What to Pack for Hawaii

What to Pack for Hawaii

We’ve spent a cumulative total of around 4 months in Oahu, Hawaii on various dream trips, and here’s what we’ve learned about what to bring to Hawaii and what to leave behind.

The beauty of packing for Hawaii is, since Hawaii is still America, it’s easy to buy anything you’ve forgotten and you’ll still be familiar with the stores and brands available. However, our complete Hawaii packing list will make sure you’ll know how to dress in Hawaii, and have your Hawaii packing checklist sorted.  You’ll even find a downloadable/printable Hawaii packing list at the end of the post.

What to Wear in Hawaii

The temperatures on Oahu, like all the Hawaii Islands, don’t vary much from summer to winter, or between day and night time.  What to wear in Hawaii in January is going to be much the same as what to wear in Hawaii in July.  One traveling tip is that you’ll only need one warm item per person, such as a hoodie, and this is mostly for the flight there as airline cabins are often on the cold esside. Substitute the hoodie for a wrap if you’re wanting your Hawaii wardrobe to be more stylish. Because it’s warm in Hawaii all year round you can plan to travel much lighter than if you were making a packing list for Paris, where the weather is more unpredictable.

When people dream about a carefree, relaxing beach trip, Hawaii should be the place that comes to mind.
The short answer for how to dress for Hawaii is that basically anything goes. You could quite easily just pack your bathing suit, shorts, and tank tops. The only time you’d need dressier, resort wear type clothing is if you’re planning to go to the fancier restaurants in Waikiki, or if you’d just feel better dressing more smartly. Some nice options for dresses for Hawaii are any cotton tank dress or cotton maxi/midi style dress, and because it’s Hawaii, florals work great.

My top tip for what to pack for Hawaii – take a sarong.

A pretty sarong is an essential item for wearing when you’re walking to/from your hotel room, and the beach or pool. You can wear it like a dress, just cover your lower half, or use it to cover your neck and shoulders for sun protection or if you’ve gotten sunburnt. You can also use your sarong as a towel. This can be very useful if your hotel doesn’t provide beach towels, or if you’re flying out late on the final day of your trip and plan to swim before you leave, but after you’ve checked out of your room. If you have a rental car and are out exploring the island, you can use your sarong to cover the seat of the car rather than changing in and out of your bathing suit. You can of course also use it for lying on at the beach.

Shoes for Hawaii

Leave your sneakers behind. Flying in your flip flops is much more comfortable and easier for going through airport security than flying in sneakers, and most people don’t want to take up valuable luggage space with sneakers. You likely won’t need hiking shoes unless you’re planning to do a trek, such as walking up Diamond Head. Assuming you’re not planning on hiking, a better choice for women for shoes for Hawaii is one pair of flip flops (which Hawaiians call “slippers”) and one pair of dressier sandals. If you’re wanting to travel very light, you combine the two and take a pair of travel sandals that are both comfortable and reasonably stylish. Bethaney from Flashpacker Family has a great round up of the most comfortable sandals for travel. However, since you’ll be leaving your shoes on the beach while you’re in the water, I’d go with the flip flops for day, and a separate pair of nicer sandals for evening. For kids, crocs can work well. Consider bringing water shoes as we’ve found the beaches on Oahu, Hawaii have coral sand and some of the larger, sharper pieces can cause cuts. I can only assume it’s the same on Maui and the other Hawaii islands.

These are my favorite ultralight flip flops of travel.  Kathryn and I have 6 pairs between us!  I can easily walk in these comfortable for an hour.


Toiletries Packing List for Hawaii

  • Sunscreen.
    • I like this Jason’s sunscreen, because it’s vegan (no animal testing or byproducts) and reef safe.
  • 1 % Hydrocortisone cream. We always pack this for beach vacations in case of bites (unlikely since Waikiki/Honolulu/Oahu is blissfully bug-less) or sunburn.
  • Hand sanitizer, for those beach park bathrooms.
  • Tooth brush and tooth paste.
  • Medications.
  • Breathable wound dressings if you’re planning to go anywhere near coral.
    • The breathable part is important as if you get a coral cut, it’s common for there to be a tiny piece of coral left in the cut, and if you cover them with a non-breathable dressing, you’re at high risk of your cut becoming infected. Who wants to deal with that on vacation?! These ones are an affordable option, and an essential item for your travel medical kit.
  • Deodorant.

What to pack for your flight to Hawaii

– As I mentioned earlier airlines often keep cabin temperatures at freezing temperatures, and it’s horrible to be cold on such a long flight. Therefore don’t forget to pack that one warm item, and make sure it’s accessible in your carry on luggage, rather than at the bottom of your bag.  We have this Kelty Redwing 44 liter backpack that has an external space for your hoodie/sweater/jacket, meaning it doesn’t take up room in your pack and is always accessible. 

– You may also want to pack a travel neck pillow to help you sleep in comfort on your flight, and arrive at your dream vacation feeling happy and rested.

