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Apr 16, 2008 06:43 PM

Dress Code Oahu and Big Island

A friend and I will be visiting Hawaii in a few months to hike around the volcanoes on the Big Island. We will also be a few days in Ohau. I have found many good threads about high end dining on both islands. My question has to do with dress codes in these high end restaurants. Since we will be packing light, the best clothes we'll have are polo shirts, running shoes, and fairly presentable hiking pants. It seems like many of the top restaurants in Hawaii accept casual dress, but which ones do not? Thank you very much for your assistance.

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  1. The only one where you might have a problem is La Mer, which I don't recommend in any case. Though there are staunch defenders of their cuisine here, I'm not one of them.

    1. I don't know many places that wouldn't accept you, but you would definitely be dressed for another occasion if you showed up at say, Alan Wong's in hiking pants and tennis shoes. It seems like men would generally be wearing light trousers of linen or cotton and a nice hawaiian print shirt - even slippers would stand out less than tennis shoes. Women would be wearing skirt or pants - not terribly fancy but chic casual.

      6 Replies
      1. re: ThisNThat

        I generally agree with the above as far as how locals and some visitors dress for AW and other better dining spots, but everytime I've been to any of these places (except for LM which has a dress code and Bali by the Sea) I've seen visitors and others in shorts, t-shirts and sneakers. Regardless, as TNT points out, you will be welcomed.

        1. re: Yoshio

          In the Kahala Resort Hoku's would give patrons arriving in shorts black
          drawstring pants that looked awful but for some reason they felt it was better than shorts which were not allowed. I don't know if they still do that.

          1. re: manomin

            Sounds a bit like the older policies, when dining in New Orleans. Some restaurants kept paper jackets and ties handy. Every other diner in the place knew what had happened. Wear a paper jacket and tie once, and you'll likely never let it happen again. However, most of these dress restrictions have passed by, even in New Orleans.

            Still, a jacket is nice, even in Hawai`i.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              bah... mainland people. Aloha shirt for all occasions

              (yes weddings, funerals, office parties, political fundraisers, court appearances - even some of the lawyers)

              seriously, if you are comfortable in a jacket, wear one, but you aren't likely to catch any of the local residents wearing one.

              1. re: KaimukiMan

                Yes, you are SO-O correct here. Guess I'll never pass as a local... [Grin]

                I really stuck out at AW's New Wave Lu`au a year, or so ago, but everyone knew I was a Mainlander, albeit a "nice" one.


        2. re: ThisNThat

          I just went to Alan Wongs and was worried about what to pack and if it would be dressy enough. I was shocked when we walked in and saw people seriously wearing sweats! There were a lot of people in jeans with nice shirts etc so you could get away with almost anything I think.

        3. Since most of our dining is in higher-end restaurants, I have to say that I've seen all sorts of attire. "Clean," is probably the main determinant. Even on trips, that will be mostly golf and hiking, I still travel in a blazer, and have a few pairs of trousers handy. Same for shoes - travel in my loafers, and pack golf and hiking. Polo, and/or “aloha shirts” are easy to pack and work well with the blazer. I always wear these, when dining. Never had a request for a tie, and doubt that I would, anywhere in the Islands. That said, I am often the “over-dressed” one, with but few exceptions: La Mer and Orchid’s Sunday Brunch. A lot of suits at both of these.

          However, it’s the same for most of the resort locations, that we travel to. Most places in Hawai`i frown on “beach wear,” but that’s about the limit. Tank tops, bathing suits and flip-flops are not really appropriate for most of these restaurants. The ones that do cite a dress-code, usually mention these.

          I’d pack a jacket and at least one pair of trousers. There are a lot of good “travel” clothes available, that pack well and resist wrinkles. One nicer pair of shoes would be good, as well.

          Hope your friend has a wonderful trip, and does not pass on some great fine-dining, just because of the dress code.


          2 Replies
          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Our policy is simple - If they have a dress code, we don't dine there.

            1. re: DriverPhil

              Maybe that is why I always dine at spots with a dress code. I hate to think of folk in tank tops, flip-flops and jams, dripping damp sand all over the place. If I want beach, or pool cuisine, I'll dine there.


