How to Dress in Hawaii and Not Look Like a Tourist

Some tourists in Hawaii really do dress like this.
Some tourists in Hawaii really do dress like this. (Image: damedeeso/iStock/Getty Images)

Today, you rarely see someone walking around Waikiki with a camera the size of a football around his neck, but it's still fairly easy for a local to spot a tourist. The key to dressing like a local in Hawaii is to keep things simple.

Invest in Some Slippas

Hawaiians live in "slippas." Do not call them flip-flops; if you do, you might as well tattoo "tourist" on your forehead. Head into almost any store and you'll find "rubbah slippas" lined up in colorful rows. They are simply a rubber sole with a rubber thong that goes between your toes. When you get to the beach or enter someone's home, you just "slip 'em off."

Don't Overdo the Aloha Wear

You may be tempted to buy matching his and hers aloha-wear outfits. Buy them, but don't wear them -- at least in public. Hawaiians do wear aloha shirts and muu muus, but they rarely go the matching route. Muu muus are the loose, flowing dresses seen throughout the islands. Locals usually prefer the more subtle prints, such as those that mimic tapa cloth. Made from bark that has been soaked and beaten until it is soft and pliable, tapa cloth was used for clothing and household goods. Subtle geometric designs were painted on the cloth, using vegetable dyes. Tapa-style aloha wear often is worn at formal occasions.

Board Shorts and T-Shirts Are In

Board shorts and T-shirts are popular in Hawaii for both men and women. Board shorts are knee-length and come in a variety of prints and colors. T-shirts with surfing or fishing designs are common. Locals go to surf shops, department stores and even farmer's markets to pick up bargains. Hawaiians rarely wear T-shirts with Hawaii plastered across the front; head out the door in one of these and you will be labeled a tourist.

Forget the Gimmicky Sunglasses

Wander into any ABC Store in Hawaii and you're apt to find sunglasses with pineapple or palm-tree frames -- or you'll find the lenses covered with a see-through image of the ocean, Diamond Head and/or more palm trees. These are great if you want to bring the folks back home a fun souvenir. But if you put them on and walk around Hawaii, your cover is blown. Bring or buy a nice pair of sunglasses you'd feel comfortable wearing back home.

Go Casual

Leave the jewels, furs and neckties at home. Fresh flower and kukui-nut leis dress up any outfit. Kukui nuts are the seeds of the candlenut tree. They come in brown, black and a spotted brown-black version. Strung into leis, they go nicely with the tapa-style aloha shirts. For ladies, the holoku, a form-fitting version of the muu muu, works for formal occasions. Holokus often are worn as Hawaiian wedding and bridesmaids' dresses.

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