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Top 20 Items to Pack for your Hawaii Trip – What to Bring to Hawaii


Ok, so there are more than 20 tips!

** Be sure to consider Numbers 5, 6, 12, 18, and 22 very carefully!

Click here for a printable checklist of what to pack to Hawaii

These are things that you will be sorry if you don’t bring either because you really, really need them or they are hard to find or super expensive once you get here!

underwater cameras are a must!

In order to get pictures like this, you’ll need an underwater camera of some sort; digital or disposable, or a waterproof case for your camera.

1. Swimsuit

2. Sun protection you can wear like comfortable hats, sun shirts, visors, and full-body suits for the kids. Hawaii is closer to the equator than anywhere else in the continental U.S. and the sun is more intense here. Plus, you’ll be out in the sun so much more. Even a small sunburn is uncomfortable and will put a crimp in your vacation.

3. sunglasses

this is the suit my son wears for sun protections

4. sunblock, at least SPF 30. I put spf 50 on my son until he was 3. Stick sunblock make faces easy. (you can buy this easily once you get here)

5. Sunhat

Honestly, you should wear a sunhat too, anytime you aren’t in the water. It’s sooo easy to burn in Hawaii, and being burnt sucks. I like this sunhat you can crush for 12 hours and it still looks as good as new. My husband always wears something like this, and my son wore something like this when he was little.

6. comfortable walking shoes – if you want to do any sightseeing you will need to walk. I advise tennis shoes or even hiking boots if you are used to them. don’t break in new shoes on your vacation.

7. slippers (called flip-flops in the mainland) or sandals for the beach

8. Water safes (you know those little waterproof containers you can wear around your neck or put in a swimsuit pocket for money and room keys at the beach. You can buy them once you get here if need be, but if I remember correctly they will cost $7 or $8. I also like this kind – it’s a dry pack. (you can buy the cheap kind easily once you get here)

9.Light, easy-wearing warm weather clothes like t-shirts, tank tops, and shorts

10. light sleeping wear

if you will be staying at elevation or visiting the top of any of the mountains bring a sweater or sweatshirt. It does get cool, especially in the evenings, above 2500 feet elevation.

11. Tupperware or ziplocks – for bringing small snacks to the beach and on the road with you. Also for collecting shells and other things.

12. a small or collapsible cooler – this is something else you might want to buy in Hawaii; a practical souvenir, if you will. I got one at Walmart in Hilo that was a hawaiian-print backpack, but the inside was a cooler. I wore that thing into the ground. It was awesome. It was something like this

13. travel mugs – for taking your coffee on the road with you

14. fingernail clippers

15. earplugs

16. beach towels (only fancy, contained hotels will provide them) – consider buying these in Hawaii for an instant souvenir

17. snorkel and mask and fins if you own, otherwise buy, borrow, or rent them here

18. a camera – waterproof is bestwaterproof digital and waterproof disposable or a waterproof case for the camera you have already Also consider a floating strap for your camera if you plan on being in the water a lot.

You may want to consider bringing extra storage for pictures – maybe an extra SD card, depending on how many pictures you think you will take and how big your SD card is now.

19. An extra piece of luggage for all the great things you will acquire while you are here. If you want to make this a souvenir, you can. Get a hawaiian-print piece of luggage at a farmer’s or flea market or a shop or stand.

20. medications, prescription and common over the counter that you take often like motrin or antacid

21. personal identification, drivers license

22. decongestants and pain relievers if you use them. My son always seems to catch a cold when we are on vacation.

for Kids and families

23. umbrella stroller – even for young children who don’t use them much at home, you’ll be happy for it in Hawaii, kids seem to have a lot more grabby meltdowns on vacation

24. swim diapers you can buy these here easily. You’ll pay more, but it may be worth the space.

Make a list and start early, but don’t worry too much. Most places in Hawaii have Walmarts and Kmarts and Longs Drugs and ABC stores in case you forget something. Prices are a little higher in Hawaii, but the difference for sundries will be negligible, usually. You can get anything you can imagine, and if you go to Walmart you won’t pay anymore than you would have at home.

