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Posted on Feb 4, 2014 | 5 comments

Travel Tips: What to Pack for Hawaii

Travel Tips: What to Pack for Hawaii

Being regular travelers to Hawaii, we’ve become efficient packers to the Hawaiian Islands and often get asked what to pack for Hawaii. Packing for a trip to Hawaii is simple as long as you remember one simple guideline- Don’t pack too much. Most people tend to over pack when visiting Hawaii or any other tropical destinations.

Only Pack Carry-Ons for Hawaii

When flying to Hawaii, you shouldn’t have to check any baggage. Packing light will save you time, effort, and money from airline charges for checked baggage. You are going to want that extra money for once you arrive, not have to use it to get there. With checked baggage fees starting at $25 per bag to Hawaii, not checking baggage can save more than a bit of money. Everything you need should fit into your two carry-on items. If it doesn’t, you know you’ve packed too much.

What to Pack for Hawaii

You’ll only need the allotted 2 carry-ons for luggage to Hawaii.

What to Pack for Hawaii

Start off with packing the smaller of your two bags focusing on what items you will need while in route to your destination. These are the items you will want to easily access and will be placed in the bag placed under the seat in front of you. It’s all about what you will need in-flight and keeping valuables close by.

  • Pack a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes to be able to clean your seat armrests, tray, seat belt buckle, and any other frequently used surfaces in your seat area before you sit down. Doing this will help you stay healthy while flying. If you aren’t able to make it to the bathroom before eating, the hand sanitizer will come in handy to clean your hands.
  • Your own fill-able water bottle. It’s important to stay hydrated during a long flight. You’ll also want this to take with you on hikes and to the beach while in Hawaii.
  • A neck pillow to make yourself more comfortable and to take a nap on the long flight over to Hawaii.
  • Snacks such as fresh fruit, nuts, high-protein bars, and all-natural jerky.
  • Camera with memory cards and battery charger. You will take a ton of pictures while in Hawaii, make sure to bring an extra memory card with you.
  • A tablet with charger and headphones for watching movies during the flight and to stay connected back home. You won’t need more than this since your days will be filled with enjoying the Hawaiian Islands. The headphones can also be used to watch any in-flight entertainment. If you don’t know the Hawaiian Islands well, download a guidebook, such as one from the Hawaii Revealed series, to your tablet to read on the plane.
  • Phone with charger.
  • Sunglasses. You will pretty much wear these all day in Hawaii.
  • Hat. Pick one that will cover your ears and nose to give you extra protection from the sun.
  • Lip balm with SPF, medications, and other travel-size 3.4 oz or under toiletries all packed in a quart size zip-lock bag.
  • Photo ID with all travel itineraries, confirmations, and boarding passes.
What to Pack for Hawaii

If all of your items don’t fit into your two carry-on bags, you are packing too much.

What Clothes to Pack for Hawaii

When it comes to what clothing to pack for Hawaii, you don’t need much. Hawaii is very informal. Keep the idea of resort wear in mind and you should be fine.

  • 2 swimsuits/board shorts. That way you will always have one to wear while the other one is drying.
  • 3-4 Beach cover-ups. These can be tunics, sundresses, and/or sarongs you can make into a dress. Most likely, you will be going places right before or after you hit the beach. Pick cover-ups that will easily go right over your swimsuit to be more accessible.
  • 1 Rashguard. A rashguard will be your best friend while engaging in water sports, especially snorkeling. They usually have SPF built right into them and will prevent you from getting burned. We both always wear our rashguards while snorkeling, stand up paddleboarding, and bodyboarding.
  • 2-3 Breathable cotton button-down shirts. Have at least one long sleeve in case you want a little more coverage from the sun.
  • 2-3 Shorts and/or skirts. I just pack skirts. They breath more and are perfect to pull over my swimsuit to easily pull off at the beach and back on again to grab something to eat.
  • 1 Pair of pants or jeans. If you are going to be going anywhere upcountry or to higher elevations, it gets much colder and you will need a pair of pants to keep you warm. They are also needed if you plan on doing any activities such as zip-lining or horseback riding. If you won’t be doing any of these activities, there’s no need to pack them.
  • 1 Pair of linen pants, khakis, or capris. These can be great for wearing at night to dinner.
  • 1 Lightweight sweater or jacket. Hawaii is generally warm year-round with average temperatures during the day ranging from 81-88 degrees. However, if you are visiting during the winter months or plan on visiting anywhere with a higher elevation, you will want something that will be able to keep you warm.
What to Pack for Hawaii

Wearing vintage aloha wear is always an instant conversation starter with many locals

    • Vintage aloha wear dress or shirt. Wearing this is a great way to get to know the locals. They love them and will usually strike up a conversation with you simply because you are wearing vintage aloha wear. You can easily pick up a piece or two through Etsy or eBay.
    • 1 pair of flip flops, known as slippers in Hawaii.
    • 1 pair of sneakers with 2 pairs of socks for hiking.
    • 1 pair of wedges if you want to dress-up a bit when you go out. Heels are never needed and not the easiest to walk in on the Hawaiian Islands.
    • 1 pair of aqua socks or reef shoes. If you plan to spend a lot of time in the water, you will be thankful to have these with you.

