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Wondering what to pack for Hawaii? Here’s a sample Hawaii packing list to help you prepare for your vacation!
What to Pack for Hawaii: Packing List
By: Rachel Campbell
Table Of Contents
The Hawaiian Islands are a dream vacation for many, and for good reason! With stunning white sand beaches, beautiful coral reefs teeming with schools of tropical fish and brightly colored coral, lush mountain backdrops, inviting resort pools, and tasty dishes served beachside, it’s hard to go wrong.
And we’ve got the insider tips on what to pack for Hawaii! Along with our own first-hand experience, we interviewed fashionista Erika Hollweg, who attended university in Honolulu for 4 years, and Sheila Beal, a Hawaii vacation enthusiast who shares award-winning travel advice on her website Go Visit Hawaii. Sheila travels to Hawaii 2-4 times per year to stay up to date on all the latest trends that Hawaii vacationers want to know to help you decide what to wear in Hawaii.
Start by reading these general tips on packing for summer travel:
- Capsule Wardrobe for Summer
- Lightweight Jackets for Easy Layers
- Best Beach Bags and Totes for Vacation
- Versatile Beach Dresses
- Summer Maxi Dresses
- 11 Beach Sandals
Even though there’s a lot to see and do on the islands, you’ll find that you don’t need much on your Hawaii packing list, so your favorite carryon is really all you need!
Tip: The key to traveling lights to create a capsule wardrobe, which can easily fit into your carryon with the help of packing cubes!
All together, there are 5 main Hawaiian Islands that are popular with visitors; the most popular are the main hub of Oahu (where you’ll most likely fly into) the grand island of Hawaii, more commonly referred to as The Big Island, Maui, and then the beautiful Kauai.
Qearal Boho Floral Printed Summer Dress
Hawaii Clothing Style
When you’re planning what to pack for Hawaii, choose clothing that’s casual and comfortable. The islands invite you to relax. That attitude spills over into clothing for both locals and visitors. Flip flops are a staple in this chilled out paradise.
Check out my favorite flip flops!
V-neck | Blouse | Tank | Top | Maxi | Dress | Romper | Shorts | Trouser | Sweater | Blouse | Denim Short | Flats | Flops | Hat | Tote
Hawaii Packing List
The great thing about planning your Hawaii packing list is that the weather doesn’t fluctuate significantly from season to season; however, it can vary depending on your elevation level and which island you’re on, so pack according to your activities. But for the most part, it’s easy to decide what to wear in Hawaii.
It’s wonderfully warm year round–not cold and not too hot. Daytime highs typically average from the mid-70s to the mid-80s. Throughout the year, don’t be surprised if it rains a bit; they are tropical islands!
At the highest elevations on some of the islands, it can get quite cold, so do your research and if you’re heading that way, bring some layers.
Breathable fabrics and fabrics with cotton tend to be the most comfortable to wear in the somewhat-humid environment.
Find out how to choose the best fabrics for travel to Hawaii!
Winter evenings can sometimes have a bit of a chill in The Big Island, with temperatures dipping down to an average of 65°F. So a light jacket or sweater is useful. The rainy season is October through April, so pack your umbrella and a patient smile. The weather stays warm when it rains, so not many people wear rain jackets or boots. You’ll still see flip flops all around.
When planning what to pack for Hawaii, choose breezy tops and casual shorts or capris. Swimsuits with cover-ups are perfectly fine for daytime wear beachside.
For dinner or luaus in the evenings, a pretty top with capris or casual skirts will be perfect for what to wear in Hawaii. If you’re a dress girl, go all out! Hawaii is the perfect destination for lovely summer dresses like these. Trade your basic t-shirt for a nice blouse.
And don’t worry–if you forget to add an item to your Hawaii packing list, you can find Walmart and Costco on each of the 4 major islands to purchase anything you’re missing or if you want to stock up on essentials.
Pack these dress sandals for an easy day-to-night look!
