WHY WE LOVE IT
- The best of both worlds: tropical paradise, with some of the state’s loveliest beaches, and big-city fun in Honolulu.
- The lights of Honolulu, which illuminate the island every night like a beacon at sea.
- The billion-dollar makeover of once-run-down Waikiki, which after a decade of redevelopment now looks fabulous.
- The easy trip—less than an hour from Honolulu—to the rural North Shore, home of famous breaks at Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach and Banzai Pipeline and the laid-back surfer culture that grew up around them.
WHEN TO GO
The balmy weather on Oahu is honeymoon-friendly year-round, with temperatures typically between 75 and 85 degrees. During winter—surf season on the North Shore—humongous swells draw wave riders from all over the world. Summer bring lots of parents and kids and better surf at Waikiki.
WHAT TO PACK
Hawaii’s dress code is as relaxed as two honeymooners in a hammock. Shorts and T-shirts will do for most occasions. For eating out—and Oahu has world-class restaurants coming out its ears—"smart casual" is the norm, even in the swankiest dining rooms. Scenesters out for a taste of Honolulu nightlife should think clubbing attire.
WHAT TO BUY
A ukulele from Kamaka Ukuleles; Japanese snacks and toys from Shirokiya department store; books on Hawaiian culture, history and folklore from Native Books/Na Mea Hawai'i; kitschy souvenirs or serious hula accoutrements from the Hula Supply Center; who-knows-what from the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet.
For more information, contact the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (2270 Kalakaua Ave., Suite 801, Honolulu; 800-464-2924; gohawaii.com/oahu/). The Oahu Visitors Bureau Web site is also good: visit-oahu.com.
GETTING MARRIED ON OAHU
Hawaii’s wedding requirements are minimal—present a marriage-license application, government-issued photo ID and $60 in cash (along with the divorce or death certificate if you’ve been previously married) to a licensed marriage agent and you’re in. You can download applications at hawaii.gov/health and find a licensed marriage agent by calling the marriage license office at 808-586-4544.
With an abundance of sparkly beaches and splashy waterfalls, Oahu has plenty of picture-perfect outdoor locales for tying the knot and no shortage of lovely chapels either. You might even find a bona fide Hawaiian kahuna to officiate. Some of the island’s hotels have wedding planners who will handle every last detail for you, and many hotels have romantic packages geared toward newlyweds. For a directory of wedding vendors, ranging from beauty salons to videographers, visit the Oahu Wedding Association online at oahuweddingassociation.com.
NICO’S AT PIER 38
1133 N. Nimitz Highway
You never know what you’ll find when you poke around Honolulu’s gritty waterfront—unless, that is, you poke around Pier 38, where what you’ll find is gourmet food at plate-lunch prices. OK, it’s really plate-lunch food—but it’s made by a gourmet chef. That’s why the furikake ahi is seared on the outside and rare on the inside, rather than cooked tough as a piece of wood. And that’s why the fried calamari is light and crispy and comes with mixed greens rather than extra fryer grease. Credit Nicolas Chaize, a Frenchman turned Honoluluan who trained under chef Mavrothalassitis (see Chef Mavro, below). Nico’s is next door to Oahu’s fish auction, so you’d have to be on a boat or in the water to find fresher seafood.
3435 Waialae Ave.
If a neighborhood bistro could be a 19th-century communal religious society, then Town would be the Shakers: So honest, elegant and perfectly prepared is the food at this simple, soulful eatery that it reminds us of the fine cabinets, bed stands and rockers of Shaker furniture makers. The master craftsmanship here goes into dinner: heavenly house-made pasta gnocchi served in sage butter and sprinkled with peas and Parmigiano-Reggiano; slow-cooked pork cheeks so tender they fall apart at the mere sight of a fork; crispy moi fish so good you’ll want to tremble, shake and speak in tongues. (The menu changes daily.) Breakfasts and lunches are more basic but equally inspired.
2335 Kalakaua Ave.
For decades the father of modern surfing, Duke Kahanamoku, reigned over Waikiki Beach from his hangout at the old Outrigger Canoe Club. The site, snuggled between the venerable Royal Hawaiian and the Moana Surfrider resort, is now a delightfully kitschy yet oddly tasteful bar and eatery dedicated to the legendary Hawaiian waterman. With a collection of historic photos and memorabilia on par with a Hard Rock Cafe’s, Duke's conveys a sense of the old Hawaii its namesake knew. The dinner menu is replete with Hawaiian treats like huli huli chicken and opakapaka steamed in ti leaf. Even if you don't dine here, at least step up to the Barefoot Bar, a people-watching hot spot where musician Henry Kapono, a living Hawaiian legend, plays on Sundays.
ALAN WONG’S RESTAURANT
1857 S. King St.
Couples who like bold flavors and treasure hunts will love the hard-to-find, romantic little restaurant of this James Beard Award–winning chef. (You may have seen him on the 2006 season finale of Top Chef.) Hidden on the third floor of an office building, Wong's intimate and always-crowded place is well worth the Google Earth search. The specials on the East-meets-West Pacific-fusion menu change daily, but expect loads of garlic, ginger, wasabi, lemongrass, macadamia nuts, fresh seafood, keawe-wood-grilled meats and local produce. If the à la carte entrees look so good they paralyze you with indecision, go with the safe-bet five- and seven-course tasting menus.
