The Ultimate Hawaii Packing List

From snorkel sets to sun hats, here's everything you need for a Hawaiian escape.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

The Ultimate Hawaii Packing List

Travel & Leisure / Alli Waataja

If you’re considering a trip to Hawaii, you’re in good company. Hawaii tourism has nearly bounced back to its pre-pandemic numbers, and the “Aloha” spirit is alive and well. If you’ve already booked your trip to Hawaii, congratulations. You are in for an unforgettable time on one of the world’s most stunning islands

I recently spent six weeks in Hawaii, and I’m already planning my next trip back. It’s impossible to accurately describe the beauty of the islands and the friendliness of the locals, but I can tell you what I packed, what I wish I packed, and what I definitely could have left behind. (Spoiler alert: you do not need fancy sandals or nice dress shoes.)

Learn from my mistakes and use this guide as your ultimate packing checklist for Hawaii. And, of course, make sure to pack your everyday travel essentials like your passport, toiletries, and a favorite book or two.

Packing Checklist for a Hawaii Trip

Each island is unique, and no two people will have the same experience while exploring the state — some will hike the Na Pali Coast in Kauai while others will enjoy fruity drinks at a Maui resort — but anyone can use this as a general guide. If you know you’re more into watching surfers do their thing than exploring historic volcanoes, skip the hiking boots and throw in an extra bathing suit instead. If you’ve got your sights set on the trails, pack an extra set of hiking shorts and leave behind the underwater camera.

Read on for everything you need to pack for a trip to Hawaii and learn more about each recommendation below.

Clothing

Shoes

Gear

Accessories

Clothing

The local “Aloha” spirit of friendliness, ease, and relaxation extends to apparel in Hawaii. Casual, comfortable, and breathable clothes are the name of the game on the islands, and you’ll likely end up with your bathing suit doubling as a top (or bottom) to many of your outfits, whether that was the original plan or not.

When it comes to swimsuits, make sure you can really move around in your suit choice, as there’s a large chance you’ll end up doing some kind of water activity — again, whether that was the original plan or not. You don’t want to be pulling at your suit while you’re looking into the eyes of a sea turtle or finally catching your first wave. And however many swimsuits you plan on taking, pack one more. You’ll be glad you did.

Best Swimsuit

Left On Friday Sunday Top

LEFT ON FRIDAY Sunday Top

Salt and Snow

The right bathing suit (or suits) can make or break your trip, so it’s essential to choose one that you can move around in. After all, you’ll likely find yourself snorkeling, swimming, or even attempting to surf, so you want your suit to feel secure. These Left on Friday Hi Hi Bottoms are flattering and activity-approved, while the Sunday Top can easily take you from the ocean to your favorite lunch spot — just add a pair of denim shorts.

Price at time of publish: $85 for top, $85 for bottom

Best Board Short

Vuori Cruise Board Shorts

Vuori Cruise Board Shorts

REI

A board short that’s breathable and easy to move in is essential, and the Vuori Cruise Board Shorts fit the bill. These high-performance shorts will stretch with you as you tackle all your favorite water activities, and they’re made from an anti-odor material which is why we named them our favorite board shorts this year.

Price at time of publish: $74

Best Swimsuit Cover-up

Vitamin A Cabana Set

Vitamin A Cabana Set

Vitamin A

There are many swimsuit cover-ups to choose from, but this Cabana Set from Vitamin A became my go-to outfit when running out the door for some quick beach time. Pair the shorts with your swimsuit for a breezily casual look, and then add the button-up linen top for more coverage (or toss it in your beach bag for cool sunset evenings). If you love the idea of a two-piece set but are looking for something a little more budget-friendly, we also love the Fancyinn Slit Wide Leg Pants Set, which retails for under $40.

Price at time of publish: $236

Best Casual Shorts for Women

Levi's Authorized Vintage 501 Shorts

Levi’s Women’s 501 Shorts

Amazon

If you want to dress like a local, denim shorts are a must, so don’t forget to throw your favorite pair in your bag. If you haven’t found denim shorts you love, we suggest these classic Levi’s 501 Shorts. Slip them over your bathing suit for an easy transition from the beach to your next activity, or pair them with a simple tank for a true local look.

Price at time of publish: $60

Best Casual Shorts for Men

Alwrld 8-inch Short

Alwrld 8-inch Short

Salt and Snow

In the same way that a bikini top can double as a casual top for women, men’s board shorts can double as casual shorts for almost any meal or event you’ll attend in Hawaii. However, if you’re tired of wearing swim trunks around town, we suggest these Alwrld shorts because they are extremely breathable, comfortable, and odor-resistant. 

