Spectacular sunset from Ko Olina Beach Park Walking Trail

Ultimate Hawaii Packing List: What To Pack For Your Vacation

Wondering what to pack for your vacation to Hawaii?

We’ve done this trip so many times, with and without kids, that I created this ultimate Hawaii packing list, a checklist for those planning a first-time Hawaii vacation.

This Hawaii packing checklist contains everything: from the Hawaii packing essentials that everyone should carry, to the details for those planning hikes, visiting national parks, snorkeling, water sports, Haleakala sunrise trip, and more!

Consider all your activities like snorkeling when building your Hawaii packing list
Consider all your activities like snorkeling when building your Hawaii packing list

More importantly, I will tell you what to skip and what you can conveniently buy in Hawaii. After all, you are still in USA, and have Costco, Walmart, Target, and the ubiquitous local ABC stores.

Why pack more than you need to? If you’re like me, you’re a minimalist, but at the same time, prefer the best gear and equipment for the fun at hand!

Join us as we take you through what we typically buy or pack, and we will guide to the ultimate Hawaii packing list for family, for the solo male or female traveler, or just you and your partner!

Hey, by the way! Visiting Hawaii? While you finalize your packing, don’t forget to book your tours and activities, way in advance, to avoid disappointments! Start here, and pick the islands you plan to visit. Or go directly to the best Oahu tours, the best things to do in Maui, and the best Kauai helicopter tours!

Waimoku Falls, one of the best Maui waterfalls, at the end of the Pipiwai Trail in Haleakala National Park, Maui
Waimoku Falls, one of the best Maui waterfalls, at the end of the Pipiwai Trail in Haleakala National Park, Maui

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Hawaii Information

Before we start, some basic Hawaii information that will be useful for your planning: geography and weather!

First, you should note that, but for a couple of important exceptions that we’ll talk about later, the islands of Hawaii are quite similar in terms of geography and weather.

What that means is, your Maui packing list is going to be virtually the same as your Oahu packing list or your Kauai packing list or your Big Island of Hawaii packing list!

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

Hawaii Geography

The Hawaiian islands are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, over 2000 miles from the coast of California, near the Tropic of Cancer, not far from the equator.

The combined land mass is barely larger than states like Massachusetts and Vermont.

Formed by ancient and ongoing volcanic activity around Earth’s tectonic plates, these islands violent past is expressed in the form of steep volcanic mountain ranges, coupled with tropical rainforests and beaches.

Hawaii Weather

With the geographical diversity comes climate diversity, and you’ll encounter upto 8-11 climate zones depending on where you travel within Hawaii.

But for the most part think warm and tropical, with temperatures ranging from 68 to 87 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year. Winter ranges may be about 65-80 while summer ranges will be around 75-87.

Surfing the Banzai Pipeline (Ehukai Beach) on Oahu in winter's large waves
Surfing the Banzai Pipeline (Ehukai Beach) on Oahu in winter’s large waves

While it can rain any time, peak rainfall season is November to March, while April to October is the least.

The good news – it usually rains at night! But even if you are caught in a daytime deluge, the rain is mostly warm and refreshing!

Climate-wise the islands can be separated into a western or leeward (sunnier) side and an eastern or windward (wetter) side.

Most of the resorts are on the west coast, the sunnier side of the islands!

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

Hawaii Packing Essentials

Suitcases & Packing Cubes

My wife is the one who usually packs for our travel, and she swears by Samsonite Freeform Hardside Expandable Luggage (budget) and Tumi Alpha 3 (premium) suitcases, along with cubes for organized packing.

The Samsonite Freeform suitcases feature hard shell, expandable, 360 degree upright rolling (no stress on your arms!) and TSA combination locks.

The Tumi Alpha 3 is expandable and roomier, higher quality, but distinctly pricier!

Packing cubes are all the craze now, and my organized wife just loves them! So easy to group gear for activities like snorkeling or by person!

We usually just go with the popular and budget-friendly Veken packing cubes.

