The best thing about visiting Kauai, Hawaii is you don’t need to pack much. As a local resident of Maui, who loves to island-hop to Kauai, believe me when we say this is all you need to pack for a trip to Kauai.

We aren’t loading this article full of things you need to buy. We are all about keeping your Kauai packing list to a minimum. Especially if you’re bringing the family, you want to keep your packing list to only the essentials. 

Your essential packing list for Kauai includes the following:

  • Shorts and T-shirts
  • One Gorgeous Island Style Outfit
  • Comfortable Footwear: sandals and hiking or walking shoes
  • Swimsuit (of course)
  • Sun-Protective Clothing
  • Mineral-Based Sunscreen
  • UV-Protective Sunglasses
  • Backpack
  • Water Bottle
  • Beach Bag
  • Natural Bug Repellent

Don’t worry about forgetting something at home. Kauai is full of convenience stores, grocery stores, and shops for you to purchase a toiletry you forgot, extra reef-safe sunscreen, or aloe in the event you get burned at the beach!

That essential Kauai packing list is not all, read on for the right packing list for the Kauai vacation you are planning.

Packing for Kauai’s Tropical Weather

Kauai sits at 22 degrees north latitude, putting it just in the realm of the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere. Don’t let people convince you that you might get cold. Unless 63 degrees Fahrenheit during the depths of a Kauai winter will make you shiver, you don’t need jeans or sweatshirts.

Temperatures in Kauai reach a low of 63 degrees during the winter (around the dawn) and a high of 84 degrees during the summer in Princeville, a popular resort area in Kauai. The average temperature on Kauai varies depending on if you’re staying on the windward coast (wet side) in Princeville or Hanalei or the leeward coast (dry side) in Poipu or Waimea.

Related article: Princeville vs Poipu: Finding the Best Place to Stay on Kauai

Princeville Kauai packing list temperature chart Poipu Kauai packing list temperature chart

 

Kauai Hawaii map Packing LIst

Unless the temperatures above are cold for you, plan to dress in light, breathable clothes. The best island wear is clothes that are light in color and weight. Light, cotton clothes are popular.

You will find most locals wearing t-shirts, tank tops, and shorts when in town. Kauai has a laid-back, casual vibe. You won’t find people dressed in their Sunday best or wearing resort wear.

You will find Kauai residents wearing Aloha Shirts for work in offices and resorts. An Aloha Shirt is business formal or if going out for a nice dinner.

To get more familiar with Kauai, check out our free Kuaui Travel Guide page for almost everything you need to know for visiting the Garden Isle. The rest is in our Kauai Wayfinder Itinerary

Complete Packing List for Kauai

Here is our full list of recommended items to pack for Kauai. Whether you need to know what to pack for a 7-day trip to Kauai or a 3-day trip, we have you covered with this complete Kauai packing list.

  • Shorts and T-Shirts
  • Comfortable Footwear
  • Handbag
  • One Gorgeous Island Style Outfit
  • Reusable Shopping Bags
  • Chopsticks or Metal Utensils
  • Beach Bag or Backpack
  • Mineral-Based Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun-Protective Clothing
  • Swimsuit Cover-Up
  • Underwater Camera
  • Flotation Strap for Underwater Camera or Phone Case
  • Waterproof Phone Pouch or Waterproof Waist Pouch
  • Eco-Friendly Bug Repellent
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Pants and Long-Sleeve Shirt (hiking)
  • Rain Jacket (hiking)
  • Adjustable Hiking Poles (hiking)
  • Water Bottle
  • Light Jacket
  • Sun Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Backpack
  • Reef-Safe Sunscreen
  • Camera

The biggest difference between packing for Kauai compared to the other islands is making sure you have insect repellent and rain gear for hiking. Kauai doesn’t have polar regions like the top of Maui or the Big Island so you will find warm weather and activities across the island.

See below for more details on what to bring for the type of trip you are planning. A beach bum vacation versus jungle hikes and Mountain Tubing Adventures requires a far different packing list. But we have you covered for both.

Clothes to Pack for Kauai

Island wear brings images of Tommy Bahama and Tori Richards for resort wear or Volcom and Quicksilver for more of that surfer look. These are all good examples of island wear you will find in the resorts. 

But, wear what you are comfortable wearing on Kauai. There are no fashion rules on the Garden Isle. 

