Do you want to look great and feel comfortable on your Hawaii vacation without taking along an entourage just to manage your luggage? The great news is that the glorious year-round weather can help you shrink your Hawaii packing list to just the essentials! We went minimalist in our packing for Hawaii despite our five week stay – and still could have easily gotten away with less! So read on for what to pack for Hawaii if you want to travel as light and carefree as the fluffiest shave ice.
Which shoes to pick when you’re packing for Hawaii
I always like to start my packing lists from the bottom, with comfortable, practical, and decent looking footwear. If it isn’t 100% comfortable, don’t pack it. I’ve had my share of ruined travel days because I was just too uncomfortable, even in athleisure shoes that seemed like they’d work well.
The most critical shoes to bring to Hawaii are flip flops (slippahs, as they say in the Aloha State). You’ll see locals wearing them everywhere and at all times of day, and it’s easy to understand why! There’s no need for fussy footwear when the weather is warm and balmy almost all the time and you might dash into the sand at a moment’s notice. But if you’ll be spending so much time in them, make sure to choose some really comfortable flip flops for walking – not just skimpy $1 rubber ones that will leave your feet unsupported and sore!
For comfort, it’s hard to beat these – I’m on my third pair in a decade and about ready to buy another! If you want something that looks a little fancier but still offers all-day comfort, check out these awesome flip flops with a leather strap or their vegan leather cousins. Another option if you want to support a great local business is to buy from the company that started it all, Scott Hawaii! You can check out their wide range of offerings for your whole travel crew.
Hawaii packing list for female travelers
Now that your footwear is settled, what are the best clothes to wear in Hawaii? Cool, comfortable and practical rule the day! The good news is that with plenty of beach time in store, you won’t need to bring much clothing. Here’s our basic list of what to pack for Hawaii:
I love bringing dresses when we travel! It’s just one thing to put on the morning, no matching and minimal packing. My very favorite travel dresses are ones with a built-in bra – comfortable and they further minimize packing need! I’m also a huge fan of Athleta’s dresses for travel since they wash easily, dry quickly and wear beautifully. Obviously YMMV depending on your body shape and *cough* needs *cough*. I’d also bring one dress without a built-in bra to double as a beach cover-up.1 pair of shorts
If you’re bringing a few dresses and spending part of your time at the beach, one pair of lightweight shorts should suffice. Denim shorts may look cute, but the most versatile option is a synthetic pair that will dry fairly quickly. Then you can wear them for hiking, kayaking or even as a beach cover up.
2 tank tops/tee shirts
You can easily get by with just two tank tops or tee shirts. You’ll wear these for hiking or as cover ups when going to the beach.
2 swim suits
Swim suits don’t take up much room and you’ll use them a ton in Hawaii! You’ll want a second in case your first is wet/sandy/washing. My preference is to have one “cute swimsuit” and one “active swimsuit”. The cute swimsuit is perfect for casual beach days, but I like to have one with a little more support for kayaking and boogie boarding. This one has been working great and the top can even take the place of a sports bra for hiking.
UV rash guard
I can’t stress enough how important it is to include a UV rash guard on your Hawaii packing list. It protects your skin from sun exposure when you’re out snorkeling for hours and from chafing when you hit the waves on a body board (or a surf board!). The good news is that manufacturers have gotten wise to the growing market for cute women’s rash guards and there are so many great options now! Here are a few of my favorite options:
Even nights can be fairly warm on the Hawaiian Islands, so no need to pack ultra-warm pajamas. But it’s always nice to put on something soft, clean and comfortable after your post-activity evening shower.
You can’t visit Hawaii without a good pair of shades! The sun is just too bright and can even cause long-term damage to your eyes. Make sure to pick up a pair that offers UV protection.
Pro tip: choose polarized lenses to make those all those amazing rainbows look even more vivid!
A hat will definitely come in handy in Hawaii! What style of hat to choose is a personal preference. For practicality of packing you can’t beat a trucker hat, but of course a straw sunhat is oh-so-chic. Just try to find one that packs well so you don’t have it loose and lose it in transit (ask me how I know).
Clutch or wristletIf you plan to go out in the evening, you’ll want something small to carry with your credit card, phone and keys or keycard. These adorable ones are a perfect match for your Hawaii wardrobe.
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What to take to Hawaii – beyond the clothes
Now that you’re fully clothed for your vacation, there are a few other things to pack for Hawaii to ensure an awesome trip.
A lightweight but awesome camera
I can’t stomach carrying around our huge SLR when we travel these days, but I hate sacrificing photo quality. Fortunately there are lots of awesome options these days that balance size, price and quality.
If you’re fairly new to photography, the Panasonic Lumix FZ80 is a great choice. You grew into the extensive features, but even auto mode will give you crystal-clear keepsake photos. The best part? No worry about having the right lens. Just grab the camera, memory card and an extra battery and you’re all set!
More interested in developing a photography hobby? A lightweight mirrorless camera is a great choice. I use the Olympus “micro 4/3” series. Check out my travel kit below (shown with a newer body since mine is discontinued) – and if you feel like making my dreams come true, you can get me this or this:
The perfect beach bag
You’ll need something to carry all your beach necessities, so why not get one that does double-duty? This adorable tote has a built-in waterproof compartment to keep any wet items – whether a sweaty waterbottle or a sandy swim suit – segregated from everything else! There’s also a great organizer compartment for your shades, headphones and other small items. You can even use this bag as your carry-on for the plane.
