When I go to Maui, I just pack a backpack and it will last one week. Here is what I do.
1. I make sure I have a common “color” for the entire week. That way, I can mix and match my clothes and look great. It also ensures that I will be okay with ONE pair of flip flops for the entire week and I’ll always match. Shoes take up a lot of room, so I always bring (at the most) two pairs of shoes. For you, I guess that would be your hiking boots and flip flops.
2. Be okay with washing your clothes while you are there. It will save a lot of room in your suitcase.
With those two things in mind, here is what I pack.
2 pairs of shorts
2 tank tops
2 ‘nicer’ tops that go with the shorts
2 dresses that do not need ironing
1 long sleeve sweater (thin)
2 bathing suits
1 cover up for the beach/pool
4 pairs of undies
1 pair of flip flops
THAT IS IT! and you can wash as the week progresses. TRUST ME, this is all you need! Hawaii has wonderful weather so no worries about getting cold unless you are going to watch the sunrise. If that is the case, then you need to really bundle up. It gets COLD.
Since you are going hiking, then I would also bring ONE pair of pants, 2 pairs of socks, and ONE t-shirt. You might need a long sleeve top, but make it thin.
Finally, choose similar colors. I decided to go with neutral colors: browns, army green, and black. The color of my flip flops were gold, so they matched with EVERYTHING, including my bathing suit and dresses ( i brought a black dress and a brown strapless dress). Of course, gold and silver sandals/flip flops go with practically everything.
Many folks are really confused about how to pack for a one- or two-week trip to Hawaii, often thousands of miles from home. We hope that these few ideas will help you out.
- Remember that Hawaii has a tropical climate. The temperatures vary only about 10 degrees. If you are visiting the windward (eastern) side of the islands you will see some rain so plan accordingly. If you’re visiting the leeward (western) side of the islands the temperatures will be much warmer and the weather much drier. Check out our feature on the Weather in Hawaii.
- Evenings can be cool especially if there is a breeze. Be sure to bring a sweater or light jacket.
- If you plan to explore the higher elevations such as Haleakala on Maui or Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island, you may wish to bring a warm sweater and windbreaker also. Temperatures at the summits can drop to the low 30’s.
- Swimsuits are a must, as are shorts, short-sleeved shirts, light dresses, sandals, thongs and some good walking shoes. If you plan on riding horseback, be sure to bring some jeans, heavy shoes and a hat.
- There is no real need for a suit in Hawaii. Even at most fancy restaurants and night spots a nice shirt (including a nice Hawaiian print shirt) and a pair of khaki’s or Dockers will do just fine. A sports jacket is only needed at the most upscale restaurants.
- Sunblock, insect repellent, sunglasses and a hat are a must. The sun is very intense in Hawaii and you don’t want to ruin your vacation by getting sunburn. Be very careful on your first day in the sun, it’s when you’ll burn most easily. Check out our feature on How to Avoid Getting a Sunburn.
- If you plan to explore Hawaii’s waters bring your snorkel and mask or better yet wait until you arrive. These can be rented very cheaply and often are available for free at many hotels. If you wear glasses basic prescription masks are available at most locations.
- Leave ample room to bring things back. Most tourists buy some aloha-wear and other souvenirs that you won’t find on the mainland. Remember that you can ship items home also, which is often much easier. The postal service now has flat-rate boxes which make shipping of most items very easy and affordable.
- Hawaii is the most beautiful place on earth. Remember your camera, memory cards, and charger. You will find a lot of use for a video camera also.
- Put important papers (tickets, reservation confirmations, traveler’s cheques), all medications, spare glasses, a change of clothing and any other valuables in your carry-on bag.
- Don’t forget your favorite tour book. You’ve probably purchased one or two to help you plan your trip. The Moon Hawaii Travel Guide is an excellent all-around guidebook. Most tour books are now available in digital versions also which can be accessed on your smartphone or tablet.
- Remember to bring a pair of binoculars. If you’re planning and nature adventure such as whale watching, these are a must.
- Don’t over-pack. Travel as lightly as possible.
- Leave plenty of room in your suitcase for all of the things you will bring home.
- Make a list of things to bring and check the list before you leave home.
For more in-depth help, check out our feature Packing For Your Hawaii Vacation.
