A cruise to Hawaii can be a trip of a lifetime, but make sure you choose the correct things to bring to ensure a great vacation. Especially if you're flying to Honolulu to board your ship, you'll need to take the right gear without overpacking. To help you out, we've created this Hawaii packing list for cruisers as a guide to keep you sane. You'll be saying mahalo (thank you) when you realize packing for your trip to the islands can be a breeze.
A day at the beach is a must in Hawaii, but it's a pain to haul fluffy beach towels from your cruise ship when you're a family of four and everyone needs two towels (one to sit on, one for drying off). No beach bag is big enough. Instead, streamline your beach packing by bringing along straw beach mats (popular in Hawaii -- you can also buy them there) and quick-dry packable towels that take up less space. With less to carry, you'll be able to haul your gear back to the ship and eat a shave ice at the same time.
If you're planning on snorkeling, diving or surfing on your Hawaii cruise, protect your skin and the environment with reef-safe sunscreen. You'll keep yourself from getting burned without harming Hawaii's marine flora and fauna.
To make the most of your time in port, you'll want to be on the go all day -- and even into the evening for itineraries with overnights. Make sure to pack the perfect beach bag to carry snacks, changes of clothes, cameras, wallets and everything else you need for a day onshore. (Plus, a zippered one can double as extra luggage for bringing home souvenirs.) We recommend throwing in a wet bag to stash bathing suits and other damp items once you leave the beach for the luau.
You will not need to dress up in Hawaii; island casual is the code day and night. Pack any Hawaiian-style shirts you have at home (or buy one in port) or casual beachy sundresses, and moisture-wicking clothes if you plan on getting sporty with a hike or kayak adventure.
Some of the best activities on the Hawaiian islands involve getting up close and personal with the sea creatures who call the archipelago's waters homes. If there's no picture then it didn't happen, so make sure you document your new dolphin, turtle or fishy friends with plenty of photos. Don't leave home without an underwater camera or waterproof case for your phone or point-and-shoot. They'll be much cheaper to pick up at home than in the islands.
Flip-flops might be the footwear of choice on the islands, but you'll likely prefer something hardier if you're climbing on hardened lava at Volcanoes National Park or hiking to a waterfall. Look for a sturdy pair of athletic sandals or water shoes from brands like Chacos or Keen's. You can take your pick from closed- or open-toe varieties.
Smart surfers have long worn rash guards to protect against chafing, jelly fish stings and sunburn when they hang ten. Whether you're planning on a surf lesson or simply don't want to invest in multiple bottles of sunscreen, pack a rash guard for sun protection on your Hawaii cruise. These trendy tops come in a variety of patterns and styles for men and women; look for ones with SPF-protection in the fabric.
Hawaii wouldn't be the Rainbow State if it never rained. Expect sudden but short showers any time, but especially if you cruise during the wet season of November until March. Don't let a little rain keep you from your island fun. Pack a rain jacket to keep in your day pack, and keep an eye out for those rainbow views.
Whether you're on a small boat tour of the Napali Coastline in rough seas or taking the curves on the Road to Hana, Hawaii presents several excursions that are worth doing -- even if you have a sensitive stomach. Instead of skipping the bus ride to the top of Haleakala or taking a pass on that snorkel boat, pack your favorite seasickness or nausea remedy and carry on. (If you don't like popping pills, consider a natural remedy like ginger candy or pressure bands.)
Independent travelers who like to save money by going it alone would be wise to pick up a U.S. National Parks Pass before heading to the islands. Three of Hawaii's top tourist attractions -- including Haleakala, Volcanoes National Park and Pu'uhonua O Honaunau on Hawaii -- are covered by the pass. (Admission to Pearl Harbor is free, despite being a national memorial.) Seniors can purchase a lifetime pass, and U.S. fourth-graders can get a free one-year pass (which also covers the students' travel companions, within reason).