Alot of people were asking me, “What should I pack for Hawaii?” so I wrote this complete Hawaii packing checklist.
My wife, two young kids, and I currently live on the island of Maui. We love it so much!
Below you’ll find our top 21 “must-have” items for a more safe and enjoyable Hawaii vacation. We also have some tips on what to wear in Hawaii, a list of items NOT to bring, and some FAQs about traveling in Hawaii. Aloha and Mahalo!
What to pack for Hawaii – 21 Essentials
1. Universal Waterproof Phone Case
This case is a MUST if you want to bring your phone to the beach, on boats, hiking near waterfalls or anywhere where it can get wet, fall into the water or where it can get damaged by sand. It even makes it possible to take underwater photos and videos (with sound)!!
2. Affordable Underwater Camera
If you want to take better quality pictures than with a smartphone (and don’t want a more expensive GoPro) then this is a great little camera that won’t break the bank. With the beaches, the turtles, the rain forests and the waterfalls, there are plenty of things you’ll be dying to take pictures of in Hawaii. But all of these activities require a camera that is waterproof and that’s why we recommend this little beauty!
3. Flotation Strap
If you’re going to bring your waterproof phone case or underwater camera out on a boat, while snorkeling or while paddle boarding etc then you have to have this flotation strap so that it’ll float if you drop it!!
4. Quick-Dry Travel Towel
HERO Travel Towel – BlueHave you ever felt like a pack mule trying to get all your gear from the hotel to the beach? Trying to fit multiple fluffy towels into a beach bag is nearly impossible; and lugging heavy, sandy, wet towels around after a day at your favorite Hawaiian beach can be a mess. Travel towels are compact, lightweight and quick-drying, while still being large enough to sunbathe on. They are a great way to streamline your beach (or hiking) bag and keep you feeling as light and airy as possible.
5. Swimsuit Cover-up
Swimsuit cover-ups are a must have for Hawaii. You can go for a swim, throw it over your suit, and then head to lunch without much thought. This one pictured is the one that my wife owns and loves. It’s attractive on all body types, the lightweight fabric dries quickly and is breathable — plus it’ll take up very little room in your suitcase and comes in several colors.
6. Neck Wallet
If you’re traveling to Hawaii from mainland USA then I highly recommend you use a quality neck wallet while going through airports etc. This clever little pouch holds my iPhone, credit cards, passport, cash and travel docs and allows me to wear it conveniently across my body or under my shirt. Hawaii is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and many people still feel jet-lagged when they arrive so it’s handy to have all your valuables in one secure place so that you don’t lose them when you’re tired. Also, this one has RFID blocking to prevent e-thieves from stealing your credit card details and comes with a lifetime replacement guarantee.
7. HERO Packing Cubes
Whether you’re traveling with a suitcase or a backpack, a few packing cubes will make it so much easier to stay organized. Instead of having to dig around for your swim trunks or bikini top, just grab the cube your swimsuits are packed in and you’ll be ready to hit the beach. This set also comes with two laundry bags so you’ll never have to mix dirty and clean clothes again!
8. Leave-in Hair Conditioner
Lots of time in the sun and salt water may be the staple of a Hawaii vacation, but it can wreak havoc on your hair. To protect your hair from the elements and keep it from drying out too much, bring a leave-in conditioner to apply at the end of your beach days.
9. Windproof Travel Umbrella
All the major Hawaiian islands have an extremely wet and windy side where the rainforests are. These are some of the most beautiful parts of each island such as “The Road to Hana” on Maui and they are not to be missed! Since you will most likely be rained on, we highly recommend you bring a windproof travel umbrella (like the one pictured) so that you can still enjoy the beauty without getting completely drenched.
10. Mesh Slip-On Water Shoes: Women’s & Men’s
Hiking in Hawaii is beautiful, but it can be intense and often covers muddy terrain. Instead of bringing heavy hiking shoes to Hawaii we highly recommend these lightweight, mesh, water shoes. They are breathable (meaning your feet won’t get too hot) and the “water grain” sole provides exceptional traction in wet and slippery conditions. They are also super easy to clean.
11. Travel Insurance for Hawaii
We believe you should absolutely get covered if you’re going to Hawaii. It’s local knowledge that the airline staff in Hawaii tend to throw aroundsuitcases like rag dolls. My wife and I found this out the hard way on multiple occasions with smashed possessions.
Another unfortunate truth is, in some parts of Hawaii, thieves target tourist rental cars parked at attractions such as waterfalls and beaches. For this reason, we highly recommend you get travel insurance which costs a tiny fraction of your trip. We use SquareMouth.com to compare and find the best policies that include coverage for medical emergencies, trip interruptions and even some plans have “cancel for any reason” which is very useful these days!
