What should you pack for Hawaii? Hawaii has a year-round sunny weather and laid back vibe that you can be in casual clothes during the whole trip. Your Hawaii packing essentials will be geared towards packing for the beach especially a reef-safe sunscreen, hat, and sunglass. We visited Oahu for 7 days and only needed a carry-on suitcase. Check out all the essential things to pack for Hawaii and print the free printable Hawaii Packing List pdf below.
READ: Check our 20+ of the best travel toys for toddlers to bring on a plane to keep the kids entertained during the plane ride to Hawaii.
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Hawaii Packing List – Useful Things to Pack
Hawaii Packing List for the Beach, Snorkeling, or Boat Rides
1. Reef-Safe Sunscreen – Hawaii is the first state in the US to ban the sale of sunscreen containing the coral-harming chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. The 2 chemicals are believed to be one of the contributing factors to the coral reef destruction. The new law doesn’t go into effect until January 1, 2021, but I encouraged you to start packing reef-safe sunscreen now as we saw firsthand what was once a colorful coral reef is now destroyed during a snorkeling adventure in Coron, Philippines.
2. Aloe Vera Gel – Light-skinned people burn more easily than people with darker skin. If you’re prone to sunburn even if you always apply sunscreen, do pack an Aloe Vera gel to your Hawaii trip to help soothe your sunburn.
3. Waterproof phone case – A waterproof phone case is also essential when packing for a Hawaii trip. It’s useful both in or near the water but also so you don’t need to keep pulling it out of your purse or pocket. You can use it both when you’re in the water or when you’re near one so your phone is protected in case you accidentally drop it in the water. During our trip to Oahu, I also used it while riding the Waikiki Trolley so it’s hanging around my neck and I don’t need to keep pulling it out and risk dropping it. Take it to the pool, beach, kayak and boat rides, snorkeling expedition, beach play, etc.
4. Camera Float – If you’re going into really deep waters in Hawaii yet really would like the opportunity to take pictures, bring this camera float with you. Strap your waterproof camera to this float that you can easily slip onto your wrist so you don’t risk losing your camera when swimming on snorkeling in the ocean. I’ve been to a lagoon (Coron, Philippines) that is 35 feet deep and it’s definitely impossible to get my camera back if it ever slips my hand. You can also attach your waterproof phone case to this instead of a waterproof camera.
5. Waterproof Dry Bag – A waterproof bag is great for keeping all your beach towels, clothes, food, gadgets dry when you’re going on a boat ride or even at the beach. During a beach trip to Redondo Beach, we’ve experienced sitting down on the sand way far from the water and all of a sudden, water came right at us and got all of us and our gears wet. Below is the exact dry bag I have. Besides keeping the contents inside dry, you can also use it the other way to keep wet swimsuits in. We packed this dry bag for Hawaii once again so on our last day, we swam at our hotel pool, load all the wet garments in before putting it on our luggage before heading to the airport.
6. Waterproof Fanny Pack – A waterproof fanny pack is useful for a Hawaii trip so you can keep the big and bulkier items on your dry bag and small items that you immediately need on your fanny pack (cash, credit card, key, phone). At the beach or when I snorkel, I can leave the dry bag at the beach and hit the waters with just the most important things like money. This also enables me to easily pull money out to pay for rentals (kayak or pedal boat tricycle) or snacks and drinks. I’ve used it to snorkel in Palawan in the Philippines and during out trip to Oahu and it’s really waterproof. Back home, since it’s so light, I also use it when we go on bike rides.
7. Compact Beach Blanket – When you drive around Hawaii, you will be tempted to keep stopping at every beach you see. Bring this compact beach blanket with you at all times so you can be beach-ready at all times especially if you just want to sit and enjoy the sunset.
8. Compact Quick Dry Beach Towel – Not all hotels will be fronting the beach so you’d want to make sure your beach essentials are lightweight. This compact quick dry beach towel will do the trick. Our hotel in Waikiki does offer free towel rental but they were bulky and there were 4 of us so this one is really useful. This is especially useful if you’re planning to snorkel at Hanauma Bay in Oahu as that is a really long walk down from the parking lot.
9. Snorkeling Gear – You can rent snorkeling gear in Hawaii and your hotel may even provide it but if you want your own gear so it’s clean and the mouthpiece had never been used, you can just bring your own. We own this 2 piece set (it fits adults and kids) or you use this 1 piece of snorkeling gear that gives you a clear 180-degree view.
10. Water Shoes – If you’re headed to Waikiki Beach or planning to go snorkeling in Hawaii, water shoes is a Hawaii packing essential. Waikiki Beach is actually rocky and also, you don’t want to step on something that may give you a cut when you snorkel. Below is the actual snorkel that I used and it fits me really well, it’s lightweight, and I think it looks good too.
11. Swimsuits – Bring 2 swimsuits to Hawaii. More than likely, you’ll be hitting the beach or the pool every day or multiple times a day, bring at least 2 swimsuits so the other one has enough time to dry before use.