What Not to Wear in Hawaii
Along with knowing what to wear in Hawaii, you’ll want to know what to not wear. Avoid getting overly dressy in clothing like sequined dresses–you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. Relax and get into the island vibe when planning your Hawaii packing list!
Avoid wearing a dress or skirt on boat tours (unless you have a swimsuit underneath that you don’t mind being seen). Once you’re on the water, the wind picks up and can easily lift a skirt or dress. In general, short, flowy skirts and dresses are not a good idea as the trade winds are almost constantly blowing.
Headed to Maui? Check out packing list just for this island!
Let’s take a look in more detail at items you may want to include in your packing list:
For your beach and ocean adventures on The Big Island, you’ll especially want to focus on bikinis that you’re able to move around in easily, without worry of accidentally falling out! The Big Island is considered an “adventure island” and to reach some of the best snorkeling spots, you’ll need to venture on a hike or two.
For your Hawaii packing list, try one of these trendy one-piece styles on and off the beach with a pair of denim shorts for the day or with a nice skirt at night!
Getting an accurate bra fitting can be life changing, it was for me, and it’s made it so much easier to find stylish, flattering swimsuits. The video below might help you find the best swimwear for your vacation.
Watch this video to learn more about some of my favorite bra sized swimwear!
Here are some tips and tricks on how to choose the best swimsuit for your body type!
When planning what to pack for Hawaii–specifically Oahu–you’ll be able to get away with more fashion-forward bikinis that will look just as good at the resort pool as you relax with a pretty drink in hand as they will on one of Oahu’s beautiful white sand beaches.
If you plan on visiting the Big Island and another island or two, bring 2-4 bikinis or one-pieces so you can mix and match throughout your stay. This also offers you variety for what to wear in Hawaii.
Bikinis, tankinis, one-pieces, and even suits with board shorts! Every woman has a different preference for what feels the best, and these popular picks cover it ALL!
ATTRACO Rashguard Swimsuit Zip Front
A Rash Guard
If you plan on spending a lot of time in the ocean, consider adding a rash guard or two to your Hawaii packing list before you leave. You may think a rash guard is for sun protection (which is true!) but in this case, it’s more to help keep you warm while swimming and snorkeling.
Unlike the Caribbean, where the water is mostly shallow and warm, the ocean around the Hawaiian Islands can be cold throughout the year. Even through the reefs are right off shore and easy to reach, the ocean floor drops at the edge of the reef, sometimes hundreds of feet, making for a darker abyss that light can’t reach, which in turn creates cold water.
Wearing a rash guard like these over your bikini will help keep you warmer during your snorkeling trip while still being picture-ready.
Want to try snorkeling? Here’s the best snorkel gear for beginners!
Vionic Rest Kirra Thong Sandal
Though you could easily wear a pair of cheap rubber sandals, at the end of the day, they’re not the best island wear. Instead, when deciding what to wear in Hawaii, you’ll want to opt for a pair of nicer sandals that you can take for a stroll downtown in Honolulu or elsewhere. Because you’ll only need one pair, you’ll save a lot of carryon space, so you’ll have room for a pair of hiking shoes.
When decided what to pack for Hawaii, the key is to choose a shoe color that matches several different outfits. White or tan are great choices.
Take a look at the best beach sandals our readers rave about!
Shoes Suitable for Hiking
In addition to your beautiful sandals, if you’re planning on taking a hike or two, invest in a stronger pair of shoes that can handle a rougher terrain for your Hawaii packing list. This way you’ll also have a backup pair of shoes, just in case.
Read these tips to learn how to choose the best hiking shoes for women!
ALOHA Collection Day Tripper Tote
A Water-Resistant Beach Bag
Great for carrying your little beach finds as well as your money, credit cards, and I.D., water-resistant beach bags can be used both in town and on the beach. They come in lots of designs, colors, making it so you can customize your bag with your outfit.
There are several different options available, but the best come from the islands themselves. This means that you can either buy them ahead of time and have them shipped or you can buy them while in Hawaii.
Here are the best beach bags and totes for a pool or seaside trip!