12. Waterproof Dry Bag
This one from Earth Pak is our top pick. It’s inexpensive, cleans easily and most importantly it works! It can be dropped in water (and even submerged) without your belongings getting wet. I recommend it whether you are heading to the beach, going on a day trip on a boat, or planning to do a more extensive water based excursion. Before I knew about dry bags, I got my backpack soaked on a day trip to Molakai because the boat got splashed by the waves and drenched the deck.
13. Cooling Towel
Whether sunbathing, hiking through the rainforests, or just enjoying one of Hawaii’s many outdoor shopping experiences, these puppies remain 20-30 degrees cooler than the air temperature and keep chilly for up to 60 min. This brand has no chemicals but is crazy effective: wrap the cooling towel around your shoulders, head, etc. and you will feel instant relief. If the cooling vibes start to run out, dip the towel in some water, wring it out, and BOOM! Ready to go for round two. For anyone who gets crabby when overheated, or just plain uncomfortable, this is for you.
14. Deet-Free Mosquito Wristbands
Though last year saw an outbreak of Dengue fever, there’s generally very little risk of mosquito-borne diseases in Hawaii. That said, there are still mosquitoes, and you’ll want to protect yourself against bites. These natural insect repelling wristbands last for up to 300 hours. Note: I also recommend you use insect repellent in addition to the bracelets if you want to minimize the chances of getting bitten.
15. Sand-resistant Beach Blanket
Beach blankets are always necessary in Hawaii, but the wrong blanket will get blown around, filled with sand, and will be hard to dry at the end of the day. This Wellax beach mat is made of parachute material so it’s quick-drying and lightweight. It also folds up very compactly for packing purposes. There are sand weights on the edges, too, so it won’t blow around in the beach breeze! It even has pockets for your belongings and comes with a bonus cellphone case.
16. Long-sleeved Swim Rash Guard: Women’s & Men’s
The sun in Hawaii is surprisingly strong even in the winter, and “rashies” are popular amongst locals. If you are fair-skinned (like me!) or this is your first time in the sun for a while you will be glad to know this one has an UPF sun protection of 50+. I wear mine religiously, especially when paddle boarding. My wife, who is very olive skinned, also swears by it because when you are in the Hawaiian sun for many hours it’s just really easy to get burned.
17. Beach Bag
A good beach bag is key because (more often than not) where you park your car is a bit of a walk to the beach; and in many cases beaches can be far from food and drinks etc. This Aruba Mesh beach bag is great because it comes with an insulated cooler at the bottom which is key for keeping your snacks and drinks cold in the sun. It also easily fits towels and changes of clothes, yet isn’t bulky.
18. Gorgeous Dress
I recommend bringing one nice outfit on your trip. Inevitably you will want to grab a cocktail or a nice dinner somewhere and a sundress won’t quite cut it. My wife loves this dress, and personally owns it. It doesn’t wrinkle, it’s easy to throw on after a long day at the beach, its super sexy on all body types, and comes in a variety of colors. It’s also very inexpensive but doesn’t look it when you put it on.
19. Virtual Private Network (VPN)
This item may be a surprise to you to find on a Hawaii packing list but I’ve found having a good VPN is essential for any travel. I learned this the hard way when I recently had my credit card number stolen after using what I thought was a secure Wifi network at an Airbnb rental.
I’ve learned that whenever you go on someone else’s WiFi whether it’s at a cafe, airport, Airbnb, or hotel, you’re potentially putting your passwords, credit card, and identity at risk of being hacked.
The good news is that with a VPN like NordVPN you protect yourself on any device with 1-click. The other benefit of having a VPN is that if you ever travel somewhere that censors the Internet such as Thailand or parts of Europe then you’ll still be able to access all your favorite websites. I highly recommend you check it out before your next travels in order to guarantee the safety of your sensitive data.
20. Portable Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker
Enjoy your favorite songs while you’re relaxing by the pool, on the beach, or on a boat with a quality Bluetooth speaker. JBL is known for making speakers with crisp and clear audio. This speaker in particular is perfect for a trip to Hawaii because it’s waterproof so you can practically take it everywhere without worrying about it getting water damage. Enjoy 12 hours of playtime between charges so you can go all day on the island with your music
21. Aloe Gel
Your time in Hawaii will be filled with sunshine and saltwater. While good for the soul, it can often take a toll on your skin and hair. Keep sun-kissed skin and salty hair happy by applying aloe vera gel each day. This organic and vegan aloe vera gel absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave any sticky residue. Maintain that healthy island glow long after leaving Hawaii!