You’ve booked your ticket, planned all the things, and are just days from going to the Aloha State.
Now it’s time to get out your suitcase and packing cubes and get packing. It's hard to say exactly what to pack for Hawaii because each trip is slightly different. One traveler might be checking out the mixology scene in Waikiki while another is surfing the legendary waves on Oahu’s North Shore. One might be heading there to sport fish and golf while another is in search of an all-relaxation honeymoon.
Even so, there are some must-haves on pretty much any trip to Hawaii because we're assuming you’ll clock in some beach time, some land adventure, and go out to a nice dinner or two. First, let’s get into how to pack for the local style and the weather.
What Is The Fashion Style In Hawaii?
The style in Hawaii is casual but not sloppy. Even if someone is wearing a tee-shirt and shorts to work, they’ll be spotless or possibly even ironed. As a vacationer, follow suit and keep it relaxed but put together.
You don’t have to don resort wear as you would in St. Barth's but you also won't stand out if you wear that at the higher end, luxury resorts. Beach attire works for both easy outdoor adventures or on the beach. However, most restaurants won't let you wear just a swimsuit unless it's a beachside or poolside bar.
Since Honolulu, is the major metropolis, you’ll find the most fashion-forward looks there. Some might sport urban street style while others wear a more traditional look of khakis and an Aloha shirt. As a general rule, Honolulu residents will have the trendiest fashion while things get more relaxed as you leave Honolulu.
How Do You Pack For Hawaii Weather?
Outside of winter, it rarely rains all day in Hawaii. But, there are often daily showers in the afternoons, especially on wetter spots like Hana on Maui or the Napali Coast on Kauai. Since the weather can go from sunny and breezy to windy or rainy all in one day, it’s important you keep tabs on the forecast and always have layers.
It’s generally colder, wetter, and windier in the winter and hotter, drier, and more humid in the summer. The best weather is spring and fall when there are consistent trade winds, moderate temperatures, and the occasional rain shower.
Speaking of rain, outside of business professionals, many locals don’t use umbrellas but rather wear a light waterproof and windproof layer. As for footwear, you’ll want at least one pair of flip flops or sandals, one pair of shoes you don’t care about getting muddy if you go hiking, and a few other wedges or slip-on shoes for dinners out.
What To Buy In Hawaii
As we've discussed before, there is a huge community of creative small businesses in Hawaii and that includes fashion brands so leave room in your luggage so you can shop. Classic local fashion labels include Reyn Spooner, Jams World, and Tori Richard. Some newer-generation brands worth seeking out include Salvage Public, Aloha Beach Club, Western Aloha, Maoi Swim, Tai Swim, Kealopiko, and Wa'ahia.
General Hawaii Packing List
We know you’re already following our advice on how to pack light. Also, we'll assume you're dialed in on toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and lip balm and that you will already have essentials that you'd need in any travel scenario like socks, underwear, and sleepwear. Here will get into specific things to pack for Hawaii beyond those items.
For Everyday Exploring
Whether you’re heading to Lahaina to walk the Historic Trail or to the Bishop Museum to learn about Hawaiian history, you’ll likely do a bit of cultural exploration. For that, you can wear what you'd wear at home so long as you plan for the stronger sun and possible rain showers. Here are a few additional items:
- Tank Tops: Or any other short-sleeve top that is breathable and that you can layer.
- Lightweight Pant: Be it linen pants, a cotton jogger, or something else, opt for really lightweight pants. Outside of nighttime or winter, it's usually too warm to wear jeans in Hawaii.
- Caftan or Dress That Doubles As A Coverup: We wear a lot of Lemlem dresses and caftans whenever we're at the beach because they're nice enough to wear out to a meal but also work as a (fancier) coverup.
- Slip-on flats: If you're going to wear a closed-in flat shoe, the time to wear it is for everyday exploring – anything from a classic Vans sneaker to an espadrille will do the trick.
- Water-resistant sandal: Or leave the slip-on shoe at home and pack one water-resistant sandal that is stylish enough to double as a walking shoe. Something like this Reef sandal is perfect for a rain shower or for heading to the beach as you can wash them off if they get sandy or dirty.
- Long-sleeved top: Pack a long-sleeved linen or cotton top that's light enough to wear in the heat.
- Light Jacket: Outside of winter, Hawaii is usually warm enough at night that you don't need a jacket. However, trade winds may pick up so pack a jean jacket or another similar light jacket just in case.
For Going Out To Dinner
For the most part, you can wear the clothes you’d wear for every day exploring for dinner. But, if you’re staying at a higher-end resort such as the Mauna Lani on Hawai’i island, going to a fine dining meal like Senia on Oahu, or heading to a performance, it’s a good idea to slightly dress up. Men often wear long-sleeved dress shirts and jeans or nicer Aloha shirts and chinos while women tend to wear lightweight pants and printed tops or long sundresses.
For Beach Time
Even if your idea of a perfect Hawaii vacation involves nothing more than lounging on the beach, you’ll still want a few key beach items like:
- Beach Bag: You could take any bag to the beach, but it'll likely end up full of sand and wet. Instead bringing along something splash-proof like the ALOHA Collection bags which are stylish, practical, can be used as a carry-on, and give back to local causes in Hawaii.
