It’s not hard to understand why you’ve decided to make Hawaii your next backpacking travel destination. Also known as the “Aloha State”, the “Paradise of the Pacific” and the “Rainbow State,” it’s as every bit as friendly, divine and magical as it sounds. You’re sure to find your own little piece of paradise among these U.S. islands.
Made up of eight main islands – with Oahu, Kauai, Maui and the Big Island as the state’s most popular – Hawaii offers every traveler plenty to see and do. If you know what and how to pack, you don’t need a whole lot to make your Hawaii adventure the best it can be. And that’s why we’re here – to give you the how and what to pack for Hawaii!
Below you’ll find your step-by-step Hawaii survival guide with everything you want to know about your Hawaii packing essentials. Its contents contain a top 23-needs packing for Hawaii list, advice on what to wear in Hawaii and how to pack by the seasons and weather conditions. Also included are suggested items for guys and gals for their own packing needs and what NOT to pack for Hawaii.
So sit back and have a read through all the helpful material that’s been compiled just for you, fellow backpacker. And before you know it, you’ll be all prepared and jetting off to all the splendor that is Hawaii – the land of Aloha! Aren’t you lucky?
Ok then, let’s get to it…
The Ultimate Hawaii Packing List
Now we have your attention, let us introduce you to the absolute Hawaii packing essentials that you should not leave home without! So let’s see what to bring to Hawaii.
The Backpack and Luggage: Nomatic Travel Bag
Before you even take on the task of figuring out what to pack for Hawaii, you’ll need an amazing backpack to pack it all into. For all types of travelers and destinations, our number one recommendation is the Nomatic Travel Bag.
The Nomatic travel bag covers every detail to make backpacking travel the best experience. Because of its smart design, it manages to provide loads of packing space in a convenient, carry-on size package! Its handy built-in pockets make plenty of room for all the necessities on your what to pack for Hawai checklist – you’ll find separate compartments for important items like shoes, water bottle, electronics, underwear and socks. As an added bonus, there’s also an RFID-safe and cord management pocket.
You have a choice between backpack or duffel bag carry, and extra carrying comfort for your back thanks to its innovative strap system and detachable sternum strap. And its black, waterproof material is every bit sleek and modern as it is durable and tough. There is a reason why most Broke Backpacker staff swear by this backpack.
Alternative Luggage: AER Travel Pack 2
Our number two selection for an epic travel backpack is the AER Travel Pack 2. Like the Nomatic Travel Bag, this AER backpack is fully featured, big enough to hold an extended weekend of clothing, and tough enough to last years of travel abuse.
I have taken the AER Travel Pack 2 on multiple trips and since then it has risen has in the ranks of my go-to travel backpacks.
Check out our AER Travel Pack 2 review to learn more.
A Suitcase: Nomatic Carry-On Pro
Backpacks not your thing? That’s ok. Our friends at Nomatic are back again with a great alternative to their badass Travel Bag; the Nomatic Carry-On Pro.
This suitcase is ultra-durable, sleek, and comes with a handy tech compartment for transporting your laptop and other electronic bits. Nomatic has been an industry leader when it comes to travel gear and that reputation is reflected in the quality build design and functionality of the Carry-On Pro suitcase.
Check out our Nomatic Carry-On Pro review to learn more about this epic suitcase.
The Camera: GoPro Hero9 Black
For most of us, our smartphones now feature cameras with stunning photo capabilities.
But… if you are an aspiring photographer who wants to take next-level photos and video beyond iPhone selfies, I recommend going with an action camera like the GoPro Hero9 Black.
It does deliver pro-quality video and gives you a bunch of a different angle options and shooting speeds to work with for photos (including a selfie-mode).
Think of a camera purchase like this as a long term investment that will have you capturing epic shots well beyond your time exploring here.
If you are looking for something cheaper for video specifically, check out these epic GoPro Alternatives.
Money Belt – By Active Roots
Whilst Hawaii is not particularly dangerous, crime can still happen and tourists are sometimes targeted.
Therefore it is always a good idea to use a money belt to hide your cash just in case something does go wrong.
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What To Pack For Hawaii: Personal Gear
Hawaii is hot and warm pretty much all year around. There is a however a rainy season which you need to be mindful of and it can get cool at night especially if you are camping out or heading to the high ground.
