Don’t know what to pack for your next trip to Hawaii? This Hawaii pack list covers all the essentials including what clothes to bring, gear you’ll need to adventure, camp, surf, and more.
We’ve been traveling to Hawaii for years. Seriously, for 10+ years we went once (or twice a year) and though we like to take our travels to more rugged destinations nowadays, we still can’t get enough of Hawaii and try to get to the beautiful islands as often as possible.
Hawaii is one of the easiest destinations to pack for. With a tropical climate and access to first world access to supplies and gear, you never have to worry about forgetting something totally crucial.
At the same time, it’s nice to come with everything you need that way once you arrive you can get straight into the fun activities and good time.
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This Hawaii pack list will cover everything you need to bring to Hawaii for adventuring, hiking, surfing, and plain old relaxing!
Table of Contents
Things to Know About Packing for a Hawaii Trip
This may come as a shock but the weather in Hawaii isn’t all toasty warm all the time. I mean sometimes it drops in the high 60s…brrr.
Yes, Hawaii is probably warmer than where you live but if you’re visiting between October and May the weather could be cool.
For years we only went to Maui and Kauai during peak summer months and were always hot. Then one year we went in April expecting the weather to be warm and we were so cold we had to all go buy new clothes.
In addition, weather can vary by island and by side of the island. In general, the windward AKA Eastside of all all islands are cooler because of that wind and receive more rainfall.
Luxury vs Adventure
What you pack for Hawaii varies with the level of luxury you plan on having. For the longest time, we went to Hawaii and only stayed in a nice condo/villa but for the past 5 years, we’ve purely tent camped on our trips to Hawaii.
This Hawaii pack list is catered more toward adventurous travelers who like to explore each island, not just sit at a resort sipping piña coladas. If the latter traveler is you, there’s a good chance a minimalist pack list like ours isn’t what you’re going to pack for your trip.
Rashguards + Sun Intensity
Most any blog or travel tips you come across will tell you that a rash guard is absolutely essential and it is, but it’s nice to note that the sun intensity of Hawaii is not nearly like that of Indonesia, other Polynesian islands, heck, the sun’s not even as intense as in the mountains.
If you’re more prone to sunburns you should absolutely pack a rashguard but it’s not 100% essential. Most importantly, you should pack a good sunscreen. Be sure that the sunscreen you pack is reef-safe to protect Hawaii’s beautiful ocean ecosystems. Regular sunscreen has chemicals that damage a coral reef’s ability to reproduce and grow and inevitably causes bleaching.
Yes, there are mosquitoes in Hawaii, but as far as mosquitos go, they’re really not that bad. This one really depends a lot on what part of each island you’re in but in general, anywhere where its wet and sheltered from he wind there are lots of mosquitoes.
For example, Kauai’s Na Pali coast can have a lot of mosquitoes for the same reason it’s beautiful, it’s a lush wet rainforest. On the other hand there’s Malaekahana on the northeast side of Oahu where there are almost no mosquitoes due to the near constant wind and cooler weather.
Either, way you should definitely come prepared with deet free, natural mosquito repellent, regular mosquito repellant, and/or even mosquito repellent bracelets if you’re one of those people that somehow gets bit more than everyone else.
Hawaii may not be a 3rd world country but travel insurance isn’t just for emergencies. Travel insurance is especially helpful for surfers and covers delayed bagged and damaged baggage (that means broken boards). There’s also all the usual coverage of medical emergencies (world nomads is specifically catered toward adventure travelers). Use the search box below to get a quote for your next trip.
Clothes for Hawaii
Because this is a minimalist, adventurers packing guide to Hawaii, I’m not going to recommend luxurious dresses and tote bags. The beauty of Hawaii is that you can come quite literally with little baggage since you only need 2-3 outfits.
3 Tanks + Tees
While many like to go on their Hawaii trip with pure beach dresses, I prefer loose, cozy tanks and tees that I can throw on after being in the ocean or can go for a hike in.
I personally like loose tanks that aren’t uncomfortable if they get wet. Hawaii is also the perfect excuse for crop tops and flowy shirts.
1 Long Sleeve
A lightweight long sleeve has two great uses in Hawaii. First, as I mentioned earlier it can get chilly in Hawaii and though a Patagonia jacket is overkill, a long sleeve or lightweight sweater is essential especially in the evenings. I like bringing a cozy flannel, a light sweater, or just a plain ol beat up jacket.
