What to wear on Kauai

Hawaiian woman in shorts & bikini top

If you have been to Kauai before, or perhaps to the other islands, you probably have a pretty good idea of what to wear on island .   Kauai Style is not quite like anywhere else.  Not really.   So what do you wear on Kauai?

Elysha & friends Kalalau lookout

Looking cool at Kalalau Lookout

Even if you live in Encinitas or elsewhere in Southern California, it’s still way different on Kauai!    The main difference is that it’s waaay less and waaaay casual.    The only people who dress up on a daily basis are some of the women who work in the boutique shops at the Hyatt or St Regis.


Basically shoes are flip flops.     All the time except if you go out to dinner to a good restaurant and then you can wear sandals.    Heels?    No one wears heels except those ladies working in those shops and maybe if there is a dance or something .     But high heels?   Never.

All you really need shoe wise is a pair of flip flops and sandals.

At the beach

Well as I mentioned in Kauai Style at the Beach       The ‘de rigeur’ look for girls is clearly the Brazilian bikini, which I have always thought is a/ uncomfortable and b/ why bother?    but it seems that this is what to wear if you want to look cool, or rather if you want to blend in on Kauai.    Naturally the top part of the bikini is equally tiny and I have noticed that even more generously endowed ladies still wear the Braziian bikini.       Sarongs and the a cool cover up; see through, lacey, stringy, you get the picture.   And a cool looking towel is also needed.   As for bags, a colorful beach bag or a straw one is what finishes off the look.  This lady is going for a more original look, which I prefer!

Woman walking to ocean

This lovely lady has style


Beautiful girl wearing bikini on rock Kauai

Kauai Style ~ what to wear on Kauai!

For the guys wear long shorts to the knee.   It appears longer the better.    I often wonder about this as follows:   It’s fine for the Hawaiians and those who are naturally of darker shade… but for the white guys… they end up with a big line and a lot of white skin under that thing.    Kind of unattractive really!   Just saying.

Hanalei Lifeguards

Hanalei Lifeguards teaching kids safety… but looking cool!

Shorts need to be in various Hawaiian prints or color and if you want to be even more cool with Hawaiian Native designs.. Honu (Turtle) or Manu (Shark) or Whale.   Even the kids wear long shorts to the knee – like these guys learning how to be safe at Hanalei Bay with one of the Lifeguards.   Dude!  It’s what to wear on Kauai!


Basically for the guys, it’s what you wear at the beach except you might wear either some reef walkers or trainers or hiking shoes.    A T shirt of course or tank.   You can get hot hiking.  Serious Kauai people hike barefoot.  Not kidding.      You need a hat (baseball cap for the guys usually) and a hoodie or think raincoat in case it rains .

Group of people at waterfall Hawaii

Looking cool at the Falls

For the girls, skimpy shorts and tank top or you can wear the boring yoga gear that seems to have caught on  – even being worn who clearly don’t do yoga!  A lot of girls just wear a yoga bra, sports bra/top.   Again, a hat is needed and here the Kauai girls don’t just wear baseball caps.   Chinese “rice paddy” hats and straw hats of all descriptions are cool.   HOodie or raincoat for if it cools down or rains.

Around Town

Any assortment of beach or hiking gear.   You could also wear a pretty dress for girls, but flip flops reign supreme, except when some kids decide to wear boots!   But hats are always cool.

Hawaiian woman in hat

Hats are always cool in Hawaii

Out to  Dinner

Here’s where you can bring a pretty dress or outfit for an evening meal, perhaps at Merrimans on the South Shore,  JO2 in Kapa’a or Ama in Hanalei.    Nothing to dark though, the little black dress is only of if accented with some color – the islands are colorful and the Parisian rules of Coco Chanel don’t apply here, thank heavens!   Cute sandals complete the picture.

For the guys, casual slacks or pants and a Summer shirt, yes t can be Hawaiian as long as it’s not too loud… you know what I mea.   Those things are for when you get back to Minnesota!

Visiting Kauai ~ what to bring?

As little as possible!   Seriously.   If you are coming or a week here’s my list of what to bring

Wahine (Women)

young girls at Kalalau lookout

Girls Kauai Style at the Kalalau Lookout



2/3 Summer Dresses, 5 Summer tops, 2 shorts or short skirts (or long) . 2, sarongs (or wait until you get here and buy them on Kauai)  pair of sandals, flip flops, bikini, cover up.     One long sleeve, One Rain jacket.   One leggings or long pants for if  it gets cold.    Trainers/hiking shoes.

Kane (Men)

Guy backpacking

Hiking in style – usually no top for the guys



2 beach shorts, 2/3 beach t shirts,  1 pair of jeans or casual pants, 1/2 cool shirts, hoodie or long sleeve for cooler nights, rainjacket.   Trainers/hiking shoes.

It’s useful to have a Light Backback for hiking and a hold all bag for the beach.    Aside from that, it’s all you need.

Kauai is also a great place to buy your island gear:   bikinis, sarongs, cute dresses .    You can do this at shops but there are also great markets that happen all over the island where you can pick up a sarong or beach dress for a reasonable price .

What not to wear

  • . Trainers on the beach!!!!!    Not only does this give you away as an obvious tourist (which is not bad at all) but you need to get your feet in the sand!!
  • Dressy stuff on the beach.    Not considered cool!
  • Suits or jackets and dark tailored clothes, just not the island style even out to dinner
  • Fancy jewellry
  • Overly loud Hawaiian prints!

The truth of it is that it doesn’t really matter what you wear on Kauai as long as you relax…. like this lovely lady here……    Aloha!

Lovely girl wearing hat in Hawaii

Hats keep the sunburn way and look beautiful too..

About the Author

Kauai Advisor ~ Francesca Azuremare ~ has lived on Kauai for 22 years. I feel blessed to live in such a magical, beautiful place. Over the years I have helped thousands of people find the perfect place to stay on Kauai whilst also advising on everything from places to propose to the best Na Pali boat ride. Now I'm sharing that information here. It's the Hawaiian way. Aloha!

  • Mo says:

    Great blog and very respectful of island style; however, more photos of
    real locals would be more endearing! Aloha!!

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