10 Essential Things to Pack When Visiting Hawaii

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When going on an exotic vacation like Hawaii, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with how to pack just the right things. You do not want to leave feeling “overpacked” or “underpacked” because the consequences can nearly ruin your much needed vacation. Packing too much, for instance, can leave you with hefty “checked luggage” fees and ridiculous wait times at baggage claim, just hoping that you weren’t the unlucky person whose bag ended up in Russia!


Packing too little can leave you unprepared, deprived of essentials or wasting precious time and money shopping for the things you left behind while on vacation. So before you start unloading your closet or picking out the luggage, read through this list of the top ten things to pack for Hawaii, and see just how much simpler and stress-free this task becomes! After all, this vacation that you are packing for should be easy, fun, and exciting, right?

Instead of illustrating your daily outfits, which would far exceed the 10 essentials, let’s assume you know that clothes and undergarments are a must, and focus on “Hawaii Specifics!”
Get that carry-on bag out and here we go with our Hawaii packing checklist!

1. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen!

This is at the top of anyone’s Hawaii packing list! It does not matter what your skin tone is, the sun is almost always shining bright in Hawaii and you need to protect your body’s largest organ to the best of your ability. Remember, skin that is overexposed to sun ages faster and is a leading cause of skin cancer. You also don’t want to immediately get sunburnt and spend the rest of your vacation in pain. In fact, while a nice healthy tan may be a goal, sun damage of any type is probably one of the last things you want to bring back from Hawaii! It is important to note that the tropical sun is much more intense than “temperature” sunshine. In addition, the environment in Hawaii is conducive to exacerbating already intense rays, reflection from the water and sand greatly increases exposure to UV radiation. So pack SPF 30 and above and make sure it is waterproof too.

2. Flip Flops

Although these may slip your mind, and are not the most difficult item to pick up in Hawaii, wouldn’t you rather head straight to the beach than go out shopping right after you land? The sand in Hawaii can get extremely hot with the sun beating down on it all day long. This is especially true of darker sanded beaches like green, pink, and black sand beaches. Of course the deeper the color, the more it absorbs light and heat and the more likely you are to burn your feet if you think going barefoot is the best way to experience the land. Also, walking in and out of the hotel lobby, and even walking through town is conducive to the casual flip flop. So, why bother with socks and sneakers when sturdy flip flops are perfectly acceptable? Take advantage of this true vacation lifestyle!


3. Sunglasses

Like sunscreen, this is your way of protecting your precious peepers from intense glare off the sparkling blue water, the bright sunrises, and just lazing on the beach with your face up towards the sky. The sun is reflecting off white sand beaches and sparkling waves, making it that much harsher on your unaccustomed eyes. Protect your eyes as you would any other vital part of your body. You can even wear your highly protective, polarizing glasses on land, and then opt for a cheaper pair when jumping into the waves where many a glasses are lost forever. Of course if your “water pair” gets dunked, no need to worry. Nearly every hotel and gift shop on the islands sell a variety of eyewear. Just make sure you are not neglectful of your eyes, after all you want them in top notch form to take in the beauty and wonder that Hawaii has to offer!

4. Beach bag

So this may seem obvious and or petty, but when you head out to the beach with the ever changing tides, lots of unfamiliar neighbors, and random wind storms on the sand, you will wish you brought a “beach bag” that you had little or no emotional attachment too. This bag serves to hold your essentials, along with changes of clothes, beach wraps, snacks, cold drinks, small increments of money for those selling Hawaiian souvenirs on the sand, underwater gear, aloe vera… you name it! Keep in mind it will be parked in hot sand, so it may get wet and dirty. It’s best to use an “older” bag, something large enough to hold what you need.

5. Beach mat

Again, this may seem obvious but you will be surprised how many people forget this simple essential and find themselves investing in overpriced souvenir mats that will only get wet, sandy and perhaps soaked in your youngest’s fruit punch! It doesn’t have to be fancy by any means. In fact, for Hawaii, the best mat that works is a simple straw mat that is large enough for you and your crew. Of course, you can always use a beach towel instead, but a mat is sturdier, can support lunch on the beach, your piles of beach gear, and provide a cool seat for little ones wanting to dig in the hot sand.


6. Camera

So even though every phone these days has a pretty stellar camera, it is always nice to bring “the real thing.” This is especially true if you are a professional photographer, it is a hobby of yours, or you want to take high resolution images to share with yourself, family and friends upon return. While it is advised to err on the side of caution when carrying a camera to the beach with you, not only because of the wind, waves, and water, but also because you never know who may have spotted it or may be rifling through your beach bag while you and your fellow travelers are swimming, surfing, or walking down the beach. A camera should be closely monitored, but can really help you capture some of the magnificent scenery of the islands. You can even invest in an underwater case to take your camera to new depths!


7. Beach umbrella

While this may seem bulky, and many may opt to purchase or rent this upon arrival, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. In fact, it is rather easy to buy a very compact, but largely expandible beach umbrella to provide more than adequate coverage for you and your fellow beach goers for under $10 if bought in advance!! This helps protect all of you from the harsh afternoon rays, while still sitting out and socializing, snacking and people watching. And these days there are ultra compact 6 inch beach umbrellas that you can pack into your purse or carry-on with no trouble at all.

8. Beach cover-up

While this is not the most important item to bring, it is definitely up there with the top 10 for a Hawaiian vacation. Of course you can function without one, but we are not talking about survival but rather comfort. Most men and women alike feel more comfortable taking that long evening stroll down the seemingly endless beaches of Hawaii with even a light, sheer cover up wrapped around their chest or waist. It keeps a degree of modesty in check and also protects the less commonly exposed areas of the body in style. Cover-ups for women can range from a full maxi-dress, sundress, to skirt, or tied sarong. Whatever the style or degree of coverage, most women agree that this is an essential for a beach getaway. Not only does it protect the skin, but it makes the vacationer feel more “dressed” while strolling by the waves.


9. Hat

Like sunscreen and sunglasses, a hat is your way of protecting your precious face from the harsh tropical rays while also adding a splash of style to your beach outfit. A hat can be anything from a baseball cap, fedora, to a big floppy beach hat. In the end, they all serve the same purpose of protecting the sensitive skin on the face. Furthermore, if you opt for a more compact hat it can also double in the water and protect your face from the harsh reflection of the sun against the water. Note that if you hat gets submerged by a monster wave, never to return again, you can easily pick up a new one at any store or hotel in Hawaii for very little money. Having more than one is also a good idea as there are such a range of adventures to partake in while on the islands of Hawaii!

10. Extra Swimsuit

Now while this may seem very obvious, you may be surprised to find that you arrived in Hawaii with just one swimsuit. Not that this will ruin your trip by any means but it definitely makes more sense to have an extra one in tow. That way you alway have a dry suit, and don’t have to wake up by squeezing into that salty, wet suit from yesterday. It is often forgotten but always helpful. On another note, this will help break up your tan lines with two different suits that are two different styles and shapes! You can also lend one to a friend or family member, and you will find that buying a second one on the islands can be quite overpriced compared to shops back home.


So there you have it, a simple but crucial list to pack when jetting off to the islands. The common theme? Protection, comfort, being prepared, and capturing the wonderful memories you are bound to have when you have all the right gear in tote!


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