35 Things To Do on The Big Island Hawaii For The Perfect Weekend

Taking a trip to the Big Island and not sure what to do exactly? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Kailua Kona is outdoor-paradise; the weather is sunny and perfect on most days, and the unique terrain makes this a favorite destination for tourists and locals alike. Hilo on the other hand, is rainier, thereby giving rise to an amazingly lush landscape on the east side. This post will illustrate the major highlights of The Big Island and give you ideas on things to do and eat, broken out by the Kona side and the Hilo side.

*Please note: All of the products listed in this post are my personal tried and true recommendations and may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running. Thanks!

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How Long To Stay On The Big Island

If you can swing it, about 5-6 days will do, but no less than 4—otherwise you really won’t be able to see all that the Big Island has to offer. The strategy is to stay a few days on the Kona side and a few days on the Hilo side. If you’ve visited the other Hawaiian Islands, you probably have an idea of what to expect from Hawaii’s terrain. But one huge thing to note, don’t underestimate the size of the Big Island. It’s big…and sometimes barren, unlike any other Hawaiian island. More about that later.


Things To Do On The Big Island (Kona)

Explore Kona Town

One of the more leisurely things to do on the Big Island is to explore Kona town.
It’s a long street that runs along the water’s edge with plenty of cafes, shops, and restaurants to check out. It’s also a historical town, as it once was the retreat for Hawaiian royalty. If you’re into Hawaiian culture, check out the Hulihee Palace and the Mokuaikaua Church. If you’re looking to get out onto the water, Kona is also a great place for stand-up paddle boarding.

Snorkeling

Hawaii is famous for its warm tropical waters and extremely diverse marine life. You WILL see tons of species of tropical fish. A few great places to snorkel are: Kahalu’u Beach Park or Captain Cook (requires a hike) or Two Step/Honaunau Bay. Note: Get ready to experience frequent sea turtle sightings when snorkeling, but make sure to keep your distance to prevent getting heavily fined.

snorkeling in kona hawaii - travels with elle

Coffee Tour

There are a bunch of coffee tours speckled throughout the Big Island, and you should definitely take some time to visit a coffee farm to fully appreciate what Kona is famous for. If you’re staying in the Kona area, the best free coffee tours I recommend are Heavenly Hawaiian’s Farm Tour (free tour and tasting), Hula Daddy ($10 tour, free tastings), and Mountain Thunder Coffee (free tour and tasting). Tours typically start on the top of the hour.

Visit a farmer’s market

No matter where I go, farmers markets are a must for me. They’re great for picking up breakfast/lunch, buying local fruits and vegetables, buying gourmet food items (honey, oils, bread, cheeses, etc.) and even souvenir shopping. Luckily, there are a bunch of farmers markets all over the Big Island of Hawaii. On the Kona side, do check out The Kona Farmers Market located in the heart of Kona, as well as Ali’i Garden Marketplace not too far from the farmers market.

The Perfect Weekend in Kona, Big Island: Itinerary Planning Guide - www.travelswithelle.com

Go hiking

The Big Island hosts some great hikes through barren lava fields, lush rainforests or to secluded beaches. My top recommendations on the Kona side–still about an hour drive from Kailua-Kona though–include Waipi’o Valley (3.0 miles round trip, ends at a black sand beach) and the hike to Papakolea Beach, the rare and beautiful green sand beach (5.5 miles round trip).

Go on an ATV Tour

ATV tours are a fun way to explore the beautiful difficult to access places such as the wild forests and cliffs on the Kohala coast. These tours typically take you on a 10+ mile drive through private lands with stops on the way at scenic points, historic sites, and waterfalls.

Night swim with manta rays

The famous manta ray night dive in Kona is widely regarded as one of the most memorable experiences around the world. On average, the manta rays you can see around Kona will be about 12 ft. This is one of the Big Island activities that you shouldn’t miss!

manta ray night dive - travels with elle

Hit the beach

Beaches on the Big Island are great for surfing and snorkeling. Though I don’t believe that the Big Island is the Hawaiian island for a beach vacation (there are better beaches for swimming on Oahu, Maui, and Kauai), there are still good options. My beach recommendations include: Hapuna Beach and Kua Bay. Both have amazing turquoise waters, but relatively large waves when I went in April. Turtle sighting are frequent!

