Dressing for a Caribbean Vacation
Fashion Outfits for Caribbean Travel
More than 20 island nations make up the Caribbean region, and all of them are hot. Regardless of where you're going, unless you have the poor luck of visiting during storms, you're bound to need clothes appropriate for the beach. There's more to dressing for the region than bathing suits and coverups, though, as each nation has its own identity and style. Bringing options for both day and night is wise, as is watching the locals. Pack plenty of options, then take cues from the locals on how to dress appropriately during your Caribbean vacation.
What to Wear for a Beach Vacation
The average beach vacation includes a wide range of activities, from relaxing on hot sand to catching waves in crisp ocean water to land- and sea-based sports. Then there are long evenings of cool, breezy walks and hot nights on the dance floor. Beach travelers should keep all these factors in mind when dressing for their vacation. Items like sunglasses and swimsuits are obvious, but there's also a variety of attire that's necessary for any beach vacation.
Beach Clothing &
For the beach itself, you'll need a bathing suit and a pair of flip-flops or sandals. You'll also want a light-colored T-shirt or other comfortable shirt you can cover up with for protection from the sun. Women should pack cover-up attire like a chiffon skirt, wrap, sarong or tank cover-up for walking to and from the beach.
Outside of clean underwear, the most important thing you'll be wearing on your beach vacation is sun protection. Just about any day on the beach entails sitting out in unrelenting sun. Be sure to wear a pair of sunglasses and a brimmed hat or cap to keep the rays off your face.
Beach Casual Clothing
You'll want to wear casual clothing for dinner and activities. While the specific clothes will vary depending on the location and activity, men should be both comfortable and presentable in polo shirts, shorts, socks and a pair of sneakers or other casual shoes. Women can wear tank tops, skirts/dresses and shorts. Since the beach can get hot and may be humid, opt for light, cool, moisture-wicking fabrics like blended polyester and silk whenever possible. If you'll be walking around, wear shoes that are comfortable and supportive. On cold, windy or overcast evenings, wear warmer clothes such as jeans or khakis and a jacket or sweater. If you're prone to getting chilly, a jacket is a good idea even on warm nights, as restaurants and stores often have air conditioning turned up high.
Beach Dressy Dress Clothing
While many beach-based restaurants and establishments have a flexible, resort-casual dress code, you'll want to wear nicer clothes in some restaurants or night clubs or at certain events. Check into dress codes ahead of time and dress accordingly. Travel + Leisure magazine suggests always packing a formal outfit: "Whether you’re going to Paris or the jungle, pack a tie and proper shoes. Formal attire shows respect to people whose patronage you need -- and you never know who will invite you to dinner."
To keep track of time on those long, sleepy days on the beach, remember to wear a watch. Since you may be swimming and leaving your possessions unattended, wear a cheap, water-resistant watch on beach days. Wear a dressy watch, rings and jewelry out to dinner or at formal events, but leave them in the hotel safe when you're sunning and swimming.
Gym Clothes for Beach Vacation
If you plan to jog on the beach or work out in the fitness center at your hotel, pack gym clothes, socks and sneakers. Since the climate will likely be warmer than where you live, you'll want to wear lighter clothing. Save the cotton sweats for home, and pack thin, moisture-wicking workout clothes. Sleeveless shirts can be a good idea.
Pack enough underwear for each day, plus 50 percent extra. After a day of sightseeing in a hot climate, occasionally you might want to shower and change before dinner. Bring underwear made of polyester and other synthetic fabrics rather than cotton, which soaks up sweat and dries slowly. Bring one pair of pajamas for a weeklong trip. A short-sleeved top and shorts are all you'll need, especially since not all Caribbean hotels are air-conditioned.
Wear T-shirts or tank tops and shorts for day-to-day, casual activities. Pull on these clothes over your bathing suit – a man can simply pull a shirt over his bathing suit, or bring a suit to change into at the beach – to head down to the sand, wander around a museum or walk around town. Pack the same casual clothes you'd wear at home, but again, opting for non-cotton fabrics is best in this humid and hot climate.
Bring clothes you can wear for hikes through rain forests or bike rides through swampy park land; many Caribbean nations offer opportunities for outdoor adventure, and your beach clothes might not cut it. Wear a pair of shorts and a tank top designed for exercise; these clothes should be made from breathable, water-wicking fabrics. A woman might also opt to wear a sports bra under her clothes.