Autumn is an ideal season to visit Hawaii. By mid to late September and October, some of those bustling tourist crowds have dispersed, and the weather is overall warm and perfect for all types of outdoor leisure. You may encounter some more rain in November, so you’ll want to have a light rain jacket and umbrella as part of your fall gear.
Check out this handy checklist of items you should pack for Hawaii.
Sandals: OluKai ‘Ohana Flip-Flops
Circling back to the footwear question, now we are going to talk about sandals. Whether you are traveling to Hawaii during the warmer months or plan on spending time by the heated pool in winter, having a pair of flip flops is a good idea.
Your feet will be tired and sweaty from those long days wearing shoes so do yourself a favor: pack sandals and give your feet some well-deserved cushion and fresh air. These Olukai flip flops are ultra-comfortable, well-made, and come in a variety of colors.
Check out the women’s OluKai ‘Ohana Flip-Flops.
Good Shoes – Salomon X Ultra 3 Low Aero
Hawaii is not all beaches. There are some treks to be had!
I admit that most shoes that are also good for hiking are not the most attractive pieces of footwear. But they are some of the most comfortable and deliver good ankle support for a long day of walking about town. I mean, your body is already going to be suffering enough from all of those 2-for-1 shots and bottomless mimosas you will be drinking, so do yourself a favor and buy some good shoes.
Plus, the mountains of Hawaii offer excellent day hiking opportunities, so packing a pair of hiking shoes gives you the option (and eliminates excuses) to go head for the hills when the city becomes too much.
Check out the women’s Salomon X Ultra 3 Low Aero.
The Hawaiian islands are surrounded by some beautiful ocean and the chances are that at some point, you will want to go for a swim!
Skinny dipping is fun, but also kinda illegal. So don’t forget to bring some beachwear and swimming gear!
Travel First Aid Kit
You don’t need to tote around half a pharmacy, but a well-stocked first aid kit should be in all our backpacks. Stuff happens on the road and it’s inconvenient and embarrassing when you can’t manage small situations like a cut finger or hangover migraine.
You can tuck this lifesaver away in a forgotten pocket – and it’ll be there when you need it.
Tip: Add a few bits and pieces to the first aid kit after you purchase it, like extra headache medicine, any personal meds you need (like allergy pills), whatever you take to calm your stomach and a few more plasters.
Travel Insurance From World Nomads
Ok, you can’t pack travel insurance in your backpack, but you can take out a cheap policy to insure yourself against theft, flight cancellations, accidents, etc.
When doing a final review of your what to take to Hawaii checklist, be sure you haven’t left off travelers insurance. The best thing about World Nomads Insurance is that they offer reasonably priced plans that cover all unexpected cases – not just medical services but also emergency evacuation, travel cancellations, lost baggage, stolen items – things you don’t want to end up having to pay for out of pocket. The peace of mind is worth it.
I admit I traveled for many years without having travel insurance. Because of it, I paid the price a few times in foreign hospitals. Especially in an expensive country like the USA, you NEED to have insurance in order to avoid unimaginably high hospital bills. I have countless stories of friends who have been injured while traveling in the USA – and in one case – the bill was over 50k USD.
We use either World Nomads or SafetyWing. You’ll be happy you did if the time comes to use it.
Waterbottle – Hydroflask Vacuum Bottle 32 oz.
All of your outdoor activities in mostly-sunny Hawaii weather will quickly dehydrate you if you’re not drinking enough water all along the way. And, luckily, Hawaii has some of the safest potable tap water. Take advantage of this natural (and free!) water with an insulated stainless steel water bottle. It will keep your 25 ounces of water pleasantly cold for 24 hours and help keep you going.
We love the Hydroflask Vacum Bottle for its quality and because it keeps cold water cold for many hours and vice versa for hot beverages. This bottle is the ideal water bottle to get not just for your Hawaii trip but for daily use. Please don’t be that person buying plastic water bottles. We are all judging you…especially mother earth.
If you go with the Hydroflask, you’ll probably never need to buy another waterbottle again.
Single-use plastic bottles are a huge threat to Marine Life – Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle.