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

Travel Documents and Basics

Make sure you take these with you or in your carry-on luggage: travel documents like passports (if you need them), identification cards, credit cards, printed boarding passes, smart phones, medicine, and some emergency cash.

Hawaii uses US-standard electrical outlets, so chargers for your electronic devices that work on the mainland should be fine.

Apart from that, plan for your long flight – take a good book and games for the kids.

Hawaii Essentials

If you’re like us, you’re thinking golden-sand tropical beaches, stunning-blue ocean waters and lush-green rainforest jungles! Beach time is a must.

Lush tropical vegetation along the Honolua Bay Access Trail, a rainforest jungle trail
Lush tropical vegetation along the Honolua Bay Access Trail, a rainforest jungle trail

Make sure you take a beach bag, backpack, waist belt, reusable water bottles, lip balm, reef-safe sunscreen, mosquito and bug repellent, insect bite treatment, waterproof phone case, light rain jacket, sun hat, UV protective sunglasses and binoculars.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

Beach Bag, Backpack, Fanny Pack

In Hawaii, tourists are easy targets and the prudent behavior is to leave nothing visible in your rental car. Take all valuables with you, and lock the remainder in the trunk.

A beach bag or tote bag is handy on the beach, while a backpack and / or a fanny pack (for cash, credit cards, etc.) is great on hikes and other outdoor activities.

Small waves and calm waters at Keawakapu Beach, great for swimming along the shore
Small waves and calm waters at Keawakapu Beach, great for swimming along the shore

For backpacks, since I’m the one carrying the bulk of our stuff, I prefer ones with a hip belt as well, like the Osprey Talon. You may prefer the Osprey ultralight version.

Reusable Water Bottles

I hate plastic bottles, and with opaque bladders you can’t see if it is moldy inside. We use this Hydro Flask water bottle – light, stainless steel, wide mouth (you can add ice), with double-wall vacuum insulation (greatly refreshing for hikes in summer).

You can also get it with a Flex Straw Lid!

Lip Balm, Reef-safe Sunscreen, Mosquito & Bug Repellent, Bite Treatment

The Hawaiian sun can be harsh. Avoid sunburn with sunscreen compliant with Hawaii’s 104 Reef Act.

The Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Spray, moisturizing with Vitamin E, is our go-to when we travel to Hawaii. Apply liberally and regularly!

We prefer picaridin-based repellents to DEET-based products, and usually buy Sawyer’s spray.

We use After Bite to relieve itching after mosquito bites, and we’ve found it very effective, especially for the kids. We never travel without it.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

Light Rain Jacket, Compact Umbrella, Sun Hat, UV Protective Sunglasses

We prefer light rain jackets when hiking, but compact, collapsible umbrellas when we are shopping or outdoors, within the city. Also pack a sun hat.

UV-protection sunglasses are also a must, and Maui Jim makes some really good ones.

Waterproof Phone Case

Partaking in any water activities or ocean tours? Keep a waterproof phone case handy to protect your smartphone from accidental water damage. A waist pack (see below) is another great option.

Waterproof Waist Pack

Keep your rental car keys, cards, and phone dry and safe while you swim or snorkel with a dry bag. We love this 2-pack AiRun Tech Pouch with waist strap. The transparent one is touch-screen friendly!

Binoculars

You can spot humpback whales (in winter), spinner dolphins and pretty Hawaiian birds from shore and on hikes. With a pair of good binoculars, you can close in on the action!

Hawaiian spinner dolphin spinning out of the water
Hawaiian spinner dolphin spinning out of the water

Swarovski makes some of the best spotting scopes, but they are expensive!

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

Hawaii Packing List: Clothing

Beach Wear

You’re likely to spend some time on the beaches, you’re in Hawaii after all. Pack swimsuits for the whole family and flip flops for the beach.

You can rent beach chairs and umbrellas!
You can rent beach chairs and umbrellas!

Casual Wear

You can get by with casual wear (T-shirts, tank tops, Aloha shirts, shorts, skirts, capris, sneakers, etc.) for the bulk, if not all, of your vacation!

