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With its tropical climate and casual culture, deciding what to pack for a trip to Hawaii can be tricky. If all you pack are shorts and flip flops, you may find yourself unprepared when wanting to dine at a fancy restaurant or hike to a waterfall.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to what to wear in Hawaii: pack lightweight, breathable clothing along with some pants, closed-toe shoes, and layers for outdoor activities and evenings. Don’t forget the sunscreen either!

In this complete guide on what to wear in Hawaii, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Hawaiian attire so you can effortlessly blend in with locals and handle the island weather during your upcoming trip.

The Basics: Light, Casual Clothing

T-shirts & tank tops

When packing for Hawaii, lightweight t-shirts and tank tops are essentials. The sunny, tropical climate calls for breathable fabrics that will keep you cool and comfortable. Cotton or moisture-wicking performance fabrics are great options.

Tank tops allow maximum air flow, while tee shirts provide a bit more sun protection for the shoulders. Bring several in bright colors or fun Hawaiian prints to embrace the island vibe.

Shorts & skirts

Pack at least a couple pairs of shorts or casual skirts for the islands. Temperatures typically range from 70°F to 90°F year-round, so you’ll want lightweight shorts and skirts in lightweight fabrics like cotton or linen. Knee-length cuts are versatile for daytime adventures and casual evening wear.

Mini shorts and skirts also work well when paired with bathing suits at the beach or pool.


Don’t forget the bathing suits! Even if you don’t plan to spend all day at the beach, you’ll still want swimwear for poolside lounging or spur-of-the-moment dips in the ocean. Pack 2-3 swimsuits so you have options. Choose supportive fits with UPF protection built-in when possible.

Rash guards, board shorts, and coverups are also great extras for modesty and sun protection.

Light dresses & rompers

In addition to separates, pack sundresses, maxi dresses, or rompers for feminine style options. Flowy cotton or rayon fabrics feel dreamy in the balmy island weather. Solid colors and prints are both attractive – just be sure any prints aren’t too bold or busy, as the natural beauty of Hawaii takes center stage.

The most useful dresses offer a bit of coverage – short sleeves rather than strapless or mini lengths.


No Hawaii shoe collection is complete without sandals. Pack an assortment of casual sandal styles like flat slides, sporty athletic slides, or strappy walking sandals made for adventure. Consider quick-dry materials that shed ocean spray easily.

And don’t forget a spare pair in case your go-to pair gets soaked! Flip flops work well as backups.

Hat or visor

Round out your Hawaii capsule wardrobe with a hat or visor to protect against the intense subtropical sun, which shines brightly almost 360 days per year! Wide-brim sun hats provide excellent coverage and style.

Baseball caps also work well, especially while hiking or participating in active pursuits. Visors keep the sun off your face without hat head. Choose breathable cottons, performance synthetics, or classic straw hats.

Considerations for Outdoor Activities

Hiking shoes or sneakers

When planning outdoor adventures in Hawaii, proper footwear is essential. Many trails can be rough, rocky, muddy or slippery. Quality hiking shoes provide necessary traction and support to minimize injury risk. They should have good tread depth for grip and be waterproof or quick-drying.

Low-cut trail runners are another option – they sacrifice ankle support for enhanced breathability and comfort in Hawaii’s hot climate. Packing both hiking shoes and sports sandals or water shoes will prepare you for diverse settings from rainforests to beaches.


Hawaii’s balmy weather enables a variety of outdoor pursuits. Packing lightweight, moisture-wicking activewear makes outdoor adventures more pleasant. Synthetic fabrics like polyester blends pull sweat from the skin towards the fabric surface for quicker evaporation.

This prevents overheating and chafing issues. For aerobic activities, sports bras, tank tops, shorts and skorts allow lots of breathability. Having long sleeve options, pants and lightweight jackets provides protection from the sun or wind when needed.

