What to Wear in Hawaii: Dressing for Paradise

With its warm tropical climate and casual island vibe, Hawaii is a destination where you can ditch the heavy layers and bulky clothes and opt for comfortable, lightweight outfits instead. Packing for a Hawaii vacation can seem daunting, but sticking to breathable, versatile essentials is key. Feel free to peruse the following content for valuable recommendations on what to wear in Hawaii fashionably and yet practically while visiting the beautiful Hawaiian islands.

The Basics – Opt for Light, Loose, and Airy (What to Wear in Hawaii)
A scenic dirt road winds through lush vegetation, leading to the breathtaking ocean. Nature's beauty awaits at the end of the path. (What to Wear in Hawaii)

Hawaii is warm and humid year-round, so packing ultra-light, airy clothing is a must. Natural fibers like cotton and linen that allow your skin to breathe are ideal. Loose, flowy styles also keep you cooler in the heat.

Some basic items to pack include:

  • Lightweight shirts and tank tops
  • Loose shorts and skirts that fall above the knee
  • Light dresses and rompers, like sundresses or maxi dresses
  • Swimwear – you’ll live in it here! Pack a few suits.
  • Light cardigans or wraps for cool evenings
  • Sandals – slip-ons or strappy styles are best

Aim for versatile pieces in cool colors like white, tan, and light blue that mix and match well. You can get away with bringing less by choosing multipurpose items.

Outerwear – Only the Lightest Layers Needed

Hawaii is known for balmy weather, so heavy jackets are unnecessary. At higher elevations and during winter months the temperature can dip, so have a few light layers on hand:

  • A thin hoodie or lightweight sweater
  • Button-down shirt or flannel to tie around your waist
  • Denim or utility jacket for truly cool nights
  • Windbreaker for activities like boat rides
  • Sarong or pashmina wrap

Just avoid bulky sweaters and coats meant for colder climates. Focus on breathable fabrics that won’t leave you stifled.

Footwear – Prioritize Comfort and Versatility

On a Hawaii trip, you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking along beach paths, hiking trails, and city streets. Pack footwear accordingly:

  • Flip flops or sandals with straps are essential – waterproof styles can also be worn while swimming or snorkeling.
  • Sneakers or athletic shoes for activities and walking longer distances
  • Boat shoes, deck shoes, or flats look nice for going out while still being comfy
  • Hiking shoes or boots only if you plan to do serious trekking

Don’t bother packing heels, dress shoes, or heavy boots. Keep your footwear functional for all the action.

Accessories – Hats, Sunglasses and Bags

Don’t forget key accessories to protect against the Hawaiian sun and store your daily essentials:

  • Wide-brimmed hat – keeps the sun off your face and neck
  • Sunglasses – look for polarized lenses to reduce sun glare
  • Reusable water bottle – stay hydrated!
  • Crossbody bag or backpack – hands-free carrying
  • Sarong or scarf – for added sun protection or covering up at temples

What to wear in Hawaii: You can also bring fun accessories like jewelry, hair ties, and wraparound skirts to change up basic looks. Just skip bulky bags and accessories that will weigh you down.

The Aloha Shirt – An Iconic Hawaiian Wardrobe Staple

No Hawaiian vacation wardrobe is complete without the iconic “aloha shirt,” also known as a Hawaiian shirt. This style of collared, button-down short-sleeved shirt in flowing rayon or cotton featuring Hawaiian motifs like floral and island prints has long been a staple in the islands.

While overly loud “tacky tourist” aloha shirts still abound, you can also find fashionable options made from higher quality materials and contemporary designs. Picking up an aloha shirt is the ultimate Hawaiian vacation souvenir.

Dressing Up – Keep it Light and Tropical

While Hawaii is ultra-casual, you may want to dress up a bit for a nice dinner out, luau, or other event. You can still keep things breezy and tropical:


  • Sundress or maxi dress
  • Romper or jumpsuit
  • Skirt and a nice top
  • Wedge heels or dressy sandals
  • Natural makeup with tinted sunscreen
  • Beachy waves hairstyle


  • Aloha shirt with shorts or pants
  • Polo shirt and pants
  • Linen button-down and pants
  • Dress in sandals or shoes
  • Minimal accessories

Aim for classy yet comfortable ensembles in lightweight materials. Show off your island flair!

What to Wear in Hawaii: Packing Tips

  • Choose wrinkle-resistant fabrics like cotton, linen, polyester
  • Roll rather than fold clothes to maximize space
  • Use packing cubes to organize outfit types
  • Bring clothes that mix and match for varied looks
  • Pack neutrals like white, tan, gray, and black to combine pieces
  • Only bring essentials – you won’t need as much as you think
  • Air out items that get moist or wet so they dry out

By following the packing tips above, you’ll be ready for any type of adventure with a functional, fashionable Hawaii wardrobe! The key is versatility, breathability, and staying lightweight.

FAQs About What to Wear in Hawaii :

What should you not wear in Hawaii?
Answer: Avoid heavy materials like denim, wool, and leather, as well as long pants, boots, and closed-toe shoes. Don’t wear overly revealing clothing when visiting temples and religious sites.

Can you wear jeans in Hawaii?
Answer: Denim shorts and skirts are fine, but avoid heavier fabrics like jeans that won’t breathe well in the heat and humidity.

What shoes should you wear in Hawaii?
Answer: Opt for sandals, water shoes, sneakers, and other open, breathable shoes. Heels and dress shoes are not very practical. Hiking boots are only needed for more strenuous hikes.

Should you wear long pants in Hawaii?
Lightweight linen or cotton pants are fine, but long heavy jeans can get very hot. Capris, shorts, dresses, and skirts are often better options.

Do you need a sweater in Hawaii?
A light sweater, wrap, or hoodie is good for cool evenings, but bulky sweaters meant for colder climates are unnecessary.


The key to looking stylish yet comfortable on your Hawaii vacation is packing versatile, lightweight layers and breathable fabrics. Focus on multipurpose pieces in tropical prints and cool, casual styles. Don’t forget sun protective accessories and bring clothing that allows you to participate in all the activities on your itinerary. By following these tips on what to wear in Hawaii, you’ll stay cool while soaking up the island vibes.