Hawaii’s big city truly a ‘shoppers paradise’
HONOLULU – “Aloha,” my husband Kent and I were graciously greeted. Kisses were planted on our cheeks as orchid leis were slipped over our heads. Ahhhhh, the aloha spirit.
Island music and the muted rush of the nearby surf set the atmosphere. Waikiki Beach beckoned. But I had no time to linger.
After obtaining my room key, I rushed past the wooden canoe that dominates Outrigger Waikiki’s lobby (it’s reminiscent of the island’s romantic past) and boarded the first elevator for my room.
There for a quick-change, I ransacked my luggage for just the right outfit – bypassing a swimsuit and visor for comfortable shoes and easily removed clothing. I was going shopping.
Yes, shopping – the urban adventure that entices many a vacationer into “aisle action,” beating out choices like sightseeing, nightclubbing, even sunbathing.
I am one of those shop-‘til-I-must-stop travelers. My island trip may be deemed successful should I return home without a tan, but it would score a resounding incomplete should it be void of the adrenaline rush that causes my “spendorphins” to kick in.
Thus, my Honolulu foray began.
First stop: swimwear. True, I packed a swimsuit but I wanted to blend, to look as though I was born on that beach rather than just arrived. Wet Hawaii was the answer. It was packed with brightly colored swimsuits, wraps, sandals . . . everything. I emerged from the store with a beach ensemble and a credit card receipt for under $100 (all figures U.S.).
Next was a visit to Honolua Surf Co. for my off-the-beach wear. The store specializes in high-quality, trendy Hawaiian-style clothing. My purchases: a signature hooded sweater with lei embroidery ($52) and a vintage-style tank ($17).
A shopping trip in Waikiki would be incomplete without a stroll through the booths of the open-air International Marketplace. It’s a bit overwhelming. Most kiosks feature similar jewellery and many are overpriced. My purchase was modest: shell earrings ($6).
For a serious jewellery purchase I headed to the Lucoral Co., Inc. at 2414 Kuhio Avenue. It’s in a nondescript building entered by way of a ground-level parking garage. But it’s a rare find.
Owner Flora Lu is a wholesaler who custom-designs pieces and sells to walk-in traffic. My discovery was a one-of-a-kind mother of pearl necklace ($240).
Every Hawaiian visit should include the purchase of one of the islands’ indigenous handicrafts. Handmade quilts can be found at the Hawaiian Quilt Collection. The store boasts that each quilt contains almost a million stitches and over 1,000 hours of craftsmanship. The prices are hefty, starting at $1,800 for a twin-size quilt, but less expensive quilted items include potholders ($20) and purses ($27).
Hawaiian Accessories features a koa wood rocker for $2,500 and Niihau shell necklaces ($2,400-$4,500); they’re made of rare shells from the private island of Niihau. To accommodate smaller budgets, they also sell items like koa business card holders ($24).
During my stroll along Kalakaua Avenue (Honolulu’s prime shopping street), I noticed that even retailers like Coach (leather goods) and Swatch (watches) evoke a Hawaiian flair with island specialty items.
At day’s end I passed through the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (affectionately known as the Pink Palace) with aching feet and a depleted pocketbook. It seemed fitting that my final purchase was their signature pink terry bathrobe ($89) to be used after a warm bubble bath ($10).
Here are a few tips if you go:
- Wait to purchase your swimsuit in Hawaii. Specialty stores are innumerable, styles are endless and prices are competitive. And don’t overlook Macy’s department store (especially with newspaper coupons).
- For the island look, buy a colorful pareo (sarong).
- Visit an ABC store (they’re on every corner) for staples like sunscreen or a beach mat for $1.19 or even beer. It’s Honolulu’s best buy.
- Buy items like Kona coffee, macadamia nuts and Maui chips at a grocery for the best prices.