Hopefully if you’re reading this, it means you’re heading to Hawaii soon. I could not be more jealous of you! My husband Trevor and I went to Oahu, Hawaii in May of 2021, and it is one of our favorite vacations to date! However, I do wish that I would have read a blog post on what to pack for Hawaii before I left myself, so I decided to write a post that will hopefully help somebody out on their own packing journey. I will write about the things that I brought that were incredibly helpful, and the things that we forgot that were woefully missed.
Of course, some things that you choose to pack will be dependent on your itinerary. For instance, if you aren’t planning on hiking, it would be unnecessary to pack hiking boots. Although I do urge you to reconsider if you decided you won’t be doing any hiking! There are so many beautiful hikes for all skill levels in Hawaii!
Important things to consider before packing
There are a few important things that you should consider before determining what to pack for Hawaii. Like any other vacation, what you should pack is highly dependent on two things: what you will be doing, and the characteristics of your specific destination.
Consider the activities that you’ll be participating in
First, consider the activities that you will be participating in. For instance, if you will be hiking, then you will need to bring your hiking boots and other hiking accessories, depending on the difficulty of the hikes that you plan to do. If you are going to Hawaii solely to lay out on the beach, shop, and dine, then you won’t need much more than some beach essentials and some cute outfits! So as always, consider what you’ll be doing when making a packing list. Here are some of the things that we did on our trip to Oahu (that we highly recommend!)
- Hiking – If you’re in Oahu, check out Lulumahu falls!
- Relaxing on the beach
- Taking local tours – our favorite was a Turtle Canyon snorkel tour and Pearl Harbor!
- Attending a luau
- Eating at some tasty places
- Snorkeling (you can’t go to Hawaii and not snorkel…)
Things to know about Hawaii
- It rains in Hawaii. Kind of a lot. On average, it rains 195 days out of the year in Honolulu. The city Hilo in Big Island is the wettest city in the United States! It is pretty rare that the rain will last all day, but you can definitely count on passing showers.
- Hawaii has a high UV index. Because Hawaii is closer to the equator, the islands have more exposure to higher levels of UV radiation. Four out of my seven days in Oahu, the UV index was 11 – the highest I have ever been exposed to.
Keeping these things in mind will be super helpful while you’re packing. Knowing what you will be doing in Hawaii, as well as the general characteristics of the islands, will help set you up for success!
Don’t know what to pack for Hawaii? These are the top 11 things!
If you’re standing in your closet right now, stressed and not knowing what to pack for Hawaii, then this list is for you! Please keep in mind that these 11 things will be unrelated to clothing, aside from the waterproof sandals and hiking boots. My recommendations on clothes you should pack will be found below this list.
If there is any one thing that you’ll need plenty of while in Hawaii, it’s sunscreen. You’ll need to be even more diligent than you normally are, because the sun in Hawaii is INTENSE. For reference, when in California I usually reapply every four or so hours, but my first day in Hawaii I already had a sunburn starting after just one hour on the beach! You’ll want to be ready for it, I promise.
You’ll also want to be sure that the sunscreen that you bring (in copious amounts, need I remind you) is safe for the reefs. This is any sunscreen that doesn’t include the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. Reef-safe sunscreen is always a good thing, but it’s especially necessary in Hawaii because of the wildlife/reefs near the shores. And of course we want to protect these beautiful creatures, so be mindful and use reef-safe sunscreen.
Fun Fact: It is illegal to sell sunscreen that is NOT reef safe in Hawaii, so should you run out of sunscreen, anything you find at the local stores will be just fine 🙂
Waterproof sandals are a must pack for Hawaii. For the beach, for hiking, and general wear-around. And be sure to bring some that you have already broken in and trust! On my first day in Hawaii, I wore some new Chacos and they cut my feet up so badly that I immediately went to to the local Walmart and bought some $10 knock off Tevas. I highly recommend the knock off Tevas (and real Tevas, for that matter)!