I am an overpacker (and proud of it) and am still amazed at how LITTLE I wear of what I pack. I went for two weeks (3 islands) and wore a very small fraction of what I took. I stayed at a hotel, a cottage and a resort and bascially wore swimsuits, with shorts and tshirts every day and 2 other outfits for nice dinners. I do like a variety of swimsuits. Other than that, tropical vacations are the one type of destination that I could get everything I actually wear in a carry-on. If you have access to laundry, you can get by with less.
I’d get away with the “outfit a day” mentality. I just don’t need that much while at the beach or adventuring around an island.
Nannymer, WAY, WAY too much!
I went for 2 weeks and this is what I brought. I thought THIS was too much. I try to stick to 4 colors so that all of the tops will go with all of the bottoms.
2 pair of shorts
2 linen drawstring capris
1 pair of gaucho style capris
4 tanks (sometimes I layer them)
1 sun dress
1 mini skirt
1 pair of clogs (my most comfortable shoes)
2 pair of sandals
1 set of travel pants and casual jacket worn with one of the tanks
1 pair cheap-o flip-flops that I bought there
If you’re leaving within a month, I can pretty much guarantee that you will NOT wear the jeans in Hawaii, so I’d only bring one pair for San Fransisco. I packed this in a 19″ carry-on with plenty of room to spare. While there, I picked up some cute tight t-shirts and tanks to take home. We did laundry once.
Thanks all.. you have been a big help. I am cutting back and so is my friend, Kat, who is going with me. I too try to stick to 4 colors – white, tan, black, and yellow! I KNOW I won’t wear a lot of what I bring, and it is SO HARD for me to pack light, but I am determined this time to do it!
19 days and counting. Hawaii here we come. Thanks Again!
In agreement with all the above. For 1-2 weeks in Hawaii, I pack the same and it all goes in a 24″ roller suitcase. If you really want jeans wear one pair on the plane. I would not wear them in tropical places they are too heavy. Here’s my list:
3 bathing suits
1 sneakers or walking shoe
1 flip flops
7 tank tops or t-shirts
2 sundress (no slacks)
1 lounging dress/sheath
Wear things more than once, get away from the fresh outfit for every day idea. Buy a beach towel, suntan lotion, straw hat after you arrive.
Pleased to announce that I downsized my packing from my big 50 pound (packed) bag to a mid size bag that now weighs about 25 pounds. I really cut back and I am so glad. Thanks for all the advice.
NannyJan (12 more days to go!)
I’ve been to Hawaii four times
and each time I take less and
less. and it is STILL too
Underpack. I never wore makeup,
LOVE that, and wore the same thing
to dinner each night (you have it
on for 2 hours?)
My first trip, I made the mistake
of taking “cute” polyester tops!
OUCH! So hot! Take cotton or
stuff that will breathe.
I wore flip flops everywhere.
One pair of nicer sandels for
If you pack too little, you
can always “shop”! I take
two half empty suitcases, so
that I can bring stuff home.
You know what I learned from my last Hawaii trip?
Pack every darn thing you THINK you might need, stand back a take a nice long look at it . . . and throw AT LEAST half of it back out onto the bed.
I ended up not using one drop of makeup or hair product (aside from shampoo and conditioner), I didn’t wear ANY of my dressier clothes, and I never got out of the same pair of flops that I wore over on the plane.
I have narrowed my packing to the following for 2 weeks or more:
3-4 shorts, pants, skirts or combination thereof
5-6 tops to match all bottoms, usually shortsleeved unless a winter trip
1-2 lightweight jackets and/or sweaters
3 pairs of shoes – 1 walking, 1 casual sandal (flip flop, etc.), 1 dressier sandal for evenings
For beach vacations, replace 1 bottom and 1 top with 1-2 bathing suits and a coverup. For winter vacations, replace 1 lightweight jacket/sweater with heavy coat and sandals for closed toe shoes.
I don’t do dresses because I can get more wear with separates. I also don’t do white or light khaki/cream – they require more frequent washing. Darks and/or brights.
Another trick for flying into SF is to bring a pair of tights. Toss them in your carryon for the return flight to SF and when you arrive at the airport put them on under your pants/skirt. Then you don’t have you take heavy pants but still stay warm. You can also do the same with a thin turtleneck. Not bulky but provides warmth.