The Essential Hawaii Packing List

Author 06-18-2016

Have you recently booked a trip to Hawaii? Whether you are a first-time traveler to the islands or a returning member of the Ohana, packing well is the first step to a smooth, low-stress vacation. While Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island have many businesses that cater to tourists, you might find that some items are overpriced and you will wish you had just packed them instead. Or you might be looking for some aloe vera after a long beach day on Kauai, only to find that most shops close down before the sun even sets.

As always, quantities depend on your length of stay, so we will leave that part up to you (though it is worth considering carry-on regulations and whether your lodgings have washing machines or provide basic toiletries, if you do want to cut down on your luggage).

Some are happy with an airline ticket, a swimsuit, and some sunscreen. But for maximum comfort, and to save money on those items that are always priced higher in tourist areas, here is our list of the essentials for your upcoming Hawaiian vacation:


  • Swimsuits

    It’s nice (but not necessary) to have two so that you always have one at the ready while the other air dries
  • Tank tops and T-shirts

    Unless you need extra sun protective gear, don’t bother with any long sleeves or heavy materials. Even if it isn’t always hot, Hawaii is often humid, and clothes are usually going on over a swimsuit. So light, thin materials like linen, polyester, and water-wicking athletic wear tends to be most comfortable.
  • Shorts and one pair of pants

    Hawaii is warm. Shorts and skirts/dresses are most comfortable, even at night most of the year. If you bring more than one pair of pants, you probably won’t wear them. However, now and then you might run into a cold spell or need pants for certain activities like horseback riding.
  • A sweater or jacket

    While it is warm, you might need a jacket once or twice, especially if you go out for an ocean adventure such as a sunset cruise. It’s a good idea to bring something waterproof since it rains so often (often it remains warm while raining, but it’s nice to stay relatively dry).
  • An outfit for going out

    Whether it’s a fancy dinner or a night out in Waikiki, it’s fun to have one nicer outfit with you. Keep in mind Hawaii tends to be more casual than the mainland US. For women, a sundress during the day can double as a nicer outfit at night.
  • Underwear and socks

    This may seem obvious, but we’d be remiss to leave it out!
  • Slippers

    By slippers we mean flip-flops; but in Hawaii, they’re called slippers so you may as well get in the habit of calling them that now! People wear these everywhere. It’s totally acceptable to take them to the beach or the pool, to a restaurant/bar, just about anywhere.
  • Hiking shoes or sneakers

    Even if you aren’t planning to hike to the top of every mountain or volcano, Hawaii offers breathtaking vistas even from short, easy hikes. It’s always a good idea to wear close-toed shoes even on simple hikes, to avoid bug bites, slipping, or other injuries. It also rains frequently and most people don’t like muddy feet (but to each his own)!


  • Camera

    Make these memories last a lifetime! Disposable, digital, film, phone camera? Doesn’t matter. Just make sure you snap a few shots of your favorite spots because it doesn’t get any more beautiful than Hawaii. If your camera requires a charger or memory card, be sure to bring those, too!
  • Sunglasses (with UV protection)
  • Sunscreen (unless you live close to the equator already, you will most likely need a higher SPF in Hawaii than whatever you use at home. Don’t spend your vacation with a painful sunscreen, err on the side of caution!)
  • Chapstick (preferably with SPF; also easy enough to pick up once you arrive)
  • Hats (lightweight, water-wicking, or wide-brimmed tend to be great for long days at the beach or hiking.)


  • Aloha Gear

    Aloha shirts for men (please note this is not the same as a “Hawaiian shirt.” This is a fun item to buy while in Hawaii; they are not cheap but they last a long time as a token of your unforgettable vacation. Ask any local the difference between a Hawaiian shirt and an Aloha shirt-one makes you look like a tourist and the other makes you a part of the local scene.

    Sundresses or Aloha print dresses for women

  • Waterproof phone case or waterproof bag for your camera

    If you’ve never seen underwater photos, it’s time to do a google search and enjoy all the pictures before you. This is certainly not necessary, but it makes snorkeling, surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, swimming, kayaking-you name it-even more fun.
  • Laptop/Phone and any chargers to go with them

    While we don’t encourage wasting time on your screens while in paradise, you may wish to research your outings on a phone or laptop. Wifi is more and more common in various condos, hotels, and home
  • Towel

    Your lodgings might include towels, and they tend to be a bulky item to carry in your luggage. However, if you have the space, it can be nice to have your own beach towel (some lodgings only include bath towels).
  • Maps & guidebooks

    This isn’t essential because there is plenty of information available once you arrive, but if you have any favorites you’ve used to plan your trip, why not bring them along?

Most importantly, bring your Aloha spirit and a little space in your luggage for your new Aloha shirt, Kona coffee, and some Hawaiian caramacs. Hawaii is friendly and tourist-ready so chances are if you’ve forgotten something, you won’t have a hard time finding it on the islands. Until we see you, Aloha!

For any questions about Waikiki vacation rentals, please contact Marina Hawaii Vacations and an agent would be happy to assist you. We can be reached at 808-946-0716 or info@marinahawaiivacations.com

Susie Bowman