Hawaii is very informal, even at high-end resorts, fine dining restaurants, and traditional luaus.

Pair of competing fire dancers spinning lit batons at night after a luau
Pair of competing fire dancers spinning lit batons at night after a luau

If you’re booking a nice dinner in an upscale, fine dining restaurant, check their dress code, just to be sure!

On all our vacations to Hawaii, we’ve never taken formal dresses and shoes, and have never felt out of place or underdressed.

You may want to consider some sun-protective clothing if you are planning lots of time outdoors. See women’s, men’s, and kids’ UV-protective clothing on Amazon.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

Hiking Gear List

Though Hawaii has some incredible hikes, many of Hawaii’s hikes are demanding. Make sure you are well-equipped and well-prepared.

Some of Hawaii's trails can be wet, muddy and slippery, so good hiking shoes and trekking poles will help!
Some of Hawaii’s trails can be wet, muddy and slippery, so good hiking shoes and trekking poles will help!

Here’s what we typically pack:

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

Snorkeling & Other Water Activities Gear List

Though you can rent snorkeling gear or use the ones that come with tours, we invested in our own snorkel gear, mainly due to Covid-19 (why take the risk?).

Basic snorkeling equipment: mask, snorkel, fins
Basic snorkeling equipment: mask, snorkel, fins
Standup paddleboarding at sunset in Hawaii
Standup paddle boarding at sunset in Hawaii

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Kauai tours now!

Packing List Items to Skip

We find beach towels way too bulky to carry. Borrow your hotel’s towels or pick up a sand-resistant beach towel from a local store.

We don’t take inflatable surf boards or boogie boards, much easier to rent real ones locally, and they tend to work a lot better.

Skip formal clothes and dress shoes, unless you have a special occasion that requires them.

Special Tours / Exceptional Situations

With such a wide range of climate zones, you may encounter exceptional situations or tours where you may need some extra items.

Haleakala Sunrise

Planning to watch the sunrise from Haleakala Summit while visiting Haleakala National Park on Maui? The summit (at 10,000 feet) can be really cold early in the morning.

Haleakala Crater sunrise, Maui, Hawaii
Haleakala Crater sunrise, Maui, Hawaii

We needed winter jackets, gloves and ski caps, and still felt cold! If you’re taking a tour, check with them on what they provide – many give you winter jackets, blankets, etc.

Else your best option is to layer up, and dress warm!

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

At the higher elevations of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in the Big Island of Hawaii, you can sometimes expect freezing temperatures and even snow!

The summit of Mauna Loa in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is at nearly 14,000 feet, so check the weather if you’re headed there!

Backpacking Hikes and Camping

Planning a multi-day hike like the Kalalau Trail hike in Kauai or the Sliding Sands Trail hike on Maui?

Kalalau Trail, one of the best Kauai North Shore hikes, along the beautiful Na Pali Coast
Kalalau Trail, one of the best Kauai North Shore hikes, along the beautiful Na Pali Coast

Equipment here tends to be personal preference, so create a checklist for your camping gear!

Local Stores

Don’t worry about last minute shopping or if you do forget something, you are not heading to the wilderness or a different country!

Hawaii has all the local US chains like Costco, Walmart and Target. You have convenient local stores and grocery stores all over.

Eating exotic tropical fruit from a street vendor in Chinatown, one of the fun things to do in Honolulu
Eating exotic tropical fruit from a street vendor in Chinatown, one of the fun things to do in Honolulu

The local ABC stores are convenient and commonplace, and you’ll find the bulk of what you need. They are also a great place to pick up souvenirs to take home for friends and family.

Pricing is substantially higher than mainland US, since everything has to be shipped to Hawaii.

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Discover the ultimate packing list for Hawaii! Beach and water activity gear list, hiking gear, plus everyday essentials. This article is a must-read if you are planning your first visit to the Hawaiian islands! #HawaiiTravel #Hawaiipackinglist

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