- Reef-Safe Sunscreen: As we've discussed before, it's mandatory to use reef-safe sunscreen in Hawaii. If you're in doubt as to what passes as reef-safe, just plan to buy your sunscreen once you land.
- Sun Hat: Be it a baseball cap you can throw on for a SUP session or a wide-brimmed hat with UPF, pack at least one hat that will keep your face out of the sun.
- Sunglasses: Opt for polarized ones that will stay put if you sweat like these sunglasses by Sunski.
- Sun layers: Something simple like a long-sleeve tunic or tee can work to protect you, but, we'd suggest choosing a material with UPF like anything in the UNIQLO UV Collection.
- Flip Flops: Leave your fancy leather slides at home. Instead, pack a flip flop (called "slippers" in Hawaii) that is waterproof like classic Havaianas so you won't care if it gets sandy or wet.
For Water Sports
If you're planning to get off the beach and into the water, you'll also need to bring the following (or even more if you're doing a specialized sport like ocean kayaking, SCUBA, snorkeling, or surfing):
- Water Shoes: There are a lot of rocks, lava, and coral so you may want to pack water shoes to be able to walk around the shoreline without risking a cut.
- Rashguard: Pack a long-sleeved rashguard so you don't have to worry about getting burned.
- Swim Tights: If you'll be doing a lot of surfing, pack something that will protect your legs from the sun and the surfboard wax, like swim tights.
- Turkish Towel or Light Scarf: Your rental or hotel room will likely have beach towels; however, we always carry a thin Turkish towel or a light scarf that can do triple duty as a towel, a coverup, and sun protection.
- Stylish But Practical Bathing Suit or Board Shorts: You want something that will stay on in the strong currents of Hawaii be it board shorts on a one-piece with elasticized edging. Look to performance surf companies like RVCA, SLO Active, Dakine, Billabong, and Nine Foot Studio.
- Dry Bag: The ALOHA Collection splashproof bags we mentioned above will work great if you're heading to the beach or wandering near the water. If you're heading out boating or fishing, consider getting completely waterproof bags like these ones by Patagonia.
- Waterproof Case: Consider a fully waterproof case (like this one by Pelican) for your keys and electronics.
For Outdoor Adventures
If you plan to go hiking in Hawaii (and we very much think you should), you’ll want to bring a few key things to do just that. If you go into the rainforest area, know it can get humid and the paths can get muddy (especially if it has recently rained). If you're planning on doing any land-based adventures, at the minimum you'll need (in addition to sunglasses and the water or windproof shell mentioned above):
- Hiking Shoes or Sandals With Traction: Opt for a waterproof boot if you're clocking in serious time in the wilderness. Otherwise, a sandal with traction (like a classic Teva) is a good option.
- Baseball Cap or A Sun Hat: Most locals wear trucker-style baseball caps for everything from stand-up paddleboarding to hiking. Be sure to pack that or a sun hat like this collapsible one from North Face.
- Shorts or Hiking Pants: To handle hiking, a quick dip in a waterfall, or rain, pack quick-drying nylon shorts or pants.
- Sweat-Resistant Tanks or Tees: Pack at least one moisture-wicking top like this tank or this one from Alo.
- Long-Sleeved Sun Protection: We wear this sun shirt by Patagonia for everything from hiking to surfing.
- Bandana or Neck Gaiter: We always have a bandana or neck gaiter on hand to keep our neck out of the sun and in case we come across any dusty paths.
- Reusable Water Bottle: Travel with a collapsible water bottle like this so you can store it away when not in use.
If you're planning to see the sunrise at Haleakala, read our checklist and tips on how to prepare. And, if you're doing a more rigorous excursion like camping the Napali Coast, doing an overnight at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, or kayaking to Molokai, check out this Camping Essentials checklist to make sure you have everything from mosquito repellent to backpacks.
What Not To Pack For Hawaii
If you're staying at a resort, there is no need to bring your own beach towels. And, if you're doing planned excursions that provide equipment, you can leave most gear (i.e. snorkel mask) at home. Of course, if you're highly skilled at something like bodysurfing, you'll want to bring your own fins and anything else you normally would use. Oh, and expect to pay an extra fee on most airlines for oversized gear like tennis rackets, surfboards, golf clubs, or deep sea fishing gear.
Have Us Plan Your Trip
Many people dream of visiting Hawaii, but not everyone gets the chance to go. If you're one of those lucky travelers, you want to make the most of it. Our travel planning services are here to help you achieve the ideal vacation.
After discussing your preferences during a short consultation, we'll plan your perfect itinerary. Whether you're looking for custom travel planning or a small group trip, the Salt & Wind team is here to help. Contact us today to learn more.
More Hawaii On Salt & Wind Travel
- The Immersive Food Experiences For Your Next Trip To Hawaii
- The Local Food Terms You Need To Know Before You Travel To Hawaii
- Not Sure Which Hawaiian Island To Visit? Let Your Food Personality Lead You!
Photo Credit: Opening phot by Isaiah + Taylor