the beach, and other water activities, you may want to invest in a waterproof phone case or pouch. These can be very affordable and ordered on Amazon.
If you plan on listening to your device in public places, be sure to bring headphones. Yes, this includes on the beach or at the pool. Not everyone wants to listen to your favorite music or podcast. Since you will want these if you plan to use a device with sound on the airplane, make sure to also bring them to those other public places.
Sand Toys For Kids – The Best Purchase We Made
If you are taking your kids, you may want to bring some sand toys, especially if you plan to explore beaches away from your resort. (Some resorts offer sand toys for use, though post-pandemic these have been slow to return.)
We purchased these collapsable sand buckets and they were AWESOME! They didn’t take up a ton of room because they collapse, are made of silicone, and have lasted us years.
If you plan on spending a lot of time in the ocean, you may want to consider bringing your own life jacket. This is especially true for those that may not fit standard-size options available on many excursion boats. You may also want to bring them for children who are not ready to swim in the ocean waves.
Hiking Boots or Sneakers
If you plan on hiking, ziplining, or doing some horseback riding, closed-toe shoes may be required. Some places even specify it must be sneakers or boots. If you plan on doing these activities, definitely bring those.
The cost of items on the islands may give you sticker shock. If you plan on mostly dining at restaurants, but want a few snacks on hand, you might decide it is better to bring them with you. Especially if you have kids that are picky about brands, etc.
Granola bars, etc can easily be brought over with you. But don’t bring plants, fruits, or vegetables as you will need to fill out an agriculture declaration, and not all items are permitted to enter Hawaii. Or at least check what is permitted and not before packing up those items. (Side note, all luggage will also be screened before leaving Hawaii at an agricultural checkpoint. Plan for this both when packing, and planning how early to arrive at the airport.)
Should I Include My Laptop on my Hawaii Packing List?
Should you bring a laptop computer with you? That depends on how unplugged you plan to be during your trip. If you will need to check and reply to emails, and do not like to do so from your smartphone or tablet, you may want to bring it. Or if you will have to, unfortunately, do some work, it is a great idea.
For smaller things, most resorts offer a business center. This is great for if you just need to print out directions, check-in for a flight, or do something quick and simple that you don’t mind doing on a public computer.
This next item, I almost put it on the leave-at-home list but I realize there are some people that this is worth the space it takes up in your luggage.
Travel-Friendly Beach/Sun Shade
If you have a small child that may need to nap at the beach, or someone who is sensitive to the sun, or heck, maybe you just want a place where you can get away from the sun, a slight sprinkle of rain, or the wind… a travel-friendly beach shelter may be something you decide to bring.
If you decide this is worth packing, be sure whatever item you choose is TSA approved for your carry-on or put in your checked bag.
I think the best option is a pop-up beach tent that can fold down compactly. They do not have poles or a sand anchor, so they are lightweight and carry-on friendly.
Hawaii Packing List: What To Leave At Home
These are the items you may be thinking would be nice to have, but you should really leave at home. Of course, as with any Hawaii Packing List, you can take or leave the advice. And if you have the room to take something, and really want to, go for it… TSA and Hawaii permitting that is.
So here are things I would leave at home when making your Hawaii packing list.
Large DSLR Cameras – With A Few Exceptions
One thing I took to Hawaii but never used was my DSLR camera. Here is the thing – it isn’t waterproof, and is heavy to carry around. (I do not have a waterproof casing for mine.)
Of course, some people, especially photographers, will find it a great asset. But for the casual traveler, leave this one at home if you have a decent camera on your smartphone, and an action camera.
Large Amounts of Food
When some of my family ventured to Hawaii, years ago, they knew they were staying in a condo and they used checked luggage to pack a ton of food.
So when my family planned our first trip, we did some of the same (though not to the extreme they did) by throwing some pantry items in a suitcase. Honestly, it wasn’t worth it.
Partially this was because we had a friend with us who was military so we were able to shop at the commissary and those prices were cheaper than regular prices back home. But also just the fact that we found we often were not even at the condo to make the food we brought.
We were happy we brought granola bars, and a few other snacks, but packing other food items was a waste of time and luggage space.
I don’t think most people take these since they are flying to Hawaii, but I have seen it mentioned in a few planning groups. Unless you have an amazing, compact, folding beach chair and are planning on checking luggage, this one should just stay at home.
Most resorts offer chairs (sometimes at a fee) for the beaches by the resort.
If you do need a beach chair that you can pack, because you plan to explore beaches that are not at your resort and are not able to sit on the ground, I suggest one that is made for hiking as they are ultra-compact and lightweight.
FREE Printable Hawaii Packing List
Ready to get packing for your Hawaii Vacation? I have a free printable Hawaii packing list available to my email subscribers.