12. Swimsuit Cover-Up – Make yourself water ready any time when you’re in Hawaii by wearing a shirt cover-up on top of your swimsuit. Easily take it off to hit the beach or put it back on when you’re done and ready to dine or shop right after. Check out these 30 stylish swimsuit cover-ups.
13. Rash Guard – If you’re really scared of the sun or you get easily cold, I would pack a rash guard to Hawaii. I have 2 of these designs – white and black. White is better so it reflects the sun and you won’t be as hot and it’s also good if you’re going to swim someplace known to have mosquitos while the black one is better for those who want to look more svelte.
14. Sun hat – I’ve experienced getting my scalp sunburnt during a trip to the theme park. Never again! I always bring a hat now. If possible, bring a sun hat with a string so you don’t have to keep holding it when it is windy. I love the design of this straw hat though “aloha beaches” – it’s so perfect for Hawaii, haha! When we visited Hawaii during Thanksgiving week, the weather was sporadic, it was drizzling a bit, then cloudy, then sunny, all in one day. Do remember that even if it is partly cloudy, you can still get a sunburn so make sure to keep your skin or scalp protected when visiting Hawaii.
15. Sunglasses – When it get sunny in Hawaii, it gets really bright. Sunglasses are a must bring – you’ll be needing it at the beach, while driving around the coast, and if you plan to ride the open-air trolleys so you can protect your eyes from both the sun and the wind.
16. Sunglass Strap – If you will be swimming in the deeper part of the ocean and you have sensitivity towards the brightness of the sun or you have prescription glasses and cannot live without it like me, bring a sunglass strap. My sunglass has a prescription on them and I must have it or I can’t see so this really comes in handy when going in the deep just to be on the safe side so I don’t drop it.
17. Flip flops or Crocs – Hawaii is very laid back and unless you’re going to do some major walking and would be needing walking shoes, flip flops will do. For me, I do pack my pink Crocs. No wait, I ride the airplane on them, use it as walking shoes, and hit the beach with it as well. I used to always pack flip flops but Crocs keep my tiny toes from getting step on or me bumping it and making my nails bleed. It’s thick bottom also gives me the support (more stable) and it’s easier to wash the sand off when I go to the beach versus using water shoes. I only use my water shoes if I’m really going into the water but if we’re merely walking on the sand for a little bit, I prefer Crocs because it dries faster. Don’t forget that you can decorate them with Jibbitz so if you’re traveling to Hawaii, buy the tropical-themed ones.
Must-Bring Clothes to Pack for Hawaii
18. Maxi Dresses – For the ladies, pack some maxi dresses for Hawaii especially if you’re going to be at a resort or you love to take pictures, the flowy laid back look of maxi dresses goes perfectly with the surroundings. It can also double as a swimsuit cover-up. Check out my recommendation for long maxi dresses.
19. Fashion Accessories – What’s going to go well with your resort wear are some fashion accessories. I never travel with real jewelry because my mom once lost her diamond earring in Singapore and that would just bother you the whole trip if it does happen during your trip to Hawaii. Tassel earring is still a big hit right now.
20. Waterproof Light Jacket with Hoodie or Poncho – It was raining in Hawaii during our visit, on and off all week long. If you’re going to bring a jacket, might as well make it a waterproof one with a hoodie on it. In the summer, you can bring a poncho instead if there is rain in the forecast. The months of April – October tend to have less rain than the months of November – March.
Packing List for Hawaii with a Toddler or Young Kids
21. Sand Toy Set – A must-have on your family packing list for Hawaii is a beach play set especially if you’re traveling with toddlers – although actually, even our 9 yr old still wants to build sandcastles and play in the sand. It doesn’t have to be a big set but a pail and a shovel are a must-have. If you’re swimming somewhere local and don’t need to fly out to Hawaii, you can check our ultimate family beach vacation packing list.
22. Floaties – If your kids are not swimming well yet, I recommend bringing this type of floaties, they are safer than those inflatable arms floaties. They may be bulkier to pack but kids’ safety is a top priority when traveling. And as a parent, you would be more relax on your Hawaiin vacation if your non-swimmer kid has their floaties on them. They have 2 arm inserts attached to a chest float that you can strap to their back and adjust the size accordingly.
23. Kid’s Life Vest – If you’re going to do any boating activities in Hawaii, pack a life jacket for the kids. These are US Coast Guard-approved life vests. Usually, when you travel and plan to do water sports activities or ride a boat, they would provide life jackets but they don’t have the size for your kids. Kids can easily slip out of bigger life jackets so we bought our own for deep-sea adventures. For our first trip to Hawaii, we didn’t need them but maybe on our second trip, we’ll be packing them and ride a catamaran. We have used them during a 35feet lagoon swim in the Philippines and I felt really calm the whole time knowing they have it on.
24. Smallest Folding Stroller – If you’re looking for a good stroller for traveling, you may want to look into bringing the smallest folding stroller. It is very handy not only in going through airport x-rays but also when you need to collapse it when loading on an uber or trolley. It’s great for families who will be doing a lot of traveling. There are no theme parks in Hawaii but you may need it at the airport and if you’ll be doing a lot of shopping in Hawaii. As a guide, if you’re unsure if you should bring a stroller, we still pack one for our eldest until she was 7. After that, she didn’t want to ride one anymore even if it’s a really long walk. She got really shy about it.
