What To Pack For Hawaii
Do you want to travel with lightweight luggage or a small backpack to Hawaii? But you still want to have everything necessary with you? Then you’re lucky to be on this site. Because in this post, I help you to pack the right essentials that you need for a perfect vacation in Hawaii. And the good thing is the great year-round weather makes it easy to pack minimalistic. My boyfriend and I just traveled with a carry-on for two weeks and had no problems at the airport.
So find out here, what to pack for Hawaii, what clothes to wear and what items you should NOT necessarily bring to the Aloha State. Also, you have the chance to print my exclusive downloadable checklist to make it easier for you to pack your bag. Get ready now for a stress-free packing and a carefree journey.
What luggage do I need?
When we traveled from Germany to Hawaii with a longer layover in San Diego, we only had our carry-on bags for the two weeks. Each of us also traveled with a neoprene. And you know what? I shopped three sweaters, two shirts and a dress on this vacation and still got back to Germany without excess baggage. We could even have stayed for a much longer period with our stuff if we would have wanted that. So it IS possible to travel with a small suitcase for a longer vacation. But how we did it?
The key is to pack light. My number one piece of advice here is to take just two dresses and three shirts that match one or two skirts/pairs of shorts. Using shirts you can match nearly anything, makes it easy to pick an outfit. Also, you don’t need to pack a shirt for every day. Some resorts offer a laundry service that you can use. Otherwise, you can still wash your clothes in the bathroom yourself. For more tips, you can read here my ultimate packing guide.
All in all, I prefer to travel with a carry-on bag only. It’s small, you don’t have the risk to lose your luggage at the baggage claim and you usually pay less for flights. Additionally, it’s also better and so much easier if you switch between islands or change your location on and off as we did. If you just stay in one place for two weeks or more and you like it more convenient, a big suitcase is probably the better option for you. So it’s all a thing of personal preferences. But that it is possible to travel light-weight shows just my example.
What clothes should I bring?
There are basically two seasons in Hawaii: summer from May to October (average of 85°F) and winter from November to April (about 78°F). So I split this part into summer clothing on the one hand and winter clothing on the other. Let’s focus on summer clothes first. Summer in Hawaii can be very hot and dry. But still, you shouldn’t forget that it’s a tropical state and has rainforests. So what to pack for Hawaii in summer?
Hawaii is composed of eight islands and every island has mountains or at least a volcano. So comfy shoes are a must! I suggest you wearing sneakers which I did. They are smaller than hiking shoes and fit better in your luggage. If you also plan to stay at the resort and spend the days on the beach, you will be fine with flip-flops or sandals. So, think about bringing one pair of sneakers (for traveling at least) and one pair of flip-flops and/or sandals. I usually take my Adidas official sneakers, one pair of flip-flops and a pair of Birkenstocks – that’s it. But one more tip: if the shoes are not 100 % comfortable, forget about them!
Swimsuits & swim trunks
No beach or summer vacation would be complete without a swimsuit or a pair of swim trunks. As a professional swimmer, I usually take one with me, because there is always a chance to swim in the ocean or in a pool. For sunbathing, I packed two bikinis, so I had one to change. As a man, two swim shorts are enough.
Water shoes are so important when traveling to Hawaii. The state is famous for its beautiful beaches. But when there is one thing to keep in mind then that it can get dangerous, too. Because of the lava formations, there are sharp rocks that can really hurt if a wave hits you and you fall into them. In addition, there are frequent reefs in the water, which can also hurt a lot when you run on them. Therefore, I can only advise you to take water shoes to protect yourself.
My favorite parts about what to pack for Hawaii are the accessories. Whether you pack sunglasses, a sunhat or a cool and fancy beach tote, with the right things you can really complete and even revalue your outfit. Also, they are essentials that you shouldn’t miss in your vacations.
Not everyone goes to Hawaii to surf. Likewise, not everyone has a wetsuit. That’s why this item is only optional. I prefer, for example, always to wear my own wetsuit. That’s why it shouldn’t be missing in any of my surf vacations. But if you don’t want to go surfing or you just don’t want to afford your own wetsuit, you will at least save yourself a lot of luggage.