The main idea for packing for Kauai is to pack clothes for a warm climate. Dinner at night does not mean it will be cold.

  • Shorts and T-Shirts – Due to the warm climate, you will be wearing these every day. I wear a tank top 90% of the time in Hawaii. It is hot and sunny so soak up those rays while staying comfortable.
  • Comfortable Footwear – this may mean wearing sandals, called slippers in Hawaii, or bringing a comfortable pair of sneakers
  • Handbag – bring something you won’t be worried about getting sand inside or being out in the sun. If you have kids, consider a fanny pack so you can chase the kids around the beach while wearing your valuables.
  • One Gorgeous Island Style Outfit – be this a favorite sundress or resort wear for guys, bring at least one outfit for a nice dinner with your partner. Besides fine dining, you won’t find other opportunities to get fancy on Kauai.

Determining how much to pack depends on How Many Days you Should Stay on Kauai.

Unconventional Packing Items for Kauai

Here are some packing items you may not have considered for Kauai.

  • Reusable Shopping Bags – Counties in Hawaii are transitioning away from single-use plastic bags. Grocery stores provide paper bags or you have to buy a reusable shopping bag.
  • Chopsticks or Metal Utensils – Hawaii is going through a transition away from plastic utensils. Wood utensils or chopsticks are becoming common for take-out and at the Best Kauai Food Trucks. Bring your own favorite utensils if this is important to you.

Beach Packing List for Kauai

Kauai has so many amazing beaches to visit. The nice part of Kauai is the best beaches are state or county parks so you will find lifeguards on duty, toilet facilities, showers, and a decent amount of parking. Check out our 7 Best Kid-Friendly Kauai Beaches.

You can fly from home without these items as they are all readily available for purchase on Kauai. But if you own them already, don’t want to stress about buying them upon landing, or they will be cheaper to buy at home, like sunscreen or a beach bag, then throw them in the suitcase.

  • Beach Bag or Backpack – a must-have item for the beach. Plus, a beach bag serves as a bag for grocery shopping. 
  • Mineral-Based SunscreenHawai’i banned certain types of sunscreen in 2021 as they damage the reefs. While most of the country now sells reef-friendly sunscreen, we recommend mineral-based sunscreen (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) as they are the least likely to cause the reefs to stop growing. 
  • Sunglasses – UV-protective is best for safety. Polarized is best for viewing the ocean and makes the island’s vibrant scenery really pop!
  • Sun-Protective Clothing – Rashguard or sun shirt and a sun hat will be your best friends at the beach. We recommend wearing sun-protective clothing so you can minimize the amount of sunscreen you need to wear. 
  • Swimsuit Cover-Up
  • Underwater Camera – Perfect for snorkeling, an affordable underwater camera is a must, or use a waterproof phone case that enables pictures.
  • Flotation Strap for Underwater Camera or Phone Case – you will thank me for this one.
  • Waterproof Phone Pouch or Waterproof Waist Pouch – if you need to keep valuables off the beach, then consider bringing this for peace of mind when swimming.
what to pack kauai for beach

My son Henry and I enjoying Lydgate Beach on the East Coast of Kauai, a perfect beach to spend the day with kids.

While you can purchase these items readily in Kauai, you may not be able to find a convenience store close to your favorite beach. Besides the resort beaches on the South Shore or Hanalei Beach in Hanalei Town, most of the best beaches are away from shopping centers. 

Plan ahead by packing these items before you leave the resort or your vacation rental.

How to Keep Valuables Safe on the Beach in Kauai

This is a popular question. Sorry to say, there is no easy answer. First, beach theft is not as common as one hears in the news in Hawaii. Theft can happen so be prepared but don’t fear getting robbed on a Kauai beach.

Snorkeling safety includes bringing a buddy out with you. If you are a couple (enjoying this Kauai honeymoon itinerary), then leaving things on the beach is a high probability when you go swimming or snorkeling. 

I know you will not bring valuables to the beach but it is hard to leave home without your phone, wallet, and car keys. 

Leave valuables in the trunk of your car. Out of sight is best! In the best-case scenario, you only have your car key with you at the beach. Try to hide it in a food container or other nondescript location Leaving it in your backpack makes it an easy target for a grab and go.

While Apple Pay and other touchless payment methods are becoming more common on Kauai, we find it hard to have a day out exploring Kauai without your physical credit cards and cash. So let’s discuss some ideas for keeping your few valuables safe.

