Hawaii is one of the destinations that’s perfect to visit year-round. When people want to treat themselves to a warm vacation, they often book a trip to Hawaii. With beautiful beaches, plenty of activities, and delicious food, it’s no surprise why. When planning your trip, make sure you know what to pack for Hawaii.
The first time I went to Hawaii, I didn’t put much thought into my Hawaii packing list besides dresses, swimsuits, and sunscreen. While I had a blast, I wish I was more prepared, as I ended up having to buy multiple items at the local store (which is much more expensive).
This guide will cover what weather to expect in Hawaii, when you should go based on your wants, and list the 15 things to pack for Hawaii that I consider essential.
Tips for Making Your Hawaii Packing List
Here are a few pieces of advice to help you decide what to wear to Hawaii and how to pack for Hawaii.
What’s the Weather Like in Hawaii?
Fortunately, Hawaii’s weather and climate are very consistent. It is always warm and sunny, and it never gets cold. There are only two seasons in Hawaii – summer and winter. Summer temperatures average around 85°F, and they very rarely go above 90°F. Nights can get slightly lower than that, with the temperature dropping to around 75°F.
However, winter in Hawaii is much different than winter anywhere else. Winter is also similarly warm. Average temperatures in January during the daytime are around 80°F, though sometimes they can drop to around 65°F in the coldest nights.
Besides winter and summer, there is also a rainy season in Hawaii. Most rains occur from November to March. However, unlike most rainy spots around the globe, rains in Hawaii are mostly localized. That means that if it’s raining on one spot, there’s another sunny spot just down the coast.
This phenomenon happens mostly because of Hawaii’s unique location and geography. Most of the rains are at the northern side of Hawaii. Sometimes, those rains completely halt and they’re replaced by rain in the south side.
Just like land temperatures, the water is similarly warm throughout the year. The temperature in the water is around 74°F. Most water conditions are generally gentle, especially in summer.
That means that even the waves are mostly calm. However, water conditions, just like Hawaii’s rains, are also localized. If one beach happens to have a lot of waves, then there’s another that’s perfectly calm.
When to Visit Hawaii
High season in Hawaii is considered to be winter, but only because of Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Those two holidays are when Hawaii is the most crowded.
However, the rest of winter is not nearly as bad. If you want to avoid crowds, then consider visiting from April to May, or from September to October. With the exception of some popular holidays like Easter and Thanksgiving, those months have much smaller crowds in general.
Generally speaking, July is the most visited month. It can have crowds the same size as those on Christmas or New Year’s Eve. The main difference to winter is that those crowds tend to be around for most of the summer instead of only for a holiday or two.
Consider the season whenever you’re figuring out what to pack for Hawaii. Even though there’s not much difference during the year, your Hawaii trip packing list might need a bit more preparation.
15 Essentials to Pack for Hawaii
Before you start making your Hawaii packing list, you should determine what type of holiday you want to have. After all, there is a difference between relaxing at the beach and adventuring in the jungle.
You’ll also want to consider what island you’re going to when packing for Hawaii. For example, Maui has many sandy beaches to lay on, but the beaches are pretty rocky on the Big Island. That means laying on the beach won’t be one of your top things to do in Kona if you’re staying there.
Hawaii’s conditions are consistent and reliable. That means that most of the things you’ll need will be useful no matter the circumstances. In any case, it’s good to put some extra thought into your packing list for Hawaii.
1. Hawaii Guidebook
It’s no secret that Hawaii is one of the most popular destinations in the world. The state has been visited and explored so many times that its island very rarely holds any secrets.
This is why no Hawaii packing list is complete without a good guidebook. Although some people prefer to discover Hawaii on their own, many others would much rather skip exploring and go straight to the tried and tested adventures.
One of the best guidebooks is Frommer’s Hawaii. I’ve used the brand for years and they focus on different islands. They are an essential part of any packing list for Hawaii, and I found them helpful when driving around the Big Island.
2. Waterproof Phone Cover
Having a waterproof phone case is without a doubt one of the most useful accessories you’ll need in Hawaii. You don’t want the water to get in your phone in everyday situations, let alone when you’re traveling and need it the most.
It doesn’t matter if you spend your day on the beach or in the mountains. Hawaii is one of the wettest places on the planet, and I found this helpful to have when exploring north shore Oahu.
Rain is a constant occurrence, and you always run the risk of damaging your phone. With a waterproof case, you not only protect your phone, but you’ll also have the possibility of taking photos and videos underwater.
Believe me, you don’t want to miss the chance to take pictures of colorful fish underwater. Don’t forget to put one on your Hawaii trip packing list.
3. Power Bank
Phones are something that we’re constantly on at all hours of the day. While they’re very reliable, the phone batteries don’t really last a long time. A good power bank is a useful item to have at all times, especially when you’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Never forget to include one when you’re figuring out packing tips for Hawaii. It might save you the hassle when you’re trekking somewhere and your phone battery runs out. Just make sure to keep the power bank full at all times. I like these, especially when packing for a road trip.
You don’t often hear people complaining about Hawaii’s weather. Still, if you’re visiting in the wet season, you should plan for potential rain. That’s why you’ll want to bring a lightweight raincoat when figuring out what to wear to Hawaii.
You don’t want to get soaking wet just from walking around. This is especially true when you’re hiking and trekking. Hawaii is known for short but strong bouts of rain, so make sure to include a rain jacket in your backpack. It should be one of the first things you take when you’re figuring out how to pack for Hawaii.