Waterproof Shoes and Jacket
Rain may not be the first thought when planning a Hawaiian vacation, but it’s likely you’ll experience it during your stay, so factor it into your decisions for what to wear in Hawaii. Hilo, on the Big Island, is especially wet. Kauai is home to Mt. Waialeale, one of the wettest places on earth. Even if you don’t plan to trek up the mountain, be prepared for rain during your spring vacation.
A rain jacket is a good item to have, but make sure it’s lightweight as the temperatures will likely still be hot even in the rain. Waterproof shoes are also helpful to staying comfortable through a rainy afternoon. When planning what to pack for Hawaii, you may opt for an umbrella over a rain jacket, but high winds may make the umbrella tricky to use.
The sun can be intense so it’s important to pack a sun hat to help keep the sun off your face.
Sunglasses are a no-brainer for a Hawaii packing list! You can easily buy a pair or two once you’re there, but you’ll find that the prices are a bit higher than on the mainland. Besides, sunglasses are so lightweight, you’ll have no problem fitting a pair in your carryon, and they’re the easiest decision you’ll make when choosing what to wear in Hawaii. Make sure they’re polarized!
Here are our favorite polarized sunglasses for every face shape!
A Maxi Dress or Skirt
Whether you plan on spending most of your time at your resort or a few days strolling around town, you’ll want to bring a maxi dress and maybe a maxi skirt to pair with a tank top when considering what to pack for Hawaii. These flowy outfits can then be mixed and matched with your favorite pieces of jewelry for daytime and nighttime looks. Plus, dresses make it easy to decide what to wear in Hawaii!
Update your travel wardrobe with these beautiful summer maxi dresses!
A Swimsuit Coverup
A swimsuit coverup will likely be a big part of your decision-making when choosing what to wear in Hawaii. There are lots of great swimsuit coverups to choose from, but the best option is a playful romper. This way, you’ll not only have a stylish coverup that’s easy to wear on the beach, but a great daytime outfit that will work anywhere.
Instead of packing two pieces of clothing into your carryon, you’re only packing one. Add this item to your Hawaii packing list!
These are the best swimsuit coverups of the season!
Three Quarter Sleeve Convertible Cardigan
A Lightweight Sweater
You’ll likely only need a sweater for The Big Island. When driving through the center of The Big Island from Kona to Hilo, you’ll find that the higher elevation equals colder weather, sometimes down to the 50°s F.
After living on the island for several years, I’ve found that the ultimate answer for what to wear in Hawaii is a maxi skirt, tank top, and a white knit sweater on top. Once you reach your destination, all you have to do is take the sweater off and you’re good to go!
Find out why we love these lightweight jackets for summer travel!
AquaFrut Fruit Infuser Water Bottle
A Water Bottle
If you plan on spending more than a few hours at the beach or on a hike on either island, you’ll want to make sure you have water with you at all times. Even though you could easily buy drinks around the island, from plain water to fresh-pressed juice, if you’re looking to save a bit of money, bringing your own water bottle is the way to go.
Love vitamin-infused water? Try this great bottle when planning what to pack for Hawaii trips! All you have to do is buy your own fruit at the local farmer’s market and you’re all set.
Is your skin dried out from too much time in the sun and wind? Read these after sun skin care tips to help rejuvenate dull, dry skin!
A Fast-Drying Towel
Great for small spaces, beach days, and keeping your rental car clean, a fast drying towel is a must-have for your Hawaii packing list! Not only do they hardly take up any carryon space, but they’re great for those who’d rather not walk to the beach with a big load of items.
Also, more likely than not, you’ll be in a rental car, right? Because these towels dry quickly, you can place the towel underneath you, your beach items, or your sandals, which makes it less likely that you’ll have a sandy mess to clean up before returning your rental at the end of your stay.
Check out these ultra-light fast-drying towels for travel!
