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Of all the places I’ve been, Hawaii calls me back again and again. Lush tropical beaches…swimming with sea turtles…colorful tropical fish. What’s not to love? How about… a wicked sunburn on your first day…sore feet from navigating coral… or losing your iPhone in the ocean?! After four trips, I’ve learned the hard way about what to pack for Maui, or any Hawaiian island, really. Smart packing for Hawaii means you won’t spend precious vacation time hunting down a critical item. Here’s my ultimate Maui packing list to ensure you have everything you need!
- What to Pack for Maui
- Maui, Hawaii Packing List: Things You Need for the Beach
- Maui Packing List: For Your Carry On
- Maui Packing List: In Your Suitcase
- Maui Packing List: For Boat Tours
- Maui FAQ and Top Travel Tips
- 1. When is the best time to go to Maui?
- 2. What part of Maui has the best weather?
- 3. What is the time difference in Maui?
- 4. Where are the best beaches on Maui?
- 5. What things are there to do on Maui besides going to the beach?
- 6. Do you really need a car on Maui?
- 7. Where are the best beach bars on Maui?
- 8. Can you take coral home as a souvenir?
- Like this post? Pin it for later!
What to Pack for Maui
Here is your packing list for Maui below. I’ve organized this list of things to pack for Maui by (1) things for the beach, (2) things for your carryon, (3) clothing and other items in your suitcase, and (4) things to bring on a boat (although obviously there is overlap).
Maui, Hawaii Packing List: Things You Need for the Beach
Note: I didn’t include a snorkel mask and fins here in my what to pack for Maui blog post, although I highly recommend you snorkel Maui! Unless you are a serious snorkeler or diver, however, just rent them on island. Snorkel shops are plentiful on Maui and it’s relatively inexpensive.
1. GoPro HERO
If there was one thing I wish I’d had for my first visit to Hawaii, it was a GoPro!
Trust me on this: You are going to be amazed when you see all of the tropical fish in neon orange, vivid yellow, and emerald green on your Hawaii snorkel adventures!
Also, you do not have to be a millennial to own a GoPro. Or some kind of technical wizard. I promise you that a GoPro is EASY and fun to use. I have even bumbled my way through several video edits in just 10 minutes…like the one here from when we snorkeled with sharks in Moorea!
It’s so much fun to relive and share your Hawaiian snorkeling, surfing, and hiking adventures (or helicopter tours!!) Plus, a GoPro is tiny. So easy to tuck in a backpack or jacket pocket.
Don’t be sad later that you missed out! Get yours on Amazon here now.
Whatever you do, don’t forget your sunglasses when packing for Maui! You’re going to be living in them with all that Hawaiian sunshine. These Kate Spade cat-eye tortoiseshell sunglasses just say “wow!” Get them on Amazon here.
3. Keen Shoes
If you’re interested in packing light, just get a pair of Keens! They’re perfect for crossing streams when hiking in Hawaii and for navigating sharp coral when snorkeling. I’ve had mine for 15 years and they are still going strong.
I’ve gone tubing down rivers, hiked beaches and bluffs, and worn them in the ocean. These are the perfect marriage of design and function for the adventuring woman! Get them on Amazon here.
4. Rash Guard
A rash guard is a Maui packing essential for sure. I was slow to get on board with rashguards, actually. I’m just not that into tight, body-hugging garments when they are wet. I find them uncomfortable in the heat and annoying to wrestle on and off when they are soaking.
But you know what is worse? Getting a horrible sunburn on your shoulders and back when snorkeling. That’s why a rashguard is one of the most critical things to pack for Hawaii.
I promise you that the Hawaiian sun is more intense than what you’re used to and you’ll crisp up in no time. This surprised me as a San Diegan who spends plenty of time in the sun.
So I was super excited to find one that actually ZIPS up! I tested this one out on my recent visit to Maui and it was incredibly comfortable. Get one on Amazon here.
5. Floppy Straw Hat
What to bring to Maui? A shade hat, for sure! I’m not someone who is big into hats, but when I’m in Hawaii at the beach every day, my floppy straw hat is a must! It cuts the glare from the sun, prevents my face from getting sunburned, and eliminates the possibility of headaches from all that beach time.
No need to break the bank for this one. This inexpensive hat gets the job done AND rolls up easily to conveniently fit into the smallest spaces in your suitcase. Get one on Amazon here.
6. Packable Cooler
This is one of my best travel tips for when I stay in Airbnbs or vacation rentals! (My other hot tip for avoiding high island food prices is to check out the best food trucks in Maui! Will you have access to a refrigerator? If so, be sure to pack an insulated cooler. You can save a ton of money on lunches out—leaving a bigger budget for sunset cocktails, I might add—by packing sandwiches and drinks for every day. A cooler is one of the best things to pack for the beach!