2-3 Shorts + Boardshorts
If you’re going to be hanging out at the beach, hiking, surfing, and exploring a lot, you’ll probably want to hang out in shorts most of the time.
Though a pair of lulemons are normally my top pick for any adventurous trip, in Hawaii it’s best to just have 2 pair of water resistant board shorts that are comfortable even if you’re throwing them on over your wet swimsuit. When I’m in Hawaii I basically just live in my Hurley Phantom board shorts.
I’d also recommend bringing a pair of comfy shorts like these Kavu ones for pure lounging and relaxation.
1 Lightweight Jogger
Just like the essential long sleeve, a jogger or comfy pants are nice to have on cooler days when you’re going to be chilling in a hammock. These Prana travel pants are awesome but I also love the Patagonia Beach Pants jogger and if you’re more of a free spirit, you’ll love the shifty flowy, hipster style Billabong Desert Adventure pants.
If you pack this, you could skip packing 1 pair of comfy shorts since most of your lounging will be done in your sweat pants.
3 (or More) Swimsuits
My favorite part of Hawaii: Bikini weather all day every day!! I seriously just live in bathing suits when I’m in Hawaii and because of that, it’s one of the few things I overpack on (whoops). Minimum, you only need 2-3 swim suits but hey if it’s your only tropical getaway of the year might as well bust out the whole swimsuit wardrobe.
If you’re going to be surfing, I love my Carve Designs, Sensi Graves, and Patagonia bathing suits because they’re stylish and are built for active women. If you’re going to be mostly lounging on the beach, check out the adorable bikinis and one piece styles of Vitamin A and L Space.
Want my top recommendations for surf bikinis, check out my related blog on the east bikinis for active women.
1-3 Dresses + Rompers
Last but not least, is of course the typical Hawaii attire of beach dresses and rompers. I personally don’t travel with much of either of these however, I would bring one travel friendly dress for a nice occasion. I love Prana and Patagonia dresses because they’re functional and cute dresses, and if you’re looking for something a little more wildly fashionable, Hawaii has so many amazing small brand boutiques.
Bonus: compliment your cute dress with Pura Vida bracelets for total beach fashion.
I gotta be honest, I don’t know a single woman who just loooooves rash guards. Let’s be honest, they’re not that cute and you came to Hawaii to rock the bikini, right? You can get by in Hawaii without a rashguard but that being said, the sun is harmful and it depends on the person.
What’s cool is that there are many innovative womens swim brands that combine bikinis with uv protection including Carve Designs, Billabong, Hurley, the SEEA, Patagonia, and more.
Carve Designs, one of our favorite women’s bikini brands, offers cuter designs than I’ve ever seen before but if you want something really stylish consider summer wetsuits which come in style like shorties, jackets, long John, and tights.
Find the cutest summer-style wetsuits by clicking here and checking out our guide to the best women’s wetsuits.
And now for the boys…To continue the trend in minimalist packing, this clothing pack list will include the bare essentials for adventure.
3-4 Tees + Tanks
This is simply an essential. You’ll want to pack some tees that are comfortable for hangin out, some that you’d hike in, and one nicer tee for going out.
1 Long Sleeve
Just like I mentioned in the women’s section, you’ll want to pack a long sleeve for the occasionally windy and cold day. A flannel is great or even a light hoodie.
In Hawaii, it would be weird if you didn’t just wear boardshorts all the time and so honestly, you’’ll probably just want to pack 3 pairs of nice boardshorts. Find yourself some comfortable board shorts that are suitable for beach days and going for a hike. That being said, a pair of comfortable lightweight shorts wouldn’t hurt to pack as well.
1 Lightweight Pants
I’d recommend a pair of light pants for when it’s colder or for nicer occasions. When it comes to Island Formal, you really couldddd get by in boardshorts however, if you’re wanting to get fancied up, pack a pair of nice pants and tee that’s not covered in sand.
Like I talked about, you don’t need a rash guard unless you plan on surfing a lot or are prone to sunburns. If you do need a rashguard I recommend getting a high quality one like Vissla or Hurley because other rash guards tend to be really scratchy and annoying.
And finally, for the kiddos…and in case you were wondering, it’s also a minimalist approach 🙂
3 Tanks + Tees
When we go to Hawaii and stay in a condo with a washing machine, each of the kids brings 3 tees or tanks. But when we tent camp, we bring a couple extra, especially for my son who seems to constantly be rolling in the sand.
