Find out my best Big Island packing list for exploring Hilo, Kona, and everywhere in between with kids.
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Has anyone else noticed the Murphey’s law of traveling? Whatever that one thing you forget is, that’s the thing you need the most.
And the more people you are traveling with, the better the chances are that something gets left behind.
As much as I love traveling to new places and having new experiences with my boys, packing and unpacking is probably my least favorite part of the process!
As we are looking at visiting the Big Island of Hawaii again, I am making mental notes on what the essential items to bring are.
We have been visiting and loving Hawaii since before the boys were around, so I feel like I have a good handle on what we might need for any of the other islands, but the Big Island is a wonderfully different experience!
In my attempt to plan for this trip, I have come up with a Big Island Packing List to keep in mind.
Here is what I have so far – feel free to steal any of my ideas! Keep scrolling to find out what to pack for a trip to Hawaii Big Island.
Check out my favorite family matching swimsuits HERE!
Packing for Hawaii List FAQs
The weather up at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park can be 10 degrees (or more) cooler than other places on the island. You’ll definitely want to wear layers like long pants, sweatshirts, or jackets. And if you go in the winter months, it’s smart to also bring a rain jacket and closed-toe shoes.
For most of the islands, I’d say you don’t really need them. However, if you’re heading to the Big Island, you’ll definitely want them if you visit places with lava rock. The lava rock is really sharp and it can cut your feet. You’ll also want to make sure kids have good-fitting water shoes to protect their feet as well.
If you’re spending 5 days in Hawaii, you just need to pack the bare essentials. For clothing, a couple of pairs of shorts or sundresses, a few t-shirts, underwear, and sandals will cover most of your activities. If you are doing any adventures, you might need closed-toe shoes and long pants.
Packing List for Hawaii Island
Do I really need to say this? Especially if you’re from the PNW, please protect your and your kiddo’s skin!
I love Babyganics spray sunscreen for both myself and my kids. It’s a mineral sunscreen that soaks in really well. It’s more of a squirt bottle than a spray.
Whatever time of year you travel, you will want to pack along some bug spray.
The Big Island is home to 10 of the 14 climate zones found around the world. At least 5 of those are very hospitable to mosquitoes.
Unless you enjoy feeling itchy the whole flight home, pack the bug spray! My husband and boys are super susceptible to bug bites, especially in Hawaii.
You would be surprised how much the reflection of the sun on the water can hurt your eyes.
Even if you are not a regular sunglasses wearer, (Seattle in March, anyone?) make sure you grab a pair like these before you hop on the plane! These are my top Hawaii essentials.
LOTS OF LAYERS
Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano on the Big Island that reaches up to 13,803 ft above sea level.
Bringing layers is a wonderful way to make sure you stay comfortable no matter what is on the agenda for the day.
A light jacket is never a bad idea, especially on the western side of the island where it rains almost every afternoon.
Trust me, you do not want to ride down a zipline in a swimsuit!
This might seem silly but take my advice here. You want to bring laundry supplies. There is nothing worse than wearing sweaty, gross clothes home on the plane.
And if you are visiting the Big Island with a potty training toddler or kids who are prone to accidents, this is a MUST.
Bringing along a roll of quarters, a few laundry detergent sheets, and some dryer sheets will not only keep you smelling better, but you can pack less and stress less about laundry when you get back!
This is also especially handy if you are staying in a condo or Airbnb with a washer/dryer in the unit. These are things to take to Hawaii you might not think about.
Optional Hawaii Packing List Items
SPECIALTY SWIMMING STUFF
If you have a snorkel, a nice set of goggles/mask, or some flipper fins, bring them along!
Renting these items is possible, but you will have to pay by the hour or sign up for a guided tour to use them. With your own, you can head to the beach whenever you feel like a quick snorkel or swim!
Check THIS out if you’re interested in picking up a snorkel set of your own!
We also like to pack Puddle Jumpers or life jackets for the kids to use in hotel swimming pools or at the beach.
The beaches on the Big Island are different than those on the other islands. The high volcanic activity on Hawai’i has created gorgeous black-sand beaches from lava flows over the years.
This also means that the beaches are much rockier than others you may have been to. And a lot of them have lava rock at the bottom of the water. Ouch!
Water shoes may be a life (and vacation) saver. I know they’re not always the most fashionable of accessories, but THESE are pretty cute, as well as functional!
My kids also like to wear these water shoes when exploring tide pools.
If you have a nice camera, bring it along!
The portrait mode on your iPhone might be wonderful, but it’s no match for the pictures a high-end DSLR can take.
There will be so many memories you will want to capture, so if you have a nice camera, pack it!
One of the best things about the Big Island is the hiking opportunities.
With the highest point in the state of Hawaii being on the Big Island, there are so many trails and trips to take advantage of. Keeping that in mind, make sure you pack appropriately.
Don’t forget your binoculars, either! You never know when you might catch a glimpse of a Scarlet Honeycreeper (I’iwi) – one of the most recognizable birds on the islands!
Just For Parents
Please just trust me on this one – bring extra shirts in your carry-on.
If your baby is over one, just bring one extra for each adult. If they are under a year, bring two per person. It’s never fun sitting in a spit-up stained shirt!
THESE fold up nice and small and are soft enough to double as a blanket for the baby if need be!
BABY WEARING WRAP, SLING OR CARRIER
The long flights to get to Hawaii usually mean leaving early in the morning or getting in late in the evening.
Kiddos will get tired, you may get frustrated, and everyone will need a break.
A sling, wrap, or carrier will give you the chance to carry your kiddo without tying up your arms at the baggage carousel.
If your kids are anything like my boys, they are growing so fast I’m not sure how much longer I will be able to carry them through an airport in my arms!
Tula toddler carriers work with kiddos up to 60 lbs AND give me back my hands! Big wins for this traveling mama!
EXTRA DIAPERS AND WIPES
However many diapers and wipes you think you might need, plan for at least 50% more.
Wipes are so useful for everything from bottoms to airplane tray tables. Diapers on a plane tend to have a lower life expectancy for whatever reason – you will want plenty of extras!
Bonus tip – using diapers while you’re there means more luggage space on the way back for souvenirs!
KIDDO’S FAVORITE LOVIE OR BLANKIE
When my boys were younger, they could NOT sleep without their binkies. And they were brand-specific. This means if we left them at home, none of us would sleep.
This is just your friendly reminder to not forget these!
If something happens and your favorite lovie or blankie does get forgotten, Amazon offers expedited shipping (starting as low as $11.99) to Hawaii, but your prime membership is only free on standard shipping to the islands.
Worth it if you will be there long enough to get the desired sleep item and mama needs sleep, though!
What to Pack for Hawaii Big Island Wrap Up
These are just SOME of the items I have been thinking about as I start making a mental list of essentials on the Big Island.
I don’t know about you, but it falls to Mama to make sure everyone in this family has what they need on vacation!
I hope this Big Island Packing List helps you pack your way to your best vacation ever! You should know what to pack to Hawaii by now!