What To Wear In Hawaii: The Ultimate Dress Code Guide

By Anna

If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, then knowing what to wear is just as important as planning out the daily itinerary before you get there. Whether you’re considered to be a bit of a fashion faux pas or just need some advice on what to wear in Hawaii, we’ve got you covered.

We’ll be revealing our top five tips of what to wear in Hawaii for both male and female, so all you need to do after reading this article is go out to the local high street or have a browse online to pick out the best outfits.

So, let’s get straight to it and see how Hawaiian clothing shouldn’t be worn.

What Should You Not Wear in Hawaii?

tourist in Hawaii
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Hawaii is considered a laid-back casual state so there’s no need to bring a ballgown or suit and tie on your Hawaii vacation as you may look a bit out of place, unless you’re visiting for a wedding or formal event of course.

The weather in Hawaii is extremely hot all year round so we would advise not to bring anything that’s tight fitting as this will more than likely irritate the skin and it will be uncomfortable to wear in such extreme heat. Although the temperature is hot all year round in the morning and afternoon, the evening can get chilly and reach temperatures below 20 degrees Celsius so you may want to put a cardigan or jacket on your packing list.

Temperatures can reach up to 32 degrees Celsius in the summer months and with such extreme heat it’s important to protect your skin, so make sure that there is enough sun cream in your bag to keep you going throughout the vacation.

If it’s your first-time visiting Hawaii, then it’s important to know that the sun cream must be reef-safe! In May 2018, Hawaii became the first state in the nation and the most prominent tourist destination in the world to pass legislation banning sun creams containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate – these chemicals destroy coral reefs so make sure you find a sun cream that doesn’t contain these ingredients.

What Should You Wear in Hawaii?

what to wear in Hawaii
Image by sarahbernier3140 from Pixabay

Time to tell you what wear in Hawaii now and the good news is that you’ll probably have most of the clothes hung at the back of your wardrobe, but we won’t judge you if you want to treat yourselves to a shopping trip!

Clothes for Women:

T-shirts and breezy light cami tops – You don’t want anything too heavy as you will overheat.

Maxi dress – A long flowing maxi dress will keep you cool throughout the day and if you are planning a day trip somewhere, then this will protect you from the afternoon sun.

Shorts – You can’t go on your Hawaiian vacation and not get a suntan and the best way to do this is by wearing shorts. Loose fitting cotton shorts will be comfier than denim in the daytime but if you want to bring denim shorts for the evening, then do so by all means.

Swimsuits: One thing you can’t forget to pack are swimsuits/bikinis! There is no dress code as such for what style to wear and at many hotels, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear a light slip over your swimsuit for breakfast and lunch at local restaurants.

Footwear: We suggest bringing flip flops or sandals for the beach and trainers or sturdy tennis shoes if going hiking. Avoid packing shoes that will rub or cause a blister.

clothes for woman hawaii
Image by dongpung from Pixabay

Clothes for Men:

T-shirts and polo shirts – Pack t-shirts that are loose fitting otherwise you will overheat and start to sweat more. Polo shirts are a good option for evening wear as they’re a smart casual option for evening drinks/dinner.

Swim shorts – Depending on how long your Hawaii vacation is, it’s a good idea to pack a few pairs of swim shorts as you’ll be on the beach and in the swimming pool.

Shorts – Pack shorts for the same reason given for women.

Footwear: Bring comfy flip flops for the beach and converse, trainers and/or tennis shoes if you’re going to be doing plenty of walking.

How do You Dress Like a Local Hawaiian?

what to wear in hawaii
Photo credit: Mariamichelle via Pixabay

Hawaiian locals are very warming and welcoming to the eight million tourists who come to visit each year and no matter which island you visit in Hawaii, you will always find locals dressed in casual comfy clothes, and we’re not ashamed to say, the classic aloha Hawaiian shirts!

If you’re wondering what to wear in Hawaii so you blend in like a local, then you’ve come to the right place. Below we have some clothing items that will make you look like a local Hawaiian in no time.