The cooler solves the problem. Just remember to grab a couple of cold packs when you hit the grocery store on Maui (or get them ahead of time if you can find super slim ones for your bag). I actually bought the one I use at a grocery store in New Zealand, but this one should do the trick since it collapses and folds flat for travel. Get one on Amazon here.
7. Reef Flip Flops
Unless you’ve got the multi-purpose Keenes (above), your vacation packing list has to include a pair of flip-flops. It’s just non-negotiable when you’re deciding what to pack for a trip to Maui. Reefs are my favorite go-to flip flops! And happy feet are a high priority with all the hiking and swimming you’ll be doing in Hawaii. I’ve worn Reefs for decades.
They are super comfy, water friendly, and provide good traction. If you plan on being active at the beach—walking, playing frisbee, or splashing around—this is the flip flop for you. These definitely deserve space in your bag! Get them on Amazon here.
8. Quick-Dry Water Shoes
Your list of things to bring to Maui should include foot protection for the water. It’s no fun gashing your foot on a sharp coral reef while body surfing or playing in the waves in the mighty Pacific Ocean. That’s why water shoes in Hawaii are so useful. These anti-slip water shoes will keep you safe! Plus, they breathe well and dry quickly. Best of all, dive fins fit right over the top of them for snorkeling!
They also work great for hiking, because let’s face it: Hawaii is muddy! All those green hills stay that way from the frequent rain showers. You don’t want to be that person trying to make her way down a muddy cliff to a gorgeous beach in cute sandals more appropriate for a sunset luau. Get them on Amazon here.
It’s true you can just buy bottled water for your hikes and beach times, but reusing those single-use bottles isn’t sanitary. And our landfills don’t need more plastic. In fact, here are 7 steps for sustainable travel you might consider.
So if you’re wondering how to pack for Maui, bring a water bottle! If you don’t already have a favorite water bottle, grab a Camelback on Amazon here:
10. Turkish Beach Towel
Do you need to consider a towel when you’re thinking about what to take to Maui? Yes! While this is not a fluffy towel, it is super absorbent and packs easily because it’s so thin. It’s super soft and takes little time to dry (which is a great feature in a travel towel). Best of all, it doubles as a cover-up! You can even tie it like a sarong. So click here for your new favorite towel.
Maui Packing List: For Your Carry On
11. Noise Canceling Headphones
Are you a frequent traveler? If so, you need these!
I purchased these noise canceling headphones two years ago after sitting near a screaming toddler on an international flight and have never looked back! I didn’t want the bulk of the over-the-ear headphones in my backpack so I went with these noise-canceling headphones instead. The earbuds are super comfortable.
When you’re ready to watch a movie or listen to music, you just flip the noise-canceling switch and you will feel like you’re alone in a high-end theater with surround sound. There’s a reason Bose is so recognized for sound quality. Life-changing for travel! Check them out on Amazon here.
12. Portable Phone Charger
This portable phone charger was a serious game changer in my travels! You know those times when you look down at your phone after taking photos all day on a trip and realize (gulp!) you’re down to 12 percent battery? No worries!
Just charge up this phone charger once before you leave on your trip and stuff it in your backpack for just those moments. You can get almost five full charges out of it for a cell phone. It’s very low maintenance. This charger comes in handy on pretty much every trip when I’m out and about for a day. You can get yours on Amazon here.
13. Travel Purse
I have had my COACH messenger crossbody travel purse for over 15 years! It has traveled the globe with me. This is a small purse though, ladies. It’s just big enough to fit a small wallet (see below), a pair of sunglasses, lipstick or chapstick, and cell phone.
I love it because I can walk cobblestone streets in Europe with no effort or worry of theft. (Be sure your travel purse has a zipper! Carry it in crowded areas or packed trains across the front of your body with your hand on the opening.)
It’s also great for your trip to Maui because it weighs nearly nothing and fits snugly into your backpack for the plane! (Remember, the airlines will only allow you one carryon and one personal item. If you are carrying on luggage, you’ll want your purse to fit into a backpack!)
You can get one on Amazon here.
I’ve taken this Columbia day pack to Europe, New Zealand, and on several trips to Hawaii. Since I have some back and neck issues, I’m picky when it comes to a comfortable backpack.
And yet, I find it’s the best way to get the most mileage out of my additional carry-on. I leave my purse at home in favor of a small travel purse that fits inside.