Pro tip: One thing to note, since these beaches are known to be the best on the Kona side, many other vacationers will be going there. So be warned, if you’re looking for isolation, these are not the places to go!

black sand beach big island

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Go see a lava tube

Exploring lava tubes is a great way to understand more about the volcanic processes that are continually shaping the Big Island. Due to their easy access and educational value, they are a perfect family outing. If you’re looking for something more adrenaline-rushing, multi-hour spelunking guided tours are also available.

Visit the summit of Mauna Kea

At 14,000 feet, Mauna Kea is one of the most impressive sights in Hawaii. The sunset here is truly not to be missed. You’ll need 4WD to reach the summit yourself, but your other option is to book a tour that includes sunset at the summit followed by star gazing. I can’t think of a better way to spend a night in Hawaii.

Go on a picnic

Pick up some snacks from Foodland or plate lunches from the restaurant recs below, head to any ‘Beach Park’ you see on your maps, and soak the view by the ocean under some palm trees. As it gets hot in the afternoons in Kona, definitely think about packing a cooler with cold drinks and fruits.

The Perfect Weekend in Kona, Big Island: Itinerary Planning Guide - www.travelswithelle.com

Drive north to visit other small towns

Waimea is known as Hawaiian cowboy country and is home to rolling, green pastures, cattle, and ranches. There are a lot of food options here and is definitely an area worth checking out on your way to the coast or to Hilo. Take the scenic drive north to the charming town of Hawi and visit the Pololu Valley Lookout for amazing and lush coastal viewpoints.

Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm

If you’ve ever dreamed of playing with seahorses and having them wrap around your little finger, this is the place to do it. You won’t want to miss this hour-long tour–available Monday through Friday at 10am, 12pm, and 2pm during high season (less frequently during the low season). The tour gives you the opportunity to see baby seahorses, pregnant males, and sea dragons. They also have an aquarium where more than half the world’s seahorses are on display, as well as an interactive tide pool and a fish feeding station for the children.

Big Island Circle Tour

If you aren’t too keen on driving and walking everywhere, check out this full-day tour jam-packed with Big Island landmarks. The Big Island circle tour hits all the highlights of the stunning Big Island of Hawaii–making it possible to see many a good chunk of the island in one day, without worrying about logistics. While riding in a comfortable minibus, watch out the window as the landscape changes with every bend in the road, from tropical, misty valleys full of ferns to a barren, black lava coast.


Things To Do On The Big Island (Hilo)

Ziplining

The ziplines on the Big Island usually connect several scenic points including lush rainforest and one or more waterfalls. Perfect for those looking for an aerial view of nature as well as a bit of adrenaline! There are plenty of ziplining tour options on the Big Island, many near Waimea, Kohala, or Hilo.

Visit a botanical garden

The Hilo and Hamakua coasts are filled with rainforest, waterfalls, and tropical flowers and these natural treasures can be most easily seen in one of the botanical gardens on the Big Island. The botanical gardens here are agreed to be the most beautiful in all of Hawaii. If you make this one of your stops, don’t miss the orchids!

The Perfect Weekend in Kona, Big Island: Itinerary Planning Guide - www.travelswithelle.com

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

By far the most popular tourist destination on the Big Island is the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You can easily spend an entire day or two here, and rightfully so. It’s one of the major landmarks on the Hilo side, and given the long trek from the Kona side, make sure to allocate plenty of time for hiking, checking out the lookouts, and exploring the visitors center. If you aren’t too keen on walking through this expansive park, check out this tour.

