Some fly to Hawaii for the surf and sand, while others seek forests and farms. Whatever your reason to visit the Aloha State, you’ll want to be prepared for it all. (And learn how to Travel Pono.) Here are our top recommendations to help you pack for a trip to the Islands.
What to bring:
- Sun protection
It’s summer weather year-round in Hawaii, so bring your best sun defenses: hats or visors; sunglasses that provide protection from UVA, UVB and UVC rays; and broad-spectrum sunscreen that do not contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are prohibited in Hawaii.
- Casual clothing
You’ll be in the tropics. As far as clothes go, think casual and comfortable: t-shirts, tank tops, polo shirts, shorts, capris and swimsuits. Inside businesses, be sure to cover up and wear more than just a swimsuit. Slacks, a skirt or dress and a few nice blouses and shirts will be fine for evenings. Mix and match to create different looks.
- Comfy shoes
Casual and comfortable goes for footwear, too. That includes flats, sandals, slippers, sneakers and walking shoes that have been broken in beforehand. Nix the high heels; you won’t need them — promise. Don’t forget hiking boots if you’re going to hike and golf shoes if you’re planning to golf. You’ll need sturdy, closed-toe shoes if you’ll be horseback riding, ziplining and going on ATV tours.
- Hawaii guidebook
Having a good guidebook is helpful. Recommended titles include “Frommer’s Hawaii” and the “Fodor’s,” “Lonely Planet” and “Hawaii Revealed” series — of course, the free Go Hawaii Official Visitors Guide is a great starting point, too.
- Backpack or bag
For daylong adventures, replace your ‘regular’ purse with a tote, fanny pack or a backpack, and downsize the contents to just your wallet, cell phone, munchies and, if needed, medications. A foldable nylon or cloth bag that easily fits in your luggage is ideal for this purpose.
- Kids’ gear
If you’re traveling with young children, don’t forget their diaper bag and favorite toys, books, games and treats. You’ll also want to bring their stroller and car seat or booster seat. Even though car rental companies do rent these seats, you might want to bring your own to save money and have peace of mind (it’s great to know you have familiar equipment that’s the proper size). For more information, take a look at Hawaiian Airlines' policies for car seats. Many hotels provide cribs, playpens and rollaway beds, albeit for an extra fee. Oahu travelers can also check out Paradise Baby Co., a full-service baby equipment rental company that stocks everything you’d need for your child, right down to the potty chair, bottle sterilizer and safety gate.
- All the extras
These miscellaneous items won’t take up much space in your suitcase and might come in handy: small LED flashlight, refillable water bottle, poncho or foldable umbrella and healthy snacks (e.g., nuts, crackers, jerky, dried fruit and trail mix).
What not to bring:
- Too many clothes
Most hotels provide laundry service, and vacation homes and condos provide either an in-room washer and dryer or an on-site laundromat. If necessary, you can hand-wash underwear and other garments that dry quickly.
Island temperatures average in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit year-round. Take a light jacket or sweater, but chances are you won’t even wear that. Of course, if you’re planning to stargaze atop Mauna Kea volcano or see sunrise at the summit of Haleakala, you’ll need heavier attire because it can dip below the 30s Fahrenheit there.
Leave your expensive watches and jewelry and other cherished items at home. Why run the risk of having them lost when you’re out and about?
They’re great beach and flight companions, but they’re bulky and heavy. Load tomes on a Kindle, or support a local bookstore and buy your vacation read here.
- Kayak, surfboard, snorkel gear, golf clubs
Save yourself the hassle of lugging these cumbersome items around. Tour prices usually include use of equipment, and all the major golf courses offer club rentals.
- Traveling to Hawaii with animals, fruits and vegetables
Before landing in Hawaii, you’ll be required to fill out a State of Hawaii Agricultural Declaration Form (provided on the plane, one per family). You must declare if you’re traveling with items such as animals, fresh produce, plant cuttings, seeds or bulbs, live fish or seafood or cut flowers and foliage — they need to undergo inspection and possible quarantine. This is to prevent foreign pests from entering and potentially harming Hawaii’s unique and fragile environment. Failure to comply carries a maximum $25,000 fine and/or up to one year in prison.
When you leave Hawaii for the Continental U.S., the U.S. Department of Agriculture will inspect your baggage for fresh fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers and other items that might spread invasive diseases and insects such as fruit flies. To avoid having them confiscated, they should be inspected by the USDA beforehand. For example, fresh lei, papaya and pineapple — which visitors frequently take home with them as gifts — are allowed to be transported but only after passing USDA inspection. Get more information by calling (808) 834-3220 or visit the United States Department of Agriculture.
- Going home with a lot of souvenirs and don’t want to buy another suitcase for them?
Consider mailing them home via UPS, FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service. They sell supplies such as boxes and tape, and, for a fee, UPS and FedEx will pack for you. The concierge at your hotel can direct you to the nearest locations.
- Finally, don’t fret!
If you’ve forgotten or find you need something during your trip, there’s a very good chance you’ll be able to buy it in Hawaii. It’s part of the United States, after all. (And you’ll want to support our local businesses.)