Everything You Need To Pack For Hawaii: My 8-Day List

Published: 2/10/23

 What You Really Need to Pack for Hawaii

What you need to pack for Hawaii is pretty different from what you need for a trip anywhere else in the United States. Hawaii was the 50th state I visited, so I know!

As a proud resident of the bold North, Hawaii proved a packing brainteaser for me. Honestly, I can count the number of times I wear shorts during a northern Minnesota summer on one hand so it’s difficult to imagine a place where you don’t need pants.

While I didn’t buy a single thing for my trip to Alaska in December 2019, I shelled out more than $200 on “warm weather” clothing before flying to Honolulu and Kauai in December 2023. (If you’re in a similar situation, I highly recommend thredUP for an affordable, eco-friendly way to quickly “summer-ize” your wardrobe.)

I probably overthought what I packed for Hawaii. Between it being my first trip to a truly tropical destination and visiting during the rainier winter season, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I spent more time than I like to admit gnashing my teeth over how many pairs of pants to pack. The rain jacket went into the suitcase . . . and then it came out. 

In this post, I’ll share everything that went into (and stayed in) my suitcase for my first trip to Hawaii. You’ll also find a printable Hawaii packing list PDF at the end of the post. That printable list includes everything I’ll actually pack on my next Hawaii trip.  Read on to learn what you must pack for Hawaii and what you can live without.

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 Everything I Pack for 8 Full Days in Hawaii

If you’re reading through this list and think, gosh Ada, that seems like a lot stuff, well, it probably is! I’m a maximalist when it comes to travel and packing and I’m okay with that. 

Thanks to my free checked bag compliments of my Delta Skymiles AmEx card, I have zero motivation to live out of a carry-on. That said,  rather than carting around two checked bags for our island hopping adventure, Andy and I shared one large checked bag for Hawaii. Although I can’t verify it, I believe if you follow my recommended Hawaii packing list below, everything would fit in a carry-on. (But if you use a carry-on, how will you bring back the 10 lbs of coffee and macadamia nuts you bought for Christmas presents? I kid . . . kind of.)

My Hawaii Luggage


Hi! I’m Ada, a travel writer who believes “there’s no place like home.” I started Beyond the Yellow Brick Road to share my travel experiences and lessons learned from the road to help fellow travelers have the best travel experiences possible.

Home Airport:


Next Trip:

The Azores

Where I’ve Been:

Victorinox Roller Bag

Camelbak H.A.W.G Backpack

Pacsafe Convertible Backpack

Checked luggage – Andy and I shared my medium 27″ tall Victorinox Roller Bag. Although it took some strategic packing to fit all our clothing, shoes, and accessories, I still managed to bring back 10 lbs of coffee and macadamia nuts without using the expansion option. *brushes off shoulder* 

Carry-on – Since we both travel with our laptops (the joys of owning a small business, y’all), we each used a small backpack for our carry-on. Andy won the “who gets the H.A.W.G Mil Spec Backpack ” fight. I took my decidedly less tactial Duluth pack backpack which dates back to college. Both backpacks fit underneath the seat in front and it’s nice not to jockey for overhead space. 

Personal item– I’m still singing the praises of my convertible Pacsafe Backpack. I used it as a crossbody bag on the plane, then converted it to backpack for our Hawaii wanderings. My lower back greatly prefers a backpack over a crossbody bag!


Essential Hawaii Accessories

Chico Reuseable Bags



Maui Jim Sunglasses


Packable shopping bag – I always like having a packable shopping bag like these Chico bags in my purse. They’re especially handy in Hawaii since state law requires retailers to charge for shopping bags.

Maui Jim Sunglasses I’ve had my Maui Jims for nearly six years and they are worth every penny! If you haven’t gotten on the polarized sunglass train yet, it’s time.

Clothespins – Definitely a must when you pack for Hawaii. Use them to seal snack bags or to speed your swimsuit drying.

Other Travel Accessories I Packed For Hawaii

What We Used

America the Beautiful Pass – Even though the only federal site we planned to visit – Pearl Harbor National Memorial – doesn’t accept the America the Beautiful Pass, I threw this in, just in case. I’m glad I did – it ended up saving us $20 on Kauai!

The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook – This book comes highly recommended on basically ever Kauai travel blog post I read. I guess I’ll join the chorus.

Trash bags – Definitely throw in two or three of these. We ended up using them to wrap up Andy’s very muddy (but still perfectly functional) sneakers for the trip home. 

Laundry detergent and dish soap – I always bring teeny containers of these. On the off-chance your vacation rental doesn’t provide these, it’s so much less wasteful to have them along rather than having to buy even the smallest containers.

Scissors – I don’t travel with a sewing kit (if it tears, I toss), but having a small set of embroidery scissors along often proves handy.

Lens cleaners – You’re going to want to keep your sunglasses and cameras crystal clear for taking in all those gorgeous Hawaii views. Zeiss lens cleaning wipes are where it’s at.

What We Didn’t

Spotting scope – Wildlife viewing was definitely a highlight of our time on Kauai. Despite that fact, I don’t think the spotting scope ever left the suitcase.

Googles – Threw my cheap-o googles in on the off-chance we’d spend a lot of time at the beach. We did not.

Sunglasses straps – I threw these straps into my sunglasses case thinking I might want them for our boat tour of the Na Pali Coast. In the end, they went unused, but they took up zero space and weigh nothing, so no biggie.

