The world is huge

Don't miss any of it

Travel news, itineraries, and inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Woman relaxing on a pier in front of a pool and palm trees
NicoElNino | Adobe Stock

What to Pack for the Caribbean: 35 Essentials

So you’re headed to the Caribbean for a few days (or week) of beach relaxation, swimming, and maybe even some diving or cave exploration. Here’s what to pack for a Caribbean vacation whether you’re headed anywhere from Aruba to Puerto Rico.

When you’re ready to start packing, download our editable Essential Caribbean Packing Checklist.

What to Pack for the Caribbean: The Suitcase

Blue suitcase on the sand in front of the ocean
photopixel | Adobe Stock

If you’re staying put on one beach resort or island, I recommend traveling with a hard-sided spinner, like the 20-inch Samsonite Omni PC. However, if you have multiple transfers or will be on a boat for part of your journey, I’d recommend a water-resistant hybrid bag, like Helly Hansen’s Duffel.

What to Pack for the Caribbean: The Personal Item

Women wearing yellow backpack and looking out of airport terminal window at an airplane
freebird7977 | Adobe Stock

For my trip to the Caribbean, I brought my Dagne Dover carry-all tote as my personal item. I knew I’d need some extra space for my electronics and spare clothing items, so I opted for a bag that would give me some extra space.

What to Pack for the Caribbean: In-Flight Essentials

Woman using laptop and phone on flight
tonefotografia | Adobe Stock
  • Headphones: For backseat entertainment. Most direct flights to the Caribbean average around four hours, so you have plenty of time to watch a few movies.
  • Collapsible water bottle: This model from Hydaway saves packing space when not in use. Depending on the island you’re visiting, you may be able to drink the tap water, too.
  • Tablet: This comes in handy for work and/or reading.

What to Pack for the Caribbean: Shoes

Close up of woman's hands carrying a pair of sandals on the beach
artursfoto | Adobe Stock
  • Casual slip-ons or sneakers: This pair from Rockport was great for travel days, casual dinners, and walking around town.
  • Water shoes: You’ll want water shoes for water activities in the Caribbean.
  • Flip-flops: For the beach and walking around resorts.
  • Stylish sandals or heels: If you’re planning on going out or to fancier restaurants, bring along a pair of low heels or sandals.

What to Pack for the Caribbean: Clothing

Beach clothing laid out on wooden backdrop
mozhjeralena | Adobe Stock
  • Shorts: Pack a few pairs of both casual shorts (jean or chinos) as well as athletic shorts for any hikes or water activities.
  • Quick-dry layering tops: Bring a few pairs of a tank and/or short sleeve style for excursions.
  • Lightweight sweater: I packed one lightweight sweater for travel days and to cover up when needed.
  • Swimsuits and cover-up: Mandatory beachwear.
  • Maxi dress or long skirt: For night’s out and dinners. For men, bring one pair of chino pants if you’re going to a resort or more formal restaurant.
  • Lightweight shawl: I always travel with a neutral-covered shawl that can double as a scarf, travel blanket, or cover-up.

What to Pack for the Caribbean: Toiletries

Toiletries bag spilled across wooden backdrop
niradj | Adobe Stock
  • O.T.C medication: I always travel with anti-histamines, anti-acid, and a pain reliever.
  • Basic toiletries: Depending on your accommodations, you may want to bring travel-size versions of your essentials.
  • Bug spray and anti-itch cream: Mosquitos are common in the Caribbean, with some areas at risk for Zika, so you’ll want heavy-duty spray and relief.
  • Sunscreen and aloe: Always travel with a natural and reef-friendly sunscreen. In case of burns, pack aloe or aftersun cream.
  • Lotion wipes: I like traveling with one pack of these to cool down during the day and for a quick refresh after a day at the beach.
  • Facial hydration mist: My go-to during hot days in the sun.
  • Lip balm with SPF: During the mountain summit, you’ll definitely want this handy.
  • Reusable plastic storage bags: These are great for wet swimsuits, dirty laundry, extra toiletries, or to double as a dry bag for your phone.

What to Pack for the Caribbean: Gadgets

Women wearing a smartphone fitness arm band on beach
Maridav | Adobe Stock
  • Backup phone charger: If you’re going to take a lot of photos and videos on your phone that will drain your battery, bring a backup charger.
  • Fitness tracker or waterproof watch: So you don’t have to rely on your phone for the time when you’re swimming at the pool or beach.
  • Adapter: If you’re going to a non-U.S. island you may need an adapter. Check with your accommodations beforehand if you’re unsure. Travel with an adapter that also has USB ports for multi-use charging.

What to Pack for the Caribbean: Accessories

Beach bag spilled across the sand
New Africa | Adobe Stock
  • Sun hat: A brimmed hat is a good idea for sun protection.
  • Collapsible tote bag: Pack a simple style that can double as a market tote, beach bag, or to hold your camera bag.
  • Sunglasses: Pack a sportier and affordable pair in case something happens to them.
  • Cross-body bag: For nights out or day tours.

What to Pack for the Caribbean (That I Didn’t)

Blue flippers and snorkel mask at the beach
mikelaptev | Adobe Stock
  • Books or card games: You’ll want some form of entertainment, whether it be a hard copy of the book you’re reading or playing cards for downtime at the beach.
  • Snorkel gear: If you have your own snorkel gear, weigh your options of renting vs. bringing. Gear is readily available to rent, but if you want your own fins and mask and will be enjoying the water almost every day, you may want to bring your own.
  • Dry bag or phone protector: You’ll definitely want this if you’re at the beach or on boats and island hopping. I used plastic baggies, but wish I had brought a dry bag.
  • Travel insurance: If you’re traveling during hurricane season, purchasing travel insurance with a TCI-clause is advised.

What Not to Pack for the Caribbean

  • Warm clothes: The beauty of the Caribbean is that it’s warm year round. You won’t need warm clothing or rain gear unless you’re traveling during hurricane season.

Download Our Editable Packing Checklist

Everything you need to pack for your Caribbean vacation in one editable checklist.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

All of the products featured in this story were hand-selected by our travel editors. Some of the links featured in this story are affiliate links, and SmarterTravel may collect a commission (at no cost to you) if you shop through them.

You Might Also Like:

This Airline Is Renting Clothing to Passengers Who Want to Travel Light
The Essential Carry-On Bag Packing List
The Ultimate Camping Packing List: 29 Essentials
10 Ultralight Rolling Carry-on Bags Under 6 Pounds
The Ultimate Packing List

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Top Fares From