Aim for versatile multi-use pieces in dark colors that won’t show dirt easily. Quick-drying fabrics reduce the need to pack excess changes of clothes. Consider items with UPF-rated sun protection. Columbia, Athleta, Patagonia, The North Face, Outdoor Research and similar brands offer suitable activewear choices.

Rash guard

A rash guard – long sleeve swimming shirt made of stretchy, lightweight fabric that blocks UV rays – is a must-have for hours of snorkeling, surfing or other water sports. The tight-fitting, breathable material prevents skin irritation and rashes that can result from prolonged rubbing against a surfboard or exposure to sun and saltwater.

Rash guards sit close to the body so they won’t interfere with movements in the water.

Vibrant prints and colors provide aesthetic appeal while also being more visible to others. Reputable watersports brands like Billabong, O’Neill, Hurley or Roxy offer quality, durable options designed for intense activity.

Men will want a swim shirt with extra room, while women often prefer a snug-fitting swim dress with attached shorts for extra sun coverage.

Reef-safe sunscreen

When bathing outdoors always wear broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen. However, standard formulas with oxybenzone/octinoxate are toxic to Hawaii’s fragile coral ecosystems. Instead, pack reef-safe sunscreen that skips these chemicals.

Popular options meeting reef-safe criteria include Stream2Sea, Badger, Raw Elements, Thinksport, Alba Botanica and sunscreens certified by organizations like Sunscreen Safe.

Apply liberally and reapply often, especially after heavy sweating, swimming or vigorous activity. Wearing a hat and UV-protective clothing reduces how much sunscreen you’ll need.

Also read: What To Bring To Hawaii To Save Money: The Complete Packing Guide

Items for Evenings and Special Occasions

Light sweater or cardigan

Hawaii can get a bit chilly in the evenings, with temperatures dropping into the 60s Fahrenheit after sundown, so packing a light sweater or cardigan is recommended. A thin cashmere sweater is perfect for throwing over your shoulders at an oceanside resort.

For casual sweaters, cotton or bamboo cardigans are lightweight and breathable options. Be sure to choose neutral colors that will match everything. And don’t forget to pack a pashmina or scarf too!

Pants or jeans

Having a pair of pants or jeans on hand allows you to go seamlessly from a day at the beach to dinner at a nice restaurant. Dark-wash denim shorts are ideal, as are linen or chambray pants. Flowy harem pants or cropped culottes work well too.

Just steer clear of light washes, as sand has a habit of sticking around. And make sure your evening attire pairs nicely with your chosen footwear.


No wardrobe for Hawaii is complete without a breezy sundress or two! Look for styles and patterns inspired by traditional Hawaiian fabrics. Solid colors like coral pink or seafoam complement any island tan. Wraps dresses and maxi dresses allow versatility from the poolside to an evening luau.

Consider pairing your sundress with a denim or leather jacket for the cool nights. And don’t forget the ultimate vacation essential ― a hat and sunglasses to finish off your look.

Wedges or nice sandals

While flip flops may rule the daytime, you’ll want a slightly dressier shoe option for the evenings. Canvas lace-up espadrilles add a dash of style while retaining comfort, and are available in endless colors. Leather or suede wedges lengthen legs; just stick to a 2-3 inch heel for stability.

Sparkly Havaiana flip flops instantly glam up any outfit. And classic Birkenstocks go with everything. Opt for neutral and metallic hues over bright colors. Having proper footwear means you’ll be ready for impromptu excursions during a magical Hawaiian sunset.

Rainy Day Attire

Lightweight Rain Jacket

A lightweight rain jacket is a travel essential for Hawaii. Sudden showers are common, so having waterproof outerwear is key. Pack a jacket made of waterproof and breathable fabric like Gore-Tex. This will keep you dry without getting too hot. Some features to look for include:

  • Hood to keep rain off your head
  • Vents for breathability in muggy weather
  • Packable design that folds up small

Try brands like The North Face, Patagonia, and Columbia for quality picks. A minimalist rain jacket lets you add layered warmth underneath as needed.


