Millions of tourists come to visit Hawaii each and every year – and many times, they are quite unprepared, because their Hawaii Packing List doesn’t reming them of the things that they’ll forget to bring! Sure, everyone knows to pack swimwear and flip-flops (slippers for locals), but Hawaii adventures require a bit more than that. So to help you out, here is a Hawaii Packing List for all the items you won’t think to bring (a Hawaii Packing List pdf is available at the end of the post).
For the Beach
Odds are, at some point during your stay in Hawaii, you will make your way to a beach. I’ve noticed that many tourists seem to forget a simple beach towel and are forced to buy one that is overpriced at one of the many souvenir shops. Instead bring one from home! Or buy one online before you leave for your trip, like this dog one, or one of my personal favorites, this one made by local artist, Nick Kuchar.
Beach bags are also a commonly forgotten item on the Hawaii packing list. Usually tourists are carrying all of their beach gear in a Walmart bag that has already started to tear. Instead of praying that your plastic bag won’t break as you’re crossing the street, you can use this nice little beach tote or even a simple canvas bag, like I do.
Water shoes are a great idea if you’re planning on heading to some of the less explored beaches with sharp coral or rocks, such as the one around Chinaman’s Hat. They’re especially helpful for children whose legs are not quite long enough to navigate their way over or around some of the sharper objects.
*Note: water shoes can also be a great item to pack if you’re planning on doing some of Hawaii’s amazing waterfall hikes.
If you’re a contact-lens wearer like me, goggles are an absolute necessity. However, if you are blessed with perfect vision, it’s still a good idea to pack goggles on a trip to Hawaii. Most people don’t realize this before they leave, but the parts of the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii are particularly salty. This means that after a little while, your eyes can get very sensitive to being opened underwater. And you don’t want to have to get out of the water, because your eyes are burning when there are a couple of sea turtles swimming around!
*Note: if you want to catch a glimpse of some of the previously-mentioned honu, bringing these items may be to your advantage. Want to find out why? Read this post on where to find turtles on Oahu!
Hawaii recently became the first state to legally ban the use of sunscreen with coral-harming chemicals – which is basically all of the sunscreen brands that you are used to. While this law won’t officially come into effect for a few years, it won’t hurt to start helping the coral now!
If you want to check if the sunscreen you have stashed away is coral-harming, check if it has any of the following ingredients: petrolatum or mineral oil, titanium dioxide, oxybenzone, or octinoxate. If it does, it hurts the coral, so consider buying one of the following reef-safe sunscreens.
- Raw Elements
- Kokua Sun Care Hawaii (This is a local Hawaii brand, so you’ll be helping the environment and the local community at the same time!)
*Note: there are other reef-safe sunscreens out there, but these few are most highly recommended.
GoPro HERO5 (or a cheaper alternative)
So many of the adventures in Hawaii that you’d want to be able to capture would put your technology at risk. Beautiful Hawaiian sea turtles, crashing waterfalls, Pipeline waves – all moments and places that require a waterproof camera to be captured. The GoPro HERO5 is a fantastic option! However, if that’s a little above your price range, this camera is a pretty good alternative.
Sunglasses are a little item that I always forget to bring with me. This is just a little reminder to pack a pair!
For the Hikes
Most of Hawaii’s hikes – with the exception of Makapu’u Lighthouse and Diamond Head – are quite muddy, like Manoa Falls and Likeke Falls. Some require a couple of small river crossings. Some have you scuffing your shoes on each and every rock you pass. Needless to say, your shoes can get quite beat up on Hawaii hikes – but they are totally worth it. So active shoes that you would potentially be okay with throwing away at the end of your trip are a must-have on a Hawaii packing list. I use Fila’s Women’s Hiking Shoes, but there is a men’s version as well.
If your shoes are bound to get real muddy and wet, so will your socks. So pack a couple extra pairs of socks with you on your Hawaii vacation as well.
Reusable Water Bottle
A reusable water bottle is a must-have on a Hawaii packing list in my opinion. Always bring water (and perhaps a snack) on these hikes as well! Instead of having to remember to buy another water bottle on your way out each day, just bring a reusable water bottle! The small 18-ounce hydroflask is my personal favorite. Get one here!
I very much recommend packing some bug repellent. Sometimes I get lazy and don’t use bug repellent and I end up with bites on my arms and legs that don’t go away for a month. There are both traditional and natural options to help you ward off the little critters.
Of course, you’ll need something to carry your snacks and water in, and I absolutely have to recommend a mini High Sierra backpack. I’ve been using my mini High Sierra backpack for my adventures for literally a decade – and it is still in great condition! High Sierra’s water-resistant material is perfect for protecting your phone and camera from potential water and mud splashes during those river crossings. If you want to purchase one, Amazon is ready for ya!
An Added Bonus
Most tourists expect Hawaii to be sunny and warm all the time, but it can get quite a bit chilly here. I’d definitely recommend bringing a light jacket to wear when you go out at night. Maybe even throw in a couple pairs of long pants while you’re at it.
What Things I Should NOT Add to My Hawaii Packing List?
The easy answer: yes!
Fresh Fruits and Veggies
Hawaii has a very fragile ecosystem. That’s why there’s that Department of Agriculture form that you have to fill out every single time you get on a flight to Hawaii – to protect the ecosystem. While your orange may not seem all that harmful, there may be some small insect or bacterium lurking in the peel of the orange that could potentially multiply and devastate the Hawaiian ecosystem. While it is annoying, I say keeping the beauty of Hawaii alive is worth a little bit of annoyance. If you do accidentally bring a fresh fruit or veggie with you (say as a snack on the airplane), be sure to throw it away in the designated bins in the airport. (Usually they are located just before you reach baggage claim.)
There’s a very complicated quarantine process for bringing your pets to Hawaii, so this is the one thing I will emphasize: DO NOT INCLUDE YOUR PET ON YOUR HAWAII PACKING LIST! As a matter of fact, there are some pets that are not allowed at all in the Hawaiian Islands. For example, hamsters, squirrels, and snakes are all not allowed. (It’s, once again, to help preserve the fragile Hawaiian ecosystem.) Honestly, this quarantine process is not worth it for a simple vacation. If you MUST bring your pet over to the islands, here is a guide for you.
While overall Hawaii is a very safe place, we do have a lot of petty theft. That means, if you leave valuables visible in your parked car (or even in a bag that has the potential to hold valuables), you may get robbed. So, on the whole, it’s better if you decide not to pack your valuables and instead leave them at home. If you do still choose to bring your valuables with you, either take them with you or hide them in the glove compartment, center console, or under the seats (think airplane-style).
Want to download this Hawaii Packing List PDF? Click below!
Anything else you think needs to be added to this Hawaii Packing List? Write it below in the comments!
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Disclosure: I use referral links in this post, and I might make a commission on my recommendations.