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Packing is usually the thing I hate most about a trip-I mean, how do you ever know exactly what you need? But hindsight is always 20/20 so once you’ve been to a destination you know EXACTLY what you need (or don’t need)! So I’m here to tell you (based on experience) what to wear in Hawaii.
The Weather: “It’s the beach so it’s warm all the time right?” Well, pretty much. If you’re staying down near the beaches and resort areas (pretty much anywhere on Kauai and Oahu), the weather will be pretty nice. Temperatures usually hover in the mid-80s year round. It can get breezy at night so you might want layers, and because you’re on an island and the weather can change in a minute, it’s usually nice to have some sort of lightweight rain jacket (especially in the winter months). If you’ll be visiting (or staying) in the upcountry areas of Maui and the Big Island, you’ll want to pack layers so you can bundle up, especially in the mornings and evenings.
Island Style: As far as the vibe of the island, everything in Hawaii is casual and laid back. Shorts and slippahs (flip flops) are respectable pretty much anywhere. If you’re wearing a swimsuit, most places will want you to have a cover up on. Even the fanciest restaurants will only have a “resort wear” dress code, which basically means “try not to look like you just came from the beach.” Khaki shorts and aloha shirts for men and sundresses for ladies are about as fancy as you’ll ever need to get in Hawaii.
Shopping: The good news is that Hawaii is pretty developed so if you leave anything at home you’ll be able to easily pick it up at Walmart/Target or CVS. While prices are higher in Hawaii, you likely won’t notice much of a difference on vacation basics (sunscreen, bug spray, beach gear, etc.). Each main island (Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island) has a Costco and Walmart, and each island except Kauai has a Target. Long’s is a drug store chain owned by CVS (similar to Walgreens).
What to Pack
Beach Basics: You’ll want to pack all of the beach basics for your Hawaii trip. Think…shorts, tees and blouses, sundresses, bikinis, cover up, flip flops, hat, sunglasses, beach bag, rash guard/sun shirt. In my experience, you’ll want more casual “knock around” clothes and fewer dress up clothes. I like to pack several breezy sundresses that can be worn as beach coverups or out to dinner. Also, keep everything pretty casual. Unless you like getting all dolled up, simple sundresses and sandals are the fanciest you’ll ever need to be and at most places shorts and shirts are fine.
Hiking/Adventure Necessities: If you’re planning on doing some hiking or other adventure activities, make sure you pack the right gear. Bring your hiking/athletic shoes, reef/water shoes, lightweight rain jacket, and a backpack. If I’m doing a catamaran snorkeling trip where they load from the beach, sometimes I’ll pack my waterproof backpack. And if you don’t have a waterproof case for your phone, you may want to bring a plastic bag to keep it in.
Warm Clothes/Layers: If you’re planning to go up to Haleakala (Maui) or Mauna Kea (Big Island), you’ll need to dress warm, especially if you’re going for star gazing or for sunrise since it’ll still be dark when you go up. And I don’t mean cold for Hawaii. It’s not uncommon for it to be in the 20s and 30s at that elevation (Fahrenheit). So plan to bring along pants, layers, a heavy jacket/coat, a hat/scarf/gloves, and I’d even grab
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- Shorts (these are some of my favorites)
- Tees and blouses
- Bikinis (at least two so you’ll always have a dry one. I love the brands Maaji, L Space, and Boys & Arrows)
- Cover up (my favorite romper is from here)
- Flip flops (these are the ones I live in)
- Sunglasses (can’t go wrong with a pair of these)
- Beach bag
- Rash guard/sun shirt (these are my favorite)
- Hiking/athletic shoes
- Reef/water shoes (these are the ones I wear)
- Lightweight rain jacket (this is my favorite brand)
If you’re planning to go up to Haleakala (Maui) or Mauna Kea (Big Island), you’ll need to dress warm so plan to bring:
- Long pants
- Heavy jacket/coat
- Sunscreen (I like this kind)
- Bug spray (for hiking in the jungle)
- Binoculars (for whale watching and lava spotting)
- Snorkeling gear (if you’re planning to snorkel a lot, bringing your own is worth it)
- Motion sick medicine (If you’ll be on a boat or the Road to Hana)
- Flashlight (for exploring lava tubes or star gazing hikes)
- Waterproof phone case (this is the kind I use)
- Refillable water bottle (I never leave home without this one)
- GoPro/camera/charger/memory card
- Guidebooks (I like these for Maui, Kauai, Oahu, and Big Island
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