Complete Packing List for Hawaii: What to Bring and What NOT to Bring + PRINTABLE

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beach view from kauai marriott
Beaches like this beautiful one in Kauai are a great choice for a couples getaway. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

Hawaii is a bucket list destination for families. This Hawaii packing list will ensure that you arrive with everything your family will need for a fabulous trip. It also will tell you what to leave at home.

My family and I have been to the Hawaiian Islands countless times over the years. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s what to bring and what to leave behind. Packing for Hawaii means you can pack light and probably fit everything in a carry-on. The Hawaiian Islands’ tropical weather is usually sunny and warm. But depending on the time of year and the island you’re visiting, you might need some light rain gear!

No matter which Hawaiian island(s) you visit, you can pack more or less the same things. From swimwear and hats to beach bags and waterproof gear, this packing list for Hawaii ensures you’ll have everything you need.

However, each island has unique features, so keep that in mind when packing. For example, Oahu has great hiking trails, so comfortable, lightweight sneakers are a good idea. Waikiki is also a good place to learn to surf, so we pack water shoes and rash guards. Known for its many rivers, Kauai is great for kayaking and SUP. Maui’s road trips lead to Haleakala and Hana, so expect a lot of time in the car. And while you can snorkel nearly anywhere in Hawaii, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island offer fun snorkeling cruises.

At the top of our packing list: packing cubes. They really do keep things organized in our carry-ons and in the hotel. There are many kinds, but our go-to packing cubes are these by Ebags.

Read More: When is the best time to visit Hawaii?

packing list for hawaii
Pack essentials for land and ocean activities. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff


Anti-Covid-19 Hygiene Items to Pack

COVID-19 changed the way we travel and although mandates fluctuate, certain items will always make sense for good hygiene care.

  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Masks (While mask mandates are changing, many places in Hawaii still require visitors to wear masks in public, at the beach and in restaurants.)

Personal Items to pack for a Hawaii Vacation

  • Drivers licenses
  • Debit and credit cards
  • Cash
  • Health insurance cards
  • Auto insurance cards
  • Vaccination cards (or have them handy on your phone)
  • Rental/hotel confirmation information

Keep all of these items close by on the beach with a cell phone case that holds cards. SheBuysTravel Nasreen Stump recommends Smartish card holder phone cases. With price tags on most under $16, it’s a worthwhile buy for beach or every day.

Read More: 12 Best Places to Visit in January

Packing List for Hawaii: Clothes to Bring

You’ll be spending a lot of time in the sun and water. So the most important thing is swimsuits. But don’t go overboard! My son’s girlfriend brought eight swimsuits for five days. I recommend two, maybe three depending on the length of your trip. (My favorite tip from a local: always wear a swimsuit so you’re ready to enjoy any beach, river or waterfall at a moment’s notice.)

This packing checklist provides everything you need for the beach, kayaking, luaus, island road trips and more. If you need some aloha clothing and accessories, check out Hawaii’s Hilo Hattie.

Here are the basics. Remember, Hawaii is a casual family travel destination. Unless you’ll be attending a wedding, leave the heels and cocktail dresses at home. Also, be sure shorts, capris and tops are lightweight and can dry quickly if they get wet.

  • Shorts
  • Capris
  • Breezy tops
  • Tank tops
  • T-Shirts
  • Sundresses (The Locryz women’s summer twist knot T-shirt dress is casual and comfortable)
  • 2 or 3 swimsuits (For a slimming design try Miraclesuit swimsuits. And here is our favorite collection of kids swimsuits.)
  • Swim cover ups or sarongs
  • Rash guard with SPF sun protection for women, men and kids
  • Underwear, bras and sports bras
  • Socks
  • Belts
  • Scarves for accessorizing
  • Light, waterproof jacket for sailing, light rain, etc. (Columbia Women’s Switchback Lii Jacket is waterproof, has a hood that stows, and the entire jacket packs into its own pocket. I own two of these jackets and they’re ideal for many destinations from Hawaii to Europe.)
  • Pajamas
  • Flip-flops
  • Water shoes (We like these from Aleader and these from Teva.)
  • Sandals (for luaus and going out to dinner)
  • Sneakers/hiking shoes (Hawaii has lots of fun hiking trails!). Nothing bulky, just good tread.
  • Good sun hat (Try this sun hat. It’s simple, packable and super cute!)

