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Last Updated on July 24, 2023 by Madison Krigbaum
Packing for a tropical vacation seems like a simple task…until you land on a Caribbean island and realize everything in your suitcase is completely useless. (Ex: my mom’s 3 inch curling iron). There are tons of Caribbean vacation packing lists out there for an island trip, but most of them aren’t written by people who spent a full year living in the Bay Islands (during the pandemic no less)!
Keep reading for my ultimate packing checklist filled with the essential items you’ll need for the perfect Caribbean vacation! Click here for travel tips specific to Roatán, Honduras.
The Best Caribbean Vacation Packing List
Tumbler + Water Bottle
A day on the beach is all fun and games…until you take a sip of boiling beer. After moving to Roatán, my YETI tumbler quickly topped the charts of my most prized possessions. It didn’t matter whether I was going to the coffee shop or the bar, you bet your ass my YETI was making the travel team. (I hate a lukewarm iced latte almost as much as I hate warm beer).
Don’t endure 90 days of warm drinks like I did. Do yourself a favor and pack an insulated tumbler from the start.
If you strive to be an environmentally-conscious tourist (like we all should), make sure a reusable water bottle makes your Caribbean packing list. I personally prefer Hydroflask water bottles but there are tons of great options out there!
A cute straw hat should be at the top of your Caribbean vacation packing list, both to prevent wrinkles and take Insta-worthy beach pics. Although Urban Outfitters sadly no longer carries my personal favorite (pictured below), this version by Gigi Pip is a close second.
I’m also loving this wide-brim option by Free People and this ivory version by Lulu’s. And for those perfect “facing away from the camera shots,” customize your own with cute, cursive writing on Etsy!
And more than you think! I didn’t realize how much I packed like a dumb ass until it was already too late. I arrived in the Caribbean with the intention of staying for a month. Guess how many swimsuits I packed?
Four. And of those four, only two that I actually felt comfortable wearing on the beach.
Don’t make the same mistake I made, pack WAY more swimsuits than you think you’d need. For those on a budget, that probably means a major Shein haul. Just make sure to give your order enough time to arrive, that shit takes forever. Currently, I’ve been obsessed with their bikini sets like this pink bikini set and this marble-printed option. I also love this one-piece (it seriously looks good on everyone) and they’re my #1 choice for cover ups like this simple wrap-skirt.
I recently found these portable clotheslines on Amazon and I 👏🏻 am 👏🏻 obsessed. I can’t tell you how many times I ran out of room on my clothesline when I lived in Roatán. When everything is constantly sweaty and covered in sand…you have to do laundry a lot. They’re also great for drying all your swimsuits before your next beach day!
One of my favorite outdoor activities in Roatán was blowing up my inner tube, ordering a beer and enjoying a sunset float outside of my favorite bar in West End. That’s why floaties are a high priority on my Caribbean vacation packing list!
Before I move to Southeast Asia in March, I plan to order these two floaties with cupholders from Amazon. At two for only $25, it’s a great deal! If you have a little more suitcase space and are in search of the perfect Insta-pic, considering ordering a cuter option like this inflatable unicorn tube or this cute avocado floatie with a removable pit.
What’s the point of traveling if you don’t come back with 1,000+ new photos of yourself living your best life in a bikini? A few years ago, I finally ditched my iPhone 7 and invested in my first camera, a Fujifilm X-T20. Although they don’t make that model anymore, the Fujifilm X-T30 II is a great beginner camera that’s lightweight, easy-to-use and won’t break the bank!
What’s a sun-tanning session without an awesome playlist? Not only is laying on the beach wayyyy more enjoyable with your favorite tunes, but headphones are a MUST for any plane ride.
Until a week ago, I think I was the only person on the planet still using Apple headphones with the cord. I finally bit the bullet and invested in 2nd generation AirPods and I will never look back. Although the price tag stung a little, I’ll never miss the struggle of getting my headphones tangled in my crossbody bag.
Sundresses, Skirts & Shorts
Next on the best Caribbean vacation packing list…clothing! Trust me when I say, the lighter the better. When I first moved to the Caribbean, my suitcase was filled with way too many leggings, jeans and maxi dresses. *Although I still like to pack a few maxi dresses, short sundresses, skirts and shorts are going to be your best friend.
