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Wondering if you should pack a jacket or extra swimsuit for your trip to Hawaii? Here are the types of clothes for Hawaii I recommend packing into your suitcase.
Aloha with love,
Pack Light And Breathable Wear
Think cotton. Clothes that can be easily washed and will dry during the day on the balcony. You’ll spend a lot of time in the sun, walking around, changing clothes at the beach, hiking, and sweating! You want to be able to throw your extra change of clothes in your bag and not worry about it weighing you down for the rest of the day.
It’s also a good idea to bring a good hat that won’t fly off your head and cheap sunglasses. Gusts of wind near beaches and cliffs are common and if your hat isn’t tied down to your head, you can say goodbye. Sunglasses are also great to have especially if you’re cooling off at the beach. Speaking from experience, a stray wave can easily knock them away, so make sure you bring a cheap pair.
Swimsuits And Beach Wear
It’s not just bikinis and boardshorts. Here are a few scenarios to get you thinking about what to pack for the beach.
How Many Swimsuits Should You Bring?
How often will you go to the beach? Everyday? Once? Morning dip? All day, everyday?
If you plan on going to the beach all the time. 2-3 swimsuits is essential. You can have one drying while you wear the other. If you want to work on your tan, the different swimsuits will ensure you get an even skin tone. On the other hand, if you only plan on a morning dip before you start your day, you can get away with just one.
For men, this is even more important. Speedos are quick to dry, but board shorts (especially those with that extra lining) can take forever and a day to dry. For guys who plan on using their board shorts as regular clothes, you may even consider bringing 3 pairs since it’s common to see locals wearing board shorts on a regular basis (i.e. my brother wears them ALL THE TIME).
If your Airbnb has a dryer, then you don’t have to worry about bringing extra swimsuits, but many hotels have pay-to-play dryers which is a hassle since the dryers are usually on a totally different floor. Figure out when and what facilities you’ll have access to beforehand so you don’t have any surprises.
Do You Need A Rash Guard?
What kind of beach activities will you do? Snorkeling? Floating in the shallows? Kayaking? Fishing? Getting a tan? Sitting in the shade? SUP?
Snorkeling will turn your back and shoulders into a lobster. Fishing, kayaking and SUP tend to make you red all over including your face. Bobbing in the shallows tends to just affect your face. If you plan to stay in the water all day, it’s a good idea to invest in a rash guard – a long-sleeved shirt made of swimsuit material. I have one with thumb holes that zips up in the front and also has a hood to protect the back of my neck. I use it as a light jacket and it’s great for the beach to protect my skin.
Using Your Swimsuit As Underwear
Not everyone is comfortable with this – I personally don’t like wearing my swimsuit as underwear. But I know a lot of women do this and it can cut down on some laundry time because you’ll just wash your swimsuit and hang it to dry.
Men can also use their board shorts as regular shorts as well. The only thing I would caution against is to make sure your shorts don’t chafe when wet. A lot of board shorts will rub a bit too intimately if you jump in the ocean and decide to go on a nearby hike right after. This also goes for those waterfall hikes, too.
Types Of Jackets To Bring
Did you know Hawaii also has snow? Cold winter nights? And freezing AC in the buses? Here’s where you’ll need a jacket.
Planning on visiting the summits of Mauna Kea on the Big Island or Haleakala on Maui? Keep in mind that it snows on Mauna Kea and if you plan on catching the sunrise on Haleakala, you’ll be in for a freezing few hours. Wear layers and a nice jacket to stay warm.
Winters And Cold Nights
This might not be an issue if your body is acclimated to snowy weather, but for those who are used to warm weather, Hawaii in the winter months can get chilly! I live in Central Oahu and often I’ll wear socks, long pants, and a hoodie to bed. If you’re staying in a hotel, this probably won’t affect you much. But if you’re staying in an Airbnb, keep in mind that homes in Hawaii usually don’t have insulation or heaters.
Air Conditioning Indoors And In Buses
Hawaii loves to crank up their ACs. If I’m going to be in a restaurant for over an hour, I usually bring a light and casual button-up shirt with me. One place that is extremely cold is The Bus. It isn’t bad if you’re riding short distances. But if you’re headed around the island or riding from Honolulu to the North Shore, bring a jacket because you will start shivering.
Hiking is another popular activity on Hawaii and most visitors will try to fit 1 or 2 into their itinerary. In general, there are 3 types of hikes on the islands and you should know which hikes you’ll be going on so that you can bring the proper clothes for Hawaii.
- Hot and dry
- Slippery, muddy and usually humid
- Waterfall/beach hikes
Read More: Top 10 Epic Hawaii Waterfalls That You Need To See
Hot And Dry Hikes
Hikes such as Diamond Head or Kaena Point are usually hot. The sun beats down and the best time to hike is usually in the morning during cooler hours. The best hiking clothes for Hawaii are light and breathable and won’t stick to your sweaty skin. If you burn easily, then that rash guard I mentioned earlier is great to wear under your shirt. Or, if you have a compression shirt hiding in your closet, that will also work. Stick to wearing light colors such as white or light grey – dark-colored shirts will keep you hot longer.
Many people wear a hat to these burning hikes for good reason. Suffering with painful skin for the remainder of your Hawaii vacation (or worse, on the plane ride back!) is not anybody’s idea of fun. Check to see if your hike will be windy. If so, hold on to your hat or secure it to your head. Once your hat flies off the mountain, consider it gone.
