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Hawaii’s casual lifestyle leaves some wondering what is expected when dining out. Although most places are specific, there are two simple questions that will help you decide what to wear (and pack).
First, when and where are you eating? Most dining establishments are pretty relaxed for breakfast and lunch. Dinner is the only meal where I have seen any sort of dress code mentioned. Several restaurants note on the door or the menu that they do not allow tank tops and/or shorts during dinner hours. For men, this means a shirt with a collar is preferred (either an aloha shirt or a polo is fine) and long pants. Women are always fine with a sundress or a skirt/pants and shirt. While aloha shirts are common everywhere in Hawaii, at least one fine dining venue requests that men wear a jacket. It is clearly stated when making reservations.
Second, what are you comfortable wearing? Often at Hawaiian luaus or sunset dinner cruises, I see women wearing newly-acquired aloha wear (floral sun dresses, muumuus or shirts). That is a perfect opportunity to try out your new purchases, but it is not required. Many locals wear the same sort of clothing you’d see on the mainland. For women at upscale restaurants or clubs, the little black dress is common. A skirt and nice top will suffice anywhere I can think of.
If you don’t want to dress up, there are many options. Casual dining places abound where shorts and tee shirts are welcome around the clock. You can also experience Hawaii’s fabulous fusion cuisine by eating earlier in the day, getting take-out, or looking for a beach location that might be less formal. Some restaurants serve from their dinner menus in the bar area, which may have no dress code. Actually, happy hour specials offer an inexpensive way to sample offerings from even upscale locations.
If you do plan to make a nice meal part of your Hawaii vacation experience, either bring along a nicer outfit or plan to purchase one here and take it back as a souvenir of your experience.