If you’re looking for affordable fashion, I’m obsessed with R. Vivimos on Amazon. Their styles are affordably priced and adorable for every body type. I’m currently loving this blue maxi dress and this little black mini.
Shore is another one of my favorite brands for summer clothes, although you’re definitely going to pay a higher price for these styles. Petal & Pup is another great brand on the higher price side – I’m loving their resort wear like the Rosetta Dress and the Flock Dress. For my favorite skirts and dresses for travel bloggers, click here.
*If you’re visiting the Caribbean during rainy season, you might want to pack a couple pairs of jeans or leggings as well as a light jacket.
Bug Spray & Sunscreen
If you have the suitcase space, I would recommend adding bug spray and sunscreen to your Caribbean vacation packing list. Although you can buy both when you arrive, you’ll usually have a lot less options and pay a much higher price.
When choosing these items for your Caribbean vacation, it’s important to keep the reefs in mind. Try to avoid bug sprays made with permethrin and cyfluthrin. These ingredients are lethal to bees and marine life. When choosing a sunscreen, try to avoid oxybenzone and octinoxate. These two ingredients are thought to contribute to coral bleaching.
Kokuna Sun Care is a great option for reef-safe sunscreen and check out Coral Safe for eco-friendly bug spray. Sun Bum is another great sunscreen option that’s available at most drugstores around the U.S.
I never travel anywhere without my bamboo reusable straw collection. Many islands in the Caribbean are becoming a lot stricter when it comes to straws. In Roatán, the only straws you could find on the island were made of paper. Although I was THRILLED to see these sustainability efforts in action…those paper straws disintegrate immediately. I prefer to stick a couple bamboo straws in my purse for emergency situations like a spicy Bloody Mary or an iced latte.
I love how these straws by ECO/EGO come with a few straw cleaners and a reusable pouch!
Makeup Setting Spray
In a tropical climate, your makeup will last about as long as it takes you to walk out the front door. Makeup setting spray is a must-have when it comes to your Caribbean vacation packing list! My personal favorite is the Urban Decay All-Nighter Setting Spray. It also comes in a miniature size that’s perfect for your carry on!
Portable & Waterproof Speaker
A portable speaker can make or break any trip! Recently, my Dad bestowed upon me the perfect travel gift…a JBL Waterproof Speaker.
Nothing makes a beach day more fun than blasting your favorite music with your friends. In my opinion, the JBL Flip 5 is the perfect size, however, JBL makes a smaller, more portable version as well: the JBL Clip 4.
If you’ll be staying in a resort, it’s probably not necessary to add a travel towel to your Caribbean vacation packing list. However, for those staying in Airbnbs, apartment rentals or with friends – you can never have too many towels in the tropics.
If you’re short on suitcase space (which I somehow always am), consider investing in a microfiber travel towel. Not only are they perfect to bring along to the Caribbean, but they’re a must-have if you plan to do any hostel hopping on your travels.
If you’re in the market for something a bit fancier, check out Tesalate’s Bohemian Sand-Free beach towel! These towels are not only adorable, but they keep you as sand-free as possible during your day at the beach.
Rubber Flip Flops
I learned the hard way that shoes don’t last very long in the Caribbean. The second time around, I wised-up, left my kitten heels at home and stocked up on Old Navy rubber flip flops. No one cares if they ruin a $6 pair of flip fops!
Although they’re not my personal style, a pair of cloud slides would be perfect for the Caribbean’s rugged and dusty terrain.
Depending on how much snorkeling or scuba diving you plan to do in the Caribbean, you might want to pack your own snorkel gear. If you only plan on going once or twice, you can easily rent gear on-site. However, if you’re packing up for a dive vacation, you might consider bringing your own gear.
Nowadays, this kind of gear is incredibly affordable. You can get a mask + snorkel combo and fins from Amazon for less than $50!
A dry bag is another useful item for those avid snorkelers and scuba divers! No one wants to worry about your phone and wallet getting wet while paddle boarding, kayaking or enjoying a boat ride. Instead, invest in a dry bag so you can enjoy all the water sports you want without the worry or hassle.
Hopefully you found this Caribbean vacation packing list helpful for your next island vacay. If you did, leave a comment below and don’t forget to follow the adventure on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps!
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