What to Pack for Hawaii: The Essential List

Aloha!

So, you are off on vacation to Hawaii. Lucky you. Send us a postcard. But if you are struggling to decide what to bring to the Aloha State, we’re here to help. No doubt you want to look good, but you still need to be comfortable and dressed appropriately, not only for the weather but for the activities and the culture too. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to pack for Hawaii. So, grab your backpack, or suitcase, and let’s get started with our handy guide covering what to pack for Hawaii: the essential list.

What to Pack for Hawaii: The Essential List

Hawaii has warm weather year-round with pleasant temperatures between 73°F and 86°F (22.7°C and 30°C). However, Hawaii is an archipelago of microclimates, meaning, if you are island hopping, you should be prepared for lots of different weather situations.

What to pack for Hawaii

What toiletries to pack for Hawaii

Reef safe suncream

Hawaii has a typically high UV index at all times of the year. Therefore, high SPF suncream should be top of your packing list. You can of course buy this when you land, but you need to know that Hawaii has banned the selling of sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. These chemicals adversely affect the ocean and are harmful to the reefs and to other marine species. Therefore, you should plan to pack reef safe suncream. This means avoiding sunscreen that has oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate or octinoxate.

Mosquito repellent

Are you a mosquito magnet? Then you’ll need heavy duty mozzie repellant with you when you go to Hawaii, especially if you plan on hiking in the rainforest or to waterfalls. The mosquito repellent you choose should be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and contain 20-30% DEET.

What to pack for Hawaii

Miscellaneous items

Water bottle

Hawaii tap water is safe to drink and is just as safe to drink as bottled water. Therefore, save money and minimise your environmental footprint by packing a reusable water bottle and refilling as you go along. Collapsible water bottles are very convenient as they squish down super small and take up very little room. Some even fit in your pocket.

Cloth bags

Hawaii has banned plastic bags and non-recyclable paper bags. If you go to the grocery store and don’t have your own reusable bag with you, you will be charged for a reusable, compostable plastic or recyclable paper bag. Be prepared by bringing your own fabric bags to Hawaii. These can also double up as beach bags.

Small backpack

If you plan on hiking or hitting the trails, you’ll need a small, comfortable backpack. Backpacks keep your hands free, which makes it easier to take photos but improves safety and stability too. If you are going to be hiking in the rain or to waterfalls pack a small waterproof backpack or day bag if you have one.

What to pack for Hawaii

Plug adaptors and power converters

Hawaii has the same voltage and plugs as mainland USA. The voltage is 120/140 at 60 Hertz (120/140V at 60Hz). There are two types of plugs in Hawaii. Type A has two flat prongs, while Type B has two flat prongs and a rounded ground pin. Type A and B plugs are mostly used in the US, Canada, Mexico, Central America, China and Japan. Depending on where your appliances are from, you may need travel plug adaptors. If your electrical items are not dual voltage, you’ll also need a travel power converter.

What shoes to pack for Hawaii

Everyone wears flip-flops, or as the locals call them, slippahs. Pack a pair for the beach but also make sure they are comfortable to walk in as you’ll be spending a lot of time in them.

Hiking boots are a must if you are planning on doing challenging hikes, especially on the Big Island. However, if you plan on just sticking to the paved trails, then you can probably get away with wearing a pair of trail runners.

If you plan on heading to an upmarket restaurant, pack something a bit fancier than your flip flops. You won’t need those sky-high heels, a dressy pair of sandals will do. For men, a pair of loafers is fine. Comfort is key in Hawaii.

What clothing to pack for Hawaii

Beachwear

Anything goes when it comes to what to pack for the beach in Hawaii, just check the signs regarding nudity if you like to strip off. Bikinis, one-pieces, speedos, thongs, board shorts, just pack whatever you like best.

If you plan on doing lots of water activities, pack a UV rash vest or rash guard. This will protect your skin from sun exposure, especially when snorkelling and will reduce chafing when bodyboarding and surfing.

What to pack for Hawaii

Daywear

The dress code in Hawaii is super casual and laid back. Think shorts and t-shirts, sundresses, loose-fitting trousers and Hawaiian (aka “aloha”) shirts.

If you are island hopping and hiking, you will be in a range of climates and altitudes, so bring a light sweater and a light rain jacket, too. Something that can be squished up small and packed into a day bag.

What to pack for Hawaii

Nighttime dress code

If you are going to an upscale restaurant, or golf club or fancy get together just swap the shorts and t-shirt for a pair of tailored trousers and a collared shirt. For women, just wear something that would be considered smart-casual and ditch the flip-flops for sandals or pumps.

Hawaii reading material

Get to know the history and culture of Hawaii whilst lazing on a beach with some gripping literature. For non-fiction fans, pack a copy of Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands by Gavan Daws. Fiction lovers should pick up a copy of Molokai by Alan Brennert.

Melanie May

Melanie is an intrepid solo traveller, endlessly curious about people, places and food. She is a fan of slow travel and loves exploring the world by mouth, discovering a culture through its food. Having backpacked her way around the world she turned her wanderlust into a career and is now a full-time travel writer.

View stories