Waterproof camera holder – I also didn’t use this either . . . in part because I have trust issues. Maybe the next time I go snorkeling, I’ll feel brave enough to use it.

We also packed:
Pocket knife
Small flashlight
Power bank
Snack bag (granola bars, trail mix, etc) for plane and hikes


Hawaii Toiletries I Packed

Pharmacy bag – No one want to spend their vacation under the weather, but if you do get sick, you probably don’t want to be stumbling around a long ways from home looking for over the counter drugs. Just in case, I like to pack a couple doses each of Ex-Lax, Immodium, Emergen C, NyQuil, Advil, and cough drops. I also highly recommend proactively taking a Gas-x before any flight longer than four hours. Because I’d scheduled a boat tour in Kauai, I also packed Dramamine.

First aid kit – Just some Band-aids and antiseptic cream, really.

Reef safe sunscreen – Obviously, you need sunscreen for Hawaii. If you’re packing instead of purchasing there, make sure it’s reef safe. Hawaii law bans the sale of any sunscreen that isn’t reef safe. While you’re not going to go to jail for not using reef safe sunscreen, why not do your part in keeping toxic chemicals out of the ocean? This spray sunscreen and facial sunscreen helped us completely escape sunburn!

Aloe vera – Happily we didn’t need a drop of this. Still, as someone who’s suffered epic sunburns in the past, I’ll never travel to a sunny location without packing this.

Bug spray – Many Hawaii packing guides I read advised packing bug spray, especially if hiking. However, I think I saw one (very small) mosquito our entire visit. Even if you’re sensitive to bugs, don’t bother carting around an entire bottle of bug spray. Just pack a handful of these bug spray wipes instead.

Sleep kit – You know I don’t travel without this. You can learn about everything inside this little kit here.

Toiletry kit – Nothing exciting in here: toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, razor, etc. etc. Don’t forget the travel packs of Kleenex!

Hawaii Footwear



Keen Sandals

Teva Sport Sandals

Teva Highside Sneakers


Keen sneaker sandals – Instead of full-fledged hiking boots, I used my older, closed toe Keen sandals for our Hawaii hikes. (I often wear them on Boundary Waters day trips, so I knew they had enough traction.) I definitely saved some space in the suitcase by using these, but the red Kauai mud took weeks to remove from my toenail beds!

Teva sandals – These cross strap sandals were perfect for everyday Hawaii exploring and looked great too!

Older sneakers – If you’re hiking in Kauai, it’s often recommended to bring a pair of shoes you won’t be sad to throw away at the end of the trip. (The mud, you guys. The MUD!) I wore my old Teva Highside 84 sneakers for the plane ride, but didn’t put them on again until the plane ride home.

Hawaii Clothing

Plane outfitCotopaxi full-zip fleece, Minus 33 merino wool t-shirt, joggers

Two sunhats – My Wallaroo packable hat has become one of my absolute travel staples. I wore this hat all day every day in Hawaii. I only packed a second hat because I wanted one with a drawstring for the boat tour.

Two swimsuits – I only used one, but if you’re going to be spending a lot of time at the beach, you’ll want at least two because there is nothing as awful as wriggling into a wet swimsuit.

Sarong wrap – I use this as a beach cover-up. Lightweight and dries in a flash!

Jean shorts

Two t-shirts

Sundress – This thredUP find (Columbia brand) recently came with me to Orlando!

Four tank tops – I brought two of Carly Jeans Los Angeles Favorite Tanks and two Title Nine active tanks

Linen shorts – Another thredUP score. I loved these Athleta shorts, especially their deep pockets

Sunshirt – Clearly sunburn was a major concern. My Sunbuster hoodie from Title Nine wasn’t anything special, but it got the job done.

Long sleeve t-shirt – Although I lived in tanks all day, I appreciated long sleeves when the sun set.

Athletic capris – Thought I would wear these hiking, but I didn’t. 

Lightweight Columbia pants – Ditto on these.

Clamber shorts – I’ve been searching for pocket-rich activewear shorts  like these from Title Nine, my entire life.

Underwear 1x number of days

Socks x 4 – Definitely didn’t need these. I wore sandals for 8 days straight.

Bras x 2 (1 sports)

Lightweight pajamas

My Hawaii Must-Haves


Wallaroo Sunhat

Sun Bum Sunscreen

The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook

Wallaroo Victoria Packable Sun Hat – Whether you’re headed to Savannah or Honolulu, this lightweight sunhat can be paired with any outfit and is oh so practical.

Sun Bum Face 50 Sunscreen – I have sensitive, sunburn-prone skin and this is the first facial sunscreen I’ve used that didn’t irritate my skin or cause a massive breakout.

The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook – While I didn’t always appreciate the author’s tone, there’s no denying he knows the island inside and out. This guidebook is truly an invaluable resource for a Kauai first-time visitor.

What You Actually Need to Pack for Hawaii

Below is a printable packing list of what I’ll actually pack next time I’m in Hawaii for eight days.

You’ll notice that I didn’t need nearly as much clothing as I thought I would. This was in large part because our cottage in Kauai had a washer and dryer, which I didn’t realize until we arrived. If you don’t have access to laundry during your Hawaii trip, I’d recommend bring one more of each clothing item listed.

Printable Hawaii Packing List

Have you been to Hawaii before? If so, what’s one essential on your Hawaii packing list?

If you enjoyed this Hawaii packing list, check out my other Hawaii content!


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