Dragon Touch Underwater Waterproof Camera
An Underwater Camera and Accessories
A trip to Hawaii isn’t complete without some underwater photos. When deciding what to wear in Hawaii, consider a camera as one of your accessories. The ocean right off shore is filled with beautiful coral and schools of brightly-colored tropical fish, most of which are tame, making it easy to snap a few shots with them.
The key is to use a small underwater setup instead of a large, multi-thousand dollar setup that would end up taking all the space in your carryon.
When planning what to pack for Hawaii, the always popular choice is the GoPro, and for good reason. Not only is it super small and lightweight, but you can really play with accessories–like a color filter and a dome. The color filter is great for darker, deeper reefs and the dome is great for those cool half under the water, half over the water shots.
To help you choose your next camera for your travels, here’s a list of the top waterproof cameras!
Of course it almost goes without saying: reef safe sunscreen is super important in Hawaii! Your skin is important so protect it every day.
Outdoor Adventure Accessories
If you plan on participating in activities like horseback riding or all-terrain vehicle tours, It’s a good idea to add at least one pair of long trousers to your Hawaii packing list.
For what to wear in Hawaii for outdoor adventures, don’t forget hiking sandals for trails and crossing small streams. Hats are also a great accessory for adventures and hanging out at the beach.
For non-traditional hiking sandals, take a look at these water shoes. You might be surprised!
How to Organize Your Hawaii Packing List
Once you have chosen your outfits for this exciting trip, we recommend using packing cubes to organize. We designed these ourselves and they’re the only ones that have a unique color and numbering system, so it’s easy to remember where you’ve packed everything on your wardrobe list which is demonstrated in the video below!
Learn our packing hacks with packing cubes in this video!
We also put together a five-part YouTube series showing the different methods to use packing cubes for travel. If you use this specific packing strategy, packing cubes can also compress your belongings. This is the secret to traveling carry-on only!
What are your tips on what to pack for Hawaii? Share and comment below!
We also recommend these packing tips for Hawaii:
- What to Pack for Maui
- 11 Fashionable and Versatile Beach Sandals
- What to Pack for Kauai
- Beach Dresses You Can Wear On and Off the Sand
Suggested travel resources:
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We hope you’ve enjoyed this Hawaii packing list. Please share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Thanks for reading!
Author Bio: Rachel Campbell is a professional travel writer who has been slowly exploring the globe since 2013. Though her heart belongs to Florida and the Caribbean, she can still be found making snow angels in the cold white north from time to time. For more, follow The Florida Living Magazine along with her adventures on Instagram.
Thanks for all of the great tips! I’m in Hawaii right now and packed carryon for eight days, with room for a couple of souvenirs-never would have been able to do this without TFG!
I visited Hawaii in 2017 and this list (and the one for Kauai) was so helpful! I overpacked anyway, but I learned from the experience – I used my swimsuit, two pairs of shorts, about 4 tops and one dress for most of the trip. Next time I hope to not just do carry on, but pack in an underseater and a small backpack! My hiking/water sandals have been warm weather staples for me as I love to hike.
One suggestion that I make is to buy your sunscreen there – esp if you are on Oahu or Maui. It will save your packing more than a day’s worth of it and you can always get to a supermarket or drugstore there – plus, all sunscreen used in HI should be reef-safe (I think it’s a law now) and by getting it there you can ensure it.
Thanks so much for this detailed and helpful article. My husband and I are travelling to the Big Island in January in celebration of 40 years married! We’ve packed carryon only for over 10 years and wouldn’t do it any other way!!
Long time reader, 1st time commenting. I’m going on a girls trip to Hawaii in November, and my 1st thought was to check your site for tips on what to pack. Your tips and tricks have made my life so much easier. I’ve always been the one lugging around 3 checked bags(not including whatever I could cram into my carryon bags). Not anymore! Right before Covid shut everything down, I went on a 5 day cruise, with 2 days spent at my friends house in Florida on either end, and only had 1 rolling carryon and 1 smaller bag with me. And we flew from VA for the trip. My boyfriend couldn’t believe it and still talks about how impressed he was. (13 years traveling together and I’ve heard LOTS of complaining from him about my bad packing). Thank you so much for your help! I love your site and appreciate you doing this and helping all of us who overpack!!