The GRAYL GEOPRESS water bottle is the ONLY all-in-one filter water bottle setup you’ll need. Whether you need to purify the water from a hostel sink in Kathmandu or a stream trickle in the Andes, the Geopress has got you covered.
Read our full review of the GRAYL GEOPRESS!
Sun God Sunglasses
A reliable pair of sunglasses is undoubtedly one of your Hawaii packing essentials. Our favorites are SunGod Sunglasses because they deliver on quality and style.
They’re built tough with triple-layer scratch-resistant lenses and trademarked Adventure-proof Frame Material. You can also customize them with your choice of lense and frame colors to reflect your own style. Plus they’re covered by SunGod’s lifetime guarantee of free repair. Check our in-depth review here.
Suncream: Thinksport Safe SPF 50+
By now, all of us are as pasty as the driven snow from sheltering in place for the last six months. Am I right? This means we are even more vulnerable than usual to the sun’s fierce rays. Packing sunscreen for Hawaii may seem like a no brainer, but you would be amazed how many sun-burned cocktail-toting people you see wandering around.
Thinksport Safe SPF 50+ sunscreen gives folks strong sun protection in a non-oily formula that’s free of gluten, paraben, phthalates and biologically harmful chemicals.
Another backpacker/traveler favorite for staying organized is a hanging toiletry bag. It’s extremely helpful to have all of your accessories neatly gathered in one bag that you can hang for easy accessibility, especially when counter space isn’t plentiful or even available. A well-organized bag is worth having whether you’re tree whilst camping or a hook in the wall – it helps to have quick access to all your stuff.
Historically, I have been the guy who has my stuff all over the bathroom, so getting one of these things really changed the toiletry game for me. Plus they are not too expensive either. A no-brainer essential.
Your Passport or Other Government ID
Hawaii is one of the US states and if you are coming from outside the country, you will need a passport and visa to enter. Even domestic travellers will need to bring some form of ID if they want to successfully board a plane at all! ID also comes in useful for getting into bars and buying beer at the store as the man can be strict on enforcing “No ID, no service” policies.
If you forget your ID you will not be allowed entrance into an untold number of establishments including bars, clubs, casinos, and other venues of responsible adult entertainment.
Hawaii is the one place where you absolutely must not forget your ID!
Let’s face it; for the foreseeable future, COVID 19 risk is just going to be a part of travel. How do we do our best to mitigate the risk while still traveling and experience life’s pleasures? Pack the right PPE gear.
It is absolutely essential that you pack the following items for your trip to Hawaii to ensure you keep yourself and the people you will be coming into contact with safe from spreading COVID around like wildfire.
The Basic Stuff To Pack For Hawaii
On top of the essential items listed above, here is an additional suggested checklist of what to pack for a trip to Hawaii:
- 1-2 pairs of comfortable pants/jeans
- 1-2 pairs of shorts (summer/late spring)
- A few pairs of socks
- (Sexy) underwear x 2/3
- Ladies: a few dresses, pants, outfits, or desired lady apparel for a night on the town. Whatever makes you comfy!
- Dudes: A few collard shirts or something half-way decent for a night on the town. Whatever makes you comfy!
- Smartphone with a good camera for photos if you are not bringing an actual camera
- Portable power bank for charging your phone on the go
- Phone charger
- Amazon Kindle for reading by the pool
- Aeropress if your Hawaii AIRBNB or Hotel has hot water making capabilities
- Copy of your passport just in case
- Cash (not too much, there are ATM machines everywhere
- Packable Towel
As we mentioned, there is no “bad” time to go to Hawaii – and winter is no exception. You’ll find rainier conditions, and you should be aware that swimming conditions in the ocean of the north coasts are sometimes dangerous. Be mindful of lifeguard signs and surf updates. But average temperatures stay warm across the islands at an average 75° F (22° C)
Final Thoughts on What to Pack for Hawaii
And that’s it, friends! You’ve come to the end of your Hawaii survival guide! You have the full download on everything there is to know about what to pack for Hawaii. Keep it simple and stay focused on the info we provided: your top-23 needs packing list, pointers on what to wear in Hawaii and how to pack for its seasons; you also have packing tips specifically for guys and gals, and what NOT to pack for Hawaii.
Just pack light and smart – and don’t forget to bring along your hula hips, your warmest smile and friendliest Aloha!
Also – don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
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