1 Long Sleeve
For the colder days in Hawaii, kids won’t need a full puffy jacket but they will need a lightweight sweater or long sleeve .
3-4 Shorts + Boardshorts
Soft, comfortable shorts are an essential for kids coming to Hawaii and you’ll want to pack around 3 or 4 for them. Shorts are better for active days of going for a hike or excursion.
It’s good to pack both the boys and the girls some comfortable board shorts. Boys will likely wear board shorts for their entire trip so you’ll want to pack them at least 3. For girls, pack at least 1 for them to throw on over a wet bathing suit.
While this isn’t a total essential, if you’re visiting a cooler area of Hawaii, you’ll want to pack some warm, cozy pants for hanging out on the beach in the occasion that it’s cloudy or rainy out.
No doubt, one of the things kids get most excited about when visiting Hawaii is the beach. For all those days spent at the beach your kids will need swim suits for the sand and surf.
For boys, we already mentioned board shorts. You’ll want to find them durable boardshorts that can withstand the sheer destruction little boys put their clothes through.
Girls: 1-3 Dresess + Rompers
For little girls, dresses and rompers are a must when heading to Hawaii. For 1, they look adorable in them and 2, dresses are super comfortable for running around and playing in the sand.
While I would personally tell you that a rashguard isn’t necessary, I would say that a rashguard is an absolute essential for little ones. Kid’s skin burns easier and let’s be honest, we’re more protective about kids than ourselves.
Shoes for Hawaii
You know what the best part about Hawaii is? You never have to wear shoes! Germaphobes, just stop reading now. If you too are the kind of person who hates wearing shoes, you’ll love Hawaii for this in itself.
Of course you do have to wear shoes on the plane and you might want shoes when you go out to eat, etc (but seriously, it’s not even required) in which case, pack your favorite pair of sandals to stroll around the island with.
A loveeee flip flops and for women, my all time favorites are the Cobain, the Sanuk Yoga Sling sandals, and Reef Sandals.
For men, it’s similar and you can’t go wrong with a pair of Cobian, Sanuk, or Reef flip flops.
You should definitely pack sunglasses.
If you want the best possible sunglasses that won’t haze over those vivid Hawaii colors, get these Native Eyewear sunglasses.
If you’re packing sunglasses as a backup and don’t think you’ll really need em just throw in any old pair you see around the house.
A hat is my #1 essential for sun protection. The only thing better than sunscreen for protecting your face is a hat. You can go with the floppy hat, the classy traveler’s hat, a trucker hat, or just a classic baseball cap, all up to you.
If you’re coming to Hawaii, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to be spending quite a bit of time at the beach. Even if you’re not, day’s spent in Hawaii are usually pretty casual and you’ll probably want something light to carry around the basics like your wallet, snacks, camera, and more.
I love these BAGGU reusable tote bags because they’re basic and functional. If you’re looking for a more stylish bag or one with more pockets, check out the United by Blue tote bag, which can convert into a backpack, or the Fjallraven Totepack.
We travel with our ICEMULE backpack cooler. Not only does it allow us to keep our food cold while camping, but then we can bring cold drinks down to the beach or take it on a hike. We love that the ICEMULE backpack cooler rolls up and packs easily in our luggage.
Waterproof Phone Case
On a trip to Hawaii, many days will take you to beaches and waterfalls. In addition, Hawaii is tropical and it’s common for it to rain any time of the year. With this, you’ll want to have proper protection from the elements, specifically water. Get a waterproof phones case prior to your trip.
Hawaii is home to beautiful blue waters filled amazing coral reefs and fish. Surely you’ll want to capture your snorkeling, diving, surfing, or even cliff jumping.
Now, if you’re brave, you could use your Lifeproof case in the waters but personally, I wouldn’t risk breaking my phone like that. I always bring my GoPro to capture all of our underwater adventures. If a GoPro is out of your budget, there are many new waterproof action cameras available.
If you’re going to Hawaii there are a few specific accessories you will need to capture the good times. For snorkeling and general swimming you’ll want a floaty handle.
Whether you’re an experienced photographer or a beginner, you’re definitely going to want to capture some memories along the way.