Great suggestions! I’d recommend leaving a little room so that you can buy one or 2 outfits while you are there :-).
I’ll be cruising to Hawaii in December, and this post was so helpful! I love how the capsule wardrobe graphic makes it easy to see that every top goes with the pants and both pairs of shorts! And thanks for the tip about dresses and skirts flying up in the wind, good to know.
I’m traveling to Lahaina early October this year. Will there be a big change in weather where I’d have to rethink wearing dresses most days?
Love your site btw.
Aww, thanks Valerie! We do have more tips here: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/what-to-pack-for-maui/
I would suggest you check the weather forecast closer to your departure dates to ensure that you have the most appropriate clothing and footwear packed.
To get the best advice for packing for that time of year, I would highly recommend that you join our TFG facebook group and post any questions you have there: https://www.facebook.com/groups/travelfashiongirls/ Its a fabulous community of helpful female travelers that love to share their advice and experiences.
Have an amazing time!
Please note that sunscreens must be reef safe! I was told that it will become the law in 2020. This means a lot of popular sunscreens cannot be used. Most major beaches in Maui already had the posts up when I went in April.
Hi Kari, thank you for taking the time to share this with us, it is very helpful to know. Happy travels! ?
What brands are reef safe?
Hi Amy, thank you for reaching out. Check out our roundup of the best reef safe sunscreen here: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/reef-safe-sunscreen/ Happy travels! ?
I have been to the Big Island many times, but going to Kauai the end of January and don’t know if I should pack the same. More rain and cooler temps?
Hi Joy, for other packing suggestions for Kauai, have a look at this article: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/what-to-pack-for-kauai/ Also check the weather forecast a few days before you leave to to ensure that you have the most appropriate clothing. Hope this helps. Have an awesome trip!! 🙂
So the styles stay about the same year-round, but does the color palette change?
Hi Pat, thank you for your question! Here is a helpful guide that explains more about how to use our packing lists: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/how-to-use-the-travel-fashion-girl-packing-lists-and-guides/ The clothing images shown in the packing lists are simply to provide you with ideas that you can use, you can then adapt the items to suit your own style, preferences and colors. Hope this helps! 🙂
This year’s trip in January ( 2020) was especially memorable. For unknown reasons the whale gathering was larger than normal and they all put on a show on our last day! All were leaping, flapping and generally having a great time! I
would ( seriously!) estimate that there were more than 100 that afternoon! It gave as much joy to watch as it apparently gave them.
I agree with the advice here! Leaving for our 4th trip to Oahu, Hawaii May 6. Most “mainlanders” make the mistake of overdressing for Hawaii. You live in swimsuits/coverups during daytime. Even at the nicest restaurants in the evening on Waikiki, I wear island top/capris/ sandals and my husbnd wears golf or polo shirts and shorts.
Have fun Tammy!
I didn’t know about reef friendly sunscreen, and now that I have already arrived in Hawaii I am reading about what I might have added to my packing lost!
Hope you get to try it out 🙂
Thank you so much for this list!! I’m going to Hawaii in May and was clueless about what I should bring since I’m only taking a carry on
Happy to help Stephanie! Enjoy your trip! Sounds fantastic!
Going to Big Island in March for 3 weeks , any suggestions what to pack???.
I tried using the ‘sign up’ for free packing downloads. It asked me to enter ‘the password’ here–but there was no password….?????
I was going to print the ‘what to pack for Hawaii’ but it was 10 pages long and I couldn’t edit out all the extra stuff.
How do I get a short, concise, printable list for traveling? Thanks!!
Hey Bonnie, there is a technical error with the site, I apologize. If you check the email account you signed up with there should be an email with the password in that. I hope this helps 🙂
Hi, I can find a password in my email.