          2. Casual dress in Hawaii is very different than casual dress elsewhere. In Hawaii, men really can wear aloha shirts to almost any occaision, and yes, some wear blazers with aloha shirts. The trick there is that there are casual and dressy aloha shirts and the dressy ones can set you back $100+! As for women, it's common to see sundresses, slacks with a nice blouse, etc. When I go out to dinner in Hawaii, I generally wear slacks and a silk short sleeved button down blouse which is cool enough to be comfortable during the summer. Note that not all restaurants in Hawaii will have AC - lots just rely on the breeze. I'd suggest that if you can, pack at least one short sleeve button down shirt, which will be a little more "dressy" than a polo shirt.
            It's the rare restaurant in Hawaii that will require a jacket (and I am not sure that any actually require a tie). LaMer and some of the restaurants at the Kahala Mandarin (both of which have been mentioned here) are some that come to mind. Certainly not the norm.
            Since you'll be on the Big Island, I'd recommend trying Merrimans - which is in Waimea (also called Kamuela), a town sort of between Hilo and Kona. It's quite good and my favorite place to eat on the BI.

            6 Replies
            1. re: akq

              I do not recall any requiring a tie, though a few strongly suggest a jacket for gentlemen. I do not believe that even La Mer "requires" a jacket.

              In my youth, in the Deep South, there were many, that required both a jacket and a tie. Some places had "loaner" jackets (some paper), and also ties (more often paper). Every other diner knew if you were wearing one of these. It was like a "scarlett letter," as you were being seated. I learned this lesson early on in life, and swore that I would never have a paper jacket, a loaner, or a paper tie again. I learned that one always dresses for dinner, and that lesson has carried forth over the decades.Since I always travel with a blazer, and a few ties in the luggage, it's not a big deal. In two weeks, we're doing several So. Cal "resorts," and jackets are required. Not a biggie, as I'll always have one.


              1. re: Bill Hunt

                La Mer does require pants on men & no shorts - thank goodness!

                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  I haven't been to LaMer for probably 10 years - my memory of it was excellent food, quiet and that I thought it was funny that they handed us small flashlights so we could see the menu!

                  The Halekulani website lists the dress code for La Mer as requiring either a long sleeved collared shirt or a jacket for men, so I guess that's not the same as requiring a jacket.

                  1. re: akq

                    I would imagine that La Mer will be relaxing their "suggested attire for gentlemen," as most restaurants in the US seem to be. I think that much of it has to do with the tourist market. I will miss people dressing for dinner, but will have to get over it.

                    OTOH, I have noticed more restaurants in Europe and the UK, that mandate that all gentlemen will wear jackets and ties. It was like that, when growing up and dining in New Orleans. No jacket, or tie, no service, or you wore one of the paper ones, that they had, and everyone in the dining room knew. In much of Europe, if you are not properly attired, you are just not permitted to enter - no paper jackets, or ties.

                    I do not always travel with a dark suit, but I always travel, even to Hawai`i, with a jacket and a tie. Just something that I learned many, many years ago.

                    Some day, La Mer might get to "no wet bathing suits allowed."


                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      I think Bill makes a fair point that sophistication or elegance is always appropriate. (Tony Soprano taking off the guy's baseball cap in a nice restaurant comes to mind) On the other hand, as a native of SoCal and traveler to Hawaii, I guess that I tend to dress more casually than does Bill. Going to Canoe House tonight in black short sleeve silk shirt with cream colored slacks. Frankly, its just too dang hot here in Hawaii for me to even think about wearing a jacket.


                      1. re: ibstatguy

                        Having now lived in Denver for 20 years, and then Phoenix for 10, I am slowly coming around to your way of thinking Why, just last week, we were in Carlsbad at two very nice, up-scale restaurants. First night, I wore my travel blazer (keep three of these around, so I always have one out of the cleaners), and a tie. I was the only one in a jacket. Next night, was a Tommy Bahama shirt and blazer - no tie. Most others were in shorts!

                        Old habits (especially for old dudes) die hard. Wife and I'd been married for 36 years, before she ever saw me take off a jacket at dinner, regardless of the temp. There is a first time for everything, I guess.

                        Please report on the Canoe House. I had an unfortunate experience there, long ago, and have not returned. Lately, many respected CH's have painted a totally new picture of it. I'm curious whether I need to reconsider my choices on next Big Island trip.

                        Mahalo and aloha,