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Ultimate Hawaii Packing List for Adventurers

By Ryan | Destinations

hawaii packing list


Hawaii is beautiful, there is no doubt about that, and if you have decided to take to the skies for a visit, you have chosen well. Hawaii is mostly known for sun, surf, sand, and a liberal multicultural atmosphere.

Not to mention the plethora of shoreline 5-star Hotels to kick back in. This might lull you into the false idea that figuring out your Hawaii packing list will require very little thought. However, the Hawaiian Islands have a lot more to offer than meets the eye. Before you decide what to pack, you need to think about what you will do while you are there.

You are in luck because Hawaii is one of my favorite places on the earth. This means I'm going to share my Hawaii packing list secrets with you. Dig in.

Let's talk about some of the different things to do on the islands, and how to pack for those things:

General Hawaii Packing List - Everyone will Need These Things

The UV rays are strong on the islands, especially with all the water around. Make sure you take a good pair of sunglasses, with high UV protection. If you are active and adventurous, look for a good wraparound pair.
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Then, don't forget to get one of those nifty sunglasses cords, so you don't lose them.

Okay, don't forget the sun cream. Yes. You should use it, and protect yourself from the UV. A waterproof cream is best, factor 50 if you're fair. You can get away with a lower factor if you have some melanin (lucky you). If you are planning to work on a tan, then start with a stronger cream and work down to a lower factor every couple of days.
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Everyone is going to need a swimsuit (unless you plan to exclusively visit Little Beach, Maui). If you are going in winter, you may want a light long sleeved wetsuit top especially if you spend a long time in the water, it can feel cold after a while.
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Flip-flops are the best shoes for hanging out on the beach, strolling around town, and for padding around your Hotel. 

If you plan to hike, you will need something more, but if you plan on setting up exclusively on the beach they will do fine. If you want to do some posh dining, you might want a fancy pair of shoes too.
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Getting a waterproof dry bag isn't an absolute must, but you will not regret getting one if you do. Exploring the Hawaiian Islands involves a whole lot of wet and if you have a dry bag to keep your money, cards, passport, camera and phone inside you can relax and enjoy yourself to the max.
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Yes, sorry but tropical and water often also means bugs. Taking along some mosquito repellent will save you a lot of discomfort and irritation. You will especially need repellent if you will visit the tropical rainforest areas of the Islands.
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Firstly, you will need hot weather clothing (hopefully that part is obvious).

For example, shorts, t-shirts, a couple of sarongs, casual dresses, something fancy for nice dinners and parties. Lastly, don't forget something casual for throwing on over your swimsuit, and beach bumming it.

Don't worry too much though, you can find lots of trendy clothing stores on the Islands. If you need the perfect dress to hit the bars with, you can always find something to treat yourself to.

On Maui, you can find lots of cool independent clothing shops. Pa'ia and Kihei have famous shopping areas for boutique stores. You can also shop in the malls for mainstream label clothing.

If you plan to explore upcountry Maui, Haleakala Crater, upcountry Kilauea, and so on, then you will also need some warm clothes. The high altitude reduces the temperatures, and nights can be cold. Take a jumper and warm pants all year round. Don't forget a good jacket if you will go in winter.

You may want to know how to pack all those stuff properly with packing cubes

Specialized Items

Surfing/ Windsurfing/ Snorkelling/ Canoeing

Shark repellent

You might want to get some shark repellent...

No, don't cancel your trip, I'm only joking.

There is the occasional shark attack in Hawaii (Tiger sharks are usually the culprits) but they are very rare.

Here are some pro tips just in case: 

  • When in the water, avoid beaches where the visibility isn’t great
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    Avoid swimming in places where water is flowing into the sea, like at the mouths of rivers
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    •Avoid being in the water at sunrise and sunset when the sharks are actively hunting.

Talking of Jaws... Here's the most famous Maui break in action

Snorkel equipment/ Surf Board/ Windsurfing Board

Most Hotels have snorkel equipment for hire, but the rates can be expensive. If you have your own equipment I recommend taking it with you. Now you only need to find space in your bag.

Flights will usually allow surfboards and windsurfing boards as checked in luggage, so if you have your own, it is well worth making the effort to bring it with you.

If you plan to do a lot of activities in the water then taking a pair of aqua socks shoes is a very good idea. There are sea urchins and sharp corals, so these shoes will help you to have fun without cutting up your feet at the same time.
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You can enjoy a lot of really amazing hiking across the islands. From the challenging Kalalau trail along the Na Pa Li coast on Kauai where have to carry everything to shorter day hikes through lava tubes or up stream beds.

Read more: The Best and Most Awesome Camera Stabilizers for Traveling

Five Of The Best Sling Backpacks For Day Treks And Hikes

Many hikes are going to involve getting wet feet at some point (although not always). On wet hikes, quality hiking sandals are a good choice. Or light hiking boots you can take off for the wet bits or keep on and enjoy nice cool wet feet.
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Make sure they fit well so they don’t rub too much once you get them wet.


Pro Tip: There is some risk of catching Leptospirosis in Hawaii. 

Try to avoid entering stagnant water pools where the risk is highest.

If you do end up in stagnant water wash your feet off as soon as you can with flowing water. Then monitor yourself, if you get sick between 2-28 days after the hike, go to the Hospital and let them know you have been in contact with stagnant water in Hawaii.

Some hikes are going to take you through hot dry environments, some through very wet places, some places are high and cold. Make sure wherever you hike, you take plenty of water with you. Take a good water bottle or a backpack with water bladders, and plenty of capacity.
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Extra Warm Layers for High Altitude Hikes

On Maui, single-day or multi-day hiking at Haleakala crater is an amazing experience. The crater has an otherworldly atmosphere. Strange plants particular to the cater (Silversword), and geese (nene) surround you in dry, desolate, rocky and sandy conditions. The altitude is high so prepare appropriately with warm layers.

Volcano Eruption – Hiking to see the Lava

Kilauea on the Big Island (Hawaii) is currently erupting quite intensely but she isn’t always. The rangers usually provide guidance for people who want to walk to see the lava.

At the moment, this isn't possible because most of the park is closed for safety... However, we hope things will quieten down and make hikes to the lava possible again. Make sure you check and follow the up-to-date warnings when you go. 

When the park is open and walking to see flowing lava is possible, then often the distance you need to hike can be significant. Make sure you go prepared. You will need: 

  • A headlight (in case it takes longer than you think, which happens often).
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    Sun hat.
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    Plenty of water.
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    Energy snacks.
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    Good supportive hiking shoes. Lava has uneven surfaces, sharp rocks, and gets very hot (think black in the sun). This means bare feet and flip-flops don't go well.

Lava Flow on the Big Island

"It's not normally as impressive as this"!

Whale Watching

If you will visit the Island in winter or spring (Nov – May) then joining a whale watching boat is an amazing experience. Make sure you pack a decent camera and your binoculars.

Read more:

The 7 Best Cameras for Backpacking

The Best GoPro Gimbal Stabilizer for Stunning Photos and Videos

All Set, Pack, Fly, Escape...

Now, you are all set to get packing and don’t forget the usual essential items like your passport, tickets, medications, house keys, bank cards, and cash. Hopefully, over the course of this article, you picked up some ideas for things to do as well.

Lastly, have an amazing time. Hawaii is a special place full of special people.

Have you ever been to Hawaii? Did I miss any essentials on my Hawaii packing list? Where was your favorite place to visit? Let us know in the comments...



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About the Author

Hi, I'm Ryan Smith, a solo traveler, and founder of with a bunch of friends. I love going outside, reading books and talking to people.