Helicopter Tour

The most popular helicopter tours on the Big Island depart from Hilo and include a trip over of the volcano. This provides a once in a lifetime experience of seeing the active lava flow from above. You’ll be in awe the whole time, trust me. And it doesn’t end there–before circling back towards Hilo, the tour continues by taking you over the rich rainforest to see the waterfalls.

helicopter tour lava hilo hawaii - travels with elle

helicopter tour waterfall hilo hawaii - travels with elle

Hiking to the Lava Flow

If you’re active and looking for some action and adventure, nothing beats seeing the lava flow up close and personal. If this appeals you, I’d recommend going on a guided lava hike with an expert that knows the terrain to ensure your safety from the active lava flow.

Akaka Falls and Rainbow Falls

Visit two of the prettiest and most easy to access waterfalls near Hilo. Akaka Falls, Hawaii’s most famous waterfall is about 11 miles north of Hilo. It’s over 400 feet tall and accessible via an easy half-mile hike through a lush jungle. Rainbow Falls is located right in Hilo town and is best seen in the early morning (you’ll have the best chance of seeing a rainbow at this time!).

The Perfect Weekend in Kona, Big Island: Itinerary Planning Guide - www.travelswithelle.com

Hilo Farmers Market

If you’re in Hilo on a Wednesday or Saturday, you’ve got to carve out some time to check out this spectacular outdoor market with over 200 local farmers and vendors.

hilo farmers market

Downtown Hilo

Downtown Hilo is charming and full of lovely shops, restaurants, and galleries. There are also several museums such as the Pacific Tsunami Museum.

Papakolea: Green Sand Beach

There are not many places in the world where you can feast your eyes on a green sand beach, but good news, The Big Island is one of them! While it’s possible to hike to the beach (uncovered under the sun, 5.5 miles roundtrip), you can also rent a 4WD vehicle to drive in, or try hitching a ride from a local from the parking lot.

green sand beach big island

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach: Black Sand Beach

Black sand beach, frequently with turtles sunning themselves on the black sand. Enough said. Make this a stop on your visit to the Big Island, even if you have to go out of your way a little bit. There isn’t any other place like it, probably in the entire world (other than on Maui maybe). Worth the miles driven.

Mehana Brewing Company

Stop by the tasting room at Mehana Brewing Co to try a flight from Hawaii’s largest independent craft brewer.

Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Farm & Factory

Everyone’s heard of Mauna Loa. Just a few miles south of Hilo brings you to the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Farm and Factory. Take a self-guided tour, sample some nuts, and stock up on your favorites from the source!


Where To Eat On The Big Island

Pine Tree Cafe

The best place to stop for breakfast or lunch after flying into the Kona airport or before heading there! Pine Tree Cafe has really good and simple food any time of the day. So much so, that we went their twice on our short Kona trip. For breakfast, opt for the french toast, which comes highly recommended. For lunch/dinner, your possibilities are so endless. Plate lunch combo options include spicy garlic fried chicken, short ribs, chicken katsu, loco moco, beef stew, poke, etc. They are conveniently open 6am for the early flights.
Address: 73-4040 Hulikoa Dr. Ste 2 Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

Kona Grill House

A super low key seafood restaurant with just about the best fresh fish and lobster cake you will ever have. Even though this place looks like a complete hole in the wall, it was one of the more memorable meals we had in the Kona area. Trust me, the lobster cake is a must. Its creamy, slightly crispy, and there’s definitely no shortage in flavor there. Other specials include the lobster mac n cheese and their catch of the day in just about any form they cook it in.
Address: 81-951 Halekii St. Kealakekua, HI 96750

The Perfect Weekend in Kona, Big Island: Itinerary Planning Guide - www.travelswithelle.com

Umeke’s

Super fresh poke at reasonable prices in a typical hole in the wall location. What more can you ask for? There’s a great flavor selection and chill outdoor seating that is definitely worth the visit if you are in the area. The kalua pork comes highly recommended as well. As this is a family-owned restaurant, food quantity is limited. Even though the restaurant closes at 5pm, poke and rice usually run out at around 4:30pm, so get there before it’s just slim pickings!
Address: 75-143 Hualalai Rd. Ste 105 Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

The Perfect Weekend in Kona, Big Island: Itinerary Planning Guide - www.travelswithelle.com

Ululani’s Shave Ice

Unsuspectingly nestled inside of the Courtyard Marriott, this could be considered a “hidden” gem. The syrups here made out of natural ingredients such as real fruit and sugar cane, which made their flavors authentic-tasting and extremely flavorful. They poke holes into the shave ice so that the syrup really penetrates all the way through the ice. They carry the usual toppings including super fresh hunks of mochi as well as a haupia cream that is rich and heavenly. Get the haupia cream!

Address: 75-5660 Palani Rd Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

The Perfect Weekend in Kona, Big Island: Itinerary Planning Guide - www.travelswithelle.com

Two Ladies Kitchen

I have two words for you– unforgettable mochi. Crowds swarm for this mochi, and rightfully so because it’s that good. Two Ladies produces almost two dozen types of mochi, with flavors including lilikoi (passionfruit), sweet potato and butter. One of the bestsellers includes the strawberry mochi, filled with an entire strawberry inside (consider pre-ordering it or lining up early, as this guy tends to sell out quick).

Address: 274 Kilauea Ave Hilo, HI 96720

two ladies mochi hilo

Hawaiian Style Cafe Hilo

You must stop here if you’re looking for a breakfast place! The portions are crazy big and you can tell it’s all homemade. Some notable menu items: The haupia cream pancakes and the loco moco. This place is worth returning to… try more things on their menu.

Address: 681 Manono St. Ste 101 Hilo, HI 96720

haupia pancake hilo hawaii

Suisan Fish Market

Come hungry for gigantic portions of fish fresh off the boat, which are accompanied by your choice of rice and veggies. The spicy ahi tuna is a popular and classic pick, but there’s a large selection to choose from (feel free to try some other flavors out before picking). I highly recommend this place if you like poke or even want to try poke for the first time. However, I am not responsible if after you try this place and cannot find another poke place like this…

Address: 93 Lihiwai St, Hilo, HI 96720

Zippy’s

This is the only Zippy’s on the island! For those of you new to Hawaii, this is the best fast food a person could ask for in life. Seriously, why don’t we have this on the mainland? It’s phenomenal fast food and I’d take this over hamburgers any day. If you’re on the Hilo side, make sure to stop at Zippy’s for the Korean Chicken and the Chili Rice (Pro Tip: Get hotdog in your chili rice, it’s a local favorite)

Address: Prince Kuhio Plaza, 111 E Puainako St, Hilo, HI 96720

zippy's chili rice hawaii


Where To Stay On The Big Island

Stay in or near Kailua-Kona to be near the main attractions and things to do. This part of town is fairly lively with lots of touristy shops, restaurants, and nightlife options (a few laid-back bars offering live music, a brewery, kava bar, etc). If nightlife is important to you, Kailua-Kona is your best bet.

Other great areas you could stay: Kohala Coast, Waikoloa Village, or Waimea.

The Big Island is structured in a way where accommodation options are few and far between as it’s mostly undeveloped. Since it’s so big, driving can take up a lot of time. If you plan on visiting the Hilo side as well, I would recommend staying a few nights on the Kona side and then staying a few nights on the Hilo side, especially if you plan on visiting the volcanoes.

Day trips are possible, but it can take over 2 hours to drive from one end to the other. With all that driving, it doesn’t allow sufficient time to fully appreciate the lush and green Hilo side!


The Big Island, Hawaii: Essential Packing List

  • Wheeled suitcase | I use my Amazon hard shell carry-on whenever I want something sturdier and can’t be bothered with having weight on my body. It’s roomy and super sleek looking. Spinner wheel hard shell cases are the future!
  • Travel backpack | Personally, I’m a travel backpack kind of person; I love my Osprey Aura 65 so much. It’s extremely comfortable because of its super intense hip belt (if you get it, you’ll see what I mean) and perfect for those warm travel days due to the ventilation technology. I actually went backpacking with this pack and can attest to its greatness. Totally worth the investment. If you’re looking for a new travel bag or backpacking bag, GET THIS BAG! You won’t regret it.
  • Travel backpack | For something a little smaller and less outdoor looking, the Hynes Eagle Carry On Backpack is the way to go. It’s sleek and simple, and since it’s a travel backpack, it’s extremely durable and has lots of pockets.
  • Packing cubes | You need to get these packing cubes, they are amazing at creating space in your luggage that you never thought you had. However you want to organize your clothes— by day, by outfit, by type—these will be the most useful thing you have in your packing artillery. You’ll no longer need to dig through the entire suitcase for that one thing you’re looking for, because you’ll know exactly where it’s at.
  • Everyday bag | A mini backpack that can fit a water bottle, phone, camera, sunglasses and sunscreen is a great option. Another good option for days where you’re not feeling the backpack look is a medium-sized, cross-body bag. If you’re able to find a bag that folds flat so that you’re able to stow it in your carry-on, even better. I like the Fjallraven Kanken Mini Classic Backpack for something simple and compressible, so when I’m not using it, I can flatten it and store it in my luggage. For something more elegant, I go with a simple leather backpack.
  • Daypack | I’m a fan of the Deuter ACT Trail 30 Hiking Backpack. It has ample room for all the snacks and water you’ll need, as well as for your camera and the safety essentials for the hike.
  • Tops | You really don’t need that many shirts, especially if you choose versatile pieces, allowing them to be multifunctional. You can go with a mix of sleeveless and sleeved for the most part, with one caveat. Depending on which island you end up on, mosquitos may be a problem. In that case, pack 1-2 lightweight long sleeves.
  • Pants | Bring 1 pair just in case there happens to be a chill at night or if you plan to attend a more formal event. For summers, in the face of humidity, go with something loose and light. Jeans can be way too hot for summer travel. Trust me, I’ve experienced my fair share of sweaty legs trapped in jeans. It’s pretty uncomfortable, to say the least.
  • Shorts/skirts | 2-3 pairs will do. If you plan on wearing more dresses, you can definitely cut out some tops and bottoms and substitute with dresses.
  • Leggings | Useful if you plan on working out, hiking, or want something to lounge in on the plane. I love leggings and can’t take any trip without them. A pair of lightweight leggings like the pair by 90 Degree By Reflex is a great option if you’re looking for breathability while getting that protection from bugs and the sun’s UV rays. If you want something with pockets that’ll fit your phone, go with this pair.
  • Dresses | 1-2 long dresses for the summer season. Long or flowy dresses/skirts are really good for days when you plan on visiting places like cathedrals or temples (no bare shoulders or exposed knees, so be prepared). If you plan on going out at night, aim for one of the dresses to be appropriate for both daytime and evening looks. It’s all about versatility!
  • Underwear and socks | Bring five sets and just find a washing machine whenever you can. Or save water and wash them while you’re showering. These are light enough where overpacking is not a problem.
  • Bras | Depending on your activity level, 2-3 will do. Because I’m pretty active and tend to do a lot of tropical hiking, I typically bring more sports bras than regular bras. (Plus, your swimming suit tops can function as bras too.) Throw them in the wash as needed.
  • Shoes | When traveling to tropical destinations, sandals and flip flops are a must. If you plan on doing a lot of hiking on rocky or muddy terrain, consider hiking boots too. If not, you should at least bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes with good support and traction. For sandals, I alternate between my Birkenstocks and Toms Open Toe Alpargatas— both allow you to walk miles and miles. Going with something like these Nike flip flops will allow you to hit the beach and walk with comfort as well.
  • Cardigan or lightweight jacket | For those unsuspecting chilly nights. If you plan on catching some sunrises or visiting higher altitudes such as Mauna Kea or Haleakala, note that it does get cold in Hawaii.
  • Rain jacket | Despite its warm weather, Hawaii (and other tropical destinations) tends to get quite a bit of rain depending on the season and which part of the island you’re on. Consider a light rain jacket if there’s rain in the forecast. This one by North Face comes in so many colors and is ultra-packable, taking up virtually no space at all.
  • Waterproof Rain Jacket | A lightweight waterproof rain jacket is critical for any outdoor adventure. Desert nights can get cold, and you never know when rain may come. Since these weigh virtually nothing and are so easily packable, I recommend you carry one with you whenever you head outdoors. Depending on the weather forecast and chance of precipitation, I’ll either go with a rain shell or a puffier windbreaker. Despite the options I have here, one thing is for sure— I’m never without some sort of outer layer. My top recommendations are Marmot Men’s PreCip (for men) and The North Face Women’s Venture 2 Jacket (for women).
  • Puffy Jacket | If you’re traveling in the fall or wintertime, you’re going to need layers in the desert, which tends to get windy in certain areas. You have a lot of options here, but I personally have the North Face Thermoball, and it’s kept me warm throughout my many years of outdoor adventuring!
  • Shawl / scarf | One of my must-haves! I’ll always have a medium sized thin scarf in my bag. Not only can you use them for warmth or style, but you can also use them as a coverup after beaching, as a towel, as a mat on grass/sand/dirt, as a quick rain shield, or as an emergency skirt if your bottoms get stained or soaked somehow.
  • Swimsuit | 2-3 depending on how much you plan on beaching. It’s okay to pack extra, in case you need to hit the beach or pool and the ones you wore previously haven’t had a chance to fully dry yet.
  • Sleepwear / loungewear | Yoga pants and a t-shirt or workout clothes are all you need here. Save luggage space; these items can be used as pajamas, loungewear, and airplane/road trip outfits.
  • Sunglasses | Because it can get really bright during summer afternoons.
  • Hat | Hats are so necessary for sun protection, don’t forget it! If you plan to have dressed up days, consider a wide brim hat for the sun.
  • Sunscreen | Sunscreen is absolutely necessary for tropical destinations. Even if it’s overcast and cloudy, the UV index can be very high, so be sure to apply whenever you’re outdoors. If you plan on snorkeling near the reefs, choose a coral reef-safe brand, as traditional sunscreen contains chemicals that damage and even kill the precious reefs.
  • Bug spray | Depending on the island you choose and the season you go, there will be mosquitoes and you’ll want to protect yourself against bites. Typically the more undeveloped the island or destination, the more prevalent mosquitos are. If you plan to go hiking, I would definitely recommend packing insect repellent with a high DEET percentage. Sawyer makes some really great bug repellent products, and they’re travel-friendly too!
  • Smartphone UV Sanitizer and Charger | Our phones gather all the grime and bacteria we touch throughout the day, and then they are stored in warm, dark places like purses and pockets, which make for great breeding grounds for bacteria to grow. They are the third hand we never wash, but should! Using a UV sanitizer such as PhoneSoap on a regular basis will help keep germs and illness at bay.
  • Travel Towel | These are light and quick-drying, which is exactly what you need when you’re hopping from the beach to a car or need to dry your feet off. This one here is a great option.
  • Hand Sanitizer Hand sanitizer gel or wipes are a must any time you’re going to be in contact with surfaces many other people have touched. Never leave your hotel room without it! And if you do happen to forget it, remember to wash your hands often, especially before eating or touching your face.
  • Body Wipes / Feminine Wipes | Feeling a bit gross after a hike (or even after a walk outside on a scorching hot day) but don’t have the time to shower right in that instant? Just whip out one of these body wipes for a quick refresher. The feminine wipes I like are infused with cucumber and aloe. Trust me, you will feel and smell so much better. Always good to have a few handy in your travel bag.
  • Squeeze bottles | GoToob travel bottles are my favorite thing ever. Made of high-quality silicone, they are extremely durable, have never leaked on me, and are super easy to squeeze. They have different TSA-approved sizes, but I found the large GoToobs to be the best for the duration of my trip. I put face wash in one of the large ones and it lasted me all 3.5 months without a need for a refill!
  • Hand cream, body lotion, face masks | Highly recommended. You’ll likely be in shorts and a tank– you don’t want to show off dry arms and legs.
  • Moisturizer with SPF | You’ll be out in the sun all day. Save yourself face from premature aging and sunburns with a daily moisturizer with SPF.
  • Shower supplies | Only required if you’re going to be at a hostel or Airbnb. These are usually provided by hotels.
  • Dental supplies | Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash.
  • Deodorant | You’re going to be in the hot sun most of the time, so bring deodorant if you sweat or stink.
  • Makeup | Some girls have a huge collection of makeup. But it’ll be hot, and you’ll be sweaty or beaching so much that you won’t need too much. Bring only what you need.
  • Dry shampoo | Optional. I try not to wash my hair every day, but at the same time, summers are hot. Dry shampoo came in handy very frequently.
  • DIY survival kit | Make a little bag of the following: ibuprofen, allergy pills, Immodium, ciprofloxacin (or whatever your doctor prescribes for traveler’s diarrhea), bandaids, floss, hand sanitizer, eye drops, lip balm, a sharpie, tape, and extra contact lenses (if applicable). Think about the ailments you typically suffer from and have to deal with on a regular basis and adjust the contents of the bag as needed.
  • Extra plastic baggies | Because you never know, but they always come in handy.
  • Tissue/antibacterial wipes | Sometimes, your hands get dirty. Sometimes, there’s no toilet paper in the public bathrooms.
  • Laundry soap | Optional. Bring a super-concentrated soap so you can do your own laundry if you’re going to be taking a long trip. By doing your own laundry, you can save on those insane drycleaning fees hotels charge!
  • Quick-drying towel | Optional. These are light and quick-drying. Useful if you plan on having beach days but don’t have access to a beach towel.  This one is a great option.
  • Eye mask | Amazing for planes, hostel/shared rooms where the beds aren’t separated by curtains, or afternoon naps. This one is silky and very comfortable on your face.
  • Phone | Make sure you have everything right with your phone before you go. Get the battery changed, free up some memory space.
  • Camera | Optional. iPhones are typically good enough, but some higher quality pictures wouldn’t hurt. I typically go with my Nikon D5500, which produces great photos that I’ll cherish forever. If you plan on doing a bunch of adventurous activity (ziplining, skydiving, kayaking, paddling, ATV-ing) and/or want some underwater footage when surfing or snorkeling, you should definitely go with the waterproof GoPro.
  • Travel Adapter | If you’re traveling from abroad, a universal travel adapter is a necessity. This 5 in 1 travel adapter is perfect for travel use with cell phones, laptops & other devices anywhere in the world.
  • Portable Power Bank | You’re probably going to be out all day, snapping away taking pictures, GPSing to all the funk roadside stops and eateries… the last thing you want is to be driving along with no phone battery! A portable power bank is a must-have, and Anker’s ultra-light, ultra-portable power bank is tried and true by so many travelers! I never embark on a day of exploration without it.
  • Soft Hydration Flask | Stay hydrated throughout the day with a water bottle that can go anywhere with you—and fold up when not in use. I love the packability of these bottles!
  • Travel belt / money belt | Thief proof! I used a Flip Belt when I go out exploring, which doubles as my running belt. I swear, this thing doesn’t budge or jiggle at all when you run, plus it’s super comfortable!
  • Tickets and travel documents | Passport, driver’s license, student ID, medical card, proof of travel insurance, boarding passes, printed documents of your flight/hotel bookings, visas if you need them.
  • Travel pillow | This one by Turtl is THE one! It comes highly rated because it has so much support, almost like a neck brace (there’s a chunk of flexible plastic in there to prop your head up). It’s warm and super packable too.

Recommended Guidebooks

 

Read More:

The Packing List for Hawaii and Other Tropical Beach Destinations

31 Must-Try Restaurants: Where To Eat On Every Island In Hawaii

Oahu Hawaii: Top Tips For First Timers

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