Price at time of publish: $78

Best Hiking Shorts for Women

Outdoor Voices Snacks 6-inch Short

Outdoor Voices Snacks 6-inch Short

Outdoor Voices

If you’re planning on hiking some of Hawaii’s beautiful trails, pack shorts that you can comfortably move and sweat in. I loved slipping on these Outdoor Voices Snacks 6-inch Shorts before hitting the trails. Not only are they stretchy and comfy, but they also come with a snack bag that hooks onto the side of the shorts, so you can always have a treat handy (or your phone, keys, etc.).

Price at time of publish: $78

Best Hiking Shorts for Men

Outdoor Voices High Stride 7-inch Short

Outdoor Voices High Stride 7-inch Short

Outdoor Voices

These High Stride 7-inch Shorts from Outdoor Voices can go from the trail to the smoothie shop with ease, and they include a hidden phone pocket, so while you may not be able to store any snacks in these shorts, you can easily access AllTrails or your favorite travel app while exploring the Hawaiian outdoors.

Price at time of publish: $68

Best Lightweight Layer

REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie - Women's

REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie - Women's

REI

If you’re planning on enjoying Hawaii’s sunsets from the beach (as you should), you don’t want to get chilly and have to cut your viewing short. I knew I would need an extra layer but opted to buy a light sweatshirt from a local shop in Oahu. If you’d rather be prepared, pack at least one lightweight jacket or hoodie like the REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie (which comes in an option for women or for men). This will not only give you an additional layer of warmth, but it will also provide you with additional sun protection.

It’s also worth packing an extra layer (or beach towel) to wrap around you during the almost-daily afternoon showers. A few minutes of rain doesn’t sound like much, but if you’re only in your bathing suit, it gets chilly quickly.

Price at time of publish: $50

Best Sundress

Molerani Casual Plain Simple T-shirt Loose Dress

Molerani T-shirt Dress

Amazon

If a luau or beachfront dinner sounds more enticing than a multi-day hike, consider packing a sundress or two. While you may not need to pack a dress, a casual sundress like this Molerani T-shirt Dress isn’t a bad idea. It can double as a cover-up for a beach day, or you can dress it up with some jewelry for a nice dinner or sunset cruise.

Price at time of publish: $40

Shoes

Hawaii’s laid-back style applies to footwear, as well. Comfort is key, and your trip’s activities will influence your shoe choices. If you plan to spend most of your time at the beach, a pair of Havaianas may be all you need. But if you’re going to split time between exploring sea life and exploring trails, a pair of Chaco’s multi-functional Z/Cloud sandals need to go in your bag.

When packing for my trip, I read multiple packing guides, and almost all of them said not to pack dressy sandals. I love shoes, so I ignored this advice. And my pair of nice leather sandals sat unused for the entire trip. Casual sandals are appropriate for luaus, sunset cruises, and tours, so there’s no need to pack a fancy pair unless you’re staying at a five-star resort or planning a lot of upscale activities. In short, skip the dress shoes and pack water shoes instead. 

Best Flip-Flops

Havaianas Top Men's Flip Flops

Havaianas Top Men's Flip Flops

Amazon

Havaianas still reign supreme in Hawaii — among both locals and tourists. The Top Flip Flops were named “Best for the Beach” in our most comfortable flip-flop roundup, and while that style can be worn both on men and on women, some may prefer the best-selling women’s Havaianas Slim Flatform Flip Flop for a slightly more refined look.

Price at time of publish: $20

Best Sandals

Chaco Women's Zcloud 2 Sport Sandal

Chaco Women's Zcloud 2 Sport Sandal

Amazon

If you’re looking to hit the beach, shops, and several trails all in the same trip, we recommend these Chaco Z/Cloud 2 Sandals. They come in both a men's and women’s version, and not only did I wear them almost daily for my six-week trip, but we recently named them “Best Hiking Sandal” for women and “Best Overall, Runner Up” for men. These sandals are casual, comfortable, and will give you the support you need to hike to some of Hawaii’s most beautiful lookouts

Price at time of publish: $100

Best Water Shoes

DLGJPA Women’s Quick-drying Water Shoes

5
DLGJPA Women's Quick Drying Water Shoes for Beach

Amazon

While you can certainly wear your Chaco sandals in the ocean, it’s a good idea to pack a water shoe that protects both the top and bottom of your foot, like the DLGJPA Water Shoe. The quick-drying women’s version was our favorite tested water shoe because it offers great protection, has a non-slip bottom, and looks just like a sneaker, so you can easily transition from wading in the water to your next activity. (This style comes in a men's version, too.)