This backpack is super comfortable…even when my laptop is loaded into the padded sleeve at the back. The straps are cushioned and there are several zipped compartments. (I like to use the smallest one for my electronics.) Try it and let me know if you love it as much as I do.
15. RFID Credit Card Holder
Are you up on wireless identity theft? Someone can approach you in an airport under the guise of asking for directions and use an RFID reader to record your credit card number right from the wallet in your purse or pocket.
This actually happened to Steve and me while we were waiting for an Uber at LAX last year. Someone approached us asking how to call an Uber on his phone.
Steve patiently walked him through the app, but guess what? He oddly turned around and walked back into the airport. We suspect he was trying to steal a card number. He did not succeed, however, because we had this great little RFID wallet/credit card holder that prevents just that. Be aware and prepared when you travel. Then you don’t have to be paranoid about scams! Get one one on Amazon here.
16. Costco Card
Are you a Costco member? If so, don’t forget to bring your Costco card with you for your Maui vacation! Food is expensive—in both restaurants and grocery stores— so if you’re staying in a place with a refrigerator, consider shopping for a few easy meals to extend your vacation budget further. Costco makes that easy, of course. Save money by adding wine or alcohol to your Maui Costco shopping list, too.
Even better is filling up your rental car at the Costco gas station in Maui. It’s conveniently located right next to the airport in Kahului. Just leave extra time if you’re filling up on your way back to the airport as you won’t be the only one with this idea. Totally worth the short wait though!
Maui Packing List: In Your Suitcase
17. Packing Cubes
I’m a little embarrassed that it took me so long to embrace packing cubes. They are the best thing ever! I only travel with a carry-on sized suitcase…even if I’m headed out for several weeks. While I might check my bag if it’s heavy, I don’t want to be navigating trains or the trunks in small rental cars with a monster suitcase. The challenge then is how to make the most of my limited space.
And these packing cubes are totally the answer! I’ll typically use just three: one for shirts and dresses, another for pants/shorts, and a third for misc items like underwear, socks, chargers, etc. If you roll each of your clothing items, you’ll be shocked at how much you can take.
Plus, no more rifling around in a disorganized suitcase once you arrive. Get a different colored set for everyone in the family so you can just set the cubes in a dresser drawer without confusion at your destination. It’s easy to know who’s who.
Packing cubes will change your life! Get some on Amazon here.
18. Pack-It-Flat Toiletry Bag
I switched to this pack-it flat toiletry bag for toiletry about 18 months ago. I’ll never go back to a bulky bag for toiletries. If you pack a carry-on size suitcase using the three packing cubes above, you will have one spot left that exactly fits this toiletry bag. There are four separate compartments so it’s easy to find your make-up/toothbrush/liquids without too much digging around. Get it on Amazon here.
19. Lightweight Shell for Rain
When you’re wondering what to wear on a Hawaii vacation, a raincoat may not be your first thought, right? Here’s the thing though: While you’re unlikely to be cold in Hawaii, you may get wet! On the north shore of Kauai in September, it showered on and off during the day. In January a few weeks ago in Maui, we had even more rain.
You’ll want a jacket that is lightweight with a hood…something that packs down into nothing. I bought mine from the Columbia Outlet in Portland, Oregon, but if I had to replace it, I’d go with this one. Get it on Amazon here.
It’s easy to get sunburned despite your best intentions in Hawaii with all that beach time. If you’re not used to the sun, take it slow. It’s just no fun getting burned your first day out. (I did this myself in French Polynesia last year despite living in San Diego. Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen frequently as I did!)
But if you do get burned, you’re going to be looking for something soft but lightweight to protect your shoulders. I love these soft, stretchy Clementine t-shirts. They’re form fitting but not tight! Order some on Amazon here.
You’ll want comfy shorts for hiking and windowshopping after beach time. These are soft, comfortable, flattering, and don’t wrinkle! Get yours on Amazon here.
If you’re wondering what to wear in Maui, don’t forget a sweatshirt! A sweatshirt, you ask? For tropical Hawaii? Yes! It can be windy. But even more importantly, if you’re headed to Haleakala Crater on Maui for sunrise or sunset, you will be freezing cold before sunrise or after sunset. It’s arctic temperatures up there! (Well, maybe not arctic, but you get the idea.)
So bring a sweatshirt that’s warm, not lightweight. This Cloverly women’s zip-up hoodie is 90 percent cotton/10 percent poly. It’s just the ticket! Get yours on Amazon here.
Confession: swimsuit shopping is one of my least favorite activities. I know I’m not the only one. But I’m so much happier since I discovered “ruching!” Ruching is essentially pleated fabric giving a more three-dimensional look. It’s amazing on bathing suits.