– Comfortable headphones. These $60 ish Sennheiser PX-200 II headphones are my all-time favorite headphones for flying/travel. They’re incredibly comfortable and lightweight, fold up into a tiny size, and block noise without carrying the price tag of true noise cancelling headphones and without the bulk or requirement for batteries. Check with your airline, but flights to Hawaii often offer free TVs and movies via your own device (e.g. ipad, iphone, android phone or tablet). To access this, you may need to download the airline’s app BEFORE you fly. This definitely applies to United, one of the main airlines servicing Hawaii.

Hawaii is an easy place to travel with carry on luggage only, since you’re not needing to pack bulky items for cold weather. Packing cubes can make packing for any trip, Hawaii included, infinitely easier. They help you organize your items, and the compression type will help you fit more stuff into your bag if you’re tight on space. Eagle Creek is a great brand of these.

Outfits for Your Hawaii Vacation

Outfits for Hawaii for women:

  • 1 sarong
  • 3-4 tank tops
  • 2 pairs shorts
  • 1 pair flip flips
  • 1 pair nice sandals
  • 1 bathing suit (or 1 for swimming and 1 for lying on the beach)
  • 1-2 light weight dresses
  • 1 wrap or hoodie.
  • 1 pair sunglasses.
  • 2 bras
  • underwear (think about whether you prefer to take 1 pair per day of your trip or whether you’d prefer to take fewer pairs and wash them in your hotel bathroom. I take a travel size bottle of Dr Bronner’s for this. You can buy a travel size bottle, but it’s more economical to buy a big bottle and use refillable, 3 oz travel size bottles.)
  • whatever you like to sleep in
  • 1 pair sunglasses
  • 1 wide-brim hat, that’s packable.  This pretty design fits the requirements, plus is fun and a little bit whimsical, and SPF50.  
  • Spare hair tie, since they tend to go missing when swimming in the ocean

Outfits for Hawaii for men:

  • 2 nice outfits for dining (nice dress shorts, a button down short sleeve shirt, and loafers/boat shoes or similar)
  • 3 pairs of shorts
  • 1 t-shirt or tank top per day of your trip
  • 1 hoodie (mainly for the flight)
  • bathing suit
  • underwear
  • 1 pair sunglasses
  • flip flops
  • sun hat
  • sleepwear

Outfits for Hawaii for kids:

(also see the bonus section at the bottom on what to pack for Hawaii if you have a baby or toddler)

  • shorts
  • t-shirts or tank tops
  • 1 sarong
  • 1 sun-safe bathing suit
  • 1 sun hat for on land
  • 1 swimsuit material sunhat for swimming
  • 1 pair sunglasses
  • swim diapers, if necessary
  • crocs or other breathable, lightweight footwear
  • 1-2 dresses for girls
  • 1 hoodie
  • a baby/toddler towel for the walk back to the hotel from the beach

What else should you pack for Hawaii?

Once you have your Hawaii vacation outfits ready to go you’ll need the best way to pack your gear without needing to check luggage.

I’ve already mentioned packing cubes as an incredibly useful way to keep your packing neat and organized.  For Hawaii, it’s also helpful to have the following:


Printable Hawaii Packing Checklist

This Hawaii checklist will streamline your packing process, and help make sure you have everything you need to wear in Hawaii and stay comfortable on your trip.

Download here: PDF Hawaii packing checklist.

Should you take an umbrella to Hawaii?

Hawaii often has brief rain showers. These tend to be showers rather than downpours. You’ll get a bit wet if these occur while you’re at the beach, but you’ll dry quickly and the rain is usually warm. As I mentioned, we’ve spent a cumulative total of around 3 months in Hawaii, and only wished we’d had an umbrella a handful of times.  Bring a small travel umbrella, like this one for under $20, if you have the space in your luggage.  If you don’t, it’s probably not big deal.  If you don’t like the feel on sunscreen on your skin, you can also use the umbrella for sun protection when you’re out and about in the afternoon sun.

What Not to Bring to Hawaii

– Insect repellent. If you’re only going to Oahu/Honolulu/Waikiki, then you won’t need insect repellent. This area of Hawaii is gloriously bug free. I’ve only very very rarely gotten insect bites in Hawaii.

– Sneakers, unless you’re hiking up Diamond Head or similar

– Your jeans – it’s too hot

– Your stress 🙂

Bonus section: What to pack for Hawaii for travel with a baby or toddler.

A good addition to your Hawaii packing list if you’re traveling with a baby or toddler is a an ultralight pop up tent for babiesto use for naps with sun protection at the beach.  

 If you visit ‘locals’ beaches like Ala Moana Beach, you’ll see many Hawaiian families using this type of thing for sunshade for their babies and small children.

I hope you have found these Hawaii travel tips useful.

Have a fantastic time in Hawaii !!! You’ll love it !!!

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