Ultimate Hawaii Packing List: What to Wear in Hawaii for a Week
September 13, 2021
Learn Exactly What to Pack For Hawaii
Hawaii isn’t too difficult of a destination to pack for. Lightweight clothing is a must; so, grab your sundresses, Hawaiian shirts, which will save room for some potentially heavy reading material and start loading that suitcase. You’ll also want to come prepared so you don’t get a nasty sunburn. Those can ruin a perfectly good trip. I’ve gone to Hawaii every year, sometimes multiple times in a year, for my entire life; so, this Hawaii packing list is chock full of pertinent packing information. You’ll learn what to wear in Hawaii and the accessories you’ll need during your vacation.
Right now, travel to Hawaii is insanely popular, so I do want to remind you to respect the lands and be considerate of the residents. Hawaii is incredibly sacred to the locals.
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- Hair Gel/De-Frizz Serum/Hair Spray
The humidity in Hawaii is no joke and while we have intense heat where I’m from in Los Angeles, it’s usually a dry heat so my hair has no issue. Hawaii is a whole different ball game. As soon as you step off the plane, those baby hairs surrounding your face stand up every which way like you’ve just been electrocuted. Unfortunately, they won’t stand down until you get back home and take that glorious post-airplane shower. So, what do you do during your trip? Hair Gel. Serum. Hair Spray. The works. My hair is always in a bun and the hairs surrounding my face are gelled back with LA Looks Extreme Sport hair gel. This gel is incredible; it keeps the hairs slicked back without any weird, sticky residue. If you’d prefer hairspray, one of these travel hairsprays should do! Whichever item you get, hair gel/spray/serum/ is one of the most essential things to pack for Hawaii.
- Reef-Safe Sunscreen, Aloe Vera
Hands down, the most important item to bring with you to Hawaii is sunscreen. And you should pack lots of it. But, if you need more, there are always ABC Stores where you can pick some up. For the face, I use the Australian Gold Botanicals SPF 50 Tinted Mineral Sunscreen. It’s a slightly tinted sunscreen that does not feel remotely sticky which is critical when you are sweating profusely. Not only is it water resistant for up to 50 minutes, but it’s incredibly lightweight and comes in three different shades. If you prefer a non-tinted mineral sunscreen, I suggest Supergoop or Cerave AM. For after-sun care, you can either bring Aloe Vera with you or purchase upon arrival. Just don’t wait too long because you probably won’t feel like running to the store if you do get badly burned.
- Water Shoes
Second to sunscreen, water shoes are a Hawaii packing list essential. Depending on your planned level of activity, these can run the gamut from disposable shoe to water hiking shoe. Beaches in Hawaii are mostly sandy, so you don’t need the shoes for that purpose, but if you plan to do any outdoor water activities, these kinds of water shoes are really handy to have with you. Are you planning to do a lot of waterfall hikes during your Hawaii trip? If so, it’s worth investing in a quality water hiking shoe. The Keen Whisper for women or Newport H2 for men are probably my favorites, but also check out Chacos and Teva because it really is personal preference just how well these shoes fit a foot.
- Rain Jacket
It depends on your location, of course, but Hawaii generally has warm weather year round. Hot doesn’t always equal dry though and with Hawaii’s high humidity, there is bound to be a thunderstorm or two during your visit to Hawaii. At times, that rain can feel really great on your skin after hours of intense sweating, and other times you’ll want to cover yourself up with a rain jacket. Bring one that’s light but effective; you won’t regret it. The Columbia Arcadia II for women and the Columbia Men’s Columbia WaterTight II are classics!
- Beach Bag
The final travel essential on your packing list for Hawaii is a beach bag. Whether you are hitting up the hotel pool 20 feet away from your hotel room, or hike two miles to a secluded beach, there are a shocking amount of items you’ll want to have with you in that bag. And that’s not including the stuff your travel companion will want to store in your bag too. Sunscreen, chapstick, headphones, a novel, room key, actual keys, sunglasses, cellphone, towel – you can’t carry all of these belongings with only your two hands.