For men:

  • Aloha shirt – Of course, when you come to Hawaii you’ve got to be prepared to wear some sort of aloha shirt, so it won’t be any surprise that this needs to be your list. Locals generally don’t tend to tuck their shirts in but instead keep them hanging out.
  • Loose fitting trousers – These trouser are worn for comfort and breathability. If loose trousers aren’t for you, then how about wearing shorts instead?
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For women:

  • Sun dress – Wear a sun dress that’s cool and free flowing so that when the breeze hits you, it will sweep across the material on the dress.
  • Grass skirt – Not something to wear casually but if you’re wanting to get into the holiday spirt and fancy a go at taking a hula class then you may as well go all out and arrive in a traditional Hawaiian grass skirt!

We should say that it’s best not to bring clothing which expensive or anything you don’t want to ruin as we’re sure you’ll be doing a lot of water activities or maybe even going hiking in the Haleakala National Park on Maui. Instead, keep it casual and chilled out – just like the island you’re staying on.

Traditional Clothing Shops in Hawaii:

shopping in hawaii
Image by Tanubonz from Pixabay

If you’ve already started to write your list or pack your suitcase for your Hawaiian vacation but can’t find anything in the local shops that are suitable to bring, then there’s no need to worry as there are hundreds of shops across the Hawaiian islands in which you can purchase clothes to make you feel like a local in no time!

Let’s have a look and see at some of the shops in Hawaii and what clothing they have on offer!

Shaka Time Hawaii – This shop in Honolulu has everything you could possibly want in order to make your wardrobe look a bit more tropical! This shop sells men’s, women’s and kid’s clothes and accessories. Choose from the traditional aloha Hawaiian shirts with different designs including ukuleles, tiki surfers plus much more! Or women’s dresses with traditional Hawaiian flower prints.

‘IOLANI – Another shop in Honolulu is IOLANI. This shop is more expensive than the previous one we just spoke about, but this shop has more than just your tradition aloha shirts and dresses. There’s also a range of polo shirts, trousers and bags.

What Should I Wear on a Plane to Hawaii?

Photo credit: Fuzz via Pixabay

Depending on where you’re flying from in the world, it’s always best to wear something comfortable and breathable on the plane, especially if it’s a long-haul flight from where you live. Even if one of the Hawaiian Islands you’re travelling to is only a couple of hours away, sweatpants will win over jeans.

If the flight is two hours or twelve hours, you should remember that that’s only the flight time! It may take a few hours for you to get to the airport and then after touching down in Hawaii, it might even be another couple of hours before reaching the hotel!

When pre deciding what outfit to wear on the plane to Hawaii we suggest thinking about what a local Hawaiian would wear and by now you should know that this will be something cool and causal! Let’s take a closer look at what clothes are suitable for the flight to Hawaii.

Men’s clothes:

  • Sweatpants or chinos – You’ll want to be super comfy on the plane so choose a bottom half that will keep you comfortable throughout the journey. Chinos may not be as fashionable as jeans, but they will keep you cosy throughout the journey.
  • T-shirt and hoodie – To go with the comfy trousers you’ll also want a comfortable t-shirt. Choose something with soft material and cut out any labels that might irritate you. We suggest taking a hoodie in case the plane is cold or if you want to try and sleep, put the hood up and try and drift off.

Women’s clothes:

  • Sweatpants or leggings – There’s nothing worse than being sat down for hours on end with barely any leg room on a plane, especially when you’re wearing skinny jeans! So ditch the denim and instead go for sweatpants or leggings as these are a lot more comfy and they won’t start to rub or become tight like sometimes jeans do.
  • Loose fitting top and jumper – You will want to feel as comfy on the top half as you do on the bottom half, so put a plain loose-fitting top or t-shirt on. Don’t wear anything that has harsh materials over the fabric such as sequins or beads as this will be likely to annoy you. Planes can get cold so don’t forget to pack a snuggly jumper too.

Backpack clothes:

If you’re not taking hand luggage, then we suggest thinking again and packing some clothes to change into when you touch down in Hawaii. No matter what time of year you travel to Hawaii, if you land in the morning or afternoon it’s going to be extremely hot!