Reef-safe sunscreenThe Hawaiian Islands are surrounded by fragile coral reef environments. Do your part to ensure their long-term viability by slathering on the reef-safe sunscreen. What made a sunscreen reef-safe? Beginning in 2021, Hawaii is banning the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. One of our best new sunscreen finds is an excellent mineral-based brand, available in both “kid” and “sport” formulations. The kid sunscreen rubs in more easily, but the sport sunscreen stays on really well. You’ll need this when you go snorkeling in Hawaii. SPF lip balm There’s nothing worse than burned lips.
The end. Keep your lips soft and happy by protecting them with an SPF lip balm like this one. (Better to buy a multi-pack since they’re basically always getting lost.)
The dry leeward coasts of the Hawaiian Islands aren’t plagued by mozzies, but if you plan to do any waterfall hikes or visit the stunningly lush areas, come prepared! We typically use spray during the day and evening when we need it and also put “mosquito repellent bracelets” by our beds at night – just in case. If you’re staying on the windward side, also consider bringing a plug-in mosquito repellant, which works even better!
The water in Hawaii is wonderful, so there’s no need to buy bottles. Just make sure to bring a great travel water bottle like this one so that it’s convenient to keep it with you all the time. Check out our round-up of the best collapsible water bottles.
Packable grocery bags
Hawaii has recently instituted a ban on single-use plastic bags. Yay for environmentalism! Pick up some cute reusable grocery bags that pack into themselves so that you’re never caught without one. You can use them for your groceries, souvenirs or even beach items in a pinch. These adorable ones are a great value and include a clip to attach them to your beach bag!
We’re huge fans of packing cubes! There’s no way we’d be such efficient packers without them. After trying out several brands for our gap year, we still love our old faithful eBags packing cubes. This starter set is perfect – medium for clothing, slims for “delicates” and swimwear, and small for loose items like sunscreen, lip balm, grocery bags and bug spray. Their toiletry kit also gets great reviews from travelers and is high on our wish list now that we need a new one.
Since you’ll probably spend at least few days lounging at the beach, grab your favorite easy-reading paperback or stock up your Kindle. We’re drooling over the newer Kindle Oasis model that’s waterproof. Use it at the beach or use it on the tub with no worries! The 7″ screen is also extremely easy to read even in the bright tropical sun. With a free trial of Kindle Unlimited you’ll never run out of reading material.
If you’d rather watch movies on the plane too, the latest Amazon Fire tablet is an amazing choice! We love our HD screen for movies and reading. Check out all of the options and prices here.
Since you’re heading to Hawaii, put Moloka’i on your list! My mom swears it’s one of the best books she’s ever read, and it’ll be my next read for sure.
Those Beats may sound awesome, but they also take up a ton of space. Grab a comfortable, compact pair of headphones for your in-flight binging or for chilling at the beach. We spent most of our time in Hawaii listening to the awesome Hawaiian channel with our Amazon music trial – grab your free month here.
Hiking, snorkeling, paragliding… Hawaii is full of adventures! You might want an action camera to keep track of all your awesome experiences. We actually got to Hawaii without one and immediately regretted it and ordered this one from Amazon while we were there! Read our full review here or buy your own.
If your Hawaii itinerary includes any hiking, consider bringing a daypack to store your water, sunscreen, bug spray and photo gear. My top pick is the Camelbak Daystar because 1) it can pass as a semi-normal looking backpack and 2) it has plenty of room for everything you could need (including 2.5L of water in the included bladder).
If you don’t feel like you need something so technical, our other fave is this amazing packable daypack. We used it so much in Hawaii and even on the flight back as overflow for all those aloha-filled souvenirs. It’s a hundred times more comfortable than the cheapie packable backpack we had before and it has subtly chic branding.
What luggage should you bring to Hawaii?
We’re normally big fans of our travel backpacks because they’re so much more practical than rolling suitcases. No worries about pulling it along tripping people in the airport or hoisting it awkwardly up stairs or onto buses. If this sounds perfect for you, don’t miss our hands-on reviews of the best travel backpacks for women.
But most visitors to Hawaii just go from the plane to a car to a decent hotel with an elevator, and then make the exact journey in reverse at the end. You’re unlikely to walk a mile to the bus stop with your luggage in Hawaii! You have our blessing to use that wheelie (or even spinner!) luggage to your heart’s content. If you’re in the market for a new one, our globe-trotting friends recommend these suitcases for different price ranges:
Travel insurance for Hawaii
One of the most important things to put on your Hawaii packing list is a great travel insurance plan. We’ve used and had positive experiences with Allianz. They have a wide range of affordably plans to choose from and include coverage for both travel hiccups and medical emergencies. Some plans even cover kids for free! Check out prices here.
Tell us below: what’s the #1 thing on your Hawaii packing list?
More resources to plan your trip to Hawaii
Travel insurance for Hawaii
Compare rental car prices for Hawaii
Where to stay on Oahu
Perfect 7 day Oahu itinerary
How to visit Hawaii on a budget
5 simple money-saving hacks for booking.com
What to pack for Hawaii
Getting the most bang for your buck on your Go Oahu discount card
Is a cheap GoPro knock-off worth it?
Insider tips for visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center
The best beaches on Oahu (and why to visit them)
Where to find the best shave ice on Oahu
The best easy hikes on Oahu
Kayaking to the Mokes with Twogood Kayaks
Family-friendly kayaking with Holokai Adventures
Visiting Pearl Harbor
Top 10 things to do with kids on Oahu
The best snorkel gear for kids of all ages
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