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Hawaii – A dream vacation, and for every good reason! With the remarkable white sand beaches, lush mountain backdrops, tasty dishes served at the beachside, and beautiful resort pools that this place has, it’s hard to go wrong. From its people to the weather, Hawaii is an amazing place!

I’m lucky to have been able to live in Hawaii (more specifically Kauai) for almost 3 months as a digital nomad.

If you are someone who is planning to visit Hawaii and thinking about what to pack for this trip and not miss any essentials, I got your back!

As they say, packing is dreaded by many but mastered by few. I know the urge to fit everything possible into one suitcase, but I recommend packing light for your Hawaiian adventure.

Here’s a breakdown on the absolute essentials for your Hawaii packing list.

First things first:

ESSENTIAL ITEMS

Important documents

First of all, the MOST important thing that you need to pack is your documents like your insurance card, your flight information, and passport (if travelling internationally) in a carrying case/ purse reserved only for your important documents that you can keep close to yourself because you don’t want to go crazy in the moment you need it immediately.

This pre-travel checklist is something you want to keep in handy.

Chargers for your electronics

Power up your phone and laptop the day before travelling, then be sure to pack your chargers that night. It’s easy to forget these on the morning of your flight.

Toiletries

Don’t forget your toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, hairbrush, and anything else you need. Though you can also ask your accommodation to provide free toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, razors, shaving cream, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, etc, bringing along your essential items is a safe play in case they don’t provide them.

Medication and first aid kit

While thinking about what to pack for Hawaii, don’t forget to bring your important prescription medications and first aid kit.


CLOTHING TO PACK FOR HAWAII

Now coming to the fun part, the actual packing that you’re going to flaunt on your dream destination! Let’s start with clothing!

When thinking about what to pack for Hawaii, you need to choose clothing that’s perfectly casual and comfortable.

For me, the sole purpose of islands is to relax. Breezy tops and casual shorts and swimsuits with cover-ups are perfect for daytime wear to the beach.

For the evenings, your packing list for Hawaii must have a pretty top with capri or casual skirts will be perfect for what to wear in Hawaii. If you’re a dress girl, go all out! Hawaii is the perfect destination for lovely summer dresses like these.

You don’t have to worry if you forget to add an item to your Hawaii packing list; you can find a Walmart and Costco on each of the 4 major islands to purchase anything you’ve missed.

For men, your packing list for Hawaii must contain t-shirts, polo shirts, shorts, one pair of long pants and one lightweight jacket. Yes, bring long pants and a light jacket, the weather can be cool in high altitudes and in the evenings.

For women, shirts, polo shirts, lightweight tops, tanks, skirts, shorts, a pair of slacks and a jacket is ideal.

Bikini

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For your beach adventures on the Hawaiian Islands, you want to pack bikinis in which you’re able to move around easily. Something that’s also catchy and fashionable providing the exact comfort you need.

For your Hawaii packing list, try this amazing striped bikini that I personally love as well because of its amazing colourful vibe. The perfect freshness you need on the beach especially if you want to get noticed. *wink

Swimsuit/ Board shorts

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If you’re a beach lover and planning to spend your time mostly on the beach, the first thing you need is a swimsuit/ board shorts in which you can still swim at the beach. The idea is to pack two at least so you can swim in one pair while the other pair is drying.

If you like one piece swimsuits that are functional, you can get this amazing Speedo Women’s swimsuit at your doorstep, just a perfect start to your beach life.

Speedo is a trusted swimwear brand known for its support and material. This one has to go in your Hawaii packing list of female items.

Maxi dress

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When looking for ideas on what to wear in Hawaii, flowy outfits can NEVER get old. Whether you plan on spending most of your time at your resort or a few days strolling around town, always pack in a fresh, floral maxi dress to look instantly chic to your Hawaii packing list.

Trust me, these dresses have a different vibe from all others. Spending your days in Hawaii and not wearing a classy maxi?? No! You don’t want to do that!

This amazing YUMDO Women’s 3/4 Sleeve Floral Dress is the most comfortable one you will need on your vacation.

Swimsuit Coverup

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A swimsuit cover-up is a big part of your decision-making when choosing what to wear in Hawaii. This way, you’ll not only have a stylish cover up that’s easy to wear on the beach, but a great daytime outfit that will work anywhere when doing errands in between your beach sessions.