Winter time is slightly cooler on all islands, but still very warm. We were there in February which is, by the way, the best time for whale watching on Maui and other islands and we had pleasantly warm weather. But the winds can be stronger on the windward side or Northeastern side of the islands and the nights get a little chilly. So in addition to the mentioned items above, you can add the following more for the winter months.
If you visit a volcano, a jacket or a sweater will be definitely a life saver. But during the winter months, it’s necessary every night when it gets dark and colder. Maybe you can also bring a hat with you if you like. I had one with me on the Haleakala volcano (10.000 ft.) on Maui and it was good because it can get really frosty up there.
In the sun it might be warm, but when clouds arrive, it can get chilly on the beach. So what else to pack for Hawaii? A swimsuit cover-up is definitely the ideal way to stay warm. It can be a long shirt, a tunic or a dress. Just make sure to pack one if you go to the beach or the pool. You probably don’t want to get a cold, right?!
Umbrella or rain jacket
Each island has some tropical areas. And in the winter months, you can expect more rain in those. So be prepared and take an umbrella or rain jacket with you. Even if you stay in the sunny and dry areas, you might want to book a tour to one of the rainforests for a day. Just make sure to be well equipped.
What essentials do I need?
A good sunscreen is an essential thing. If you’re young like me you probably want a good tan and don’t think about sun blocker that much. But the sun is THE number one skin aging reason. So if you’re thinking about your future and you care about your look, do not just wear sunglasses or a sunhat. Sunscreen and in the best case also lip balm with sun protection factor are must-haves.
Aloe Vera cream
If it still happens that I get a sunburn, I apply aloe vera cream on my face. The ingredients of the aloe vera plant soothe the skin, relieve the pain and have a fast healing effect. So it’s part of my essentials, too. Try to find a jellylike cream with as fewer ingredients as possible, because they are the best and most effective ones.
To avoid plastic and to be environmentally friendly, I always travel with a refillable water bottle. Not only do I save money because I don’t always have to buy something to drink, but I can always replenish it. There are several brands out there that offer great and robust bottles for all interests.
To save some space, I never travel with a thick towel. All I pack for Hawaii is a thin Hammam cloth which I used mostly at the beach. But it’s actually not necessary if you stay at your resort only, because they probably offer towels there – even for the beach. But for me and the journey we’ve planned, it was definitely necessary. So it might be for you, too.
There’s no other place rather than on vacation to read a good book. I only own an e-reader, but before our trip to Hawaii, I made sure that I have enough to read. Even if I don’t usually get that much to read, at the latest at the airport or on the plane, a good book will save me. Also a great tip: guidebooks about Hawaii in case you can’t find a good one.
Hawaii is a good place for snorkeling. So if you plan on doing that a few times, make sure to bring your own fins and mask. As everything, renting your snorkeling equipment in a shop can be expensive and cost you up to 15$ a day. That becomes noticeable in your wallet. So just take your own gear or purchase in one if you haven’t done it yet. It’s a good investment – also for further vacations.
A power bank is not just an item I can’t live without in Hawaii, but I can’t live without at all. It has saved us so often that I can’t even count anymore. So invest in a good one or bring your own power back on your trip to Hawaii – you’re going to need it if you travel the whole day!
Action cam (waterproof)
When thinking about what to pack for Hawaii there is one thing, that comes to my mind right away. We saw so many turtles and made a snorkeling trip to Lana’i that an action cam like my GoPro Hero 6 Black was indispensable. So if you plan to do some water stuff, get an action or underwater camera and make those moments unforgettable.
Waterproof phone case
Especially when you are hanging out at the beach or at rainy places like the rainforest, you are going to need a waterproof phone case for your phone. You can just hang it around your body and use it as a wallet or to keep your other small stuff safe. I don’t actually wear it, but my boyfriend does and he lets me stash my phone, too. Lucky me!
