6 Tips for Packing Light to Hawaii

by Mariam Beard • Last Updated: July 6, 2023

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As a concierge in Hawaii, I’ve seen guests coming to and from the hotel completely tired and exhausted, struggling with their overpacked luggage. In this article, I’m going to share with you 6 TIPS | HOW TO PACK LIGHT when you travel here to Hawaii, especially whenever you’re traveling with ONLY a carry-on.

Tip #1: Check What Your Hotel or Airbnb INCLUDES

Before you start packing, make sure to check what your hotel or Airbnb includes. Some common items and amenities include:

  • towels
  • beach towels
  • certain toiletries like shampoos, conditioners, and soaps
  • laundry facilities
  • dry cleaning services
  • reusable water bottles
  • beach credits to use towards beach rentals at the hotel facilities or at the hotel’s sister properties

The Alohilani Resort, for example, offers their guests three daily credits to use at Beach Candy for any rentals such as surfboards, boogie boards, umbrellas, Bluetooth speakers, and a few other items too.

Some other hotels also have items that previous guests have left behind at their bell desk, such as boogie boards, cool floats, and snorkel sets. Before you purchase any of these items, stop at your hotel’s bell desk and see if there’s any extra rentals that you can check out as well. Similarly, if you do purchase any of these items, instead of just tossing them away so they end up in the trash, see if you can leave those items at your bell desk that way it can be given or passed on to another guest, less items that will go to waste.

Tip 2: Check What Each Activity or Excursion Includes

If you have pre-booked activities, check to see what each activity or excursion includes. This would be less things for you to have to pack.

Where to Find Inclusions

Confirmation email

If they’re not, just give the tour company a call and ask.

Example: Snorkel Tour activity

For example, if you’re doing a snorkeling tour on a snorkel boat, usually they will include snorkeling gear as a rental.

Example: Hiking Tour

Hiking tours will often include bug spray, walking sticks, rain jackets, and other things you might need on the hike.

Example: Haleakala Sunrise Tour (Maui)

Trips to see Haleakala for example at sunrise (Maui) may include layered clothing for when you’re going up to the top of Haleakala to see the sunrise.

While for each of these different tours or excursions, you can bring whatever you’d like, it is helpful to know what’s included so you don’t double pack.

Tip 3: Choose a Quality Carry-On Luggage with a Hard Shell

I am a huge AWAY Travel luggage fan. I had their smaller carry-on and white with the ejectable battery pack. I also have their check luggage medium sized in Coast which is a navy blue color. I absolutely love their luggage and one of the main reasons I love that luggage is specifically because of the hard shell itself.

It allows you to pack so much more into the carry-on and it still is able to completely seal shut. I can pack a lot more into it.

Over the years before I got my AWAY travel luggage, I used to purchase inexpensive luggages at Ross or Nordstrom Rack that were soft shell. But the problem with that is the more you pack into those suitcases, it gets kind of a little bit lumpier and it’s harder to fit those same suitcases or carry-ons into the overhead compartments on airplanes.

However, with the AWAY luggage or any other hard shell luggage, this is often not the case because those specific luggages will have a compression piece inside of the luggage allowing it to completely seal shut and the hard shell allows it to keep its uniform shape.

I’ll also always have a personal item that can be either a large purse or tote bag and no matter what item I happen to bring with me, it always will have a trolley sleeve. It’s such a nice feeling to be walking down the airport with just a simple carry-on and your purse or duffel bag or tote bag just clipped onto the trolley itself and the trolley sleeve.

Tip 4: Leave Space in Your Luggage for Purchasing Souvenirs

Leave space in your luggage for purchasing souvenirs or new clothes at the destination or if you’re planning on doing some heavy duty shopping once you arrive. Know that you can purchase inexpensive duffel bags, check luggages, or carry-on suitcases here in Waikiki itself.

Where to Buy (inexpensive) Luggage in Waikiki

A lot of the ABC stores will sell these suitcases.

