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I’ve moved to Hawai’i twice, once in 2020 and once this past summer. The islands have a hold on me, and I love hunting for ways to give back to the local community of kama’āina (long term residents.) Certain communities like the North Shore and surfer pilgrims are more transient than others, while other pockets establish more lasting roots.
The packing list can feel obvious: bikinis, daisy dukes, sandals, etc,. And thank goodness it’s the opposite of ski season when your hard shell is bursting with puffers and thick knit sweaters that take up every last pound of those fifty allotted by the airline. With a culture of bare feet and “tiny tops,” Hawai’i is luckily a much lighter and breezier endeavor. Still, throughout my adventures, I’ve noticed several items that *everyone* forgets to pack—that will definitely cost you when you’re restocking at the Costco or a local store.
What You’re Forgetting to Pack for Hawai’i:
- Body Sunscreen: Kinfield Cloud Cover SPF 35 Sunscreen—$28.
- Face Sunscreen: Habit No. 38 SPF Mister Face Sunscreen—$27.
- Fancy Shoes: Larroude Miso Platform Sandals—$315.
- Self Tanner: The Fox Tan One-Night Only Tan Instant Wash-Off—$17.
- Fleece Jacket: Roarke Rambler Fleece Hoodie—$125.
- TV Stick: Fire TV Stick—$32 (was $50)
- Beach Blanket: Big Blanket Co. Big Beachy Blanket—$159.
PLEIN AIR, how dare you recommend something so obvious? Hear me out though—plenty of people don’t pack their own sunscreen, assuming they’ll be able to buy on the island; however, although that may be technically true, you’ll find yourself with some sticker shock thanks to the SPF prices at the beachside grocery stores or tourist shops. And we all know which brands are the tourist kind, with whitish, chalky residues that may protect you from those UV rays, but will definitely make you feel a little icky in that Instagram snap. Instead, it’s more cost-effective to stock up beforehand. Buy a giant pack of (reef-safe!) sprays or lotions alongside an excellent tinted moisturizer or face-specific blend to be kindest to your skin. I’m personally a fan of Habit’s cucumber-scented SPF mist, which is both refreshing and protective. It’s TikTok famous for a reason, y’all.
While first priority is undoubtedly your slippahs (Hawai’ians don’t call them “flip flops” or “sandals”), you’ll also find yourself surprised that you need a pair of genuinely fancy shoes. While the island as a whole is relatively casual, I’m a big believer in overdressing, and your Hawai’ian adventure is definitely a special occasion. I personally swear by Larroude as a shoe brand, with their Miso sandals being both immensely comfortable and uber cute, with a platform that’s attention-grabbing. While I love the versatility of the black suede Larroude Miso sandals, and brought my pair with me to the islands, I would also recommend the gorgeously neutral but daisy-embellished raw linen sandals the brand touts for summertime. The brand calls this shoe a 70’s‑style platform with the look and height of a platform with the “feel of a flat” which is 100 percent accurate.
For one night, and one night only, Donna and the Dynamooos! Whether you’re indulging your islander Mamma Mia fantasies or simply looking to relax with a mojito, you’ll relish coming back to the mainland with a golden glow. While you may feel like you’ll instantly get a suntan, you might find yourself—like me—feeling a bit self-conscious from your ski season paleness when venturing out to the beach amidst a sea of tanned folk. It’s easy enough to put on a “base layer” insta-tanner or bring it along with you to channel the vibe immediately. When I last minute got invited on a boat this past weekend, I slathered myself in this instant tanner so I wouldn’t feel out of place (it’s a confidence thing, y’know?) and enjoyed immediate color without streaks.
Your weather will obviously vary by island. While my home base is O’ahu, friends who visit the Big Island can even find snow-capped mountain tops (perfect for those still longing for the slopes!) Still, no matter which island catches your fancy, you might find yourself the lucky recipient of some sailboat breezes, a chilly night camping on the shore, or simply bracing yourself against the strong AC units of your indoor visits. TL;DR: you’re forgetting a jacket. Surf brand Roarke steps up and delivers with this cozy, snuggly fleece with an attractive silhouette, zip pockets, and more.
Fire TV Stick—$32 (was $50).
Whether you’re staying at a hotel, Airbnb, with a friend, or making the move the same way I did, consider your nighttime entertainment. After a long day of surfing, snorkeling, lounging, or hiking, sometimes the best course of action is to slather on some aloe, pick up some sushi or poké, and recharge for the next day with a go-to show. My travel hack is always to bring a streaming stick, whether through Amazon or another retailer, that has all your apps and accounts already set up. You don’t have to miss a beat, their cost-per-use is hard to beat, and it takes up minimal suitcase space. You’ll thank yourself for it when you see the hotel TV only catches seven channels.
The hotel towel sounds nice until it actually comes time for beach lounging, when you realize that your frame (whether petite, tall, or other) still hangs entirely off the fabric—and is getting absolutely covered in sand. While undoubtedly we love those sandy feet and crusty, salty hair, let’s save it for the adventures, shall we? Especially if you’re headed straight to dinner, a chartered excursion, or another part of the island directly after your soirée in the sun. If you try to buy a beach towel from one of the many tourist shops, you may find yourself unpleasantly surprised by the prices and the availability, longing to save your souvenir dollars for the tiki keychain (guilty as charged) you really want. Opt for this extra-large beach blanket from the aptly named Big Blanket Co. With a stylishly neutral motif and a soft fabric, you’ll be able to lounge all day and relish your delightfully dirt-free suntan by the time the sun sets over the water. It’s also only four pounds, and comes with a drawstring storage bag, so it’s easy enough to throw in your suitcase or tie to your personal item.