Shopping in Honolulu, HI
Find all your Hawaii souvenirs without ever traveling outside Waikiki at the International Marketplace. Got too many handmade shell necklaces from the Phillipines? That’s ok, buy an extra suitcase imported from Shenzen, or go for smaller souvenir items like jade bangles and cartoon caricatures. Merchants carve candles, try out dead sea skin products, and solicit cell phone contracts from coconut-trimmed stalls with royal roots, sitting on land left by Queen Emma, wife of King Kamehameha IV. Don’t leave without snapping a photo in front of the huge central banyan tree, infamous since the International Marketplace’s founding in the 1950s. Open daily from 10 to 9.
On your quest to find the ultimate mom and pop shop experience, stop snooping and start shopping at the bitty specialty shops in Harbor Center. This is where you’ll find an amazing maze of expert proprietors with intruiging specialties that outperform the big box stores, such as Hot Licks Guitars, Golf Stix, Crazy Canine, The Key Guy Locksmith, Stamps & Memories, he Bike Shop, Fabric Mart, Magnetic Moments Photo-Magnet Party Favors, Scrapbooks Etc, Flags N Things, Nix Performance Art Center, The Fan Shop, E-Style Boutique, Missing Polynesia Boutique, Shangri La Hair & Wig Center, Barr’s Muffler, The Hobby Shop, Rainbow Gymnastics, and so, so, so many more interesting shopping experiences staffed by longtime experts in their fields.
Ever wondered about the arts of Hawaiian quilting, lomilomi massage and healing, ukulele playing, hula dancing, lei-making, and kapa cloth making? You probably never thought you’d get to learn those skills, for free, in the middle of a Waikiki Shopping Complex. Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center’s unique approach to luring in visitors includes performances by the historic Royal Hawaiian Band, and a chance to shoot live rounds with the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club. Tuesdays on the rooftop you can browse a farmer’s market, and there is live Hawaiian entertainment by the likes of the Polynesian Cultural Center, Hula Halau, and local musicians every day of the year. Of course, stop by all the fabulously classy shops and restaurants while you’re there too! Free parking for the first hour, open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
In Hawaii, there are lei upon lei to adorn celebrants at every occasion, be it a milestone like a graduation, birthday, wedding, or retirement, or a simple welcome home to the islands. Park somewhere near the block defined by Maunakea St, Nuuanu Ave, Pauahi St, and Hotel St to find a cluster of Chinatown lei makers expert in their craft. A wondrous variety of gorgeous blossoms, fragile flowers, intricate lei-making techniques, and a variety of beautiful smells hang in the glass cases in every shop. Get a haku lei woven for the head, or a masculine maile leaf lei mail ordered for your man. The lei stands each bear the name of a proprietess from old Hawaii, who has in many cases passed her skills onto her daughters: Cindy’s, Lin’s, Lita’s, Maile’s.
A word to the wise: find fresh local flavor at its best--price-wise and freshness-wise--in Chinatown. Scope out Maunakea Marketplace early in the morning along with chefs and a crazy mill of buyers hording homegrown starfruit, apple bananas, lychee, mango, rambutan, durian, fresh meat, fresh noodles, Chinese vegetables and other fresh produce that you can’t find in regular grocery stores. And don’t leave without some imported dry goods, dried fish, evening gowns, and herbal remedies! The food court is jam packed with Asian and Pacific foods raning from Thai, Lao, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino, Italian, and Chinese. Just be aware that like all Chinatowns, Honolulu’s is redolent of a certain odor and can be a bit dirty. Go early when produce is still in stock!