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The minimalist Hawaii packing list for female travelers

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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! What to pack for a week in Hawaii is basically the same as what to pack for a month in Hawaii!

Read on for what to pack for Hawaii for female visitors if you want to travel as light and carefree as the fluffiest shave ice, while making sure you don’t miss any essentials on your packing list for Hawaii. I’ll help you make packing for Hawaii in a carry on easy. So stop asking “what should I pack for Hawaii” and get vacationing!

The fluffiest shave ice ever. Image courtesy of alexeatswhales/CC2.0 license.

Quick reference: packing for Hawaii

We’ve got a lot more detail to follow on the “what” and “why” of what to pack for Hawaii: female edition. But if you’re short on time, here’s a quick list of things to pack for Hawaii:

  • flip flops
  • 3 dresses
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 2 tanks/tees
  • 2 swim suits
  • rash guard
  • pajamas
  • sunglasses
  • hat
  • clutch/wristlet
  • optional: rain jacket
  • optional: hiking shoes
  • camera
  • beach bag
  • sunscreen
  • SPF lip balm
  • bug spray
  • water bottle
  • reading material
  • grocery bags

Best shoes 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 a staple of pretty much all Hawaii attire. 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.

If you plan on doing any hiking in Hawaii – even something basic like Diamond Head – you’ll want to bring one pair of shoes that’s more substantial than slippahs. If you plan to do any waterfall (aka muddy) hikes or some of the longer, harder ridge trails or pillbox trails, you might want to bring trail runners like these to give you better traction on difficult terrain. You’ll also want something substantial for hiking on the Big Island.

If you just plan to walk up easy trails like Diamond Head or Makapu’u Lighthouse, cute athleisure sneakers should do the trick. Make sure to pack some wool socks that will keep your feet feeling dry and comfortable (read: not swampy) when you’re on the move.


Hawaii packing list for female travelers: what to wear in Hawaii

Now that your footwear is settled, what are the best clothes to wear in Hawaii? Cool, comfortable and practical rule the day for what to wear in Hawaii! 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 a trip to Hawaii:

3 dresses

I love bringing dresses when we travel! It’s just one thing to put on the morning, no matching and minimal packing. You’ll find that tons of local women wear dresses in Hawaii since they’re so cool and comfortable. There’s a reason dresses are #1 on my list of clothes to pack for Hawaii. If you’re trying to figure out what to bring to Hawaii for a week, you really don’t need to overdo it – plan to wear each dress twice to save some space. Sun dresses are the perfect choice for what to wear to Hawaii dinners out too!

My very favorite travel dresses are ones with a built-in bra – comfortable and they further minimize packing need! I love this dress so much that I own it in two colors – they were my most-worn items during our five weeks on Oahu and again during our two weeks on the Big Island. Obviously YMMV depending on your body shape and *cough* needs *cough*, but hopefully you can find one you love since a simple dress with flip flops tops my list of Hawaii outfits ideas!

Want to plan the ultimate Hawaii vacation? Click here for step-by-step Hawaii travel planning help!

I’d also bring one dress without a built-in bra to double as a beach cover-up. If you want to know how to pack for Hawaii in just a carry-on, dresses are the answer. Check out these comfortable, cute dresses for a Hawaii vacation:

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 practical 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, so they’re good versatile clothes for a Hawaii trip.

2 tank tops/tee shirts

You can easily get by with just two tank tops or tee shirts from your dresser when you’re packing your Hawaii vacation clothing. You’ll wear these for hiking or as cover ups when going to the beach. Even if they aren’t so exciting, they’re one of those “must haves” for Hawaii.

2 swim suits

Obviously one of the Hawaii trip essentials, swim suits don’t take up much room and you’ll use them a ton! You’ll want a second in case your first is wet/sandy/washing, so it’s worth the tiny bit of extra space when you’re narrowing down what to bring to Hawaii.

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 pack 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! These can take a while to dry, so it doesn’t hurt to bring two if you plan to be in the water most days. Here are a few of my favorite options:

Pajamas

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. Doesn’t hurt if it’s cute too, right?

(On a side note, the main reason I have pajamas on this list is because it’s the one thing I always forget when I pack for a trip!)

Sunglasses

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 a pair that offers UV protection is on your list of things to take to Hawaii.

Pro tip: choose polarized lenses to make those all those amazing rainbows look even more vivid!

Wide-brim hat

A hat will definitely come in handy in Hawaii! It’s one of the most important things to bring to Hawaii to prevent sunburns. What style of hat to choose is a personal preference, just pick one that’ll look great with all the cute outfits for Hawaii that you’ve packed! 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).

Optional: rain jacket

I’ve been to Hawaii five times and have only needed a rain jacket on two of those trips. But when I needed it, I really needed it. If you’re planning to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island (or spending lots of time on the rainy windward side of any island) be sure to throw in one of these.

Optional: warm jacket

If you’re visiting Maui and plan to go to the summit of Haleakala for sunrise, make sure you have a warm packable jacket on your list of what to pack for Maui. It gets COLD up there!

Clutch or wristlet

If 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. You definitely need one for your Oahu packing list if you plan on nights out in Waikiki.

You could also go aloha-themed with one of these!