Price at time of publish: $33

Best Hiking Boots

Columbia Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Amped Hiking Boot

5
Columbia Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Amped Hiking Boot - Women's

Backcountry

If you’re lucky enough (and confident enough) to hike the Kalalau Trail along Kauai’s Na Pali Coast, you’re going to need more than just a multi-purpose sandal or sneaker-like water shoe. Even shorter trails, such as the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail in Oahu or the Kilauea Iki Trail on the Big Island, are much easier to tackle when you’re wearing the appropriate footwear. This Columbia Hiking Boot (for women and for men) is waterproof, durable, and won’t break the bank (because we know a trip to Hawaii can add up quickly). 

Price at time of publish: $100

Gear

Even though the overall vibe is relaxed and laid-back, Hawaii is still bursting with things to do. While you can likely buy gear once you arrive, it’s better to come prepared. For instance, I did not pack a snorkel set, but I bought one as soon as I saw everyone exploring in the ocean. I also regretted not purchasing an underwater camera, so I ended up buying one at a local shop. On top of that, I had to purchase an additional water bottle because one water bottle full of H2O was not enough to last through a full morning at the beach.

If you’re planning an activity-heavy trip, you might want to also back some ibuprofen, blister bandages, and pain relief patches because your body might not be used to working the muscles required to surf, dive, and hike long distances.

Best Snorkel Set

Zenoplige Adult Snorkel Set

Zenoplige Adult Snorkel Set

Amazon

There are people who love splashing around in the water and those who would prefer to keep their toes in the dry sand. For the former, it’s essential to pack quality snorkeling gear if you plan on checking out some of Hawaii’s beautiful sea life. Before visiting Hawaii, I was one of those people who kept their toes in the dry sand, but once I saw everyone snorkeling, I had Amazon rush-ship one of its best-selling snorkel sets to my vacation rental.

Price at time of publish: $40 for S/M

Best Reef-safe Sunscreen

Sun Bum SPF 50 Vegan and Reef-friendly Sunscreen

Sun Bum SPF 50 Vegan and Reef-friendly Sunscreen

Amazon

Wearing reef-safe sunscreen while vacationing in Hawaii is essential (and once you see the beauty of the islands, you’ll understand why). Sun Bum earned the “Best Vegan” option in our reef-safe sunscreen tests, and World Surf League professional athlete Kirra Seale trusts it to protect her skin while competing. If you’re trying to stick to carry-on requirements, opt for the 3-ounce version to start and pick up a full-sized bottle upon arrival. You’ll also want to make sure your daily face sunscreen and any SPF-powered lip gloss you pack are reef-safe, as well.

Price at time of publish: $18

Best Water Bottle

Hydro Flask 40 oz. Lightweight Wide Mouth Trail Series

Hydro Flask 40 oz. Lightweight Wide Mouth Trail Series

Hydro Flask

If you plan on exploring any remote locations (or just don’t want to leave the beach to fetch a drink), you’re going to need a water bottle that will hold a good amount of liquid. After about a week in Hawaii, I bought an additional bottle because I needed much more water than one bottle could provide for a day on the beach. I wish I had packed something like this 40-ounce bottle from Hydro Flask. It’s lightweight, so if you’re planning on hiking or carrying it around all day, you’ll only have to equate for the weight of the actual water — not the water and a heavy water bottle.

Price at time of publish: $55

Best Disposable Underwater Camera

Fujifilm FujiColor QuickSnap Marine

Fujifilm FujiColor QuickSnap Marine

Amazon

A disposable underwater camera is a fun piece of gear to add to your suitcase if you’re hoping to snap a quick picture of colorful fish in the ocean or just want to make funny faces underwater.  While there are many high-end underwater cameras on the market, this disposable one is great for vacationers looking to capture memories above and below sea level.

Price at time of publish: $25

Accessories

Whether you’re staying in a vacation rental home for months or spending a week at a resort, you can’t take a trip to the islands without a good pair of sunglasses, a chic and functional hat, and a roomy beach tote. And even if your hotel or rental provides beach towels, it’s worth investing in a sand-resistant towel that you can take with you. 

When packing accessories for your trip, take into consideration any non-beach-related activities, as well. For instance, if you’re renting a car, you may need to pack a portable phone mount for easy navigation. Additionally, a fanny pack or small waterproof bag might be a worthwhile addition to your suitcase if driving down the scenic Hana Highway and stopping to hike to some waterfalls is on your must-do list.

Best Sunglasses

Maui Jim Starfish 56mm PolarizedPlus2 Cat Eye Sunglasses

Maui Jim Starfish PolarizedPlus2 Sunglasses

Nordstrom

Maui Jim sunglasses were born in Hawaii, so it’s no surprise that they offer the best, most clear look at the Pacific Ocean. These specific sunglasses have Maui Jim’s PolarizedPlus2 technology, so you’ll see the islands’ vivid colors in sharp detail. I knew Maui Jim’s were great, but when I took off my $10 Target sunglasses and put on my Maui Jim’s, the difference was astounding. Suddenly, I could clearly see the sea turtles, tiny shells, and colorful fish in the shallow water. It was incredible.