Beach lockers are extremely rare in Kauai. I can’t think of one beach that offers them.

Here are six tips for keeping your valuables safe at the beach.

  1. Waterproof Phone Pouch or Waterproof Waist Pouch – remember a floatie to attach to the pouch in case you drop it!
  2. Lockbox for Your Car – surfers like to keep a combination hide-a-key lockbox attached to their car. A perfect place to hide and protect your car key. 
  3. Waterproof Dry Bag – hopefully, you don’t have a lot of stuff, but if you do, grab a dry bag for the kayak or to tow behind you when snorkeling. 
  4. Pick a Spot Near the Lifeguard Tower – the lifeguard won’t watch your stuff for you but their presence may deter thieves. It is a small island, the lifeguard will know the characters that cause mischief.
  5. Take a Newspaper or Book, Leave the E-Reader at Home
  6. Keep Your Backpack in Front of You – fast-acting thieves can grab your bag as you gaze out on the water

 

Packing List for Hiking on Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai has some amazing hiking trails. While our favorite Hawaiian Island for hiking is Oahu, hiking on Kauai is a must. 

I like to think Kauai attracts the more adventurous traveler as the botanical gardens, ancient volcano, and cliffs of Kauai are romantic and alluring to explore. When I first moved to Hawaii, my first bucket list item was hiking the Kalalau Trail in Kauai’s Napali Coast State Wilderness Park. The trail did not disappoint. See here for information on permits for hiking the Kalalau Trail.

packing list kauai hiking hawaii

A quick selfie of me on the Kalalau Trail in 2009. I’ll never forget that hike and sleeping on the beach that night.

Bug Repellent is Recommended for Kauai

Bug repellent deserves its own sub-section. Kauai has a lot of bugs, like mosquitoes, that may make you go crazy during even a short hike to a waterfall, like the kayak and hike to Secret Falls or Mountain Tubing Adventure

Please consider the environment when packing bug repellent as what you put on will end up in the freshwater rivers and streams of Kauai.

There have been countless studies showing the damaging effects of chemicals such as DEET, pyrethroids, permethrin, and cyfluthrin. All of these can be found in most commercial bug sprays.

With natural insect repellant, you can keep the bugs away without ruining your skin or the environment. These bug repellants use ingredients you can pronounce, like baking soda, mineral oil, rosemary, citronella, or peppermint. Here are some recommended natural bug spray brands (these are affiliate links with Amazon, we appreciate the support at no cost to you!)

The only reason to bring pants to Kauai, in my opinion, is if you are planning to do a lot of hiking, Pants and long-sleeved shirts are the best for fending off bug bites. Reducing the amount of bug spray is always the best option.

The Right Hiking Shoes for Kauai

Our favorite hiking shoes are Teva sandals or the equivalent design. We like these because they are light and small to pack compared to hiking boots, are perfect for crossing streams and muddy paths, and have good traction. 

You don’t need the Teva brand, but a similar type of water and hiking shoe will be a welcome addition to your suitcase. 

Here is a complete packing list for hiking on Kauai:

  • Eco-Friendly Bug Repellent
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Pants and Long-Sleeve Shirt – fend off the bugs in an eco-friendly manny
  • Rain Jacket – getting wet and muddy is highly likely. Embrace the warm rain or pack a light rain jacket.
  • Adjustable Hiking Poles – muddy slopes are common so hiking sticks may be a good idea for you. Erica always brings them as she has a bad knee.
  • Water Bottle – a no-brainer but bears repeating. Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated in the hot and humid climate!
  • Iodine Tablets or a Purification Water Filter -if you plan to go on an extended hike, the water in the streams is not safe to drink so bring iodine tablets to purify the drinking water. 

Packing for Boat Tours on Kauai

Our favorite Kauai can’t miss activity is a Napali Coast cruise. Be it a Napali Coast snorkeling tour, rafting tour, or sunset and dinner cruise, you shouldn’t miss this on Kauai. 

what to pack for kauai boat tour hawaii

If you do one paid excursion on Kauai, visit the Napali Coast by boat.

 

To pack for a Napali Coast tour, this is where we recommend packing warm clothes. The early morning or sunset tours may get cold on the water. We recommend packing a light jacket for this tour. 