Carry-on Luggage tips

When we travel, my husband and I always include one full change of clothes and a swimsuit for all of us in our carryons. That way, if our luggage is lost or delayed we can still go straight to the beach or pool after a long flight if we want to.

Money or traveler’s checks

If you are from the continental united states, your atm cards and credit cards will work here. Don’t bother with extra cash or traveler’s checks.

Do you need Fancy Clothes?

Unless you are planning on going somewhere very fancy, don’t bother with the formal wear. You just don’t need it here. Clothing is very casual – business wear in all but the most formal places is an aloha shirt with slacks or even mu’u mu’us (moo-moo) (light shapeless dresses).

Even the government and the television news anchorpersons wear Alohawear (light clothing with bright hawaiian prints). For an online preview of Alohawear, see HiloHattie.

Don’t buy before you come, make the shopping part of your Hawaiian experience! (unless you really want to) You should bring comfortable shoes (tennis shoes for me) for all the sight seeing. You will be walking around.

If you are planning on hiking or other specialty sports, bring the small equipment – like hiking boots and backpacks. It will be a little more expensive to buy here. When packing, remember to save a little space for items acquired on your trip. If you do find yourself with too much on the way back, go to the post office and mail it or the rest of your clothes home.

Items to Pack for a visit up one of the Mountains

If you will be visiting Mauna Kea, or Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, or anywhere at elevation, bring warm clothing. A windbreaker and jeans would be nice for the park during the winter (and sometimes in summer) and Mauna Kea in the winter will actual support a jacket, especially if it’s snowing.

About sunblock and sun protection and why it’s so important

Bring sunblock! at least 30 spf, and slather it on 30 minutes before going outside. Be very diligent with this. The Hawaiian sun burns quicker than anything you’ve seen before, and you don’t want to be miserable on your trip. Also, bring baseball (doesn’t protect the back of the neck) or straw hats, or buy them when you get here.

I always wear a straw hat with a wide brim when I am sight seeing or kayaking – it protects my ears and face and neck. I got mine for $3 at Walmart. Don’t worry, hats are a necessary fashion accessory here – and all the smart visitors will be wearing them. Bring good sunglasses for the same reason.

Keeping your Stuff Safe

Hawaii is a safe place, Honolulu especially is one of the safest large cities in the nation BUT, there are thieves just like at any other tourist destination. Travel smart, and don’t fall prey to them. Use the safe in your hotel for money and valuables (yes, there are some break-ins and thieves of hotel rooms). Don’t think anything is safe in your trunk – thieves will break in and take it. Try not to take more than you need when sight-seeing, and always carry it with you.

Don’t leave anything of value on your car seat – it will be gone in seconds even (especially) in remote places. Don’t leave your camera unattended on your towel at the beach. Instead purchase a cheap waterproof disposable camera and carry it attached to your wrist in the water (the better to get fish pictures with). Don’t leave your condo unlocked while you are gone or sleeping. Now that I have scared you, please take heart – thievery is relatively uncommon, but it does happen and could ruin your trip.

Just travel smart.

printable checklist of what to pack to Hawaii

4 Responses to “Top 20 Items to Pack for your Hawaii Trip – What to Bring to Hawaii”

  1. 1 Sheila 28 September 2012 @ 11:38 pm

    When we travel to Oahu to vacation… We’re planning on renting a beach house, I’m pretty sure they don’t come with safes. Should we be worried about leaving our belongings in a beach house while island hopping, etc?

  2. 2 Lisa 29 September 2012 @ 3:17 am

    hmmm, not sure. I’ve never been asked this question before. My guess would be no, don’t worry about it. Lisa

  3. 3 June 23 June 2013 @ 2:10 am

    I heard there are cockroaches everywhere…is that true…how do we know if they will be in the car we rent????

  4. 4 Lisa 27 June 2013 @ 11:15 pm

    Yes, there are a lot of cockroaches – but they aren’t the ones like you get from being dirty, they are just tropical bugs. …. as for if they will be in your car? … they probably won’t because they keep those things spotless, but I guess you can’t know for sure. … sorry. Lisa

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All content by Lisa! I have visited Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and Molokai extensively and I lived on the Big Island for 14 years and Oahu for several months.

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