What to bring to Hawaii – beyond the clothes

Now that you’re fully clothed, there are a few other things to pack for a Hawaii vacation 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 can grow 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. It’s a great choice for what to take to Hawaii as a beach bag that doubles as your carry-on for the plane. Check out the full selection of Logan + Lenora beach totes on their website.

Reef-safe sunscreen

Sunscreen tops my list of must-haves for Hawaii, but be choosy about what you choose. The 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 – it’s just one of those essentials for Hawaii. What makes 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 and you don’t want to be without one of your Hawaii essentials!)

Mosquito repellant

Do you need bug spray in Hawaii? It depends.

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! Many vacation rental homes in Hawaii use fans and slatted windows rather than AC and solid windows like you’ll find on the mainland, so it’s very possible for insects to sneak in during the evening.

Water bottle

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!

Packing cubes

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.

Vacation reading

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! It’s one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read and adds so much context for modern Hawaiian history and culture. I also highly recommend the sequel, Honolulu.

Compact headphones

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.

Action camera

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

Daypack

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, so we recommend adding it to your Hawaii checklist.

Best Hawaii Guidebooks

We have tons of helpful Hawaii articles right here on our website to help you plan an amazing trip, and they reflect our honest experiences as seasoned Hawaii travelers.

Want even more in-depth information? Check out these authoritative guides to all things Hawaii! The author’s series is known as the gold-standard for Hawaii travel guides. I recommend buying a paper copy, because you’ll definitely want to use your highlighter, dog-ear some pages and bring it along as you explore.


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. If you’re petite, the new Tortuga Women’s Setout 35 is perfect for you – read my full review here.

Just remember, your Hawaii vacation packing list is pretty short so you don’t need to overdo it on luggage. I wish I could have told myself that on our first trip to Hawaii with a baby!

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:


Things to pack for Hawaii FAQs

What should I pack for 7 days in Hawaii?

As you can read in the list above, you’ll need plenty of beach attire, casual dresses for sightseeing and dinners and a really comfortable pair of flip flops. Read our in-depth list of what to pack to Hawaii for more details.

How do I not look like a tourist in Hawaii?

Wear flip flops everywhere, all the time, unless you’re doing serious hiking – but some Hawaiians wear them then too. And make sure you use sunscreen to avoid that “Mainland lobster” look.

Do you need bug spray in Hawaii?

I highly recommend bug spray in Hawaii if you’ll be doing waterfall hikes or spending much time on the lush windward coasts (especially in the evenings).

Can you wear jeans in Hawaii?

Sure, you can wear jeans in Hawaii. But unless you’re going up to the summit of Haleakala you’ll probably be more comfortable in almost anything else due to the balmy temperatures and humidity. I have visited Hawaii in every season and never wished I had jeans with me.

What should I wear on a plane to Hawaii?

If you get cold on flights like I do, you can wear leggings and a t-shirt on your plane to Hawaii. If you’re bringing a rain jacket or packable puffer, keep it in your carry-on for an extra layer. If you’re bringing shoes for hiking, you can wear those for the flight; even if you’re just bringing flip flops, you can always some socks in your carry-on for those long hours over the Pacific.

Should I bring a raincoat to Hawaii?

Maybe. If you’ll be spending a lot of time on the windward sides of the islands (including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island) a packable rain jacket will come in handy.

To wrap it up, the list of Hawaii must haves is blessedly short. You’re still in America and can get all the things you need, albeit at a higher price. Keep that in mind when you’re deciding what to pack for Hawaii for a week! Don’t go overboard on clothes for Hawaii trip packing, just use this Hawaii packing checklist and you’ll be all set. Aloha!

More resources to plan your trip to Hawaii

See all of our Hawaii travel planning resources in one place

Travel planning resources:
Compare rental car prices for Hawaii
5 simple money-saving hacks for booking.com

General Hawaii resources:
How to visit Hawaii on a budget
Renting a car in Hawaii: 10 things you NEED to know
What to pack for Hawaii
Is a cheap GoPro knock-off worth it?

Hawaii with kids:
What’s the best Hawaiian island for families?
Is it worth visiting Hawaii with a baby?
Ultimate packing list for Hawaii with kids
Top 10 things to do with kids on Oahu
The best snorkel gear for kids of all ages

Oahu resources:
Best Oahu travel guide book
Perfect 7 day Oahu itinerary
Where to stay on Oahu
Family-friendly Oahu vacation rentals
Cheap Places To Stay On Oahu
10 Fun Things to do on Oahu for $10 or less
Getting the most bang for your buck on your Go Oahu discount card
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

Maui resources:
Best Maui travel guide book
Perfect 3 day Maui itinerary
Cheap Places To Stay On Maui

Big Island resources:
Best Big Island travel guide book
Perfect 5 day Big Island itinerary
Cheap Places To Stay On the Big Island

Kauai resources:
Best Kauai travel guide book
Perfect 3 day Kauai itinerary
Cheap Places To Stay On Kauai

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6 thoughts on “The minimalist Hawaii packing list for female travelers”

  1. Molokai is truly one of the best books I have ever read – I read it so long ago! Descendants (Yes they made a movie with george clooney but its also a book) is an amazing hawaii read. I am definitely a swimsuit and dress overpacker! I also love lululemon shorts, they are light and dry quick. I would add that if you are visiting some of the peaks on Maui or Hawaii, a sweatshirt.

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