Updated June 23, 2020.
The best part of a trip to Hawaii is… Hawaii! The sun, the ocean, the kindness, the food, the aloha—it’s the best! But the worst part of a trip to Hawaii is… packing. But never fear! I’ve got your ultimate guide to packing for a week on Hawaii’s Big Island.
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You’d think an island would be easy to pack for: bathing suits and flip flops, right? But to take advantage of all the Big Island has to offer (spoiler alert: it’s a lot!), you’ll want to be prepared with more than just a bathing suit!
I don’t know about you, but my favorite part of island vacations is wearing my sundresses! They are so flattering, and I just feel “islandy” wearing one. The ones below are perfect for strolling the beach, attending a luau, or going out to dinner!
I love a multi-functional dress! This one is perfect for a night out, or as a bathing suit cover-up.
What?! Why would you need a jacket? Hawaii has perfect weather all year round! But there can be chilly breezes in the morning or evening, and if you plan to drive up to Mauna Loa, you will definitely want an extra layer! It can snow there any time of year.
Packable Puffy Jacket
What?! Work out on vacation? Even if that’s not your ideal vacation activity, you still might want some moisture-wicking athletic gear. There are lots of beautiful hikes on the Big Island (some end at the water, so moisture-wicking fabrics are key!), and you could find yourself exploring the jungle, the desert, and a volcano all in one day!
I love a good athletic top with a built-in bra. They’re comfortable, they’re easy to wash out and rewear if necessary, and you don’t have to pack a separate sports bra! Here are three flattering choices:
Take your pick for these. I personally prefer capri leggings for my body, but all three options could be comfortable for you! Capris, skirt, and shorts:
After two corrective foot surgeries, I am very careful about my shoes! These are the best ones I can recommend to you for all your Big Island adventures!
Many people feel they have to wear hiking shoes for hiking, but my personal experiences have shown me that my running shoes are just as good or better. They have tread for grip, and their flexibility means fewer blisters for me.
One of the best pieces of advice my podiatrist gave me was “do not wear flip flops.” And to take that a step further, he also does not recommend sandals without a back. What he recommends looking for is a sandal with an ankle strap and arch support. Like these!
No, really, you want to have water shoes in the Hawaiian islands. The beaches can be rough, with large rocks and pieces of coral that can cut your feet (just ask my husband!). Water shoes will protect your feet and can go from the beach to the car to the black top and beyond!
Don’t forget your socks!
I always recommend mesh or lace undies like these because they can be washed out and dried quickly in case you need to rewear them in a pinch!
Accessories can totally change the look of an outfit, and they can be incredibly useful, too! Here are a couple of essentials. The rest is up to you!
Leave your wedding and engagement rings at home. Trust me, nothing spoils a vacation quite like losing your wedding band or other expensive jewelry. Silicone rings are inexpensive, come in zillions of colors and patterns, and if you lose it? No big deal!
A scarf is one of the most versatile pieces you can have. Don’t forget yours!
Actual clothing aside, you will definitely need a couple of bathing suits!
Tankinis are another of those versatile pieces I just love. The top is perfect for doubling as an exercise top, for hiking (especially if that hike involves a swimming element!), or worn with shorts or a skirt for a day of shopping in Kona or Hilo!
A trip to Hawaii calls for a cute new bikini, don’t you think?!
If you do plan on hiking while on the Big Island (which I highly recommend!), you’ll want to be prepared with a few things.
Personal Item and Day Bag
This bag can serve as your personal item on the flight and a day bag for your hike! It has plenty of pockets for snacks and water, and even room for a towel or anything else you might need on your hike.
Don’t forget your hat! I’m always glad I brought one with me, and a visor is my favorite kind because I can put my hair up!
Save room in your liquids bag and bring solid bug repellent! My husband is so sweet, he attracts bugs like no one I’ve ever seen, and this stuff works for him. We don’t go hiking without it! Here’s a three-pack:
Reef Safe Sunscreen
Want another way to save room in your liquids bag? Bring solid sunscreen, too! This kind is reef safe to boot!
Sunscreen should also go in this category, so you might want to bring extra! Here’s everything you’ll need for a day at the beaches (black, green, or white sand) on the Big Island:
Sure, you can rent snorkel gear, but if you’re trying to save a little cash, you might also consider bringing your own!
I found out about dry bags a few years ago, and I never go to an island or the beach without one! It keep your valuable safe from water damage, keeps sand out, and best of all, it can go in the water with you—so you never have to leave your stuff on the beach or leave everything with one person who has to watch the fun rather than participate because they’re guarding “the stuff”!
Packable, Quick-dry Towel
If you’re staying at a resort, you will likely have towels provided to you for use at the beach or pool, but at Air BnBs, VRBOs, and HomeAways, maybe not. And I always feel weird thinking of taking one of the hotel towels out on excursions for fear that someone will see it and know we’re (shocker) tourists, meaning “easy targets.” So I like to bring a packable, quick-dry towel for each of us to take on excursions. They came in handy on a couple of muddy hikes!
Waterproof Phone Case
Phones are getting pretty great these days. Some are even water resistant up to three to four meters! But for those of us who don’t quite trust that, there’s an easy and affordable option: the water proof phone case! You can still use the touch screen and take photos as usual, but you don’t have to worry about that accidental drop in a bay or the open ocean, and you don’t have to buy a water proof camera for snorkeling pics!
Sunglasses and Case
Just like a hat for hiking, you’ll be glad you stashed a pair of sunglasses in your luggage. Just make sure they’re polarized! And a hard case will help, too.
This may seem like a lot, but it will all pack up nicely! To make sure it does, be sure to take a look at my Packing Strategies on my Packing Page!
Backpack Carry-on Luggage
I like to go carry-on only, and if you’re wanting to try it, too, this is the bag I actually use and the one I recommend! It comes in four colors.
Hard Case Carry-on or Checked Luggage
If you prefer a hard case or roll-aboard, this one comes in a 20-inch size that fits in the standard over-head bin space of a full-size jet, as well as 24- and 28-inch checked luggage sizes. It also comes in multiple colors!
If you’re checking a bag, you’ll still want a personal item large enough for a quick change of clothes, snacks, electronics and extra batteries, and a refillable water bottle for the long flight. This one is super cute and will fit over your roll-aboard’s handle for easy carrying!
And for all things Hawaii, take a look at What to Know Before You Visit the Hawaiian Islands and my Pacific Islands Page!
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