Price at time of publish: $262

Best Sun Hat

Coolibar UPF 50+ Women's Aubrey Wide-brim Beach Hat

Coolibar Wide Brim Beach Hat

Amazon

The sun shines bright on the islands, so after you pack a pair of quality sunglasses and reef-safe sunscreen, throw a hat in your suitcase, too. I had a baseball cap in my bag at all times, but this Coolibar Wide Brim Beach Hat is a much more fun choice. It was named “Best Overall” in our packable sun hat roundup, and the dermatologist we consulted revealed it’s the one she personally packs for trips.

Price at time of publish: $49

Best Beach Towel

Tesalate The Alchemist Sand-Free Beach Towel

4.5
The Alchemist SAND-FREE BEACH TOWEL

Tesalate

A beach towel is a must-pack item, and this Tesalate sand-resistant beach towel is our top recommendation. We tested 35 different beach towels and decided we loved this one the most because it’s lightweight, dries quickly, and won’t take sand back to your rental.

Price at time of publish: $59

Best Beach Tote

Mark & Graham x Steele Waterproof Tote

Mark & Graham x Steele Waterproof Tote

Mark & Graham

Your beach tote will likely be attached to your hip while you’re in Hawaii, so make sure you pick one that you love. This Mark & Graham tote is tear- and water-resistant, durable, and sand slides right off the vinyl material. It also comes in three sizes and is customizable, so you won’t get it mixed up with any other families at the hotel pool.

Price at time of publish: $99 for large

Best Small Cooler

IceMule Jaunt 15L Soft-sided Cooler

Icemule Collapsible Backpack Cooler

Amazon

If you’re planning to stay on the beach from morning to night, you’ll need more than just a water bottle and a snack. This small backpack cooler is lightweight, waterproof, and even floats. It was our favorite backpack cooler in our testing because it’s large enough to fit six cans and will keep them cold for up to 24 hours. Plus, when you’re not using it to keep your food and drinks cool, it easily compresses to a smaller, packable size.

Price at time of publish: $110 for 15-liter

Frequently Asked Questions
  • When is the best time to visit Hawaii?

    While Hawaii experiences warm temperatures throughout the year, if you’re looking for the best weather, schedule your trip between April and October (although, take note that hurricane season can last from June to November). If you’re hoping to save a little money, book a vacation around the “shoulder seasons” in April, May, September, and October. Those hoping to watch pro surfers and or take a whale spotting tour should book a trip during the winter months. The busiest months for tourism are usually June, July, and December, so the best time to visit Hawaii really depends on your preferences.

  • Do I need a car to get around Hawaii?

    Yes. You will need a car to get around Hawaii, and car rentals can add up, so start saving now. While you can always rent a car from a local car shop or a big-name supplier like Enterprise or Avis, the car rental app Turo is really making a splash in Hawaii. Turo is essentially the Airbnb of cars as this app lets you rent a car from a local Hawaii resident (at a lower price than a standard car rental). I used Turo in Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, and I was not alone — every other tourist I met during my time in Hawaii also used Turo. 


    Take note that if you’re going to rent a car without an integrated head-unit, make sure to pack a phone mount so you can safely navigate. 

  • How much should I pack for a weeklong Hawaii trip?

    You can travel relatively lightly for a weeklong trip to Hawaii. Your itinerary will ultimately guide your choices, but generally speaking, three bathing suits, a cover-up, a few pairs of shorts and tank tops, a sundress, an extra lightweight layer, and a hiking outfit will more than cover your week’s looks. Throw a pair of multi-functional sandals and your beach accessories in your suitcase, and you’re ready to go. 

  • Do I need to pack a jacket for a summer trip to Hawaii?

    The weather cools off when the sun sets on the islands, so even in August, you’ll need an extra layer of clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, hoodie, or light jacket. Also, afternoon rain showers are frequent (but short-lived) in Hawaii, so having a light jacket or additional piece of clothing can make those five minutes of rain more tolerable.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Erin Johnson is a senior commerce editor at PEOPLE. She recently spent six weeks in Hawaii and hopped around Oahu, Maui, and Kauai. She is always in search of the best beach, and Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu currently holds that title. To compile this ultimate packing list, Erin used her personal experience and spoke with Hawaii residents who shared their must-haves. She also relied on Travel + Leisure’s tested data to ensure she only recommended products that either she or the team had personally tested.

Love a great deal? Sign up for our T+L Recommends newsletter and we'll send you our favorite travel products each week. 

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles