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Hawaii Capsule Wardrobe: What to Pack (& What to Leave)

two fashionable women in a coffee shop in Kona, Hawaii

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Well hello there, Hawaii bound babe. You’re in the throes of trip planning and I’m here to help.

With a thoughtfully planned Hawaii capsule wardrobe, you’ll have the essentials for your vacation without the excess bulk to drag through the airport.

PACKING FOR HAWAII’S CLIMATE

Before you throw a lot of unneeded items in your luggage, take a moment to understand Hawaii’s climate. This will give you a solid starting point when planning your Hawaii capsule wardrobe. 

Unlike my turbulent flight on the way over, the weather in the Hawaiian Islands is as steady as can be. The temperature is relatively stable throughout the year. 

Here’s what you should know: there are only two main seasons on the Islands. First up, we have the summer season, known as “kau,” which graces the islands from May to October. Then we have the wonderful winter season, aka”hoʻoilo,” which stretches from November to April.

Now, let’s talk seasons.

During the summertime, when you’re soaking up the sun at sea level, you can expect the average daytime temperature to hover around a balmy 85°F (29.4°C).

In the wintertime, things cool down just a tad. Daytime temperatures average a delightful 78°F (25.6°C).

When night falls, temperatures dip about 10°F lower than during the day. So it’s helpful to  have a light sweater handy for those cozy Hawaiian evenings. 

Emphasis on light. Light clothing and fabrics are ideal.

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HAWAII CAPSULE WARDROBE FOR EASY PACKING

When packing for Hawaii, prioritize comfort. The islands are stunning and you want clothing that will move with you and keep you cool of course.

This Hawaii capsule wardrobe features lightweight fabrics and versatile basics. 

Hawaii Capsule Wardrobe minimalist

HAWAII OUTFIT IDEAS FOR A WEEK-LONG TRIP

From farmer’s markets to volcano hikes, these functional island outfits don’t skimp on style.

HAWAII BEACH OUTFITS

I spent 70% of my time in Kona at the beach. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Here’s some Hawaii beach outfit inspo.

HAWAII HIKING OUTFITS

The views in Hawaii are spectacular. Add these to your packing list and your hiking outfits will be too.

WHAT TO PACK FOR A WEEK IN HAWAII

  • Swimwear- bring a high coverage one for water sports
  • Lightweight tops- t-shirts, tank tops
  • Beach Cover-ups
  • Summer dresses
  • Shorts- linen and denim
  • Lightweight pants
  • Crossbody bag
  • Rain jacket
  • Activewear
  • Lightweight jacket
  • Comfortable shoes- sneakers and hiking sandals
  • Beach shoes- flip flops
  • Dressier shoes
  • Sleepwear
  • Sun hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Small backpack
  • Dressy outfit

HAWAII DRESSY OUTFITS

A nice dinner? An evening Luau? Whatever you have planned, pick a breezy yet elevated look to step out in.

HOW TO BUILD A HAWAII CAPSULE WARDROBE

CONSULT YOUR ITINERARY

What’s on the schedule? Create your packing list with your activities in mind.

Your clothing needs for fancy dinners and farmers markets will be different from volcano hikes and ATV rides. 

My Hawaii trip involved lots of outdoor activities like paddle boarding and swimming with manta rays (a surreal experience).

In light of this, I packed lots of beach wear (sundresses, sandals, shorts). I also brought hiking pants, shoes, and tops to keep me protected on the trails. 

SET YOUR COLOR PALETTE

Allow me to simplify your outfit creation process. As you plan your Hawaii capsule wardrobe, create a defined color palette.

This way, everything you pack can mix and match with each other. 

In my capsule wardrobe color palette guide, I suggest 4-6 colors to keep things simple.

Neutrals are supremely simple to mix and match. But don’t you worry, there’s room for color in your Hawaii wardrobe.

TLDR: Plan your color scheme ahead so you have pieces that play well together.

woman wearing bikini and sunhat on beach in Hawaii

CHOOSE VERSATILE PIECES

Bypass the pain of battling with a suitcase that won’t zip. Instead, reach for clothing items that you can wear in multiple ways.

Multipurpose pieces that you can dress down for the beach or dress up for a luau will be perfect. 

White linen pants are a great example of a day-to-night piece. You can style them casually at the beach and dress them up with a cute top and earrings for dinner. 

My sister’s vibrant hair scarf is another multifunctional piece. It looks equally chic with casual and dressy outfits. Plus, it takes up next to no room in a suitcase.

Hi there! You can explore a whole list of versatile basics in this capsule wardrobe checklist.

PACK FOR THE CLIMATE

In my ultimate guide to building a capsule wardrobe, I talk about the power of layering. Well, let’s put a pin in that. In your Hawaiian wardrobe, less is more. Thanks to the warm climate, you won’t need lots of layers. 

Pick lightweight materials like cotton and linen. Think breezy, not bulky.

One exception to this rule is your airport outfit. You can pack a comfy sweatshirt for the freezing plane.

Just remember to prioritize light fabrics for the rest of your capsule wardrobe. 

Hair scarf Hawaii accessory

PACK LIGHT FOR HAWAII: WHAT NOT TO BRING

After spending a week in Hawaii, I realized certain items are just unnecessary. Here’s what you can leave at home.

Your suitcase zipper will thank you. 

HIGH HEELS

Uneven terrain, beach walks, and impromptu adventures are all par for the course in Hawaii. So heels will more than likely hold you back. Instead, pack a pair of pretty sandals for dressier activities. 

BULKY LAYERS

Good news for your suitcase weight limit- there’s no need for big jackets or thick pants in Hawaii.

The breezy, beautiful environment pairs well with simple capsule wardrobe essentials like t-shirts and linen pants. 

FORMAL WEAR

Yes, you should pack a couple of dressy options. But remember that the island atmosphere is a casual one. It’s unlikely that your fancy dinners and events will call for super formal attire.

Instead of a ballgown or sequined number, choose dresses or skirts that are elegant yet understated. 

TOO MANY OUTFITS 

As you pack for paradise, less is more. A capsule wardrobe like the one above is helpful since it contains versatile pieces that pair well with each other.

Even if you don’t embrace a full capsule, bring along pieces that can be dressed up or down. 

THICK FABRICS 

Velvet, fleece, and wool are all unfriendly fabrics in the Hawaiian heat. So are unbreathable options that trap heat against the body.

Embrace lightweight fabrics like linen and cotton for comfortable outfits.

If you do wear jeans, go for lightweight denim or a denim blend.

hawaii outfit idea with woman in bucket hat and denim shorts

HAWAII PACKING FAQS

In search of a simple approach to building a travel capsule wardrobe? The 5-4-3-2-1 method is one you may enjoy.

To follow it, you bring:

5 tops

4 bottoms

3 dresses and 3 pairs of shoes

2 swimsuits and 2 bags

1 hat, 1 watch, and 1 pair of sunglasses

Of course, you can edit this to make it work for your style. For instance, maybe you pack one dress and 2 rompers. But the goal is to streamline packing so you have what you need and nothing more.

If you are a repeat over-packing offender, this method is worth a try.

Bring multifunctional pieces. Versatile pieces are the backbone of a well-packed wardrobe. Take a white linen shirt for example. You can wear it over your bathing suit as a cover-up, tuck it into a silk skirt for dinner, or layer it over a tank top on a hike.   

 

Pack outfits instead of individual pieces. If you know what you’ll be doing each day, plan your outfits so that each activity has a corresponding look. For instance, you could pack 3 hiking outfits, 2 dressy outfits, and 3 beach outfit options. That way, you don’t pack a bunch of items you never end up wearing. 

 

Figure out laundry options. One way to pack less and not stress? Find out if the place you’re staying has a washer and dryer. In Kona, I stayed in a beautiful Airbnb that had a full laundry room. This made cleaning clothes a breeze.  

Limit shoes and accessories. Shoes can quickly add bulk to your luggage so be selective about the pairs you bring. I ended up wearing strappy hiking sandals 80% of the time when in Hawaii and dressier sandals the rest. I only wore sneakers to the airport.

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