What to Pack for Hawaii: Women
The number one apparel item to consider when packing for Hawaii is sundresses. Not only can you throw them on over a swimsuit after breakfast if you plan on taking a tour of a coffee farm before stopping at the beach in the afternoon, but you’ll want to wear sundresses for the nights that you go out to dinner. I tend to bring a sundress for each day that I am visiting Hawaii, but I would say a minimum of 3-5 makes sense if you’ll be on the island for a week or so. Revolve has a brand, Tiare Hawaii, that makes perfect dresses for Hawaii and I have been loving Abercrombie lately. If you are looking for affordable sundresses and jumpsuits, check out the selection at Nordstrom Rack!
Arguably the most essential item for Hawaii, it’s safe to say you’ll be wearing swimsuits quite a bit during your Hawaii trip. Like the sundresses, you could bring one for each day of your trip; I usually bring around 3-4 for a week-long vacation. As I get older, I find that the quality of the swimsuit material really does matter and as much as I love Target swimwear, it really doesn’t cut for me anymore. So, I typically buy my swimwear from stores like Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off Fifth. The quality is so good and the swimwear keeps me appropriately covered, and the discounts keep the price from being too outrageous. I have also heard really positive things about Cupshe swimwear on Amazon.
You’ll also want to pack a couple of coverups to throw on over your swimwear as you walk to and from the beach/pool. Since coverups can fit baggy and will inevitably get covered in sunscreen, I tend to buy more affordable ones from Amazon. There are so many options!
Tank Tops and T-shirts
T-shirts are great because they cover up your upper back and shoulders. However, they can get a little hot – especially in the armpit area – in extreme humidity. I prefer tank tops for this reason so I bring a mix (maybe 80% tanks and 20% tops).
As much as I truly hate shorts, Hawaii really is the place to wear them. I won’t ever be a jean shorts girl as much as I love them because they just don’t fit my body very well, but breathable black shorts that can be paired with any top are a really useful combination. If you plan on doing any water activities, you should also strongly consider packing a pair of board shorts or other type of water-resistant shorts.
There are a bunch of phenomenal hikes in Hawaii and you’ll want to dress in activewear to explore these striking natural landscapes. Sports bras, tanks, leggings, you know the drill. Just make sure you have appropriate attire. You’ll want to be ready for all the elements whether it’s Waimea Canyon in Kauai, Haleakala in Maui, Diamond Head on Oahu, or Hawaii Volcano National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Bring a pair of two of underwear for each day that you are on your Hawaii trip. Because you are constantly changing out of your breakfast clothes into swimwear and then back into nicer clothes for dinner, you typically end up wearing more underwear than you would on a regular day at home. Typically, I find that people underestimate the importance of packing socks on their travels, but in Hawaii it’s underwear.
You’ll probably be in flip flops and flat sandals for the majority of the trip, but don’t forget about all the times you might need a pair of socks. Taking a morning walk on the beach, working out at the hotel gym, hiking up a volcano, climbing down a waterfall, touring a local farm – with all of these potential activities on your agenda, you’ll probably need at least a pair a day.
There’s not too much to say here – make sure you are packing appropriate bras for each of your sundresses. And, if you can get away with a brami on most days, even better, because hot and humid weather breeds bras that stick to your skin which is never too much fun.
Bring cozy pajamas. I’m assuming you’ll be able to adjust the temperature in your hotel room or rental so you can wear long pajama pants if you wish.
- Flip Flops
- Water Shoes/Water Hiking Shoes
- Flat Sandals (x2)
- Tennis Shoes
- Running Shoes
This might look like a lot of shoes. Well, actually it is. But, depending on the scope of your trip, you won’t necessarily need to bring all of these. Flip flops are a must as are flat sandals. I wrote (x2) because I like to bring a nude pair and a black pair to match with my various dinner outfits. These also don’t typically take up a lot of space. Bring a pair of water shoes like these if you plan on just doing a couple of lowkey water activities like snorkeling, kayaking, or canoeing. But, if you also plan on hiking lots of waterfall trails, then you should look into water hiking shoes instead. You’ll be able to leave the water shoes and the running shoes at home with shoes like the Keen Whisper (women) Keen Newport H2 (Men), Chacos, or Teva. I also like to bring a pair of comfortable white sneakers for walking around cute towns and doing a little sightseeing.