And that’s why I love this vintage monokini. In Hawaii, you’ll want a bathing suit that’s comfortable, looks cute while sunbathing, but isn’t afraid of wardrobe malfunctions while snorkeling. Get this one on Amazon here.
24. Beach cover-up/dress
Dresses for Maui: Save space in your suitcase with a lightweight flattering dress that also serves as a handy beach cover-up! This pleated tank dress is one of my favorites. It’s made of Rayon and Spandex and won’t break the bank either. You can get yours on Amazon here.
25. Beachy Dress for Sunset Cocktails
Clothes for a Maui vacation must include evening wear, of course. What to wear on Maui that’s comfortable but still fancier than beach wear? A maxi dress, of course! This Bohemian crochet dress is backless and beautiful. You can order one of the best vacation dresses on Amazon here.
Best shoes for Maui? Essentials include sandals, of course. I’m all about comfort at this stage of my life so I’m a huge fan of ways to look good without blisters or foot pain when it comes to shoes. My favorite brands so far? Abeo and Munro. But I hear great things about this super cute Vionic Kirra backstrap sandal. I think it’s going to be my next sandal purchase! Order a pair here on Amazon.
27. Reef-Safe Sunscreen
Did you know that the state of Hawaii recently passed a law outlawing sunscreens that are not reef safe? Yes, indeed. And enforcement efforts are gaining steam so don’t be surprised if a local confiscates your sunscreen on island.
The reef situation is serious in Hawaii. Our host in Maui told me that 50,000 tourists land on Maui each week! That’s an awful lot of sunscreen floating around in the ocean. One estimate puts it at 14,000 tons deposited annually!
Oxybenzone, a prime ingredient, kills coral. Reef-safe sunscreens like this one do not have harmful ingredients. This mineral-based sunscreen is chemical and paraben-free. It’s also TSA-compliant at four ounces if you want to tuck it in a carryon.
I recommend SPF 45 or 50 so you don’t miss days in the sun due to a bad burn! (Re-apply frequently if you’re headed to Molokini Crater.)
I also really love Beauty Counter’s mineral sunscreen. It’s what I wear at home in San Diego because of its clean ingredients. But it’s only SPF30 so unless you have brown skin, I recommend you buy this one on Amazon.
28. Detangler Brush
Don’t laugh, but this detangler brush is one of my all-time favorite beauty tools. It’s definitely one of the things to take to Maui! If you have color in your hair or frizz, you will be so happy you have this little brush. Particularly in Hawaii when you are in and out of the water all day. I’m not sure exactly how it works so well, but it effortlessly pulls out tangles without any pain. Love it. Buy it on Amazon here.
Maui Packing List: For Boat Tours
Spending time on a boat is an essential Hawaiian experience! I loved our tour of the Napali Coast and sea caves in Kaui and an all-day snorkel excursion on the Big Island. If you’re visiting Maui in winter, be sure to do a whale watching tour. You can check current prices here.
But plan ahead! It’s likely you’ll get drenched on that boat so keep your phone safe. I recommend two items:
29. Waterproof Phone Case
This is essentially a dry bag for your phone. It fits all phones up to 6 inches (diagonal size). I saw someone with one of these waterproof phone cases around his neck in Maui last week…and he was snorkeling! That’s because it’s certified 100 percent waterproof.
Just be sure to test the case at home before you go…before you trust it with expensive electronics. (The instructions walk you through it.) It’s just not worth risking your phone on a boat or kayak trip without a dry case. Get one on Amazon here.
30. Flotation Strap
If you’re not using the neck strap for the waterproof phone case above, consider clipping your waterproof case to this handy little float strap. You can read the reviews on Amazon, where a number of people share their experience of accidentally dropping their phone into the drink. But then it floated! For under $10, you can make sure your phone isn’t lost forever when you’re in the ocean! Get one on Amazon here.
Are you prone to seasickness? If so, try sea bands! They’re a nice alternative to taking medication and provide immediate relief. They work based on acupressure—by applying gentle pressure to each wrist—and users swear by them. (Pregnant moms even use them for morning sickness.)
Each box comes with three sets of bands (two for each person). You can get some serious wind and choppy seas in Hawaii, even though it’s otherwise warm and inviting. So stash these away as extra insurance just in case for the boat. Get them on Amazon here.
Maui FAQ and Top Travel Tips
Is this your first trip to Maui? Here’s the high-level view of my top travel tips, what to do in Maui, and everything you want to know about how to get around Maui, where the best beaches are, and how to find the best beach bars!
