Souvenirs and Big Island Art

For travelers seeking local art, furniture, or souvenirs from their trip to the Big Island, local artisans provide plenty of wares. From shops catering to tourists in Kona to the art scene in Hilo, craftspeople and shop owners will provide a variety of items and loads of aloha.

74-5035 Queen Kaahumanu Highway
With so many coffees to choose from, it will be hard to choose what to bring home. Coffee is great souvenir and all the shops and farms offer their beans and grounds along with coffee mugs, tshirts, and other souvenir items. Kona Coffee and Tea has a store and a cafe where you can visit and taste the flavors before you decide what to take home!
Hilo is a typical small American town with a local Hawaiian twist. On the “quieter” side of the Big Island, tourists might miss this little town on their way to Volcanoes National Park. Hilo has a lively art scene, including galleries and boutiques behind the wooden storefronts that were built centuries ago. Besides art, Hilo’s Farmers’ Market is one of the best in the United States. The historic downtown offers several cafes, restaurants, a natural and organic store, and small surf shops to peruse on a visit to the windward side of Hawaii Island.
69-250 Waikoloa Beach Dr D1, Waikoloa Village, HI 96738, USA
Alex Gupton’s artistic talent illustrates the beauty of the Islands combined with imaginative human creativity. Alex works in mosaic art and uses small shapes and images to build his fantastic and grand drawings and murals. He applies a similar technique to sculpture. He also designs mosaic tile arrangements for swimming pools and started his art by painting mosaics on buildings across the United States. In every drawing and sculpture he dreams up, you will also find his trademark Bob, the three-eyed fish. For a large souvenir, consider commissioning him to design a mosaic surfboard. In the interest of the environment, most of his surfboards are recovered or damage boards that he reinvents into his own repurposed mosaic art.
Volcano, HI, USA
Why I was so surprised to find a food truck in the village of Volcano outside of Volcano National Park, I’m not sure. All I know is that it was one of the many culinary surprises on the Big Island. This truck was packed with all kinds of wonderful things, and almost all of it was healthy too. If you can find it, and I have no way of telling you where they will be parked, ask for the special drink they mix up daily, I think it has ginger it in, but they’ll know what you mean. The company is called Higher Taste Vegetarian Cafe, and this truck was parked outside of the Rainforest Gallery at Niaulani near Volcano Village. That’s the best I can do, but then again, finding the truck is half the fun!
206 Kamehameha Ave, Hilo, HI 96720, USA
The art of quilting, a Hawaiian pastime with its own style and patterns, can be found in shops around the Big Island. Key ingredients to a good Hawaiian quilt include using a repetitive silhouette shape or design and appliquéing pieces on to the quilt rather than sewing fabric pieces together. Popular designs are floral in nature and often include the pineapple. To see the beautiful fabric artwork, visit Fabric Impressions in Hilo. If you want to try your hand at the art of quilting, ask for some instruction, and pick out some fabrics and a simple (probably small) pattern. For those experienced quilters, give the Hawaiian style a try or come up with your own Island inspired design!
40 Rainbow Dr, Hilo, HI 96720, USA
Just outside of Hilo is one of the Big Island’s beautiful waterfalls. Rainbow Falls is a pretty sight, particularly when the sun is shining and its rainbow is shimmering in the mist. The rainbow is out on most days, so chances are that you will see it when you visit. There is a little trail that will take the brave (at their own risk) to the top of the falls, where visitors can climb the boulders around pools of water and stand at the top of the falls. Rainbow Falls is located in Wailuku River State Park and can be visited each day for free.
75-5744 Alii Drive
Both Hilo and Kona have quaint downtown areas with small shops and cafes. Kona has been updated more recently to accommodate travelers who predominantly stay on the Kona side of the Big Island. With coffee shops, restaurants like the Kona Canoe Club and Mahina Pizza, and shops including the Pacific Fine Art Gallery and ABC Stores, you can spend an entire day browsing for Aloha shirts, art, and souvenirs before enjoying the sunset from one of Kailua-Kona’s many beachside restaurants.
83-5427 Mamalahoa Hwy, Captain Cook, HI 96704, USA
Right off the Mamalahoa Highway, the Kona Coffee Mill and Museum sells Kona Coffee, macadamia nuts, T-shirts, and heaps of Hawaii souvenirs. A perfect pit stop, you will find coffee samples and a small cafe on the lanai (porch) of the red farm building. A self-guided tour is available around the small establishment. You will observe beans drying in the Hawaiian sun below the shop and cafe. A small lava tube invites visitors to walk through a short tunnel. Several coffee plants grow on the property so you can see how they grow their berries.
79-7407 Mamalahoa Hwy, Kealakekua, HI 96750, USA
This is a worthwhile quick stop for anyone who enjoys chocolate or innuendo and is passing through Kainaliu on the west coast of Hawaii Island (around eight miles south of Kailua-Kona, just before Captain Cook). They specialize in donkey balls, which are macadamia nuts covered in thick milk chocolate. Actually, they have a whole menagerie of balls beyond donkey: boar, goat, monkey, dolphin.... Whether you want milk, dark, or white chocolate, coconut flakes or a salty caramel crunch, or just candied mac nuts without the chocolate, there’s something for you. It’s all made on-site, and the smut doesn’t stop with the names: You’ll be asked if you “want a sack for your balls,” too. Whatever you choose, they’ll make a great gift... if they last that long. (If you’d rather save the balls for a special occasion, Rebel Kitchen is just a couple yards away.)
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