Top 10 Clothing Essentials for Hawaii

Packing right for any trip can be challenging. If you’re heading to Hawaii soon, you’re probably wondering what to bring and what to leave home.

There are two problems you have to deal with:

  1. Jam too much into your suitcase and you’ll be burdened with heavy luggage that will have to be hauled through the airports and hotels as you go island hopping, in addition to possibly incurring a hefty baggage fee.
  2. Pack too little and you might end up having to spend more than you bargained for on clothing necessities when you arrive.

How many swimsuits do you need? What shoes are practical? Will you realize you forgot your sunglasses as soon as you get to the beach?

If you hope to conquer this balancing act, consider these top 10 clothing essentials for your Hawaiian getaway.

1. Flip-flops

In Hawaii, flip-flops are called slippers and everyone wears them. In fact, a number of Hawaiian hotels and resorts offered a special promotion recently, discounting rates by 10% for travelers who wore “slippers” when they checked in.

A sales and marketing V.P. noted that “Slippers are the universal footwear in Hawaii and appropriate for just about any occasion. They are a perfect choice for a themed promotion as they help our guests kick off their vacations on the right foot by feeling like locals.”

You definitely won’t want to wear your uncomfortable sky-high heels or well-shined oxfords here. You’ll stand out like a sore thumb, and it’ll be difficult to take part in all of the fun island activities.

2. Bathing Suits

With the warm, crystal-clear waters and the opportunity to swim among hundreds of tropical fish and even sea turtles, a Hawaiian vacation begs for a dip in the ocean at least once. If you’re like me, you may well spend the majority of your time in the water.

At least one bathing suit is a must, whether you’re planning on surfing, snorkeling, paddle-boarding or just dunking your head under some of the spectacular cascading falls. Packing two or three is ideal.

You might plan to spend your whole day splashing in the ocean and your evening soaking in a hot tub, and therefore think you’ll only need one, but it’s not all that comfortable putting on a wet suit. With multiples, you’ll have one ready to go while the other is drying.

It’s also a good idea to pack one bathing suit into your check-in luggage and one into your carry-on in case your suitcase is temporarily lost.

3. A Sarong or Cover-up

Women should bring a sarong or some type of beach cover-up that can be quickly thrown on when going from the beach to a restaurant or other establishment.

4. Shorts

Shorts are the standard attire for almost everywhere you’ll go, no matter what the season. Island residents tend to wear shirts, shorts and slippers (flip-flops) almost all of the time due to the humid, tropical climate that makes socks and long pants rather cumbersome.

5. Tank Tops

Tank tops and short-sleeve shirts are also necessities—bring several. Of course, you might want to pick up a few in Hawaii as souvenirs of your trip.

6. Sundresses for Ladies, Collared Shirts for Men

Women should pack a couple of light sundresses for those nights out on the town. For men, a nice collared Aloha shirt will do just fine. Then again, you might want to pick up one or two on your vacation, so there may not be a need to bring any at all.

Even the fanciest restaurants in Hawaii don’t require fancy clothes. Unless you have a formal event you plan on attending, such as a wedding, leave any formal dresses or suits and ties at home. Think comfy—light, airy and colorful.

7. Hiking Boots

You’ll probably be wearing flip-flops most of the time, but if you plan to spend time exploring inland (and you should), you’ll need a pair of hiking boots. There are miles and miles of hiking trails to take advantage of on all of Hawaii’s popular islands. Plan to hit them up and take in some of the most breathtaking views in the state.

A hike to the top of Diamond Head on Oahu or through Haleakala National Park on Maui is really a must. If boots weigh your luggage down too much, consider wearing them on the plane trip out and back instead of packing them in your suitcase.

8. A Hat

A hat is essential in Hawaii, even in the wintertime. Without it you risk a rather nasty sunburn that can ruin your vacation and even lead to future health problems. Unless you are in the tropics year-round, your skin won’t be used to the sun here and will burn far more easily than you’d imagine.

9. A Travel Umbrella or Rain Jacket

A compact travel umbrella can be a lifesaver if you find yourself in Hawaii during a several-day downpour. While long rains don’t happen often, they can happen, and finding an easily portable umbrella can be difficult—especially if you plan on spending most of your time in the more remote areas. A light rain jacket that folds up into a pouch or pocket also works well in these scenarios.

10. One Set of Clothing for Cooler Weather

A set of clothing that can be worn in the higher, cooler elevations is necessary for experiencing the stunning views from high atop Hawaii’s magnificent mountains, as well as reaching fascinating places like the Big Island’s underground lava tubes and the Mauna Loa Observatory, which sits at an 11,146-foot altitude.

A pair of long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a warm sweater or jacket will suffice.

Before you start packing, you’ll need to book the best flights and accommodations possible. Along with being the biggest online travel company, Expedia is among the cheapest. Get plane tickets and accommodations, book activities or even purchase travel insurance here:


Remember: Pack just enough to meet your needs and keep yourself comfortable. Leave everything else at home. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll save a lot of money on baggage costs and at-destination purchases.