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What to pack for Hawaii

Like many, I used to struggle with what to bring on vacation. I like to pack light but still have plenty of stylish options. Hawaii is great in that everywhere you go is pretty casual, so you’ll won’t be needing that fancy cocktail dress or suit and tie. There are only a few places I know with a dress code and they are on Oahu – I believe La Mer in the Halekulani resort is one of them. Since I’ve been to Hawaii more than a few times, I think I’ve gotten my packing list down to the essentials, with plenty of room to bring back souvenirs and other fun stuff.  I usually bring the same things with me to all the islands – lots of swimsuits and sun dresses, however, Maui is the one exception where I do pack an extra sweater and jeans/pants because a trip to the summit Haleakala (dormant volcano) is something we look forward to. It’s COLD up there! Luckily for us, our favorite time to go to Maui is in the fall, so we’re already wearing warm clothes when we leave blustery New York!

On Maui you can go from this… this in the same day!

Since we tend to stay in condos for most of or at least a portion of our trips, we usually have a washer/dryer handy which means we can pack less clothing. In addition, I HATE paying for baggage fees, but sometimes it is unavoidable, so I try to maximize the space and usage of my check-in luggage and only check in one bag between myself and Steve. My trick? Pack a smaller carry-on suitcase in a larger suitcase, that way you go on vacation with one and you come back with two, the second of which is filled with all the snacks, foods, souvenirs, and other gifts that friends and large family are eagerly expecting when coming back from a Hawaiian vacation. Here’s pictures from my actual suitcase I’ll be bringing to Maui next week.

This is about a 26-inch expandable suitcase that I check in.

Open it up to reveal a smaller 21-inch carry-on!

Ta da! The majority of our clothes fit into the smaller carry on. I tuck little things into the spaces outside the suitcase like socks and flip flips.

We don’t really do his and hers suitcases since we only check- in one bag. But if we did check in two, I would divided my stuff evening with Steve’s in both suitcases. It would be a shame if one person’s bag gets lost in transit! Also, pack swimsuits, and a change of clothes in your carry on. This way you always ensure you have something to wear even if your luggage is delayed. I also make use of packing cubes, just because it makes everything a lot neater. I can pack my swimsuits and cover ups in one case, and then Steve’s clothes in another. Oh and I always roll my clothes because it reduces wrinkles and ensures you’re maximizing space in the packing cube. It’s amazing how much you can stuff in these cubes! My packing cubes are from ebags but you can find them at many travel and luggage retailers as well as

Packing cubes from

Women – What to bring: Think casual, lightweight and summer-y. If you’re staying at a nice resort, bringing some nicer outfits would be great for dinner and lounging around the resort. Bring a cardigan or jacket if you’re headed to Hawaii in the winter months because there can be a cold breeze during the evenings.  Since we usually visit Hawaii in the Fall/Winter, we wear our thickest and bulkiest clothing on the plane to Hawaii which will serve as our layers of warmth cheap topamax buy which is needed when visiting unique places such as the summit of Haleakala. Even the top of Waimeal Canyon can get breezy and cold  especially when it’s not sunny. When I de-plane, if I find it too warm, I will change into a dress and sandals from my carry-on. In terms of what I actually pack, here’s an example of what I’d bring on a 12-day Maui trip next week:

  • 3 bathing suits
  • A handful of casual yet stylish dresses – my dresses are loose and lightweight and they also double as cover-ups
  • 2 nicer dresses – I like flow-y maxi dresses because they look so pretty in the breeze during sunset
  • Sleeping clothes
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • A handful of t-shirts and tank tops
  • Some workout clothes in case I get inspired to go to the gym. (This may or may not happen)
  • A pair of comfy walk around sandals or shoes
  • A pair of waterproof sandals (like Havaianas) for the pool and beach
  • A pair of dressy sandals (I like the look of wedges but they take up too much room so I bring dressy flat sandals)
  • A light cardigan for cooler evenings. I always bring either white or black or both, because it will go with everything
  • A pair of sporty capris or for activities that require it, like ziplining. Trust me, women do not want to wear short shorts with a harness.
  • A lightweight beach bag. I usually bring a packable envirosax. Canvas bags are nice but I think they are a bit bulky.
  • One small cross-body bag, enough to fit my camera and wallet and a few other things.
  • Enough undergarments to last for half a week.

My traveling uniform: Most likely you’ll be seeing me in a pair of leggings or yoga pants, a long t-shirt, loose cardigan, and sneakers. I also carry a lightweight scarf which can serve as a blanket or pillow when in need.

My typical traveling outfit

Men: Steve has it a bit easy. All men can get away with shorts and a Hawaiian shirt for dressier meals. The rest of the time, he’s in T-shirts and flip-flops. He’ll be wearing jeans and a sweater on the plane which will serve as his warm layers when we visit upcountry. Here’s his list:

  • 5-6 T-shirts
  • 3 pairs of shorts
  • 2 swimming trunks
  • flip flops (waterproof)
  • a few pairs of socks
  • Undergarments for half a week

Hmmm…I guess most of the packing will be for my stuff, but honestly, when you roll it up, it doesn’t take that much space!

Other necessities: 

– Steve has one really good snorkel and mask which he brings. We bought this from Snorkel Bobs in Maui a few years back and we love it. Maybe I should get myself a set too.

– Sunscreen is very important and I usually wear an SPF 50, but a visit to the doctor recently revealed that I have a Vitamin D deficiency. Can you believe it? So, I had to reduce my SPF to 30.

– Reading material – I’ve downloaded some chick lit and beach reading on my Kindle Paperwhite. I love reading on vacation! I also love the paperwhite because there is no screen glare and the battery life is great. I used to read on an ipad and I swear even with an anti-glare screen protector, I could barely make anything out in the bright sun.

– Camera(s). I love to document our travels in pictures and will not be caught without at least a few of them. On initial trips to Hawaii I traveled with a Canon DSLR and 3 lenses. That grew heavy very quickly so now I just use a great point and shoot, the Canon G7X, and my iphone!


What NOT to bring to Hawaii, as well as what NOT to bring from Hawaii back to the Mainland:

One thing that first time visitors to Hawaii may not know is that there are strict agriculture rules. More information can be found HERE.

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