Best Shopping on Oahu
Don’t settle for kitsch: Take home a souvenir of Oahu that offers a locally made memory of the island. Shop at the markets and malls where residents find treats from mochi doughnuts to a beer salted with sea water. Then explore distinctive Hawaiian gifts like koa-wood ukuleles, Niihau shell lei, updated aloha shirts and quilts with traditional botanical designs.
22 S Pauahi St, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA
Founded in 2004, this exquisite Chinatown boutique sells unique jewelry pieces designed by Cindy Yokoyama. “I started as a painter and fell in love with abstraction,” she says. “Many of my pieces still reflect elements of this, including asymmetry.” She also plays with order and chaos, and mixes urban elements with natural organic ones beautifully. Expect seeds and shells mixed among metallics... and the azure hues of Hawai‘i’s sea and lush greens of its slopes. Of special note: earring sets where two teardrops complement each other, rather than matching—showcasing stones like lapis lazuli, fossilized coral, and bumble bee jasper.
Waikiki Beach Walk 2nd Floor #227, 226 Lewers St, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
This lovely, nostalgic shop has been selling traditional Hawai‘ian designs—bright and botanically themed—alongside contemporary creations by owner Michael John Gillan for decades. The classic buy is a kapaeke (an heirloom quilted handbag), but you can pick up everything from USB-stick holders to kits that teach the craft. The oldest retail quilt company in Hawai‘i, it has catered to local royalty, as well as Hollywood stars, and pioneered the islands’ fabric-art tradition in Japan. Its instructors offer lessons and demonstrations at Waikiki’s Beach Walk every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon, as well as at the Big Island’s Queens’ Marketplace every Sunday from 1–3 p.m.
2330 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
This elegant mall bridges glitzy Kalakaua Avenue and up-and-coming Kuhio Avenue. Its heart: a treehouse in an enormous Indian banyan tree. The tree was planted around 1850 and briefly owned by Queen Emma; at one point, one of its tree houses contained a radio station. A $500 million renovation overhauled the market place, a Waikīkī classic, in 2016. Now ten restaurants and 75 retail stores preside here, anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue—the first in Hawaii. While the International Market Place has lost its manic, Mad-Man-era, free-for-all vibe, it maintains quite a bit of character for a mall with touches like a three-story waterfall. Visit at sunset to catch traditionally dressed performers singing, dancing, blowing conches, and lighting the Lamakū Torch Tower.
1120 Maunakea Street #200, Honolulu, HI 96817
Shops, a market, and a truly pan-Asian food court wrap around a busy plaza at this classic Chinatown stop on the corner of Hotel and Maunakea streets. Note: Don’t even try to enter the Maunakea Marketplace during Chinese New Year—a 15-day festival that starts on the new moon between January 21 and February 20—unless you’re agile and adept at navigating tight-packed crowds.
2330 Kalakaua Ave #250, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
Stock up on sake, wasabi, and high-end soba noodles at this Japanese supermarket chain, the largest in the U.S. It stocks adorable prefab sweets, like Pocky chocolate-coated biscuit sticks, along with Honolulu‘s hottest new donuts at MoDo. Made with mochi—a sticky-sweet rice flour—these fresh pon de ring pastries sport thick glazes like kurogoma (black sesame) and hojicha-roasted tea, alongside more familiar flavors like chocolate, strawberry, and lilikoi (passionfruit). Owner Chris Watanabe spent three years in Japan, swooning over his local Mister Donut shop, before recreating these delicacies back home. Other kiosks in the mini-food-court peddle sushi, ramen, rice balls, and tempura.
19 N Pauahi St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
Big baggy aloha shirts—that could double as canoe sails—goodbye. Instead head to this Chinatown boutique, featuring the sharp, tapered designs of the eponymous Roberta Oaks. She draws on her hippie, farmhouse childhood and mid-century modern Hawai‘ian flair to create prints, which she then combines with a more fitted and form-flattering modern silhouette. These fabrics also take a star turn on graceful day dresses and even doggie bandanas. Open since 2009, this alluring boutique goes beyond attire, selling jewelry, candles, surf photography, and scents like Sándalo (a moody meditation on the islands’ vulcanism with ash, patchouli, and Royal Hawai‘ian sandalwood).
1170 Auahi Street
Eighteen merchants band together here in Kakaako’s Ward Village mall, offering everything from a scoop of Froot Loop Vodka ice cream (Lucy’s Lab Creamery) to locally made board shorts (Salvage Public). One of the best places to find unique Hawaiian souvenirs, the South Shore Market shies away from tiki kitsch and instead taps into Honolulu‘s chic urban aesthetic. Travelers often appreciate the market’s long communal work table, complete with outlets and free, fast WiFi. Not to mention Scratch Kitchen & Meatery, which shares some classic recipes with its Chinatown counterpart, like milk-and-cereal pancakes and the cider-braised pork belly and apple pasta. But it also forges its own lunch-brunch path with indulgences such as a pillowy French toast stuffed with strawberries, mascarpone, and cream cheese.
675 Auahi St #121, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA
The state’s first dedicated craft-beer café and boutique showcases over 500 brews in the up-and-coming Kakaako neighborhood. All seven Oahu breweries rotate through here, including Home of the Brave. This nearby brewpub not only produces great suds like the smooth Remember Pearl Harbor Lager, but it squeezes World War II memorabilia into its Brewseum (brewseums.com). The shop is especially strong on Hawaiian beers with seasonal flavors like Lanikai Brewing’s use of Surinam cherries in a sour or Honolulu BeerWorks drawing pad thai flavors into a Hefeweizen. Look for beers steeped in terroir too: Waikiki Brewing is smoking its own malt with local kiawe wood, while Aloha Beer salted a German-style Gose with ocean water!