Toiletries for Everyone

Save the trip to the local convenience store or hotel concierge by packing your own must-have bathroom essentials. But carry liquids in travel-sized containers.

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner (Try Daily Dose Miracle Moisture Spray Leave-In Conditioner.)
  • Toothbrush (these are our favorite travel toothbrushes that we keep on hand for packing)
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Lotion
  • Aloe
  • Deodorant
  • Razors
  • Hairdryer (most hotels provide hairdryers. But it doesn’t hurt to pack this compact Conair dryer)
  • Brushes/Combs
  • Hair ties, scrunchies and clips
  • Hair products
  • Gel
  • Shower Cap
  • Safety Pins
  • Contacts & case
  • Contact solution
  • Glasses
  • Makeup bag (Our SheBuysTravels rave about this Lay-n-Go makeup bag. It makes it easy to see all your stuff.)
  • Feminine products
  • Jewelry/watches (But keep jewelry simple. The Smiling two-pack bumper case protects your Apple Watch 7)
  • Perfume/cologne
  • Cotton swabs/cotton balls
  • Nail polish & remover
  • Nail clipper and file
  • Vaseline
  • Travel-sized laundry detergent packs.

Don’t Forget the Medicine

No one plans to get sick or hurt on a vacation. However, things happen, so be prepared by having medications and first-aid items handy. If anyone in your family has prescription medication, be sure you have enough to last the trip.

  • Mine
  • Husband’s
  • The Kids’
  • First-Aid Kit – w/Band-Aids, ointment, etc. (To save space, place the items in a zipped plastic bag)
  • Vitamins
  • Motrin
  • Benadryl
packing list for hawaii
The HandiGuru silicone wristband keeps sunscreen at your fingertips. Photo credit: Ingrid Bostrom Photography

Beach Essentials for Day Trips and the Beach

Once you’ve settled into your hotel, you’ll need a day pack with essentials for a great day at the beach or an island road trip.  Don’t forget these items:

Packing List for Hawaii: Entertainment & Technology

Whether you want to get creative with your beach photos, play some sports in the sand, or be prepared for a rainy day, you’ll want to come prepared with these items:

  • Waterproof or underwater camera (if you want to get some cool underwater footage, it might be time for a GoPro)
  • Laptop (If you must have it)
  • iPad
  • Extra power packs for keeping everyone charged up
  • Kids’ Kindle Fire HD
  • Cords & chargers

For Your Rental Car

It’s a good idea to rent a car for your Hawaii vacation. There’s so much to see and do on the Hawaiian Islands. Before you drive off the lot, familiarize yourself with turn signals, windshield wipers and other features. You don’t want to get stuck in a sudden downpour and not know where the wipers are!

Be sure to bring these handy items for fun day trips.

  • Car chargers
  • Snacks & drinks
  • Garbage/plastic bags
  • Portable items from Entertainment List
  • Towels
  • Change of clothing

What NOT to Bring on a Hawaii Vacation

There’s just some stuff not worth lugging. Especially when you can buy them on the Hawaiian Islands.

  • Fancy evening wear/shoes
  • Snorkel gear (Your resort may provide free or rental gear; or book a snorkel cruise that provides everything you need for underwater adventures)
  • Flotation devices. Buy rafts and other pool/beach toys in Hawaii and then consider giving them to another family when you leave.
  • Beach towels (they take up too much room and are available in hotels. Or buy towels there. They make good souvenirs.)
  • Heavy jackets/clothing.
Native Angeleno and seasoned travel journalist Mimi Slawoff writes for numerous print and digital publications. She is also the author of Oldest Los Angeles (Reedy Press, 2022). A lifelong world traveler, Mimi is an award-winning journalist who writes about outdoor adventures, cruises, Europe and cultural activities. Mimi has three grown kids and lives with her husband and their dog, Maya, in Los Angeles.
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