5. Insulated Water Bottle
The weather in Hawaii is hot, so you’ll want water with you at all times. If you’re spending a lot of time under the sun, then you run the risk of dehydration. It’s too easy to have this happen when you’re playing in the ocean and drinking mai tais, so one of my best Hawaii packing tips is to bring
An insulated water bottle should have a permanent spot on any Hawaii packing list for this exact reason. The insulation will keep your water cold as well. A reliable brand is Hydro Flask, but most insulated water bottles will do.
6. Reef-Safe Sunscreen
People don’t put much thought into sunscreen, even though it’s one of the essentials for Hawaii. They just grab the first one that comes in hand. However, there are many sunscreens that actively do harm to Hawaii’s ecosystem, so you’ll want to buy a reef-safe sunscreen. Being mindful of our surroundings is something all of us should strive for.
Avoiding sunscreens that contain petrolatum or mineral oil, Titanium Dioxide, Oxybenzone, and Octinoxate is the first step. These elements take a very long time to biodegrade and usually cause long-term damage to the reefs and marine life.
Sunscreens like Coola, Kokua Sun Care, and Little Hands Hawaii are specifically designed to be used in Hawaii. There are many more that are equally safe, like Thinksport and Badger. Always include an eco-friendly sunscreen on your list of things to take to Hawaii.
7. Lightweight Trekking Shoes
Hawaii is so beautiful that you’ll want to walk everywhere. Not only that, but you’ll want to get out for a few hikes (even if you’re not a hiker). However, wearing heavy hiking boots aren’t the best idea for that. Having comfortable shoes was important when I spent 5 days on the Big Island and one of my Hawaii vacation essentials.
What you would want to bring are lightweight shoes, preferably with mesh so that your foot can breathe. This is something a lot of people forget about when they are figuring out what to pack for Hawaii. It’s even better if the soles of the shoes offer good traction on muddy and wet terrain.
I’ve always loved SKECHERS shoes when I travel due to how lightweight and comfortable they are, and the SKECHERS Ultra Flex is one of my favorites. When thinking of clothes to bring to Hawaii, don’t forget these shoes.
8. Underwater Camera
They’re surprisingly affordable for what they offer, and they can easily capture underwater footage. If you can afford this, you’ll want to invest in one for any packing list for Hawaii.
That way you’ll have a light and capable camera, and you’ll be able to take videos of anything at any time. They’re also very durable, so you won’t have to worry about them taking a hit or two by accident. They are not unbreakable though, so do be careful.
9. Power Strip
You’ll be taking plenty of pictures and videos, so you’ll want this on your packing list for Hawaii. I’ve spent too many trips waiting impatiently for my camera to charge on the outlet so I can start charging my phone.
With a power strip, you’ll be able to charge all your electronics at once. This is especially helpful if you’re traveling with other people who want to charge their electronics at the same time.
Getting one with a surge protector is important as well so you don’t ruin any of your equipment. This one in particular doesn’t take up much room in your bag.
10. Waterproof Bag
Don’t forget to include one when you’re figuring out what to pack for Hawaii. Many people don’t think about a waterproof bag as being
Water damage can be harmful to your equipment, so make it easy by putting this bag on your Hawaii packing list. It will keep all of your belongings safe and airtight, even if the entire bag gets submerged in water. That way you can safely carry everything with you even when you go snorkeling or go on a boat tour.
When you’re figuring out how to pack for Hawaii, you should look for a reliable backpack. Always go for one that will be useful on every other trip to get the best value. A good backpack can mean the difference between an enjoyable trip and an unenjoyable one.
High-grade backpacks cost more, but they’re also able to fit a laptop and all other necessities you bring when you’re out of your hotel. I recommend getting one with several compartments for different assortments, too. They should be waterproof and even reinforced against damage. You can use it as one of your luggage bags to shorten your packing list for Hawaii.
12. Travel Wallet
One thing that often gets overlooked is the travel wallet. It’s the best place to keep your most important items in one place, like cash, credit cards, and passport. That way you’ll keep them organized in one place instead of having them scattered around your luggage.
When you’re organizing what to pack for Hawaii, it’s good to keep the travel wallet aside from everything else. Keep it on your person at all times. That way if you lose your bags or they get stolen, you’ll still have your passport and credit cards with you. The travel wallet is definitely a lifesaver in those cases.
13. Insect Repellent
It’s probably common sense to put sunscreen in your suitcase when packing for Hawaii. However, you’ll also want to bring insect repellent (trust me from experience!). Hawaii’s tropical heat means that there are plenty of mosquitoes and insects around. There might not be any mosquito-borne diseases in Hawaii, but mosquitoes are still a big nuisance.
No one wants to spend their vacation scratching their bites, so you can also use items like mosquito wristbands. They’re wearable insect repellents that last for days.
14. Beach Blanket
When it comes to beaches, knowing what to pack for Hawaii is a must. Beach blankets are absolutely necessary considering how hot the sand gets. Look at using one that’s made out of parachute materials because those are very light and they dry off easily.
Also, make sure that the beach blanket has sand weights on the sides so that it won’t get blown away when you’re not there. Many beach blankets also come with pockets for cell phones and tablets. They might be fine additions to the blanket, but those generally are the safest blankets to use.
Most people will remember to bring sunglasses, but you don’t want to bring any cheap pair you have lying around. The sun will be stronger than you’re used to and you’ll be in it for longer than you normally are. That’s why you’ll want to invest in a quality pair like Ray-Ban sunglasses.
I hope this list of what I consider essential things to pack for Hawaii helps you know what to bring so you can focus on the best parts of the trip, such as planning your adventures!