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In your hand luggage pack a pair of shorts and change into them in the airport, otherwise, if you stay dressed in your sweatpants, leggings or chinos, you may start to overheat! Pack a pair of sunglasses in there too.

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What Shoes Do Hawaiians Wear?

Flip flops on beach
Photo credit: PublicDomainPictures via Pixabay

Think classic holiday shoes which are sandals and flip flops and that’s what Hawaiians will wear day after day – if we lived in Hawaii, we would feel like we were on holiday every day, which isn’t a bad thing.

Something you must know before travelling to Hawaii is that the locals call sandals ‘slippers’, so don’t get confused and think they’re talking about the comfy footwear you put on when you get home from a long day at work. Locals will wear these shoes everywhere as it fits in with their laidback lifestyle but most importantly, because they’re super comfy and practical for doing day to day activities.

There are lots of great places to visit in Hawaii including Big Island which sits two active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa which you are able to visit. This attraction is popular with locals and tourists all year round, but you won’t find locals wearing their flip flops or ‘slippers’ when hiking here!

To go hiking, locals will wear regular running trainers or gym shoes – as their usual casual footwear wouldn’t be much good hiking up to a volcano!

So, now you can add sandals and flip flops to your packing list! Or, if you would prefer to buy some authentic Hawaiian ‘slippers’, we’ve found some great little footwear shops in Hawaii that with shoes that have your name on it.

Shoe Shops in Hawaii:

Scott Hawaii – This shop has been making ‘slippers’ for over 80 years now and there is a massive range for men and women all varying in price and design. Choose from nylon, leather, rubber and vegan leather for your sole and either a flat, wedge or arch support to jazz up the shoes.

Island slipper – Another authentic Hawaiian shoe shop selling ‘slippers’ and aloha shirts. Selling both men’s and women’s flip flops these are at the expensive price end but will be sure to last an awful long time. You choose from a range of jazzy designs on the sole and different colours on the straps.

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How Do I Not Look Like a Tourist in Hawaii?

tourist Hawaii
Image by Pixabay

A classic mistake that some people can make when they’re in the holiday spirit is wearing an ‘I heart’ top which screams tourist to any locals in Hawaii. However, much they may love the state that they live on, there isn’t much chance of a local actually wearing something like this so if you don’t want to look like a tourist, this is your first tip.

The second tip which you’ll thank us for if this does happen is not to wear sock with sandals! Not only is this one of the worst fashion crimes you could commit but you’re going to stand out like a sore thumb, and nobody wants that! If you haven’t managed to get used to the sandal and flip flop life in Hawaii and they’re starting to rub on your feet, don’t use this as the excuse to wear socks with them! Instead, wear socks with trainers as this is still an acceptable form of footwear and it will keep your feet free from blisters.

Thirdly, listen up gentlemen, if speedos are usually your thing then we’re sorry to tell you that unfortunately in Hawaii, they’re not. Locals will wear board shorts or longer swim trunks to protect their skin when doing water activities such as surfboarding and paddle-boarding. If you go down to the beach wearing speedos then locals will more than likely spot that you’re a tourist. They might be more acceptable in the hotel swimming pool, but to be on the safe side, bring long swim shorts.

And Finally…

hawaii mountains
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

And our fourth and final tip, don’t wear matching aloha shirts with your partner! Of course when you’re in Hawaii you’ll want to wear one of these and there’s no problem with that, all we’re saying is, if you wear one of these with your partner, more than likely people are going to laugh as locals wouldn’t be seen wearing these shirts with their partners. However ‘cute’ it might seem, we’re telling you it’s a bad idea.

We hope that you now have a better idea on what to wear in Hawaii. If you’ve enjoyed reading this article then please leave a comment in the box below and follow us on Facebook.

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James Ardimento has spent the last 12 years journeying around the globe ! With its precious experiences and tips he gained around Asia, South America, Europe and the US he is a precious asset for this blog and for its readers