What to Wear in Hawaii

By Jodi "Jato" Thornton; Updated August 11, 2017

A wardrobe for paradise: Packing for a trip to Hawaii

What to Wear in Hawaii

It might be tempting to set out for Hawaii with a carry-on filled with swimsuits, floppy hats, sunglasses and sunscreen. Although these are ideal staples for a beach vacation in the Aloha State, there are a few more items you'll want to add to your bag. Hawaii boasts 10 of the world's 14 climate zones including tropical beaches, hot deserts and alpine terrain.

Packing for sightseeing

When you're not at the beach, lightweight clothing in materials such as cotton or linen will keep you feeling comfortable. The state has only two seasons: Kau, the warm season, is warm and dry and runs from May through October. Ho'Olio, the cooler season, has more rainfall and temperatures that can dip down to 60 degrees F. Hawaii's laid-back vibe makes it perfectly appropriate to wear the T-shirts, shorts, sundresses and other summer items in your wardrobe. Pair your outfit with "rubber slippers," the Hawaiian term for flip-flops.

Evening and business wear

Although shorts are fine for sightseeing, you'll want to dress in "Downtown Honolulu" style for evenings out and business functions. Business casual attire, such as a collared shirt, slacks and dress shoes for men, and slacks and a blouse for women, are appropriate. Avoid overdressing and get into the aloha spirit and dress like a local.

Aloha wear for men: The traditional Hawaiian shirt worn by locals is more muted in color and design than the loud designs worn in the states. Look for aloha shirts with geometric patterns in a grid of squares and motifs like sea turtles, fish or native plants.

Aloha wear for women: Colors are more muted and feminine than materials for men. Floral designs dominate. Both button-up aloha shirts and aloha dresses are acceptable for dressy restaurants and business attire.

Evenings can cool off to the 60s in Honolulu, and some islands get even colder during the winter months. Pack at least one pair of long pants, a lightweight jacket and some sweatpants for lounging around on your hotel balcony.

On the golf course

Many golf courses require proper golf attire, a collared shirt, and either dress shorts or slacks to enter. Denim, cargo and sports shorts are prohibited. Aloha shirts are considered appropriate for golf.

Gear up for adventure

If you're planning to hike the summit of Maunakea or Haleakala, you'll need more than a light jacket to keep you warm. Temperatures on Maunakea can drop as low as 12 degrees F and Haleakala averages 40 to 60 degrees F. Weather at campsites at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Kokee State Park can be unpredictable with rain and chilly temperatures year-round.

Leave these behind

Mainland Hawaiian shirt with loud colors, pot leaves, airplanes or Harley-Davidson logos will set you apart as a tourist. Other things to leave back in the Lower 48 include socks that you plan to wear with sandals or dress shoes to wear with shorts. You also won't need to bring your own snorkeling gear. Many hotels rent it or even loan it out.

Save room in your bag

Although Hawaii's summery, casual dress code makes it easy to pack in a carry-on, you'll want to save room to buy authentic aloha wear when you're visiting the islands.

About the Author

Jodi "Jato" Thornton