Nightlife and Attire
Consider the nightlife personality of your destination when choosing evening clothes. Some Caribbean nations like the Dominican Republic and Jamaica have vibrant club scenes, so if you plan to hit the town after dark, a woman might want a sexy sundress and a man a T-shirt and shorts or linen pants. In Caribbean nations that still have some British sensibilities like Bermuda and Barbados, dressier evening clothes are appropriate; for a woman, a cocktail dress is fitting for restaurants, while a man can wear khakis and a button-up shirt to dinner. A tie and suit jacket might be required for a man at some restaurants.
Shoes and Extras
Wear worn-in walking shoes for day-to-day activities. Bring a pair of sandals for the beach and a pair of dress shoes to wear with your evening clothes. Carry a poncho and umbrella in your day bag in case sudden storms pop up, especially during summer, which is the rainy season in the Caribbean. Bring a hooded, lined rain jacket for cool evenings and rainy days.
Items you will need
T-shirts or tank tops
Sundress or cocktail dress
You'll likely notice that many Caribbean locals sport clothing in bright, rich colors, so feel free to bring your brightest clothing. If you're more comfortable in khaki or black, though, you won't stand out in a negative way. Above all, pack clothes that aren't too tight and that you can move in.
When taking a cruise to the Caribbean, bring multiple dressy outfits for formal dinners on the ship. Check the cruise line's rules when packing.
Finish your outfit with a brimmed hat and plenty of sunblock.
Avoid wearing flashy jewelry and clothing decorated with designer labels in the Caribbean. Local thieves sometimes hover around touristy areas and might interpret these items as a sign of wealth and target you.
What Do I Need to Pack for Jamaica?
The Caribbean's third-largest island is a complex melting pot of cultures, cuisines and music with heavy African influence. Jamaica features edgy urban life in its capital, Kingston, low-key family-friendly fun on Negril's 7-mile beach and romance and history in Montego Bay -- or Mo'Bay, as the natives call it. While Jamaica has plenty of the cocktail-sipping, sunset-watching relaxation of any other tropical paradise, it also offers four-wheeling, zip-lining, dog-sledding and even helicopter tours. Pack right, and you'll be ready to enjoy Jamaica in any way you choose.
Beach Vacation Outfits and Attire
Despite its anything-goes reputation, Jamaica retains some conservative British influence from colonial days. For example, shorts and swimsuits are fine on the beaches but should be covered up anywhere else. Travelers are advised to stick to long, loose pants, skirts or dresses during the day, but it's acceptable to dress less conservatively when going out at night. The shoes you pack will depend on the activities you're planning. Sandals are fine for sunning on the beach and shopping, but you'll need sturdy sneakers or even boots if you plan to venture into the Blue Mountains. Pack a light jacket or sweater for cool evenings.
Pack only what you need and leave extras at home. For example, the combination of body lotion or excessive makeup and the Jamaican humidity can leave you feeling uncomfortably greasy. Most resorts, villas and upscale hotels provide some complimentary toiletries, such as shampoo and conditioner, but you'll need to bring your own toothpaste and toothbrush. Pack sunblock, bug spray and anti-itch cream to protect against the sun and Jamaica's vicious sand fleas and mosquitoes. Bring more than enough of your prescription medications and any over-the-counter medicines you take regularly. You can purchase almost any toiletry item in Jamaica, but prices for tourists tend to be significantly higher.
Jamaica is generally hot and sunny and prone to sudden, short rainfall in the afternoons. Pack sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat or visor and an umbrella to stay comfortable and dry during the day. If you're planning outdoor activities, waterproof clothing may be advisable. For activities on the water, a watertight bag for electronics and valuables is a must. Although it's best to keep valuable electronics to a minimum while on vacation, you may wish to bring your camera, MP3 player or laptop for entertainment. Jamaican outlets are not standardized and vary according to your location on the island, so it's strongly encouraged to pack an electronic adapter.
Documents and Money
When entering and exiting Jamaica, American citizens must present a valid passport, a government-issued form of identification (such as a driver's license) and $27 (sometimes included in your airfare, so check with the airline). Keep a copy of your identification and passport with you at all times in case your luggage is lost or stolen. Copies of rental car agreements, flight confirmations and hotel reservations are also advisable. Because ATMs can be hard to find in Jamaica, pack enough cash for the first day or two of your vacation and don't expect vendors to accept credit or debit cards. American dollars are very widely accepted and many visitors opt not to change them for the Jamaican dollar.