Millions of tourists come to visit Hawaii each and every year – and many times, they are quite unprepared. Sure, everyone knows to bring 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 printable version 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 bring 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 bring a couple extra pairs of socks with you on your Hawaii vacation as well.
Reusable Water Bottle
Be sure to 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 bringing some bug repellent with you. 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.
Want to download this Hawaii Packing List? 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.