Waterproof bluetooth speaker
If you want some fun at the beach or even in your hotel room, a waterproof Bluetooth speaker is a great thing to have a good time. Play music wherever you want and enjoy your vacation in Hawaii to the fullest. We had a little speaker with us because it’s just nice to have and you can play your music on much better speakers than your phone.
Last but not least, an essential that you shouldn’t forget about: travel insurance. It is especially for those who plan to do some tours or go hiking. There can always happen something to you. That’s why having travel insurance is so important. If you haven’t already, use the boxes below to get the right one for you.
What can I leave at home?
Now that you know what to pack for Hawaii, there are a few things you can leave at home. Here I summed up a short list:
- Don’t pack too many clothes: As mentioned above, traveling light is so much easier! And actually, you don’t need a ton of clothes for one vacation. In Hawaii, you can always do laundry – no matter where.
- Don’t take too heavy books: I use an e-reader which makes traveling lightweight so easy. And I recommend it to you, too, because books can be really heavy. And I’m sure you don’t want that. Moreover, with an e-reader you can save so many e-books, so you will definitely get out of reading material.
- Don’t travel with a towel: That’s a rule I always follow because nearly all hotels and resorts have towels and towel service. All you might need is a thin, quick-drying Hammam towel, which easily fits in every carry-on bag.
- Don’t bring heels: Hawaii is a laid-back piece of heaven. So it’s not necessary to bring high-heels or other fancy shoes with you. They just take up too much space in your luggage. So just leave them at home.
Hawaii travel tips
There are a few things to keep in mind when traveling to Hawaii. One thing is that Hawaii is a popular travel destination – especially for Americans. Keep that in mind when booking your hotel. We made the mistake to book two months in advance and we already had to deal with fewer options and expensive resorts.
Security controls are always time-consuming. We missed our connection flight which was very annoying. So plan enough time. Also, if you’re traveling with pets, make sure to plan wisely at the airport. You will probably be subject to inspection. Another big thing you should avoid is bringing plants or fruits without any consent.
In Hawaii, you pay with dollars. As in the mainland, there are lots of banks and ATMs all over the island. So you won’t have a problem with getting cash. Speaking of cash, in some restaurants, they only accept cash – especially in smaller towns. So make sure you always have some with you.
The Hawaiians are very mindful of their land. So please respect that and don’t leave trash at the beach or elsewhere. Also, be conscious when applying sunscreen. The Aloha state just banned the sale of over-the-counter sunscreens to protect marine life. So think about what you apply on your skin and what it can cause to the underwater world and rather use reef-safe sun blocker in the ocean.
Although the coral reefs are mostly disappeared in Hawaii, please do not stand on the reefs. I’ve seen so many people who stood on them and were just reckless. There might be still life somewhere and you don’t want to destroy that. The same thing applies to wildlife – especially sea turtles. It’s illegal in Hawaii to touch them. So let them have their personal space.
Plan your visit to Hawaii
If you need help in planning your vacation, here are some links I personally rely on myself. You can just have a look at these sites to book your flights, accommodation and more.
- Flights: Momondo
- Accommodation: Airbnb or Booking.com
- Car Rental: Rentalcars
- Tours: GetYourGuide
- Travel insurance: World Nomads
Download my packing list
Now you should be well-prepared and know what to pack for Hawaii. But to make it easier for you to pack your trip to Hawaii, download here my complete packing list and print it out. That way, you have everything you need to know on one paper.
If you want to read more about my Hawaii trip, read here my Maui travel guide. I will take you on a journey through the whole island, tell you what to see and do, inform you about the best travel time and so much more. If you have any questions about this packing guide, leave a comment and I will get back to you.
I just wanted to let you know that this page contains affiliate links. If you decide to buy something using one of these links, I will earn a small commission. Don’t worry that’s at no extra cost to you, but it does help to fund my travels and keep the website running. Thank you!
Dang, I can def tell you invested a ton of work into this post. It’s one of the most informative travel posts, I’ve seen!
Postcards from V
Thanks Macy, I’m glad you find it informative!