Destination Travel Guides

Hawaii: A Packing List

So, you’re going to visit Hawaii? I’m excited for you! Hawaii is a lovely place that I really just can’t get enough of. Living on the U.S. West Coast, Hawaii is actually a very affordable travel destination for me. As a result I’ve been there many times, and I plan on going there many more times in the future. Wherever you call home, however, a trip to Hawaii is a wonderful thing. To help you get prepared, I’ve decided to tackle that question of the ages: What to pack?

This is a general packing list that I always go by when packing for Hawaii. In this sample, I’m assuming one week spent on the islands (adjust if you’re going for a longer or shorter period of time). Men will have a slightly different list as well, since their clothes/needs might be slightly different, but hopefully this list can be a great starting off point for anybody planning to visit Hawaii, or any tropical destination, really.

Carry-on Items


I always find it useful to pack one change of clothing in my carry-on, along with some basic essentials. This becomes really nice to have if my bag ever gets lost. With these items, you can start enjoying your trip, relaxing in the pool, or swimming in the ocean right away no matter what happens.

  • One change of clothing (including underwear)
  • One swimsuit
  • One pair of pajamas (or in my case, shorts and a tank top)
  • A pair of sandals, probably just worn onto the plane
  • One light sweater, for the chill on the plane as well as if you need it at night or in an air-conditioned room upon arrival


As with essential clothing items, there are some toiletries you just can’t live without as well. Anything you think is essential for day-to-day life should be stowed in your carry-on. Everything else can go in your checked bag. Keep in mind all liquid and gel items should follow the TSA guidelines, as well as the guidelines of any other country you might be flying out of.

  • Daily medication
  • Toothbrush and small tube of toothpaste
  • Comb or brush (and hair rubber band if you have long hair you’ll want to pull up)
  • Small bar of soap or small bottle of cleanser/body wash, small shampoo and conditioner if you’re staying somewhere that won’t provide these things
  • If you must, your makeup- personally I leave it off when in Hawaii, but for some this is essential
  • I like to bring some cleansing wipes. These are great for use on the plane, removing makeup, and generally doing a quick wash of the face in a pinch. Not essential, necessarily, but I always have some with me.
  • A small bottle of hand sanitizer. Normally I don’t use a lot of antibacterial hand sanitizer, but airline travel is an exception for me.
  • A small bottle of sunscreen. After all, Hawaii is a sunny place!
  • Anything else you couldn’t live without for a day if your bag got lost (contact lenses, lotion, whatever it is you feel is essential)


What you bring is up to you and your personal taste, of course. Here is what I absolutely can’t live without:

  • Laptop. Most of you probably won’t bother bringing a laptop, but I am a travel blogger, after all. It’s also useful to be able to look up tours and restaurants and book things online while you’re there, and to upload your photos from your camera or phone to the computer and either store them or upload them to social media to share with friends and family back home.
  • Smart Phone. Most of you who won’t need a laptop can probably just get by with a smart phone. Not only can you entertain yourself on the flight with games, music, audiobooks, etc., but it’s also great for using as a camera, internet access, driving directions, etc. International travelers should check ahead of time if their phone plans will work in the U.S., but there’s always the option of connecting to wi-fi if not.
  • Chargers. Chargers for your phone, laptop, and any other electronics you might be using.
  • Headphones. I don’t leave home without them. Usually I bring a big, surround sound pair for the plane AND a pair of earbuds for the beach, morning runs, and any other occasion.
  • For international travelers: Don’t forget those international travel adapers so you can convert power and actually plug your devices in 🙂
  • Paperback book. I always like to bring one real, paper book on the trip with me. It’s good for the plane, it’s good for the beach or poolside, and it will never run out of batteries.
  • Journal or sketchbook. For me, I like to write down thoughts, do a little art, etc. when I travel. This can be a fun way to create a memory book for your trip later after you get home.


I always bring a few snacks on any flight longer than a couple hours. Here is what I bring:

  • Trail mix of nuts and dried fruit
  • Water bottle (fill up after going through security)
  • Keep in mind the flight to Hawaii for me is less than 5 hours. If you’re going on a longer journey than that, you may also want to pick up a meal in the airport before boarding if you’re going to get hungry, especially if you have specific dietary needs.

