Planning a trip to Hawaii? Get ready for an amazing experience! But what should you pack for Hawaii?
Because Hawaii has so much to offer – relaxing on the beach, hiking to waterfalls, watching volcanic eruptions – it can be difficult to decide what to pack.
But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! I’ve provided suggestions for what you need to pack for some of the most common activities you’ll do in Hawaii. Where possible, I gave options that can be used for multiple activities. Versatility is key when you want to have what you need but also want to pack light.
To help get you started, see below for my recommendations on what to pack for Hawaii. You’ll have a wonderful time!
What to pack for the best pictures
Be prepared to take some unbelievable pictures while in Hawaii! You can take some incredible pictures using just your phone. But if you’re on the fence about getting some new camera gear, I’d recommend getting it before your trip to Hawaii. Hawaii is a photographer’s dream!
- Camera: Most cell phones take incredible pictures now, so you don’t necessarily need to bring along a nice camera for your trip to Hawaii. However, if you’ve been on the fence about getting a new camera, get it before your trip to Hawaii. You’ll love trying out different photography methods in the beautiful Hawaiian Islands.
- Travel tripod: If you’re making the leap to a nice camera, then I’d recommend bringing along a lightweight travel tripod on your trip. If you want to get pictures of the nighttime sky (like when visiting Mauna Kea), you’ll need a travel tripod. Bring a lightweight one that doesn’t take up too much room in your bag. Just make sure that it can support the weight of your camera.
- Phone dry bag: With a dry bag, you can take your phone into the water to take fun underwater or waterfall pictures. It’s a good idea to have a dry bag for your phone even if you’re not planning on taking pictures with it. Then you don’t have to worry about it getting wet on waterfall hikes or covered in sand on the beach.
- GoPro: I take my GoPro everywhere with me. It’s sturdy and waterproof, so I can take it cool places without worrying about it getting damaged. It’s an easy way to capture the memories of your trip.
- GoPro Dome: If you’re going snorkeling, take your GoPro along. And for even cooler pictures, bring along a GoPro Dome. A GoPro Dome cuts the water and horizon in half so that you can get awesome pictures that show the scene both below and above the water.
- Portable charger: You’re not going to find a lot of places to charge your gear when you’re adventuring in Hawaii. Bring a portable charger to recharge your devices on the go.
What to pack for the beach & water sports
While in Hawaii, you’re probably going to enjoy the beach and some water sports! Because most beaches offer some type of water sports (surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling, etc.), I recommend wearing athletic beach attire so that you feel comfortable both relaxing and participating in water sports.
- Athletic swimsuit: To be comfortable both relaxing on the beach and jumping into water sports, I recommend wearing athletic-type swimsuits that are comfortable for a variety of activities.
- Rashguard: Some sunscreens aren’t so great for coral reefs. But you still need to protect yourself from the sun. That’s where a rashguard comes in handy. Rashguards protect against the sun’s rays and can be worn while swimming, so you don’t need to put on as much sunscreen before jumping in the water.
- Athletic sandals: Because flip flops offer so little support for your feet, I recommend wearing athletic sandals instead. They offer more support, are warm-weather appropriate, and can double as water shoes.
- Coverup: When traveling, I like to pack items that can be used for multiple purposes. So instead of bringing a gauzy coverup that can only be worn on the beach, I like to bring a casual dress that can be worn as both a coverup and as a day dress.
- Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from the equatorial sun in Hawaii by bringing along some sunglasses that shield against UVA and UVB rays.
- Hat: In addition to sunglasses, bring some hats for added protection from the sun. But keep in mind that it’s extremely windy in some places on the Hawaiian Islands, so bring along fitted hats that won’t fly away easily. I recommend wearing a water-safe hat to the beach so that you don’t care if it gets wet.
- Casual bag: Rather than bringing a beach-specific bag, bring along a bag that can be used for multiple situations, from beach to dinner to airplane carry-on.
- Reef-safe sunscreen: While you need to protect yourself from the sun, but you also don’t want to cause damage to coral reefs. To do this, bring along a reef-safe sunscreen. Look for sunscreens that are zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide-based. Yes, some zinc oxide-based sunscreens leave a white tint to your skin. But it’s a worthwhile price to pay to protect both coral reefs and yourself.
What to pack for a waterfall walk
No trip to Hawaii is complete without at least one waterfall walk. For a waterfall walk, you’ll likely spend some time walking, followed by a refreshing dip in the water. The items below will prepare you to do both.
- Hiking sandals: I prefer to wear hiking sandals on my travels because they’re comfortable, provide ventilation, and are waterproof. In Hawaii, hiking sandals are ideal for walks to waterfalls. Waterproof hiking sandals can double as water shoes, so it’s one less thing you have to pack.