While less practical for adventures, an umbrella still comes in handy in Hawaii. Keep a folding travel umbrella in your bag for sudden downpours. This shelters you while walking around towns and cities. Opt for a wind-resistant, inverted design.

The inversion prevents the umbrella from catching wind like a parachute and flipping inside out.

Handy features include auto open/close functionality and a carrying case. Packable umbrellas collapse down small enough to fit in purses or backpacks. Popular picks are the Repel and Totes brands, available on Amazon.

Average rainy days in Hawaii per month Average monthly rainfall (inches)
January: 10 days January: 2.3
February: 8 days February: 2.01
March: 9 days March: 2.32

Waterproof Shoes

Proper footwear shields you from both rain and mud in Hawaii’s tropical climate. For serious hikers, trail-running shoes with waterproof membranes are ideal picks. Brands like Salomon, Merrell, and Keen offer styles with grippy soles to prevent slipping.

For casual walkers, pack a pair of waterproof Chelsea or duck boots. Look for natural rubber bottoms and coated leather or nylon uppers. Popular options are from Hunter and Sorel. Bring an extra pair of dry socks as needed after getting soaked!

Packing Tips

Choose lightweight, breathable fabrics

When packing for Hawaii, focus on bringing lightweight, breathable fabrics that will keep you cool in the tropical climate. Great options include:

  • Linen shirts and pants
  • Loose-fitting cotton dresses and skirts
  • Lightweight shorts and swimsuits
  • Breathable athletic wear for activities

Avoid heavy fabrics like denim, fleece, or leather which will lead to sweating in Hawaii’s heat and humidity. By packing lightweight, you’ll stay dry and comfortable exploring the islands.

Bring layers you can add or remove

Hawaii sees temperatures ranging from 60°F at night to 90°F during the day. Pack clothing layers so you can adjust to the changing conditions:

  • Light cardigans or kimonos to throw over dresses or tanks
  • Pashmina shawls or scarves
  • Jean or cargo jackets for evenings

Having removable layers means you won’t have to carry extra outfits or return to your hotel room to change. Simply tie a shirt around your waist or throw on a cardigan to stay comfortable all day long.

Pack color palettes that mix-and-match

To keep your suitcase light, bring clothes in coordinating colors that can be mixed and matched for countless outfits. Consider packing in one of these color schemes:

  • Neutrals like white, tan, black, gray
  • Ocean blues and greens
  • Bright tropical tones like fuchsia, turquoise, yellow

Stick to 2-3 color families and choose patterns and prints that blend well. You’ll get more versatility with fewer pieces when everything works back to your core color scheme.

Prepare for both warm and cool weather

Hawaii’s weather varies between the islands and even within the same island. According to research from Hawaii Guide, Kauai and Hilo see over 120 inches of rain per year, while Kona averages under 25 inches annually.

To be ready for anything, pack:

  • Lightweight rain jacket or poncho
  • Few long sleeve shirts for cooler mountain areas or evenings
  • Wide-brim hat for sun protection
  • Light sweater or wrap for air conditioning

Checking forecasts ahead of time can help guide your choices, but having gear for both warm and cool weather means you can freely explore without getting caught off guard.

Leave the heels at home

While exploring Hawaii’s beautiful landscapes, you’ll likely do a fair amount of walking on uneven terrain. Bulky heels can make mobility tricky:

  • 23% increased risk of ankle sprains according to research from NCBI
  • Less comfortable for long days of adventure

Instead, opt for supportive footwear like sandals, athletic sneakers, or hiking boots. Go for traction on the soles to prevent slips on wet surfaces. Your feet will thank you after long days of Hawaiian fun!

Also read: What To Pack For Hawaii: A Men’S Checklist For The Aloha State


By packing a versatile mix of casual and outdoor attire along with some evening choices, you’ll be ready for anything Hawaii throws your way, from beach days to waterfall hikes. Just don’t forget the sun protection!

The laidback Hawaiian culture embraces comfort, color, and self-expression. So make sure to toss in a few statement pieces you love to wear to let your personality shine bright under those island skies.

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