Important Documents

  • Wallet with ID (and passport if you are a foreign national- U.S. citizens do NOT need a passport to travel to Hawaii since it’s a state).
  • Your travel itinerary and boarding passes, any other documents detailing where you’re staying, driving directions, etc. This is especially important if you’re coming from another country because your phone might not work in the United States on some plans, so have that all printed out ahead of time. Even if you’re from the U.S., it’s good to have it printed out in case you have no phone service when you need it to look information up.
  • It’s always smart to bring about $100-$200 with you, I’ve found. You never know what you might need cash for and it’s best to have a little on hand before you travel. This is especially true for international travelers as there might be unforeseen issues with getting cash or using your card and a little spending money will get you through until you figure it out.
  • A pen and paper. This comes in handy in all sorts of situations. Also, international visitors will need to fill out one of those travel cards on the plane. Even U.S. citizens might need to fill out something to declare any agricultural items (like fruit, etc.) they are bringing with them, so it’s best to be prepared.

Checked Bag

For everything you won’t need in-flight or immediately upon arrival, you can stash in your checked bag. Here is what I typically pack for a week in Hawaii:


  • Sun dresses (for the ladies. Or for the men, I’m not judging). These are good for covering up your swimsuit to wear into town, or if you need to “dress up” at all for a luau or nicer dinner at night. Hawaii is pretty casual so you’ll never need to dress up too much, so this should work for most occasions (unless you’re going to a fancy wedding or something).
  • For the gentlemen or for the ladies who hate dresses, a nicer collared shirt or two and one pair of jeans should work for those “fancier” occasions.
  • Swimsuit (additional to the one in your checked bag). I like to have two so one can dry while I wear the other day.
  • Underwear/bras, etc
  • Exercise clothes for hiking or even just running around town
  • Socks
  • Bring a sweater. I know it’s Hawaii, but it might rain or you might get cold in the air conditioning.


  • Flip flops (see above in carry-on section). Other than your workout shoes and water shoes (below), these are the only shoes you’ll need in Hawaii. It’s a casual place.
  • Sunglasses. This is ESSENTIAL.
  • Hair ties if you have long hair.
  • A hat for the sun. A baseball cap is good if you plan on hiking.
  • Underwater watch. This is great for keeping time, especially if you’re snorkeling but you want to make sure you’re back in time to make it to that luau.


  • Any medications you generally use (excluding prescriptions and daily meds, which should be in your carry on). This could be aspirin, allergy medicine, etc.
  • Any toiletries you need that aren’t in your carry on. Shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, soap, body wash, sunscreen, etc.
  • Makeup if you feel it’s essential. If so, use really minimal makeup. You’re going to be in the water a lot and might only even need it for nights out on the town, anyway.
  • I like bringing cleansing wipes. They are great for the plane, for cleaning off your face after snorkeling, or removing makeup, etc.


  • I own my own snorkel gear (fins, mask, tube) and I find it’s really nice to be able to find a little snorkel spot and jump right in whenever I feel like it. Depending on what island you’re going to, this may be useful for you as well. For instance, Kauai has a lot of places to just jump in and snorkel. Oahu has less and you might be just fine using rental gear. This is up to you. My husband is a snorkel nut, so we usually go quite a bit when we’re on the islands. In our case, this is great gear to have.
  • Small hiking backpack. Something small that you can stash your phone/camera, a water bottle, and a small snack inside of while exploring some of Hawaii’s awesome trails.
  • Hiking shoes or workout shoes. As noted above, Hawaii  is an awesome place to go hiking. Make sure you’re prepared with proper hiking shoes! If you don’t have hiking shoes, other workout shoes such as cross trainers, running shoes, etc. will do just fine, but do keep in mind they will probably get really dirty.
  • Plastic bags (for your dirty hiking shoes when you get back to the car).
  • Water shoes. Hawaii is made out of lava, and lava hurts feet. I highly recommend getting a pair of water shoes for whenever you go out into the ocean.
  • If you have a GoPro or similar camera, bring it. Hawaii is an awesome place for a GoPro. I use mine to take underwater photos and videos, strap it on the head or chest while doing cool shark dives, surf lessons, or even to wear while riding a bicycle through Waimea Canyon or along a beautiful coastline.


  • If you want to pack light, I suggest bringing a little laundry detergent (or buying some when you get to the islands). They have travel packs of laundry soap that you can find online and in many big box retailers such as Target, so you won’t need to pack a giant bottle of it. You can do laundry in a sink or bathtub in a pinch if you’re not staying somewhere that has machines, or look up the local laundromat to where you’re staying. This will allow you to pack far fewer items with you, since you can wash them and wear them again.


Really, that’s it. Hawaii is a pretty casual place and it’s easy to pack for. If you’re planning on going to the Hawaiian Islands any time soon and have questions, I would be happy to help you out. I’ve traveled there many times and am happy to share any knowledge or tips on cool places with you 🙂

Enjoy yourself, and Aloha!



2 replies »

  1. This is brilliant, and comes at such a great time for me! I’m visiting Hawaii for the first time this Autumn, and I can’t wait! It’s been at the top of my bucket list for so long! 🙂


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