25. Waterproof Bandages – If you’re traveling to Hawaii with kids or you’re just plain clumsy like me, make sure to always pack some waterproof bandage or bring a variety pack. The clear waterproof bandages really stay on in the water. It is harder to put on as it is very thin and tends to easily stick together but once it’s on, it stays even when we hit the shower.
Gears and Electronics to Pack for a Hawaii Vacation
26. Go Pro – If you want to take videos in Hawaii, it may be time to invest in a GoPro so you can take them to the waters – they are waterproof and can also be used as a camera. Just note that it easily consumes your battery so do pack an extra battery or always remember to charge them. There is a cheaper version if you find the price tag to be a little steep.
27. iphone/DSLR tripod with remote – I always bring my DSLR when we travel, my phone pictures simply don’t do justice to the shots I take so I got this tripod so I can actually be in the pictures when we travel. This has a remote and can hold both my DSLR and iPhone. It also works for taking night shots when I can put my DSLR on manual mode – you’ll understand this if you’re a photographer.
28. Selfie stick – If you rely a lot on your phone to take a selfie photo of the family or your group, do pack a selfie stick to Hawaii so you can really capture not only the people on the group but the amazing landscape of Hawaii in the background as well – from the beach to the magnificent mountain ranges.
29. Earphones – Some planes do provide earphones but at times, they run out and couldn’t provide for everyone. This happened during our flight to Oahu. Do bring your own so you can use it on the plane ride to Hawaii as well as in your hotel room if you intend to watch something on your phone (Netflix perhaps), without disturbing everyone else.
30. Portable Phone Chargers – If you use your phone a lot especially for taking pictures and videos, bring a portable phone charger so you can charge it on the go. Make sure to pack this on your carry-on as most flights if not all, require that portable chargers are on your carry-on versus check-in luggage.
Recommended Personal Items to Pack for Hawaii
31. Cotton Swabs – Don’t forget to pack cotton swabs on your trip to Hawaii. All that time in the water will get your ears really full after a swim.
32. Travel Tooth Floss – In Hawaii, you’ll most likely be eating a lot of shredded pork. Make sure to pack some tooth floss with you all the time. At home, we used Plackers tooth floss and pack a bag when we travel but I also bring the tiny refillable case with me on a daily basis.
33. Wrinkle Releaser – To be honest, no one will care if your clothes are wrinkly in Hawaii. But unless you do, then bring a wrinkle releaser with you when you travel to help with that. This also serves as an odor eliminator, fabric refresher, and static cling remover/preventer.
34. Medicine Pill Box – For those who take prescription medicine or vitamins on a daily basis. Do bring a medicine pill organizer as you may forget what day it is during your vacation to Hawaii. I like this one coz’ it has labels of the day and you can opt to bring just a day’s worth of medicine with you to pack on your purse.
35. Antibacterial Wipes or Baby wipes – I probably never pack this until we had kids but you should. Use it to wipe the plane’s tray table, the touch screen TV on the plane, your hotel room’s remote control, your table when dining out, the kids’ hands before eating or their sandy feet. We did catch the flu during a trip to Orlando, Florida and was stuck in our hotel room for a week, keep wiping or washing those hands. Getting sick during a vacation is very costly – lesson learned!
Hawaii Hotel Room Essentials
36. Laundry bag – This is one of those things that I always tend to forget to pack but let’s not mix those clean clothes & dirty (especially wet from the pool) clothes when we travel. Get a meshed laundry bag or a drawstring laundry bag to just throw everything in. A backpack laundry bag is also great if you are planning to do your laundry in your hotel in Hawaii, provided they have a laundry room.
37. Directional Sensor Night Light – We bring this to every hotel stay now for those bathroom trips at night. It’s also directional so you can turn it to the ground.
38. Sleep Mask – When you’re traveling as a family, some may be ready to sleep while some still want to watch TV when you get back to your hotel room. If you can’t sleep when there’s even a hint of light, then make sure to bring a sleep mask with you. Might as well bring it on your carry-on as well as even the flight from Los Angeles to Hawaii is at least 5 hours long – you’ll want to catch some snooze.
How to have organized luggage
39. Packing Cubes – Travel cubes divide your clothes into sections. Different cubes for each day of the trip or for each member of the family. This set comes with a water-resistant shoe bag and includes 2 waterproof material clear bags. Use one to carry your airline toiletries or other liquids and then use the other larger clear bag for full-size toiletries.
40. Waterproof Shoe Bag – If you don’t feel the need to use packing cubes, at the very least though, do use a waterproof shoe bag to separate your clean clothes from your soiled shoes.
41. Roll-Up Compression Bags – If you wish to want to make sure you can fit everything in your luggage, try using a compression bag when you travel. The hubby used it during our Europe trip and I finally gave it a try during our Orlando trip and it was amazing. Not that you need to pack so much for Hawaii, but if you’re going for longer days, you can pack more if you vacuum pack your clothes.