You must pack these Kimono Cardigans into your Hawaii packing list for females – I love how there are so many assorted designs to choose from to match your bikinis!

Lightweight Sweater

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You’ll need a sweater for The Big Island at the very least. When driving through the centre of The Big Island from Kona to Hilo, you’ll find that the higher elevation equals colder weather, sometimes down to 10ºC/ 50°F. Also, if you’re going during the winter season, some nights and cloudy days can be really chilly.

This Fuzzy Knitted Sweater is my choice when it comes to choosing one with such light weight and comfort.

Waterproof Jackets

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Rain may not be your first thought when planning a Hawaiian vacation, but it’s something you’ll experience during your stay, especially in Kauai, the garden island.

A rain jacket is a good item to have, but make sure it’s lightweight as the temperatures will likely still be warm even in the rain.

I know when planning what to pack for Hawaii, you may opt for an umbrella over a rain jacket, but high winds may make the umbrella tricky to use. It’s even less feasible when you’re trekking in the middle of a thick canopy.

For men, Columbia Men’s Glennaker Lake Packable Rain Jacket is what I would suggest to add in your Hawaii packing list.

For women, I recommend Columbia Women’s Pardon My Trench Rain Jacket as they are never out of fashion and they always look classy!

Sandals

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When deciding what to pack for Hawaii, especially when it comes to your feet, you want to opt for a pair of sandals that you can take for a stroll around almost everywhere without making your feet uncomfortable.

My tip is to carry one pair of comfortable sandals and save the rest of the space for hiking shoes. Choose a colour that matches with several different outfits.

For men, simple flip flops would work just fine. Don’t forget your feet need comfort too. You don’t want to sit in a corner with sore feet especially on your vacation!

Hiking Shoes

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In addition to your beautiful sandals, you must pack a pair or two of shoes to go hiking and explore the beauty of Hawaii. There are countless hikes and volcanoes to go exploring.

Invest in a stronger pair of shoes that can handle a rougher terrain to pack in your Hawaii packing list. Go with something that’s classy and comfortable at the same time. Merrell Women’s Siren Edge Q2 hiking shoes are highly recommended.

For men, you can go with something functional and durable. This Timberland men’s white ledge mid waterproof ankle boots are life-savers!


BEACH ITEMS TO PACK FOR HAWAII

Water-Resistant Beach Bag

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Spending your days on the beach and not having waterproof bags is a big no-no!

You can’t leave your important stuff in your room, can you? What about those important documents? Exactly, you need a bag that’s waterproof to keep your stuff safe from getting wet or having sand all over your items while you spend your day lounging on the beach.

There are several options available, but the SHYLERO Beach Bag is a crowd favourite. Waterproofing things is important for your beach days!

Day Bag

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You’ll want to pack a small day bag if you plan on hiking in Hawaii to carry your essentials like water, snacks, sunscreen, and your hiking guidebook to name a few. You can also use this as your carry-on on the airplane.

My favourite day bags are:

Tropicfeel’s Cruiser Backpack – the water-repellent, polyester material makes it light and makes sweat easy to wash off

Matador’s Beast28 Backpack – spacious, packable and durable material makes it easy to carry lots of things for a whole day out.

Matador’s Hydration Backpack – contains an in-built hydration pack with a filtration system. The material of the bag is 100% waterproof, which makes it suitable for short hikes. Storage space is limited, thus forcing you to pack only the essentials!

This backpack comes with plenty of pockets to keep your stuff organized so you don’t have to dig everything out just to find a minor thing.

Fast-Drying Beach Towel

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While spending your days at the beach, in the water or the sand, you need a fast-drying towel for your Hawaii packing list!

I’ve been a hardcore fan of Matador’s products (and some of their products make the best travel accessories!), mostly because of the smart design. Thin, packs light, packs small, durable, quick-dry – this is everything a traveller can ask for!

Also, more likely than not, you’ll be in a rental car. Since these towels dry quickly, you can place the towel underneath you, or your sandals, which will make it less likely that you’ll have a sandy mess to clean up before returning your rental car at the end of your stay. It will save a lot of effort and time for you!

Sand-Resistant Beach Blanket

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Beach blankets are always necessary in Hawaii, but since it can be windy on beaches, regular blankets will just get blown around, or get filled with sand. Most importantly, it’s not easy to dry them at the end of the day.

This Wellax beach mat is made of parachute material so no more waiting for these to dry since it’s quick-drying and lightweight. It folds up concisely for packing. As an added bonus, there are sand weights on the edges to keep it from blowing around in the beach breeze.

This product comes with pockets for your belongings and a bonus cellphone case as well – perfect for your Hawaii packing list.

Slowtide is another brand found everywhere in Hawaii stores that sells beach blankets and exercise towels. I couldn’t help myself from getting one, mostly because of how pretty their aztec designs are!

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Sunglasses

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Sunglasses are a no-brainer for your Hawaii packing list! You can easily buy a pair or two once you’re there, just make sure they’re polarized!

Polarspex is a reliable sunglasses brand for both men and women that protects your eyes from harmful rays yet look stylish.They are my everyday go-to essential now!

Sunscreen

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The depletion of the ozone layer has increased the risks of sun damage from harmful UV rays. As we all know how important it is to protect your skin from those harmful UV rays, you need to pack sunscreen with good SPF in your Hawaii packing list.

When it comes to Hawaii, I cannot stress this enough if you want to protect your skin! You need sunscreen every time you step out!

This paraben-free Sun Bum SPF 70 sunscreen is my must-have no matter where I am as it’s resistant to water and sweat. Your packing list for Hawaii is not complete without some sunscreen.

Rash Guard

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When considering what to pack for Hawaii, don’t forget a rash guard if you’re planning to spend a lot of time on the water surfing or bodyboarding.

Here’s why you need a rash guard or two in your Hawaii packing list: you may think a rash guard is for sun protection (which is also a side benefit), but its main purpose is to keep you warm while in the water and prevent abrasion from the board.

Unlike the Caribbean, where the water is mostly shallow and warm, the ocean around the Hawaiian Islands can be cold throughout the year.

Even though the reefs are right off shore and easy to reach, the ocean floor drops at the edge of the reef, sometimes hundreds of feet, making for a darker abyss that light can’t reach, which in turn creates cold water.

Wearing a rash guard over your bikini or swimsuit will help keep you warmer during your snorkelling trip while still being picture-ready!

Portable Waterproof Speaker

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If you are a music lover like me, this one’s for you.

Since you’ll be spending long days lounging on one of the many beaches in Hawaii, you will need some entertainment.

Invest in a set of waterproof Bluetooth portable speakers so you can listen to your favourite playlists or podcasts.

Bug Spray

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Mosquitoes are rampant in tropical places, especially around palm trees, lagoons, pools and anywhere else where you can find water. I had a full-on war with the mosquitoes when I was living in Kauai in November.

When you are packing for Hawaii, you NEED to get yourself protected from these annoying mosquitoes with a bug repellent that has a good DEET percentage.

It’ll increase the chances of getting less bitten and hence, less scratching! The important thing you have to remember here is to pack it in your checked luggage so it doesn’t get taken away at the airport.

Don’t forget this one in your packing list for Hawaii!

Water Bottle

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When planning what to pack for your Hawaii trip, don’t forget a bottle.

If you are planning on spending more than a few hours at the beach or on a hike, just make sure you have water with you at all times.

Even though you can easily buy drinks around the island, be it plain water or fresh-pressed juice, if you’re someone trying to save money, bringing your own water bottle is the perfect idea. That way you won’t have to spend $3.00 on a bottle of water.

The Hydro Flask is a great bottle because of its superb insulating property, so much so that I got one for myself for living in sunny Hawaii. Cold water is a life-saver in beach islands like Hawaii. You’ll see many locals and beach goers carrying them too.

If you find plain water boring, why not try some vitamin-infused water? Just buy some fruits from a local farmer’s market, slice them, put them in your bottle and you’re good to go!

Windproof Travel Umbrella

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All of the major Hawaiian islands do have an extremely wet and windy side. Even on some of the most beautiful areas of each island like “The Road to Hana” on Maui, it can get pretty rainy.

Don’t forget to bring along a windproof travel umbrella so you can enjoy the beauty and rain without getting drenched.


ELECTRONICS TO PACK FOR HAWAII

Action Camera

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Bring your favourite camera with which you are most comfortable, be it an iPhone, SLR, or film camera. It’s important to pack a camera that you want to carry with you every day because you don’t want to miss any moment in Hawaii!!

Best if you have some waterproof camera so you can capture underwater glimpses as well!

There is no better, more reliable action camera than the latest GoPro Hero 8.

Selfie Stick

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Do I need to remind you that Hawaii has the most beautiful sceneries and places?! You don’t want to miss any of them, so yes you pack a robust selfie stick if you can’t miss having yourself in front of those landscapes. Capture the bigger picture of your cliff jumping and the ones with the whole crew in the shot.

This Sandmarc GoPro pole goes really well with GoPro cameras and is really hardy.

Flotation Strap

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Don’t lose your camera or phone while swimming or snorkelling. Let’s be honest, there are moments when you actually panic because you can’t find your phone or camera.

Even if you’re going to bring your waterproof phone case or underwater camera out on a boat, with this flotation strap, it’ll float in case you drop it! Its bright colour will also help you spot your stuff really quick!

Waterproof Phone Case

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You cannot go without your phone on those beach days without getting it wet. Though we have water-resistant phones in these times, is that enough for everyone?

If you don’t want the hassle of drying your hands before touching your phone every time you’re at the beach, on boats or hiking near waterfalls, this waterproof phone case is a MUST.

It even makes it possible to take underwater photos and videos with sound!!

This Mpow 097 Universal Waterproof Case can be your life saver.

Power Bank

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Hawaii is an interesting place to get around – to be honest it’s so beautiful that you’d want to visit every single place and corner! If you’re using your phone’s map to navigate around your destination, THAT means high usage of battery!

If you’re using your phone’s camera to capture every scene, that also uses the battery like no other app. In times like these, power banks are there to save your day.

Goal Zero is renowned for its solar-powered batteries, so I cannot recommend their power banks more. It’s super reliable and gives you 3-4 cycles of phone charge or camera battery charge.

If you’re a photographer or a tech-lover, you need to add this in your packing list for Hawaii.


ACCESSORIES TO PACK FOR HAWAII

Leave-in Hair Conditioner

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If you’re a girl, you know the struggle that we go through to protect our hair. Lots of time in the sun and salt water leaves your hair in a bad condition, weakening your hair.

To protect your hair from such elements and prevent it from drying out too much, opt for a leave-in conditioner to apply at the end of your beach days. This provides an extra layer of protection to your hair, saving you from future hair problems.

Hawaiian Hair Accessories

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You’re travelling to Hawaii and not considering its main theme? Well, you definitely need some flower crown accessories in your hair to complete your Hawaiian look!

Don’t worry if you forget to pack this one though, you can easily buy them in every size, shape, and colour all over the islands.

Don’t forget to take some cool photos in this look to cherish this trip of yours.

Travel Read

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What’s a beach tan without a good book in hand to while your time? You can also pass the time on the plane reading a good book or a magazine.

My favourite one of late is the 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. It’s a really actionable book for those wanting to get out of your hated job, free up time, and do what you love more.

Neck Wallet

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When travelling to Hawaii, I highly recommend you use a quality neck wallet from Sea To Summit while going through airports etc.

That way, you don’t have to worry about holding your cards in your hands with constant fear of forgetting them somewhere or have it be snatched! This product makes it easy for you to keep your important cards, travel documents, passport, cash and even your phone safe.

You can also wear it under your shirt if you want extra protection from pickpockets.

Hawaii is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and many people still feel jet-lagged when they arrive, so it’s handy to have all your valuables in one secure place so that you don’t lose them when you’re tired. This is a must-have item in the packing list for Hawaii for me.

Packing Cubes

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Speaking of essentials for your packing list for Hawaii, whether you’re travelling with a suitcase or a backpack, a few packing cubes will make it so much easier and keep your stuff super organized.

I like the packing cubes from Osprey; its a brand I know I can trust in terms of durability and reliability.

Instead of digging around for your swimsuits or bikinis, just grab the cube in which your swimsuits are packed in, and you’re ready to go!

With separate cubes, you can keep your dirty and clean clothes separate!


Leave empty space

Last but not least, this one is for shopaholics like me.

Don’t forget to leave space in your luggage for souvenirs and items that you’re going to buy while shopping in Hawaii!

Isabel Leong

Isabel Leong

An explorer at heart, the world is Isabel's playground. She enjoys seizing every moment exploring every hideout and doing the unimaginable, like bungee jumping in Phuket and couchsurfing in Europe. If she had wings, she’d definitely be soaring right now. Also a fitness trainer, if she’s not at the gym, you can find her doing yoga or rock climbing! Read more about her on belaroundtheworld.com/about.