1. When is the best time to go to Maui?
It depends on what your goal is! If you want to enjoy Maui with fewer crowds and better prices for lodging, go in “shoulder season.” (The packing list above definitely works for what to pack for Maui in May, for example.) In spring and fall, the weather and ocean water are both warmer. (Be sure you have air conditioning.)
If you’re interested in whale watching, go between mid-December and mid-May. Check out prices for whale watching tours here. Be aware that winter and summer are both prime months for tourists in Hawaii.
Thinking about bringing your furry friend along for the trip? Learn more here.
2. What part of Maui has the best weather?
If you’re looking to maximize sunshine, you’ll find the least rainfall in the south of Maui in places like Kihei and Wailea, followed by northern places like Lahaina and Kaanapali.
There’s more rain—and so more waterfalls and lush vegetation— on the eastern side of Maui as you head towards Hana.
3. What is the time difference in Maui?
The west coast of the U.S. mainland is two hours ahead of Maui. That makes it five hours ahead of the east coast of the U.S.
4. Where are the best beaches on Maui?
On the west side of Maui, my favorite is Makena Beach State Park (also known as Big Beach and Little Beach). It’s a lovely sandy beach and a photographer’s dream.
However, it’s also the #1 beach for neck injuries on Maui due to the way the surf crashes when tall waves roll in. So no snorkeling here unless it’s like a lake.
Ka’anapali Beach an hour north is a gorgeous stretch of beach. Kapalua Beach is a sweet little cove just a bit more north with great snorkeling. On the north shore, check out Baldwin Beach Park. Near Hana on the south shore is the beautiful black sand beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park.
5. What things are there to do on Maui besides going to the beach?
Two must-do activities are driving the Road to Hana and visiting Haleakala Crater. A few quick tips…The Road to Hana is about the journey and not the destination. Start early and spend a full day making lots of stops to hike to Twin Falls, walk through a bamboo forest, gape at the rainbow Eucalyptus and so much more.
If you don’t love the idea of driving this curvy road—or just prefer to enjoy the views for great photos—you can check current prices for a day tour here. If you really want to make the most of the experience, consider an overnight in Hana. It will save you the long drive back the same day and you’ll have time to explore Oheo Gulch, also known as “the seven sacred pools.”
While Haleakala Crater is famous for its sunrise views, that experience has become so famous that the park now requires reservations for entry in the early morning. Reservations are available up to 60 days ahead of time.
However, to do that you’ll need to get up at 3 or 4 am! I suggest sleeping in instead and heading up for sunset which is supposed to be just as magical. (I’ve personally struck out twice now due to clouds, but it remains on my Hawaii bucket list!) Pack layers and bring your shell or windbreaker as it’s freezing before or after the sun goes down here!
You can find more ideas for your Hawaii itinerary here.
6. Do you really need a car on Maui?
Yes! You’ll want to rent a car to get to beaches, hikes, drive the scenic Road to Hana and see Haleakala Crater at a minimum. I recommend reserving ahead of time with Auto Slash.
I find that the rental agencies try to upsell visitors expensive jeeps which just aren’t necessary unless you’d love a jeep experience. That said, I also don’t recommend a compact car (which is my usual preference). They’re just too small to be safe in some of off-road experiences you may want to enjoy. Economy class will be fine though unless you’re going very hardcore!
Auto Slash will find you the best deal and continue to email you as better offers become available if you’d like. (You can find more tips on how to save on airfare here.)
Another option: Check into renting a camper van in Hawaii.
7. Where are the best beach bars on Maui?
If you’re near Kapalua and it’s not too windy, definitely head to the Happy Hour or dinner at Merriman’s. The outdoor terrace offers 180-degree views you have to see to believe. In Kehi, we also loved the views and drinks at Five Palms (but show up an hour early to get a sunset seat as there are no Happy Hour reservations).
The Four Seasons in Wailea also offers a magical sunset experience for a drink with a view. One last recommendation that isn’t a beach bar: Try the inventive cocktails and incredible food at Monkey Pod Kitchen, another Merriman’s restaurant with locations in Ka’Anapali and Wailea. (This place stays busy though! Make a reservation.)
8. Can you take coral home as a souvenir?
Please don’t! I know…I know…it’s just a small piece of dead coral you found on the beach. But these are Hawaii’s national treasures. There will be nothing left if everyone takes a little. Dead coral is also a component of making sand.
There is even a Hawaiian legend that says the Goddess Pele will inflict bad luck on anyone who takes sand, rock, or coral from Hawaii until it is returned to the islands. Whether you believe the legend or not, your best souvenir from Hawaii is the magical memories you’ll make there.
Please be reverent in your appreciation of Hawaii’s beauty and protect it for future generations. Mahalo.
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