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Cracking the Dress Code

Cracking the Dress Code

by Roberto Jaimes

So, your trip has been booked and it's time to pack your bags. Besides that swimsuit, what should you pack? In general, men should have a collared shirt and slacks handy. Women should come with pants, dresses, or skirts. It's recommended to have something crew or boat neck, or wide straps. And remember, sandals are for the beach, not the dining room! Resorts generally have dress codes for their restaurants, and don't allow beachwear. A beach or pool restaurant may be the exception, but you'll need to dry off and cover up first.

What passes as casual for breakfast or lunch probably won't work for dinner. While flip-flops and a covered up swimsuit is probably fine for a breakfast or lunch buffet, it won't be acceptable at dinner where khakis and slacks are more the norm. Here's our guide to what all those different dress codes mean, and how you can avoid being left out because you forgot to pack a collared shirt or a dress. And remember, not all resorts are equal, so it's best to double check with a resort before heading down to dinner in your swimsuit!'s Handy Dress Code Printout!

Casual/Resort Casual/Informal

Either referred to as "resort casual" or simply "casual," this dress code is not too informal but not overdressed. It's popular at breakfast and lunch spots. For men, it means shorts, jeans, or slacks paired with a t-shirt or polo shirt. Sneakers, tennis shoes, and sandals are generally acceptable, but sleeveless shirts are not.

For women, a blouse with pants, jeans or a skirt works. Casual dresses or sundresses are popular options, too. These shouldn't be too low-cut or short. Bathing suits need to be covered up with a wrap or something similar. Footwear can be sneakers or sandals, as long as there's something covering (and protecting) those feet!

Some resorts call this dress code "informal." It's much the same meaning no swimsuits and footwear required, and a shirt or t-shirt with sleeves for men.

Casual Elegance/Elegant Casual

Now what exactly is casual elegance at places like Breathless Punta Cana Resort & Spa? It sounds like an oxymoron! Evening casual elegance differs from daytime casual elegance, but the general rule is to wear something you'd wear to a country club or upscale restaurant.

Men dress shoes, loafers or dress sandals; dress shirts with sleeves; and long pants or maybe a pair of Bermudas depending on the resort. Sleeveless shirts aren't allowed. Women can wear skirts, pants, or sundresses. Capris reside in a gray area and differ from resort to resort.

No flip-flops!

Resort Evening

For more elegant dining, resorts often have a "resort evening" dress code like at Coconut Bay Beach Resort and Spa. This means dress pants or nice jeans for men, and no t-shirts or sleeveless shirts. Dress shoes or elegant sandals are required, so leave those sneakers and tennis shoes back in the room. Women should wear slacks, skirts, dresses, or blouses with pants.

Elegant Casual

Some resorts, like the Melia Cozumel specify an elegant casual dress code which is very similar to casual elegance. One difference is that men should wear covered shoes, so no dress sandals or flip-flops allowed. Another is that men cannot wear shorts, no matter how nice they may be.

Elegant Resort

When casual is inappropriate, resorts like to enforce the elegant resort dress code. This means that you should dress for an upscale setting and leave the tennis shoes behind. There is a difference between daywear and evening attire, though.

For men, khakis or slacks matched with a collared shirt are the minimum. This doesn't necessarily mean it's time to bust out the James Bond-tuxedo, but it's a good idea to go more stylish and higher quality than normal. At night, a suit is the ceiling while a nice button-up with slacks should do it.

Daytime elegant resort for women means a comfortable dress, capri pants, and a nice top. Women aren't expected to rock a gown in the evening. Instead, a nice pantsuit or cocktail dress should work. A basic dress can be perfect with the right combination of accessories, too.


Formal dress codes, so popular at weddings, can get confusing when used in a resort context. Does it mean tuxedos? Evening gowns? Fortunately, the Caribbean is a little more forgiving when it comes to what is considered formal. For example at Dreams Los Cabos Suites Golf Resort & Spa, men must wear long pants and collared shirts. Dress sandals are acceptable, but dress shoes are probably the safer route. For women, formal means a blouse, skirt, slacks or a dress, all matched with dress shoes. At the Grand Palladium Bavaro Suites Resort & Spa, formal means long trousers for men, but t-shirts are acceptable.


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