I linked some cute Teva sandals up above because while I did love the knock offs, they did fall apart for me later in the summer. On the other hand I have some Teva sandals that I have had for four or more years, so if you’re going for longevity… I would go with Teva 🙂
Picture included to show how much you need this thing.
This dry bag and water-proof phone case are great for the beach, and especially great if you’re going to go chasing waterfalls. It is also highly likely to rain on you, even if just a little bit, and it would be a handy thing to have around then, too!
Remember my Hawaii sun rant? Super cute and cost effective Sunglasses and a sun hat that I love linked above!
This is one of the things that I was longingly picturing while sitting on the beach with drinks and snacks that were TOO. WARM. This cooler is especially great because it is lightweight and collapsible, making it super easy to pack! A definite must pack for Hawaii.
In a blog post by She Saves She Travels, she mentions this Towel with a Hidden Zipper. This thing looks seriously awesome and functional, and it is already in my cart so I can have it for next summer’s travels!
If you’re not particularly impressed with the hidden zipper feature, then any ole towel will do 🙂
In line with all of the sun gear, you’ll want to be sure that you are drinking plenty of water. I’m known for taking my Yeti everywhere (or as they are called in my house, my ‘Yeet’) because I love how long it keeps my water cold. If you are interested in a more budget-friendly insulated option, this one will do the trick.
8. Hiking Boots
When I was in Hawaii, I switched off between my Hiking Boots and my knock-off Tevas depending on the terrain. I will warn that the mud in Hawaii is no joke. The hiking boots provided some nice extra ankle support when slipping and sliding around, but I occasionally opted for the sandals when I thought I would be encountering a lot of water!
Let’s be honest, when is this a bad thing to have? Especially when you’re out adventuring all day and won’t be seeing an outlet for a while!
Another thing that I wished I had, but didn’t! Turtles are everywhere in Hawaii, and there were a few times that we spotted some and had no goggles or snorkel gear around. At the end of the day, I would recommend at least having some googles. You can get them for cheap, and you won’t want to be caught without them when a turtle comes around.
If you think you will never use snorkel gear again and would rather rent, that works too. Just be sure to rent in town, and not at tourist attractions like Hanauma Bay. I will say that renting is essentially as expensive as a lot of basic gear off of Amazon, so take that into consideration when making your decision.
11. A Camera!
Even if it’s just your phone, MAKE SURE you have it on you at all times! Hawaii is so incredibly beautiful, and it’s a crime not to commemorate it! I also wished that I had a disposable waterproof camera for pictures in the water. Of course, this is definitely dependent on how much you enjoy photography, but I will always advocate for the importance of pictures!
Clothes that you should pack for Hawaii
I purposefully left clothes out of the list (aside from hiking boots and waterproof sandals) because I feel that it deserves its own packing list. For clothing choices, here’s what I would recommend:
- Swimsuits (At least two – but this is also dependent on the length of your trip!)
- Swimsuit cover-up
- Summer dress for nice dinners or nights on the town
- Lightweight t-shirts and shorts for tours and sight seeing
- Lightweight rain poncho/shell
- Rash Guard
- One cardigan or sweatshirt
- Athletic Clothes for hiking
Now you’re ready to go!
Hopefully these two lists helped you decide on what to pack for a vacation to Hawaii – they effectively cover what I feel to be the Hawaii necessities! Of course, remember to keep in mind the specific activities that you will be participating in, because that will add to your packing list. If you are planning on going deep sea fishing, for example, then I would look up a separate packing guide for that and add it to this one. No two vacations are exactly same, so make sure that you compile the perfect packing list for your trip!
Hawaii is such a beautiful place, and no matter your itinerary, I assure you that it will not disappoint. Be sure to get a Pineapple smoothie, spend plenty of time by the beach, and see some sea turtles! And DON’T FORGET YOUR SUNSCREEN! 🙂