Extras to Pack for Hawaii

      • Reusable shopping bag. Plastic bags are banned on many of the Hawaiian islands. Having your own reusable bag is not only environmentally friendly when you go shopping, but it’s perfect to double as a beach bag. Or you can pick one up once you get there at Foodland. They have the best reusable bags, anywhere!
      • An extra bag for the trip home. Pack a bag you can lay flat at the bottom of your larger carry-on that you can pack with extra items you will buy while on the islands. Let’s face it, you are going to buy stuff while in Hawaii. They have too much great stuff not to. You are going to want to bring things home to friends and family, as well.
What to Pack for Hawaii

No need to pack everything for Hawaii. Many items are better to purchase once in Hawaii.

What to Purchase Once in Hawaii

There are a few things that you will want to pick up once you are in Hawaii. Yes, you could pack these, but it’s easier to get them once you arrive. Especially since you will need bigger than the 3.4 oz travel sizes.

      • Reef-Safe Waterproof Sunscreen. It’s really important to get the reef-safe sunscreen to help protect Hawaii’s coral reefs. The oils in regular sunscreen are damaging to coral and other marine life.
      • Aloe Vera Gel. Not only is aloe vera gel awesome to sooth your skin if you do happen to get burned, it also works great as a skin moisturizer and a hair gel.
      • Mosquito Repellant. If you plan on going into the rainforest, hike among the bamboo, visit Hana, go anywhere with still bodies of water, or anywhere else that’s wet and away from the beaches, you will encounter mosquitoes.
      • Beach towel. Most accommodations will supply these to you. Even if they don’t, they are way too big to pack. You can pick these up almost everywhere.
What to Pack for Hawaii

We pack our own snorkel gear for Hawaii.

Should I Pack Snorkel Gear for Hawaii?

Our first trip to Hawaii we each purchased our own U.S. Divers snorkel sets. We now bring them with us every time we visit the Hawaiian Islands. We snorkel so much they have paid for themselves more than once. Yes, you can rent snorkel gear in Hawaii for cheap. If you are anything like us and love to snorkel, even cheap can add up. Especially if you visit tropical locations often. Plus, gear that we put in our mouths and on our feet we would rather own ourselves and know it’s only been in our mouths and on our feet.

Save Room in Your Bags for Bringing Home Hawaiian Goodies

When packing for Hawaii, remember less is more. Don’t waste valuable luggage space on things that you don’t need there. Save that space for bringing home Hawaiian shortbread, chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, lilikoi butter,
Hawaiian Hersey Kisses, and Kona coffee. Remember, you can always buy anything you forget once you get to Hawaii. Costco, ABC stores, Wal-Mart, and Longs Drugs are all great places to pick up island essentials and souvenirs.

Do you have any other tips to share on what to pack for Hawaii?

All photography by Kimmy Hayes © 2014.

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About Kimmy Hayes

Kimmy Hayes is the founder and editor-in-chief of AfterGlobe; a site on becoming debt free and traveling the world as a married couple. In 2012, she planned and coordinated her own do-it-yourself destination wedding on the beautiful island of Maui while serving as a moderator for the on-line community, The Knot. She is passionate about traveling to experience new cultures, snorkeling the waters of the world and reading with her toes in the sand.


  1. Great post!! Love this!! I always try to bring a re-fillable water bottle with my on trips. It helps me save $$ from having to buy it at the airport!
    Lora @ Crazy Running Girl recently posted…When the magic happensMy Profile

  2. Awesome list! Its my first time going to Hawaii and I wasn’t sure what all to buy there. I had no idea about the reef – safe water repellent! Thanks so much for an awesome post!
    Julia of See Julia Go recently posted…My Newest Travel InspirationMy Profile

  3. Just reading the section at the bottom about you – can’t believe you guys got married in Maui – must have been such a beautiful wedding! Would love to go to Hawaii one day – veeerry long way away from home here in London!

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