What to pack for Maui, Hawaii
So, you’re ready to start packing for your long-awaited Maui vacation. How hard can it be? After all, it’s Hawaii, where warm weather prevails year-round. You should be able to throw some swimwear and a couple of changes of clothes into your pack and call it good, right? For some frugal packers, that might be well enough. But if you’re the planning type, or a traveler keen on maximizing fun and comfortability, you might need a little more guidance. Some of the Maui packing items below lead to affiliate sites. If you purchase after visiting from the links, we may get a commission. That doesn’t mean these recommendations aren’t legit. We believe these top Maui packing list items will help you have the best Maui vacation possible.
MAUI SUN ESSENTIALS
Reef-safe sunscreen is an absolute must in Hawaii. Hawaii recently banned the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate- two chemicals that are detrimental to reef health. However, Maui County is considering taking the ban a step further and outlawing the sale of any non-mineral-based sunscreens. Mineral-based sunscreens containing either zinc or titanium dioxide are the best choice for the reef, and they offer the best protection from the sun. One of the top mineral-based, reef-safe brands is Raw Elements- their zinc goes on smooth and doesn’t leave you feeling sticky. They also have tinted zinc sticks, so you’re not left coated in a chalky white tinge.
The cruel Hawaiian sun can still sneak up on your skin, even while slathered in zinc. Wearing a quality sun shirt on beach outings is a surefire way to evade a sunburn. Trusted surf brand Dakine carries SPF 50 sun shirts. Dakine was born on Maui, and they are very familiar with the powerful Hawaiian sun.
Sunglasses are a must, must, must on Maui. However, polarized glasses do wonders to illuminate the colors of the island- particularly the ocean! Polarized glasses block reflections on the ocean’s surface, allowing you to see the full spectrum of blue hues under the sea.
Some hotels and vacation rentals prefer you not to take their towels along on your adventures. However, packing a quick-dry towel is a great idea regardless of the towel situation wherever you stay. Plus, regular towels tend to get soggy, and if you’re on an all-day, multi-stop adventure, a wet towel is the last thing you want.
For the long days spent on a snorkel tour or at the beach, shade is the best defense against the sun. A wide-brimmed hat will keep you protected all day- just be sure to pick one that has an adjustable chin strap to hold the hat in place. Otherwise, the gusty Maui tradewinds will undoubtedly send it flying.
ROAD TO HANA / MAUI ADVENTURE ESSENTIALS
A heads up in advance, do not travel along the Road to Hana or anywhere with streams and possible flash floods without a permitted guide. We’ve had people injured and killed due to irresponsible exploration. Permitted guides running tours will take you to safe locations, cut down on the traffic with larger vans, and only take you to legal spots that don’t upset the local communities. Travel with ALOHA!
If you’re planning on bringing snacks, drinks, and sandwiches along the Road to Hana, a collapsible cooler is essential to keep your items cool. It will also come in handy on long beach days or other round-the-island adventures.
Hana gets more rain than any other town on Maui- some of the upper slopes of East Maui see 400+ inches of rain a year! While you can hope for beautiful weather and sunshine for the entirety of your trip, having a light rain jacket on hand is always a good idea.
Day packs are great to have for hiking or extended adventures. You’ll need something to store your water bottles, cameras, and other essentials. Plus, you should always avoid leaving anything of value in your car unattended. A day pack is convenient to bring wallets, phones, and other valuable items on your hike.
Sturdy Hiking Shoes/Sandals
The type of shoe you’ll want to bring will depend on what kind of hiking you plan on doing. If you’re planning on long treks through the crater or traversing the lava deserts on the Hoapili Trail, opt for solid hiking boots/shoes. On the other hand, you can easily do lighter hikes in running shoes. However, Tevas or Chacos are favorites among Maui visitors- especially on treks where your feet might get wet (i.e., Pipiwai Trail, Twin Falls). No one wants a soggy sneaker.
In Hana’s steamy jungle and beyond- you’re going to want some bug spray. The mosquitos on Maui can be ravenous.
Reusable Water Bottle
Maui is a small island in the most isolated archipelago on earth. The island’s resources are not the same as those on the mainland, and the recycling system is shoddy. Help keep plastic out of Maui’s landfill and bring along a reusable water bottle. Hydroflasks keep your water ice-cold for hours, which is a luxury after hiking in the humidity or basking in the sun. Most restaurants will be happy to fill it up for you wherever you go on the island.
While iPhones do the trick for capturing a quick rainbow snap, you’re going to want an adventure camera like a GoPro to document all your other escapades. From snorkeling to waterfall swims, spring for a waterproof camera to document your adventures.
Between hiking, swimming, and exploring, you’re going to be taking lots of photos, videos, Instagram posts, etc. Bring a portable charger along on your adventures, so you don’t have to worry about finding an outlet to charge your device.
BONUS MAUI PACKING ESSENTIALS
While ladies are more than welcome to pack their best aloha gear, this is more directed at you, fellas. Hawaii does not have a suit and tie type of culture. Aloha shirts are commonplace for men at nice restaurants, weddings, and even business settings. When picking out your aloha gear, opt for a quality crafted aloha button-down, not one from ABC Store or Walmart- those just scream ‘I’m a tourist.’ Plus, a handcrafted aloha shirt will last and retain its value over time.
Splash-Proof/Wet Swimsuit Bag
A word of advice- don’t bring a leather purse, or any tote of value for that matter, on a whale watch, snorkel tour, or the road to Hana. Between the ocean, the islands many waterfalls, and the volatile weather on Maui, a splash-proof bag to carry wallets, phones, and other essentials is a lifesaver. Additionally, you can use your splashproof bag to pack wet swimwear in your suitcase at the end of your trip.
While snorkel tours provide guests with all the necessary gear, you’ll need personal equipment if you plan on snorkeling on your own. Some people opt to rent snorkel gear, but if you prefer to bring your own, you can purchase snorkel sets for relatively cheap online. Of course, you’re going to want a mask, fins, and a snorkel.
Reusable silverware is a handy item to pack for several reasons. Not only does it help keep single-use plastic out of Maui’s one landfill, but it will also undoubtedly help you in a jam. Picture this: you get back to your hotel with leftovers from your fantastic dinner, and a few hours later, you feel like munching. Unfortunately, most hotels don’t provide silverware in the rooms. So instead of calling the front desk and having to wait for them to bring a fork up to you, you bust out your reusable silverware- problem solved.
Warm Clothes for Haleakala
Here’s where the “throw a swimsuit and a couple of changes of clothes in a pack and call it good” type of traveler will certainly be caught short. Haleakala’s summit reaches 10,023 feet and is immune to the tropical temperatures at lower elevations. During the day, it’s recommended to dress in layers. If you visit Haleakala for sunrise or sunset, wear all the warm clothes you can- or just sneak the hotel duvet out with you.