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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 decide what to pack for Hawai’i.
What To Pack For Hawai’i
Truth told, it’s hard to say exactly what to pack for Hawai’i because each trip is slightly different. One traveler might be checking out the mixology scene in Waikīkī while another is surfing the legendary waves on O’ahu’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 Hawai’i must haves since you’ll likely clock in beach time, some land adventure, and go out to a nice dinner or two.
What Is The Fashion Style In Hawai’i?
First, let’s get into what to pack for Hawai’i for the local style and the weather. The style in Hawai’i 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. So, when you’re deciding what to pack for your Hawaii vacation, 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 will fit in 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 it’s more relaxed elsewhere
How Do You Pack For Hawai’i Weather?
Outside of winter, it rarely rains all day in Hawai’i. But, there are often daily showers in the afternoons, especially on wetter spots like Hāna on Maui or the Nāpali Coast on Kauai so be sure to account for that when deciding what to pack for Hawaii.
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 so be sure to add one to your Hawai’i packing list.
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 or head to a local farm, and a few other wedges or slip-on shoes for dinners out.
What To Buy In Hawai’i
As we’ve discussed before, there is a huge community of creative small businesses in Hawai’i and that includes fashion brands. Leave room in your luggage so you can shop and feel good about supporting the local economy.
Classic local fashion labels include Reyn Spooner, Jams World, and Tori Richard. Some newer-generation brands worth seeking out include Salvage Public, Western Aloha, Maoi Swim, Tai Swim, Kealopiko, and Wa’ahia.
General Packing List For Hawai’i
We know you’re already following our advice on how to pack light. Also, we’ll assume you’re dialed in on skincare essentials and 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 what to pack for Hawaii beyond those items.
For Everyday Exploring
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 to consider when deciding what to pack for Hawaii:
- 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) cover up.
- Slip-on flats: If you’re going to wear a closed-in flat shoe, the time to wear it is for every day 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, Hawai’i 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 everyday 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 O’ahu, 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 Hawai’i vacation involves nothing more than lounging on the beach, you’ll still want a few key beach items when you decide what to pack for Hawai’i such as:
- Beach Bag: You could take any bag to the beach, but it’ll likely end up full of sand and wet. Instead bring 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 Hawai’i.
- Reef-Safe Sunscreen: As we’ve discussed before, it’s mandatory to use reef-safe sunscreen in Hawai’i. 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 Hawai’i) that is waterproof like classic Havaianas so you won’t care if it gets sandy or wet.
For Water Sports
Don’t forget about water sport when deciding what to pack for Hawai’i. If you’re getting 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 Hawai’i 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 Hawai’i (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 Hāleakala, read our checklist and tips on how to prepare. And, if you’re doing a more rigorous excursion like camping the Nāpali Coast, doing an overnight at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, or kayaking to Moloka’i, check out this Camping Essentials checklist to make sure you have everything from mosquito repellent to backpacks.
What Not To Pack For Hawai’i
Now that we’ve covered what to pack for Hawai’i let’s also get into what not to pack.
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.
More Hawai’i Travel Tips
Have Us Plan Your Hawai’i Trip
Did you know we’re also a boutique travel agency that specializes in Hawai’i vacation planning? If you’re looking to plan a trip to Hawai’i, our Hawai’i trip planner services are here to help you plan your perfect itinerary.
Photo Credit: Opening photo by Isaiah + Taylor
Hawaiian Diacritical Marks: In an effort to be accurate and respectful of the Hawaiian language, we use diacritical marks in our articles on the region. For more about which marks are used in the language and how to find proper spelling, refer to this Hawai’i Magazine article.