Big cameras can be a pain to haul along so we always travel with a mirrorless camera. A great budget friendly mirrorless camera is the Sony A600 however if you’re more experienced, the Sony A7 is a newer model with better photo quality and it’s my favorite camera (PS its weather resistant).
If you’re just getting started, I recommend the Canon Rebel T3i which has an Auto mode but you have the option to start figuring out a manual mode since it’s a DSLR.
No matter what camera you bring, be sure to pack a camera packing cube. My favorite is the Mountainsmith Kit Cube Medium because it has so many pockets and a crossbody strap. This way, whether I’m going on a hike or hitting the beach, I can carry the packing cube as a satchel bag itself or I can safely put the packing cube inside my duffel bag during travel.
Along with my essential camera, the only other camera gear I bring to Hawaii is my mini tripod. JOBY GorillaPods are probably the best mini tripods out there however you could also get a more budget friendly mini tripod like this one.
Basic Travel Essentials
No trip to Hawaii is complete without some R&R which means you’ll definitely want to bring a book or 2 (or 3) on your trip to Hawaii.
You may choose to go the traditional route and pack solid books or you can go with the lightweight option of a Kindle Paperwhite E-reader (bonus: they’re waterproof). You can also choose to get a Kindle Unlimited membership ahead of time so you can enjoy unlimited access to ebooks and audiobooks on your device.
Need book ideas? Be sure to check out out related blog on 25 Inspiring Books that Will Change Your Life
Headphones or Earbuds
Headphones/earbuds are an essential, primarily for long plan flights. Use your earbuds to listen to music, watch movies on the plane, and listen to audiobooks.
From going on a long day hike, to having a picnic at the beach, to staying hydrated on the plane, a water bottle is a must at all times on your trip to Hawaii. We love our HydroFlask water bottles. Their durability and ability to keep things cold makes them perfect for travel.
Packing cubes are not an essential, but they are nice to have if you’re limited on space in your bag, will be moving around the island and changing accommodation often, or just like to have organization.
Packable Beach Towel
If you’re going to Hawaii you’ve gotta pack a beach towel. Personally, we like going to Hawaii with lightweight travel towels because they’re so packable and versatile however, they’re not the best blanket for sitting on the beach and that’s why we also bring the ENO islander blanket (the name says it all). This beach blanket is packable and perfect for relaxing at the beach.
Essentials for Surfers
Don’t let tropical daydreams trick you . Hawaii is tropical yes, and the water is a warm 70-75 degrees, but it’s no Indonesia. The water can be a little bit chillier, especially when it’s windy or cooler out.
During the winter months of October to May, I often surf in a spring suit due to the cooler air temperatures.
In the midst of summer, a spring suit is unnecessary but you’ll definitely want a rashguard or even a 1mm wetsuit top just for the sake of preventing a rash.
Travel Board Bag
If I’m only traveling with 1-2 boards that are about the same size, I love traveling with the Pro-Lite Rhino Double surfboard bag. It comes in various sizes between 6 and 8 feet making it great for any short or hybrid board sizes. I like the shoulder strap that makes it easy to haul around while traveling.
If you’re planning on camping or want extra space in your surfboard bag to haul extra gear (example: tent or tarp), I like traveling with this wheeled PRO-LITE coffin style bag for extra room inside. The bag is also good if your boards are heavy (more in the 7-8 foot range) and you don’t want your shoulder to be killing you at the end of the day.
Leash + an Extra
Hawaii is known for its powerful waves and epic swells and with that comes a higher than likely chance that you’ll break your leash on an overhead day. Pack an extra that’s lying around in your surf shed (read broom closet).
Yes, you could get wax once you get there but there have been so many times where the surf shop doesn’t open early enough in the morning to pick up some wax before our first surf session of the day.
Fins and Fin Key + an Extra
Nothing worse than prepping for your first session in beautiful Hawaii only to realize that you can’t find your darn fin key to put your fins in 🙁
Save yourself the headache and pack pack a spare fin key along with your favorite pair of fins.
Essentials for Hikers
If you’re going to be hiking, consider packing the following as alternatives to some of the perviously mentioned:
If you’re planning on doing any major hikes, you’re going to want pack hiking shoes. Whatever you do, DO NOT pack hiking boots. Hiking boots are total overkill and will definitely weigh down your luggage.
Plus, when hiking in Hawaii, it’s actually better to have more lightweight breathable shoes since it’s so warm and because the trails often have mud.