- Rashguard: Because you might be taking a dip in the water at the waterfall, I recommend wearing a rashguard as your top layer. Even if you wear a swimsuit to swim, you’ll likely want to put a top layer back on for the walk back. Since a rashguard is made of quick-drying material, it’s a good layering top over a swimsuit.
- Athletic shorts: You’ll want to wear comfortable shorts for walking that also dry quickly when you put them on over a wet swimsuit.
- Swimsuit: Wear your swimsuit under your rashguard and athletic shorts so that you can quickly change to go for a dip at the waterfall.
- Backback: When I walk or hike, I prefer to wear a lightweight backpack so my hands are free and the weight is evenly distributed on my back.
- Hat: Bring along a hat to protect yourself from the sun. Make sure it can handle getting wet so you can bring it with you into the waterfall if the waterfall is in a sunny area.
- Sunscreen: Many of the waterfall walks we did were in shaded areas, but we still made sure to put sunscreen on.
- Buy spray: When we visited Hawaii in June, we didn’t have too many issues with bugs. But better safe than sorry – bring along some non-DEET bug spray.
What to pack for a moderate hike
Hawaii has many beautiful, moderate hiking opportunities, including places like Diamond Head on Oahu. You’ll want to be ready to take advantage of these hiking opportunities by packing the right gear for Hawaii.
- Lightweight top: I like to wear a long-sleeved, lightweight top when outdoors. I want as much sun protection as possible. A breathable, lightweight top helps give added protection.
- Lightweight pants: For hiking, I prefer to wear close-fitting pants. Close-fitting pants have a lower chance of snagging on the vegetation. Plus, they have the added bonus of stopping the creepy crawlers from going underneath my clothing.
- Hiking shoes: Bring along your hiking shoes to Hawaii. There are many areas that are too slippery or steep for regular shoes.
- Backback: For moderate hikes, I recommend bringing a lightweight backpack.
- Sunglasses: The sun can get pretty blinding as you climb. Bring some sunglasses to ease the strain on your eyes.
- Hat: Bring a fitted hat that won’t easily fly away in the Hawaiian wind.
- Sunscreen: In addition to protecting yourself with sunglasses and a hat, be sure to apply some sunscreen to avoid uncomfortable sunburns.
- Buy spray: While we didn’t have any problems with bugs when we visited Hawaii in June, some of our friends said the bugs were pretty annoying during their trips to Hawaii. Bring along some bug spray in case this happens to you.
What to pack for higher altitudes
In addition to its sandy beaches, the Hawaiian Islands have some incredible mountain peaks. When measured from its base on the ocean floor, Mauna Kea on the Big Island is the tallest mountain in the world! Higher altitudes like Mauna Kea require some special gear to pack in your suitcase.
- Top layers – rain jacket, scarf, and lightweight top: Higher altitudes can get pretty chilly, especially when you add in the wind that is present on the Hawaiian islands. Rather than bringing one bulky top or coat to keep warm, I recommend bringing multiple layers. Those layers can then be used in other activities.
- Hiking shoes: High altitude locations like Mauna Kea can be covered in fine volcanic ash. The ash is slippery and can get inside small holes in your shoes. I recommend wearing waterproof hiking shoes, since they won’t have the ventilation holes of other shoes and will have good traction.
- Bottom layers – loose pants and fitted pants: I also recommend bringing layers for your pants. You can have more fitted pants layered with more loose pants on top. The pants will bring added warmth when combined and can be used individually for other activities.
- Sunglasses: Higher altitude places like Mauna Kea are above the cloud line. That means the sun can be blinding there. Pack some sunglasses to alleviate the glare of the sun.
- Sunscreen: It can feel chilly at higher altitudes, which makes it easy to forget about sunscreen. But you’ll have less protection from the sun at higher altitudes, so need the sunscreen even more.
- Warm-weather accessories – wool socks, gloves, and wool hat: Warm-weather accessories probably won’t be used for other activities on the Hawaiian Islands. But they take up so little room in your luggage that they’re a worthy investment for staying warm at higher altitudes.
- Backpack: You’re going to need both hands free to navigate the slippery slopes. Bring a backpack to free up your hands.
What to pack for a nice dinner
Hawaii has a very casual vibe. That means even nice dinners tend to be pretty casual.
- Casual dress or romper: Pack a nicer, but still casual dress or romper for dinner.
- Scarf: It can be chilly on the Hawaiian Islands because of the wind. Bring along a light scarf to keep yourself warm.
- Athletic sandals: Many of the nice restaurants are close to or on the beach, so you want to wear practical shoes that won’t be uncomfortable around the sand. I recommend wearing dressier athletic sandals – you’ll fit in with the casual vibe and will feel comfortable walking in the sand.
- Casual bag: For your purse, I recommend using a multi-functional bag that you can use for other activities, like a trip to the beach.