A Helpful Packing Guide with the Must Haves for your Big Island, Hawaii Adventure
Geographically diverse and filled with a wide variety of activities, the Big Island is the perfect vacation spot for adrenaline junkies and beach bums alike. Filled with plenty of exciting activities across numerous different micro-climates, the Big Island is both rugged and relaxing, offering an unforgettable experience for those of every vacation activity inclination. But this also makes for a more difficult packing experience than simply throwing in your favorite swimwear and a pair of flip-flops. To best prepare you and your party for a mind-blowing time on the Big Island, here’s what you should bring with you.
Beach Time Packing for the Big Island
No matter how long you plan to spend on the beach, you’ll find the same thing everywhere you go: sand gets everywhere. While it won’t fully prevent you having to pick out random sand granules from your clothes and shoes for the next few days following, a sand mat will substantially reduce the amount of sand residue in your gear and is the perfect place to catch a few rays.
Resorts and hotels often provide plenty of towels for tourists and visitors to the island, but as you’ll find during your stay, it never hurts to pack an extra just in case. These lightweight, low-profile towels are the perfect addition to your beach bag and fit nicely in a carry-on.
While airlines won’t allow larger bottles on carry-on bags, sunscreen in Hawaii is an absolute must. The UV index is considerably higher than most places in the mainland, with averages in the “Extreme” range during the day. You’ll want to apply SPF 30 or more at least once every two hours, but a higher SPF sunscreen will save you from losing a day to a painful sunburn and aloe vera. Actually, you should stock up on that too, just in case.
You’ve already got a swimsuit ready and prepped for your Hawaii trip, but do you have a backup? Things tend to take a long time to dry and it never hurts to have a spare at your disposal, as you’ll be spending a lot of time in the water during your stay. Stock up and show off your stuff in whatever style suits you!
A vital aspect of the unofficial apparel of Hawaii, a decent, comfortable set of flip flops won’t put a dent in your wallet, but they’ll help keep you cool and ready to dig your feet into the sand at a moment’s notice. Heck, pack two pair just to be safe and enjoy the beach!
The best way to protect your neck, head, and face from the powerful UV index on the Big Island is to invest in a convenient, comfortable hat. Whether you go full tourist and get a paper or straw hat or stick to a simple baseball cap, make sure it’s easily foldable and reliable – the bright, beautiful Hawaiian sunlight is a blessing, but it can also be a curse for those who fail to stay equipped.
A no-brainer for any experienced hiker, a decent set of footwear that provides the necessary support for long excursions through the Big Island’s various rainforests, rugged lava fields, and volcanic craters is a must for the adventurous tourist. If you plan to venture inland or explore the rocky beaches associated with the southern and Hilo sides of the island, you’ll want to make room in your luggage for a well-worn set of hiking boots.
If you’re a mosquito magnet, you’ll want to keep a strong bug repellant within easy reach. Being a tropical island, much of the Big Island suits mosquitos very well. DEET is certainly an option, but we advise a more natural repellant containing citronella or other natural ingredients.
As a precaution, it’s never a bad idea to be overly prepared. The number of instances I’ve found in which I could have really used a knife, corkscrew, or bottle opener is endless, so packing an extra Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman in your kit is a smart move.
The combination of heat, exertion, and humidity common to tourist experiences on the Big Island prompts many to carry an extra water source with them no matter where they go. At higher elevations and along the beaches alike, dehydration is a major concern – especially if the previous night consisted of a few Mai Tais. Better safe than dizzy.
Especially on the rainy Hilo side of the Big Island, which receives about 220 inches of moisture per year, you’ll want to pack a lightweight, water-resistant outer layer to stay dry. Longer hikes along the volcanoes may also provide dips in temperature along with increased rainfall, so staying prepared and throwing a raincoat or two in your backpack is recommended.
Due to the elevation and temperature drop near the stargazing and observatory levels around Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, packing an extra jacket and dressing in layers for your journey to the region is a wise move.
First Aid Kit
Most guides and bike rental companies near the park will supply a modest first aid kit, but keeping an extra kit in your pack is encouraged. The lava fields and rocks are treacherous to say the least, especially if you’re heading out on your own. Bumps and scrapes are common no matter your level of expertise, so packing with precaution is a smart idea.
While the heat and duration of any hike around Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will lend itself to shorts, packing an extra set of longer, lightweight pants will help keep the mosquitos off your legs, let alone the scrapes and grime that come with cycling across the lava fields or access roads that lead to lava flow viewing points.
Whether you’re trekking across streams, mud, lava rocks, or sand, it’s important to pack suitable footwear for every activity you expect to participate in on the Big Island. Lava rock is sharp and unforgiving, leading to many a twisted ankle and slight abrasion as you travel, so keeping a set of decent hiking boots on hand is important to staying safe and healthy.
Nighttime and twilight viewing of lava flows in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a must-see for visitors to the Big Island, making the use of flashlights or headlamps vital to staying safe during your travels.
Water Bottle (or Two)
Stay hydrated throughout your Big Island adventure! Rule one for tourists who are not acclimated to the various climates throughout the island is to keep plenty of liquids in your system before, during, and after your day has ended, but the unpredictable nature of the park demands this above all else. Don’t take access to water for granted here – visitor’s centers and rest stops are far and few between, so keeping at least a gallon of water on hand for each person is critical.
Above all else, enjoy your Big Island vacation and stay safe!