When my husband and I worked in television news on the mainland, it was suits all the way. But, as soon as we landed jobs in Hawaii, we knew we were in for a wardrobe crisis: Not only did the men wear Aloha shirts on-air, but the ladies were often shrouded in muu muu’s!

That was the beginning of our transition into island-style Hawaii attire, and I love it. However, it could be a bit confusing for travelers packing for a Hawaii vacation. We’ve decided to help you out a bit, so here’s our Hawaii attire guide for the busy traveler:

To the beach:

This is pretty easy — anything goes (with the exception of nudity) at most Hawaii beaches. If you’re into Speedos and thongs, you may get a “look” or two, but you would hardly be shunned from any beach. So, if you’re headed to one of Hawaii’s many beautiful beaches, just find the cutest bathing suit you have, and pair it with a cover-up if you so desire.

To a casual lunch/dinner:

Let’s say you wander over to a burger joint from the beach for lunch, can you wear your bathing suit? Typically, if you have footwear on, no one will turn you away. Yep, even if you’re JUST in your bathing suit. However, most folks use a cover-up or T-shirt to keep out any air-conditioning chill!

3 people posing at Duke's

Photo: Britt Young

Casual or formal, aloha resort wear is always acceptable.

If your casual lunch or dinner has waiter-service, it’s more likely you’ll need at least a cover-up, unless the restaurant is beachside or poolside — if you’ve finished your Waikiki surf and stand-up paddleboard lesson and want to head over to a casual dinner, it’s best to grab a cover-up before you sit-down.

One thing to remember is footwear: It’s almost ALWAYS acceptable to wear “slippers,” aka flip-flops to most restaurants in town, even ones that seem to have a slightly upscale vibe!

To an upscale lunch/dinner:

MOST upscale restaurants in Hawaii don’t require jackets, but there are some that do (such as the Vintage Cave Club at Ala Moana Center). So, the first thing you should always do is inquire whether jackets are required. If so, men will need a dinner jacket, and women will typically wear elegant Hawaii attire, such as an island-style dress.

However, the vast majority of upscale restaurants in Hawaii don’t require dinner jackets. In that case, it’s safe for men to wear a nice Aloha shirt and women to wear slacks, a skirt and top, or any kind of dress (island-wear is acceptable).

To an outdoor activity:

Different outdoor activities require different Hawaii attire, so you should check with your guide before heading out. For example, if you’re headed out for a Haleakala Hiking Tour, make sure you have warm layers and GOOD shoes for hiking. If you’re booked for a parasailing excursion, all you need is a bathing suit. You get the idea.

Family posing at Diamond Head lookout

Photo: Tom Herschel

Comfy and cool is always a good policy when selecting what to wear for outdoor activities.

To church:

If you’re heading to church while on vacation in Hawaii, you might notice the dress code is a bit more casual than on the mainland. You’ll find folks in bathing suits and cover-ups (I’m being honest), sitting next to those in their Sunday best. It’s just how we roll in Hawaii.

What is Aloha crisp and Aloha casual?

Believe it or not, I’ve been invited to a party where the attire is called “Aloha crisp.” Naturally, I had no idea what they were talking about, but I’ve since learned it’s the same thing as Aloha casual. That means “nice, casual, perhaps island-style clothing.” Think Aloha shirt and slacks for men, flowing island dress for women.

It can be a bit confusing to consider Hawaii attire when packing for your vacation, but use our style guide, and you won’t find yourself without the right thing to wear!


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