Hawaii pack list: Minimalist packing guide for adventurers

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!

Things to Know About Packing for a Hawaii Trip

Weather

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.

Malaekahana beach on our outdoor adventure in Oahu
Gloomy days on the beach in front of Malaekahana State Park

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.

Pipeline beach, outdoor adventure Oahu

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.

Mosquitoes

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.

Travel Insurance

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

Camping Hawaii Malaekahana Oahu, Ultimate Guide to Visiting Hawaii on a Budget

Womens Clothes

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.

Kavu top for hawaii
alo yoga top for Hawaii

prana arbor tank

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.

billabong long sleeve for hawaii
columbia long sleeve for hawaii
billabong long sleeve for hawaii

Kuhl long sleeve for hawaii

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.

Basin & Range shorts for hawaii
Hurley board shorts for hawaii
Kavu shorts for hawaii
united by blue board shorts for hawaii

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.

Joggers for Hawaii for women
Joggers for Hawaii for women
Joggers for Hawaii for women

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.

Patagonia bikini for hawaii
Patagonia bikini for hawaii
vitamin A bikini for hawaii
L Space bikini for hawaii

carve designs bikini for hawaii
carve designs bikini for hawaii

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.

Prana dress for Hawaii Pack List

Carve Designs Romper for womens Hawaii pack list
Patagonia dress for womens Hawaii pack list

Billabong dress for womens Hawaii pack list

1 Rashguard

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.

billabong salty Jane wetsuit for hawaii
seea surf suit for hawaii
Patagonia long sleeve wetsuit top for hawaii
ripcurl shorty wetsuit top for hawaii

Mens Clothes

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.

hippy tree mens for hawaii
patagonia flannel for hawaii

stoic flannel for hawaii

Kuhl mens jacket for hawaii

3 Boardshorts

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.

Hurley board shorts for hawaii
Patagonia board shorts for hawaii
vissla board shorts for hawaii
Patagonia shorts for hawaii

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.

Our recommendations for more versailte, lightweight, and stylish island attire are Kuhl or Prana pants.

Patagonia pants to pack for hawaii
Kuhl free Ryder pants to pack for hawaii
prana pants to pack for hawaii

1 Rashguard

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.

billabong rashguard to pack for hawaii
oneill rashguard to pack for hawaii
Vissla wetsuit rashguard to pack for hawaii
Hurley rashguard to pack for hawaii

Kids Clothes

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.

Billabong board shorts for hawaii trip
Vissla boys board shorts to pack for hawaii
Patagonia girls board shorts for hawaii trip
Patagonia boys board shorts to pack for hawaii
Billabong shorts for hawaii trip
Volcom boys board shorts to pack for hawaii
Roxy girls shorts for hawaii trip