Napali Coast Tour Packing List

  • Light Jacket
  • Sun Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Towel (for snorkeling and rafting tours)
  • Backpack (dry bag isn’t required)
  • Reef-Safe Sunscreen
  • Water Bottle
  • Camera!
  •  

Pack light for a boat tour as space on the tour boats is limited but most tours do provide dry storage. Minimize bringing valuables as most of the time your backpack will be in the common area in the galley while you are on the deck checking out the views. We have never had an issue or heard of theft but you still want peace of mind!

What Not to Pack for Kauai, Hawaii

Let me share some common items visitors like to pack for Kauai. Review the list to determine if you’d prefer to pack these items for your Kauai vacation. 

For example, many people like to have an umbrella in hand for a quick downpour. Kauai is the wettest of the Hawaiian Islands. We don’t mind getting wet in warm rain or running for shelter to wait for the rain cloud to pass. But if you don’t want to get wet, then bring a travel umbrella and keep it in your backpack so you are always ready.

Kauai Hawaii Packing List Days with Rain chart

By far the wettest island but is a warm, quick downpour worth packing and carrying an umbrella?

We are caught in a downpour every time we visit as we like to stay or frequently visit the North Shore of Kauai, the windward or wet side of the island. We don’t mind the rain nor have we ever wished we had an umbrella. With two kids in tow, an umbrella is low on our list of things to bring for the day.

A list of what not to pack for a trip to Kauai:

  • Water Shoes – mesh with rubber soles, slip-on shoes are made for walking over rocky beaches. These are nice to have but not recommended. Most of Kauai’s popular beaches are sandy. You won’t find yourself walking over rocks for long, if even necessary, to enter a good snorkel spot. Plus, mesh water shoes may tempt you to walk on the reef which is not good for the world. 
  • Jeans – Some people say to bring them just in case. I can’t think of a single case to wear jeans on Kauai for your vacation. Bring light cotton or khaki pants if you like to wear pants in the evening. Jeans are not comfortable clothing in Kauai.
  • Dress Clothes – Kauai has plenty of fine-dining establishments, like AMA in Hanalei or Merriman’s Kauai in Poipu. If you are planning on going out to dinner then one nice outfit is recommended. Packing numerous dress clothes isn’t recommended. You won’t find people wearing diner jackets, suits, or formal dresses in Kauai. 
  • High Heels – comfortable shoes are a must. High heels are not recommended island attire.
  • Beach Towels – hear me out on this one. Beach towels, even fast-drying, sand resistant, quick-dry beach towels like Live Sandy, are condensed so they pack well but they still take up a lot of suitcase space. You don’t need to pack beach towels because hotels and resorts provide beach towels to guests. If you’re staying in a vacation rental, the vast majority provide beach towels. If they don’t you can pick up souvenir beach towels!
  • Snorkel Equipment – If you have a favorite mask, snorkel, and/or fin or plan to snorkel every day, then we recommend you make room for your snorkel gear. But for most, save room in your suitcase by renting equipment in Kauai. Local rental shops are well priced, have quality equipment, and are located near the best snorkel spots. Here are the 5 Best Snorkel Spots on Kauai.
  • Heavy Jacket or Sweatshirt – We recommend a light jacket or long sleeve t-shirt over packing a thick jacket or sweatshirt. Kauai’s climate is not conducive to wearing a heavy jacket. 
  • Umbrella – if you don’t like getting wet then pack a travel umbrella. We find the warm rains to be refreshing and the sun will dry you quickly so an umbrella isn’t recommended. 

By leaving these items at home, you’ll have space in your suitcase for souvenirs like an Aloha Shirt, ukulele, or macadamia nut chocolates. 

The Last Thing to Pack for Your Kauai Vacation

Packing these items for your Kauai vacation will save you time and money once you land. But don’t forget the last thing to pack for your vacation. Finish your Kauai vacation packing by downloading our Kauai Wayfinder Itinerary.

Packing is just the beginning, let us plan the rest of your trip. Our itineraries are better than guidebooks.

We’ve done the hard work for you. Living in Hawaii, we’ve spent thousands of hours (and thousands of dollars) exploring and curating the best experiences. 

Learn more here – Kauai Wayfinder Itinerary.

Have a wonderful trip to Kauai!

Jordan Fromholz

Jordan Fromholz

Author

I'm the co-founder, with my wife Erica, of The Hawaii Vacation Guide. We live on Maui with our toddler Henry and our sweet but quirky dog Hattie. I have a thing for photographing pineapples and learning to surf.

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