You can also check, as I mentioned before, inside of Ross. However, keep in mind these aren’t going to be at the highest highest highest quality. These are essentially oversold items, surplus items, and although they are still really good quality, keep in mind it’s not going to be at the utmost quality. However, it will be good enough to get all those new purchased items back to your home destination in one piece for the trip.

Tip 5: Create a Packing List and Stick With It

Create a packing list and stick with it. In general, Hawaii has a very very casual dress which makes packing very easy.


If you’re arriving during the summer months of June, July, and August, know that it is going to be very hot and very humid during the day. Also know that not all places are air conditioned. For example, Duke’s Waikiki which is a very popular restaurant inside of the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort is a hundred percent open air.

What to Pack

It’s best to pack items such as cotton fabrics, cotton shirts, versus carrying silk or other items that will typically not breathe quite as well in a hot or humid climate. Also in terms of what to pack or what to bring, know that because Hawaii is incredibly casual, you can get away with wearing a lot of casual items that you can easily dress up or dress down.

For example, a simple pair of neutral colored dressy sandals you could easily dress up or dress down, limiting the number of shoes you need to pack whenever you travel.


For most one-week trips in Hawaii, I would say you need three pairs of shoes.

  1. Running/Athletic Shoes – For hiking or outdoorsy activities
  2. Dressy sandal – For going out to dinner or a nice restaurant (something you can easily wear throughout the day but also dress up if you need to)
  3. Casual sandal / flip-flop / “slippers” – I love the Reef brand and Rainbows brand


If you’re planning on going out for a little bit of nightlife, know that the dress codes in general are very relaxed. For women, typically I’ll wear a simple dress and some dressy sandals and I can get into most places.

However, for gentlemen, oftentimes you will need to wear either jeans or pants. It’s very rare that a lot of clubs will let you in with shorts. So jeans and a simple button-up shirt would be fine. And by button-up shirt, I do mean anAloha shirt that is typically short sleeve, not necessarily a full long sleeve collared shirt.

Tip 6: Know You Don’t Have to Pack Everything

Know that if you forget something, you don’t have to worry. You can most likely purchase it here.

ABC Stores

Most hotels have convenience stores and there’s also ABC stores on every single block in Waikiki. In fact, there are over 50 ABC Stores. If you haven’t been to an ABC store before, an ABC Store is kind of like a cross between a 7-Eleven convenience store, a Target, and a Walmart.

They have everything from sandwiches, drinks, clothing, sunscreen, souvenirs, everything that you might possibly need while you’re here in Hawaii traveling.

Know that not all ABC stores are the same. Some of the smaller ones will of course have a smaller selection. Some of the larger ABC Stores such as the one on lure Street in the Imperial Hotel or even the one at the international marketplace both of those also have hot food items in the back as well.

One of the most common items I would say to just purchase when you get here is sunscreen. Some of the chemicals that are in certain sunscreens have been banned in Hawaii and the easiest way to avoid that completely is to just purchase the sunscreen when you get here. And in terms of sunscreen, I would highly highly recommend that you purchase at least a 30 or 50 SPF. I’ve seen so many visitors come to Hawaii especially those from Northern State using SPF 15 and and only using it once in the morning rather than reapplying throughout the day. I’ve lived here for quite a while and I’m pretty tan but I still use SPF 50 and if I know I’m going to be on the beach for the day, I’ll definitely reapply my sunscreen every couple hours so I don’t get burned.


Traveling to Hawaii can be a great experience, but it’s important to be prepared. From knowing what to pack, to what to leave behind, to what to purchase when you get there, these tips will help you make the most of your trip. Whether you’re planning a snorkeling tour, a hike, or just a relaxing vacation, these tips will help you make sure you have everything you need for a great time in Hawaii.

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Aloha! I'm Mariam.

I'm an Oahu resident sharing my adventures here in Hawaii to help take the guesswork out of planning your trip to Hawaii.

I've worked full-time as a concierge for a decade and have planned thousands of itineraries for travelers like you!


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