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
The things that will come in handy during your trip, whether you’re staying in a luxurious vacation rental or a top Hawaii hostel.
Nomatic Travel Bag
- Capacity > 30L
- Price > $299
Nomatic Navigator Carry On
- Capacity > 37L
- Price > $400
GoPro Hero 11
- Resolution > 5k
- Price > $400
Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket
- Price > $600
Insurance From World Nomads
- Price > Click For a Quote
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Now we have your attention, let us introduce you to the absolute Hawaii vacation packing essentials that you should not leave home without! So let’s see what to bring to Hawaii.
Best Backpack For Hawaii – 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.
We’ve tested countlessday packs over the years, but the Tropicfeel Shell is something else. There are a lot of flashy backpacks on the market but not many come with a detachable wardrobe.
Weatherproof, eco-friendly, durable, feature-loaded, and comfy as fudge brownies: these are just some of the words people might use to describe the Tropicfeel Shell. But we just call it bloody beautiful.Learn More • View on Tropicfeel
Best Suitcase For Hawaii: 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.
Best Camera For Hawaii: 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).
Hawaii is great for diving and water sports so you may want an underwater camera but if not, this is a great option.
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.
Best Sim For Hawaii – HolaFly eSim
The good news about Hawaii is that there is extensive 4g and 5g Internet coverage, taxi apps and food delivery apps. The bad news is that your native SIM card will not work and so you will not be able to access any of this online goodness until you rectify that particular situation.
You can waste time hanging around the airport phone shops queuing to get a plastic sim or you can is,ply install a eSim onto your phone before you leave home. You just access the HolaFly site, choose the USA package, download it and off you go – you are online the moment you land at the airport.
eSims are easier to set up and better than the environment than plastic sims. The downside is that not all phones are eSim ready.
A Proper Travel Towel (Gotta stay dry!)
Towels are essential backpacking gear as a lot of hostels don’t provide them or if they do, they may not really be all that clean. However don’t bring a ‘normal’ towel on your backpacking journeys, they are big and take up loads of room in your pack and they take ages to dry.
Travel pros like use micro-fibre dry towels that roll up into tiny, space saving proportions AND they dry unbelievably quick. Granted, they are not quite as comforting as a cotton towel but its a trade of that travellers need to make. A good micro-fibre travel towers is essential travel gear on any ultimate backpacking gear list.
The Matador micro-fibre towel series are made by travellers for travellers. They are super light, and most importantly dry very quickly and are perfect for all types of backpacking trips.
Packing cubes are great for helping you to pack more and pack better – using packing cubes means you can pack loads more clothes in and then store then neatly inside your backpack.
The Nomatic packing cubes not only have a second zipper for extra compression they are designed to fit perfectly inside their accompanying backpacks, which are number one on the market
Money Belt – By Pacsafe
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.
There are a lot of different money belts out there and some of them suck. However this one from Pacsafe is made of strong stuff so will last you a few years of travel.
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.
Best Sandals For Hawaii: 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 most of your time relaxing in an eco-lodge, 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.
Best Jacket For Hawaii – Arcteryx Beta AR
Did you know that the surface of the earth is over 70% covered in water? And you know how that water got there? Yep because it tends to rain here on planet earth quite a lot!
Anyway, whilst Hawaii doesn’t really get cold, it does get very wet during the rainy or wet season and therefore a decent rain jacket is essential. A good jacket is also important if you intend on doing the sunrise Mt Batur hike as it will be chilly up there, at least until the sun comes up.
There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong gear for it. Don’t let a bit (or a lot) of rain ruin your trip, and make sure you are ready with some top notch rain gear.
This is our pick of the many rain jackets we have tried. It’s reliable & stylish!
Best Sunglasses For Hawaii – Abaco Sunglasses
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 lens and frame colors to reflect your own style.
Best Hiking Pack For Hawaii – Osprey Daylite Plus
If you intend on doing any hiking, or scootering around the island, then you will need a daypack. They are great for carrying water, hat’s and suncream. We love Osprey products and this daypack is our personal pick.
The Osprey Daylite Plus has a mesh-covered panel to keep your back cool and fresh by minimizing contact and allowing air to get between you and the pack.
Check out our full review of the Osprey Daylite plus for more details.
Great Travel Insurance For Hawaii – From World Nomads
Healthcare in Hawaii is expensive. Protect yourself and your trip!
ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.
They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.
SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!
Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.
One of the things you just must try in Hawaii is SUPing – or Stand Up Paddle Boarding. You can rent gear locally of course or you can buy your own.
We suggest getting an inflatable one as it will make packing and transportation a lot better.
Best of The Rest – Hawaii Checklist
Lets look at what else you may need for a trip to Hawaii.
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! Even if you are not after a beach vacation, you have to visit at least a couple of times as they are just so damned beautiful.
Skinny dipping is fun, but also kinda illegal. So don’t forget to bring some a beach bag and swimming gear!
You will have plenty of opportunities in Hawaii to get into your swimwear so treat yourself to a nice set!
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.
You don’t need t pack an entire ER but do at least bring the basics.
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.
Keeping a journal is one of the best things to do when traveling. The Drifter Leather Journal by Kodiak is our favorite, it works great for digital nomads and organized backpackers, and can be used as planner or a dream diary – whatever you want!
Keep on track with your goals, travels and save those precious memories, especially the ones you do not want to share online! This one is bound in beautiful leather so it looks beautiful and will withstand life on the road.
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.
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.
This one by Nomatic is possibly the best toiletry bag on the market. It is made from water resistant, wipe cleanable material that guarantees longevity and it offers excellent organisational capabilities. It is also comes with a hang-up-hook so you can hang it over the shower head or your hostel bed.
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)
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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!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!