We usually bring our old trail running shoes that we’ve already worn out through the summer hiking season, knowing that they’re basically going to get trashed in the mud. At the same time, not all trails will ruin your hiking shoes, usually just the wetter hikes to waterfalls.
Our favorite trail running shoe, and favorite hiking shoe ever, is the La Sportiva Bushidos but be warned that I wouldn’t go purchase a brand new pair of shoes before heading to go hike in Hawaii.
For the especially muddy occasions, it’s best to just whip off the shoes and go barefoot but you could also opt to hike in trail sandals like Tevas if it doesn’t bother your feet or if your hikes aren’t going to be very long or strenuous.
If you’re only planning on doing a few easy, 1-3 mile hikes, you could probably get away with hiking in your flip flops or if you’re really tough, do as the locals do and go barefoot (only for really badass adventurers).
For those who aren’t exploring much in Hawaii a rain jacket isn’t necessary. If however, you’re planning on going out and adventuring on the island, you’re more likely to get caught in some rain.
We always bring a packable rain jacket to Hawaii for this reason.
Note that you’re not going want something heavy and suited for winter weather. Instead you’ll want the lightest shell possible. My favorite is the Marmot PreCip Eco Jacket which comes mens, womens, and kids styles because it’s super breathable, it’s lightweight, and it’s packable.
While a beach bag is a good essential for most Hawaii travelers, if you plan on doing some of the epic hikes in Hawaii, I’d recommend swapping out the beach tote for a day pack like the Osprey Packs Daylite Plus.
Another option would be to pack both a beach bag/tote and a day pack but be sure one of these is packable or else it going to take up a lot of room on your luggage.
For example you could go with the Matador Packable 16L Pack or the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack and also pack a beach bag. Or, you could go with the BAGGU bag mentioned earlier and stick with a more supportive daypack.
Essentials for Camping
Camping is an absolutely amazing way to experience Hawaii and ever since we discovered that camping in Hawaii was a possibility, we spent every one of our trips making camp on the islands.
Not only does camping allow you to stay in stunning destinations, but it also saves you a TON of money. This budget friendly way of traveling to Hawaii requires a little more gear, a little more planning, and an adventurous spirit.
If you are interested in camping in Hawaii and what to pack, click and check out our related blog on the Ultimate Guide to Camping in Hawaii.
Optional: Dry Bag
This one is very much depentant on the adventures you take on. If you plan on partaking in ocean kayaking, want to be prepared in case of a big rainstorm during your hike, or even want to protect your valuables from the rain while camping, you should pack a dry bag.
Luggage for Hawaii
The most typical approach to visit Hawaii is to haul along massive, matching luggage so you have a thousand outfits and live luxuriously in Hawaii. That’s not his pack list though.
Because this is a minimalist pack list for adventurers, I think the best luggage for Hawaii is either a travel friendly duffel bag or small travel bag.
Depending on which adventures you will be undertaking could affect your luggage combo.
For example, if it were me going to Hawaii by myself I would only need one medium sized duffel bag. Within a duffel bag I can fit a packable day pack and a camera cube with all my electronics. Then, since I would camping and surfing, I would try to pack most of my camping gear in the surfboard bag.
If you are going to camp (but not surf) I’d recommend one checked bag of camping gear in a larger bag like the Marmot Rolling Gear Bag.
If you prefer rolling luggage in general, click here and see some of the best options for adventure travel.
The Complete Overall Hawaii Pack List
- 3-4 Tanks + Tees
- 1 Long Sleeve
- 3-4 Shorts + Boardshorts
- 1 Lightweight pants
- 3+ Swimsuits
- Optional: 1-3 Dresses + Rompers
- 1 Rashguard
- 1 Sunglasses
- 1 Hat
- 1 Flip Flops
- 1 Beach Bag
- Spring suit
- Travel surboard bag
- Fins (+ extra pair)
- Fin key (+ an extra)
- Warm Wax
- Waterproof Phone Case
- Camera packing cube/bag
- Mini Tripod
- Water Bottle
- Packing Cubes
- Packable Beach Towel
- Mosquito Repellant
- Travel Insurance
- Optional: Dry Bag
- Duffel Bag
- Hiking Shoes
- Rain Jacket
- Day Pack
With this pack list, you’ll be totally set to relax and have an epic time in Hawaii! Got questions? Let us know in the comment section below.