And, I always recommend this pair of travel shoe bags, as I prefer not to have the soles of my shoes touching my clothes in the suitcase.
What to Pack for Hawaii: Men
If you don’t bring a slew of Hawaiian shirts to Hawaii, what are you doing with your life? They aren’t acceptable to wear in most other places and on other occasions, so you really have to live it up in Hawaii and wear the most vibrant, eccentric shirts you can find. You’ll want to wear the shirts for dinners where you eat out, and you can double up and wear them for multiple nights. Hawaiian shirts are acceptable at even the most upscale restaurants in Hawaii, so you won’t need to pack a sport coat or anything of that nature if you plan on doing some fine dining during your trip. Check out Tommy Bahama, Bonobos, Tombolo Company, Reyn Spooner, or Amazon for affordable options!
Other Short-Sleeve Button Down Shirts
As fun as Hawaiian shirts are, you don’t need to wear them every single night of your trip. Since they are an item without a huge use case outside of Hawaii, it makes sense that you wouldn’t own seven of them. With that in mind, short-sleeve button down shirts are also a staple item for men to pack for Hawaii.
Yes! You CAN wear shorts to dinner in Hawaii! Chino shorts, which are made of a lightweight 100% cotton or cotton-blend fabric, are a great option. You’ll look put together and won’t have to worry about sweating in a heavy, jean material.
When you’re not wearing khakis to dinner or swim trunks to the beach, you’ll want to have some athletic or basketball shorts on hand for sightseeing and day to day wear. The lighter weight the better!
Bring a lot of t-shirts for your Hawaii trip! You’ll need a shirt for breakfast/morning walk, a shirt for when you head down to the pool/beach, and a shirt for sightseeing during the day. Because it is so hot and humid in Hawaii, you’ll probably want to change your shirt on a few different occasions during the day, so don’t skimp on them when packing!
It’s Hawaii! So, pack all the swim trunks that you have that fit because you’ll be wearing these daily.
As I mentioned above, you change outfits up quite frequently in Hawaii and you’re usually hot and sweaty when you do so. Don’t underestimate the amount of boxers/briefs you’ll need and pack slightly more than you think is necessary.
Even if you plan to be in flip flops the majority of the day, there will come a time each day where you will need a fresh pair of socks. Make sure that you pack a pair for each day of your trip to Hawaii.
Whatever you sleep in, don’t forget to pack it!
- Flip Flops
- Tennis Shoes
- Water Shoes/Water Hiking Shoes
- Running Shoes
You’ll be in flip flops the majority of the time, but you’ll also need a solid pair of tennis shoes to wear when you go out to dinner or do some sightseeing. Basic colors that match with everything are ideal. If you plan on doing outdoor activities like snorkeling and kayaking, you’ll need some water shoes and running shoes for hiking. If that’s too many shoes for you to pack, then bring some water hiking shoes instead.
Hawaii Ocean Activities Apparel:
If you plan to go snorkeling or other kinds of water sports during your trip to Hawaii, protecting yourself from the sun is so important. Rash guards do just that – some even have SPF 50 sun protection. And if you plan on submerging your bottom half in the water at some point and don’t want to just have on a bikini, board shorts will dry quickly unlike other athletic-type material.
Should you pack jeans or long pants for Hawaii?
Cold weather attire will be unnecessary more often than not unless you plan on hiking the volcanoes on Maui or the Big Island. You’ll typically have to leave early morning or even in the middle of the night for the excursion so consequently, it’s bound to be quite chilly.
Collapsible Water Bottle
It may have been said a few times already that Hawaii is hot and humid. And, the number one way to combat the effects of this weather is by drinking lots and lots of water. Many hotels these days actually provide a reusable water bottle for their guests during your stay, so you should call and inquire if they do so. If not, I highly recommend bringing a collapsible water bottle that is reusable.