Slippery, Muddy And Humid Hikes
Muddy hikes are all over the islands. Many hikes are in forests so more likely than not you’ll be stomping on mud at some point (or having some flung at you). Plus, rainforests are the perfect place for slippery moss to grow on rocks so watch out for those as well. If possible, bring old hiking clothes for Hawaii. You can pretty much assume they’ll get dirty. FYI, if you get some of Hawaii’s famous “red dirt” on you, you’ve got a souvenir for life. It’s tough to wash out!
Local tip: Humid rainforest hikes are usually loaded with mosquitos. Make sure you spray that bug repellent on before you begin your hike.
Waterfall And Beach Hikes
The expectation on these hikes is that you’ll be getting wet. Whether from rain, a dip in a secret beach or under a waterfall, expect to be walking back to your car in wet clothes. Keep in mind that walking for a couple hours in wet clothes can be an uncomfortable or even painful experience. If you’re not wearing light, quick-drying clothes, the material will stick to your skin and restrict your movement. If you walk long enough, your clothes can rub your skin raw near your underarms or between your thighs – not a pleasant experience. Board shorts are notorious for this.
You’ll probably sweat more in Hawaii so make sure all of your clothes for Hawaii are on the softer side. Sweat, rain, waterfall mist and even ocean sprays can make your clothes moist and uncomfortable to wear.
Local Tip: Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that you can get from swimming in Hawaii’s fresh water pools with an open wound. Be careful!
Restaurant Wear – Does Hawaii Have Dress Codes?
Hawaii is pretty casual when it comes to dining. Unless you plan on eating at a fine-dining restaurant that has a dress code, you won’t have to worry too much about what you’re wearing. Local cheap eats, fast food, family restaurants and restaurants that have many tourists or customers coming from the beach are often fine with slippers (flip flops), shorts and a t-shirt. I’ve even called a Waikiki steakhouse about their dress code and was told tourists with slippers come in all the time (thus I wore slippers, too!).
Many couples like to visit at least one fancy restaurant during their vacation. A nice shirt, slacks and shoes are fine for guys. This may even be the time to get an aloha shirt, which can be worn at any occasion. Women have even more leeway – any nice blouse, dress, pants or even shorts are OK. As for shoes, it’s completely acceptable to wear fancy slippers – you’re in Hawaii!
Clothes For Shopping And Walking
A lot of shopping in Hawaii is done outdoors. Many of our shopping malls use Hawaii’s tropical weather to its advantage so you’ll find yourself walking outside in warm weather more often than not while shopping. We also have swap meets, farmers’ markets and boutique shops, which are also outside in our awesome weather. Wear clothes that are breathable so that you get our trade winds blowing on you. However, if you know you’ll be walking around in the afternoon sun for a long period of time (i.e. swap meets), pick out clothes that will block the sun from burning your skin.
For bottoms, most people stick with shorts, which is a great idea during warmer months since there are many days where the humidity can be a killer. But make sure to pack some long pants or capris if you’re going to be in Hawaii from November thru February. It gets chillier during these winter months and you’ll be glad you’re wearing them.
Read More: Ala Moana Center Is A Shopper’s Paradise
Which Shoes To Bring?
Shoes are one of the hardest things to pack for Hawaii – not just because there are different types for different occasions, but also because they take up so much space in your suitcase! Here’s my list of footwear to pack and why you’ll need it.
Slippers (Flip Flops)
- Comfortable rubber slippers: If possible, buy these in advance because as soon as you arrive at your hotel, condo or Airbnb, you’ll be slipping these guys on and walking around. Make sure they are thick enough so that you don’t hurt your heels from walking on cement all day long. You’ll also want to break them in if they’re new – if you aren’t used to wearing slippers, they can sometimes rub your skin raw where the straps are.
- Fancy slippers or flat sandals: If you plan on eating someplace fancy or hitting a club, you may want to bring these instead of the rubber slippers. Not only can you use these for a night out, but they are also perfect for shopping, the beach and strolls. Remember, just make sure they’re comfortable for long periods of time to keep your feet pain-free.
- High heels and stilettos: Not really recommended since these take up a lot of space in the suitcase. You might be thinking that you’ll wear these for a night out on the town, fancy dinner or even a wedding, but fancy slippers or flat sandals can certainly work, too.
- Comfortable slip-ons for walking on flat surfaces: If the only hiking you’ll be doing is shopping, then slip-ons for walking are great! They’re comfortable, perfect for casual and fancy occasions, and take up less space than those bulkier athletic shoes. Just bring a pair of rubber slippers and you’ll be set!
- Normal athletic shoes: If you’re going on a hot and dry hike during your stay in Hawaii, then go with these shoes instead. Most hot and dry hikes have rocks and slip-ons do not do great on rocks (it is easy to roll your ankle and injure yourself).
- Dirty athletic shoes or hiking boots: If you plan on going on a muddy waterfall hike or any other type of long and extreme hike, then you’re probably experienced enough to know which shoes you’ll need to bring with you. You’ll need to bring footwear that you aren’t afraid of getting dirty and it needs to have excellent grip. Mud and moss are not your friends on these hikes as wearing the wrong footwear can get you hurt.
- Dress shoes: This isn’t really recommended since these shoes are so bulky, but may be unavoidable if you are coming to Hawaii to attend a wedding. It might be worth it to suggest a real beach wedding to the lucky couple where only slippers (and aloha wear) are allowed!