Hi Jodie! Sorry for any inconvenience, we are changing email providers so this may affect the emails. If you have received the email, the password will be contained within it 🙂 Thanks
Thanks so much …… Really helped me
Happy to help 🙂
Leaving for Hawaii in a couple of hours and your packing list was so helpful as I finally start packing from the mounds of clothes on my bed. Thanks!
Yay! Have a great trip 🙂
Perfect advice. However, imperfect grammar. Please correct spelling of “beckon” in the “Island Vibe” paragraph. A beacon is a light that guides you. However, to beckon means to encourage one to follow. As you are using the word as a verb, not a noun, I’m guessing you meant beckon. 🙂
Thanks Deb 🙂 Will fix it asap
Leaving for Hawaii this week. So excited. Thanks for the advice.
Have a great trip!
This is pretty good. Two things though. I would take a light rain jacket instead of an umbrella. Most of the islands can get a little breezy and an umbrella will be difficult. Also if you do a whale watching or snorkel tour, it leaves very early in the morning and is chilly. It can also get a little chilly in the evening. I would also take comfortable hiking/water sandals. There is wonderful hiking and site seeing that requires more substantial shoes than little sandals. Also many beaches can be rocky and many excursions require water shoes. AND don’t forget that sunscreen!
Awesome tips Claire, thanks!
Thank you – these tips are wonderful we head to Hawaii for the first time soon – many thanks
I’m confused. There are more than 10 items in your 10 piece time capsule. You have 16 items listed underneath the photo. Which are the 10 essential items you are recommending?
Sorry for the confusion – the clothing not the accessories always make up the capsule wardrobe
Hi Alex….question: How many days for the 10 piece packing list for the Hawaii trip?
Hi Julie, you can use all the capsule wardrobes for anywhere from 3 days to a year. all that happens when you travel longer is that you do laundry more often 🙂 I would take any 10 piece capsule I make then add up to 5 extra pieces of your own to customize according to your plans. hope this helps!
Thanks!!! I am so glad I found your page! I usually pack WAY to much or WAY to little. I’d really like to get this right…. 🙂 50th Birthday here I come….ORGANIZED….lol
Glad to help! Have a great trip and happy birthday!
Perhaps she was referring to Hawaii Pacific University, in Waipahu?
Thanks!!! If you can offer any more fashion tips for a September Hawaiian vacay that would be awesome!
I think the weather is pretty similar year round 🙂
Starting in September, the humidity is up, winds are a little stronger, weather just a little cooler, and there may be some rain. But most of the summer crowd has left and you feel as if Hawaii belongs to you.
thanks for the feedback 🙂
Hi my husband and I will be going to hawii in February and we would like any and all info if we were going to renew our wedding vows while there
Hi Deb, I only offer packing info here but you can check out GoVisitHawaii.com for travel tips. Thanks!
we are leaving 2/3 4 Honolulu what clothes do I need? thank u so much!!!!
Hi Theresa, if you just follow the suggested clothing guide above you should be good to go 🙂
I’m going to hawaii tomorrow and I didn’t know what to pack. And the I fount ur list and it REALLY Helped. Thanks bye:)
That’s great to hear! have a great time 🙂
I am heading to Hawaii at the beginning of May. Your posts are always super inspiring Alex!
Thanks Kate! I’m glad you like them 🙂
First off I want to say that I love your site! But as someone who works in the travel industry and lives in Hawaii, born and raised, I am compelled to point out a few things in this article.
There is no such thing as Honolulu University so I wouldn’t trust the advice from someone that did.
I’ve never seen or heard of Kauai having snow. The highest elevation that does get snow is Mauna Kea which is on Hawaii, the Big Island.
Thanks Lyn! I think the errors are on my part for misreading the info I was given but I’m sure she went to a university (maybe got the name wrong) as I went to visit her several times. I’ve also removed the snow part due to several conflicting sources as I’ve added it and removed it now a couple of times so I’ll just leave it out.
I would love to get more information from a Hawaii resident, though if you’d be willing to help out? I’ll send you an email! Thanks 🙂