You’ll be wearing these all day, every day so make sure you bring a pair or two that are comfortable. My favorite sunglass brand besides the classic Ray-Ban is Quay. There are a few Amazon dupes that are beloved as well.
Hair gel and hairspray are extremely important in Hawaii, but a hat also does a really good job of covering up the crazy flyaways when you just don’t feel like doing your hair. And it also protects your face from the sun. I like to bring a baseball cap for more casual looks and a foldable, straw hat when I want to look more put together. This one from Lanzom looks good on everyone, even people who generally don’t like themselves in hats and it has an adjustable strap on the inside to help better fit your head. Don’t forget some hair ties to keep your hair off your face!
Don’t let your belongings get wet unnecessarily in a backpack that isn’t waterproof. This is especially for Hawaii travelers that plan to spend lots of time on the beach, day trip on a boat, or partake in any extensive water-based excursions. A dry bag can be dropped and submerged in water and the items inside won’t get wet. Why risk it when you have this inexpensive option?
I am massively allergic to mosquitos, so naturally, I bring lots of mosquito repellent and spray myself down before heading out for dinner each night. And the truth is, I have never had a mosquito problem both on the Kona-Kohala side of the Big Island of Hawaii or in Maui. With that said, if mosquitos are drawn to you, it’s not worth it to leave the spray at home. But, hopefully this gives you some peace of mind if you are worried about getting bit up in Hawaii.
Toiletries & Medications
I have a Travel Toiletries checklist complete with everything you’ll need to pack, so please check that out for all of the details. I would like to highlight one specific product – SPF Lip Balm – which is critical for a beach destination like Hawaii.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of those natural saltwater curls that form in my hair post ocean swim. The next morning? Not so much. Your hair really gets dried out in Hawaii because it’s being exposed to all of the elements – direct sunlight, saltwater, chlorine, etc. Along with nourishing your hair with a leave-in conditioner, a detangling brush will help keep the knots at bay.
Waterproof Phone Case
I’ll be honest, I never end up using a waterproof phone case during my travels. But, it’s so inexpensive that I own one and I bring it with me on my trip, so I hesitate not to include it on the list because I know that people put it to good use.
Sea Bands/Bonine for Seasickness
Do you get sea sick but still plan on taking boat rides during your Hawaii trip? I’ve tried both sea bands and Bonine and usually still end up getting sick no matter what, but it’s nice to attempt to not have a problem. And just because these products don’t necessarily work for me, doesn’t mean they won’t be good to you!
Don’t forget to curate your perfect reading list! It’s funny. Most travel blogs recommend not packing heavy books. But a trip to Hawaii is the time of year that I allow myself to read as much as I want and I LOVE packing heavy books. If you’re staying at one hotel and one destination and checking a bag, I don’t see a problem with it. There’s just something about turning an actual, physical page that makes my heart skip a beat. But of course, not having that extra weight and using an iPad or Kindle is quite nice. I download all of my e-books from my local library with the Libby app.
There is a lot of content online, but the Hawaii Revealed guidebooks are really high quality. If you are looking for detailed information that you can physically carry with you, then this is the series you want.
Quick-Dry Travel Towel
If you’re staying at a hotel, you don’t need to bring a beach towel. But, if you have a vacation rental with the potential for a limited number of towels, I would recommend bringing a Turkish towel with you in your suitcase. Not only are these kinds of towels quick-drying, but they don’t take up any space because they are completely flat. And, they are large enough to sunbathe on.
Phones these days have such great quality cameras on them, but if you’d like to capture Hawaii’s stunning landscapes with a professional camera, then by all means, pack it. You’ll need a case, SD card, and charger too. And if you are going snorkeling and want to document the experience, don’t forget that GoPro and flotation strap.
Are you planning a trip and determining what to pack for Hawaii? Let us know your Hawaii essentials for your Hawaii packing list in the comments below! And don’t forget to check out these other posts on WOAW!