1969 S. King St.
Even if chef George Mavrothalassitis had used his full name here, his business wouldn’t have suffered. Chef Mavro is the kind of place epicureans hold in such high regard that they’ll fly into Honolulu for a night just to dine here. The affable, curly-haired Mavro is one of the luminaries of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, but his Greek heritage and French upbringing put him in a class all its own. His menu changes quarterly but typically features big-name stars like Keahole lobster, bigeye ahi and roasted lamb, with a supporting cast of such ingredients as saffron, honey, goat cheese and salmon roe. Take the prix fixe route and get three, four, six or—gasp—11 courses.
1200 Ala Moana Blvd.
The humble plate lunch, Hawaii's favorite fast food, comes in for a healthy upgrade at this popular restaurant at the Ward shopping complex. Traditional choices like shoyu chicken, beef stew and fried ahi get a more nuanced handling than at your typical plate-lunch joint—and along with the conventional two scoops of white rice, there's a brown-rice option. In place of the traditional macaroni salad (tasty but kind of fatty), you can get a real salad made with organic mixed greens from Waimanalo. There's plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, and the tone is entirely casual. Despite the Kitchen's foodie tendencies, it’s so true to its roots that it still serves meals in the classic Styrofoam container.
FARMERS’ MARKET AT KAPIOLANI COMMUNITY COLLEGE
4303 Diamond Head Rd.
Tel: 808-848-2074 (Hawaii Farm Bureau)
If you like the idea of browsing for breakfast (in either sense of the word "browsing": surveying your choices before selecting or nibbling at everything in your path), this farmers’ market has an irresistible array of ready-to-eat treats. Each week a vendor is picked to do the breakfast special—something like, say, kalua pork, scrambled eggs, brown rice, cheese and pineapple salsa all rolled up inside a purple taro tortilla. Then there are the regular offerings, like Indian curries, Thai salads, Egyptian baked chicken; and baklava, fresh roasted corn, burgers, beignets, lumpia, Hawaiian-style chili and garlic shrimp; plus mangoes, bananas and papayas like you’ve never seen. The market is open every Saturday morning from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The Kahala Hotel & Resort
5000 Kahala Ave.
Look over the cooking implements in the open kitchen here and you’ll get an idea of the cross-cultural Hawaiian-Asian-European currents swirling through the menu. Notice the woks for stir-fries, the wood-burning tandoori oven for Indian breads, the keawe wood grill for the smoked Tasmanian salmon and the steaming pots for the butter-poached New England rock lobster. Elegant without the least bit of stuffiness, Hoku’s is one of the island’s most esteemed fine-dining establishments, and its second-floor beachfront setting at the exclusive Kahala Hotel & Resort adds to the loftiness. Chef Wayne Hirabayashi is one of the island’s most highly regarded cooks. If you’re feeling extra hungry, request Hirabayashi’s signature Seafood Tower, piled high with shrimp and clams.
Turtle Bay Resort
57-091 Kamehameha Highway
Ola (Hawaiian for "life") opened in late 2005 and quickly made a name for itself. It does high-end (and high-priced) island cuisine with an easygoing edge and an emphasis on freshness. Specialties include a slow-poached togarishi salmon with a crispy, caramelized cane-sugar crust, and there are more than 40 wines by the glass. The beach-shelter ambience (zip-up canvas walls, tinted Plexiglas roof panels, posts and beams cut from the surrounding ironwood forest) is sexy and fun—Ola looks as if it could have been built by a team of Hollywood set designers.
MATSUMOTO’S SHAVE ICE
66-087 Kamehameha Highway
In the movie 50 First Dates, Adam Sandler wears a T-shirt from Matsumoto's Shave Ice. He's not the only celebrity acolyte of Matsumoto’s, which has to be the most famous shave-ice stand in the world. Tom Hanks, Jason Scott Lee and about a zillion Japanese movie stars have been here, as the celebrity photo gallery on the store’s thin wooden walls prove. For the uninitiated, shave ice is made by packing the fine snowlike shavings from a block of ice into a paper cone, then drizzling colorful syrups over the top. You can have a scoop of ice cream added if you like. Aficionados get it with sugary adzuki beans. Just about everyone leaves with a T-shirt.
2199 Kalia Rd.
Just walked down the aisle in a white Vera Wang? Hang it at the Halekulani’s ultraposh Vera Wang suite, designed right down to the DVD collection by Ms. Wang herself. If the four-figure rate throws you, don’t worry: There are less pricey options, and every one of the 455 rooms and suites at this gracious resort is classy and rich with such amenities as marble vanities, deep soaking tubs and flat-screen TVs. Even the swimming pool, which ripples over a million-glass-tile mosaic of a Cattleya orchid, is a work of art. At the Halekulani’s casual House Without a Key (one of four top-notch restaurants), you can watch the sun set over the Pacific while former Miss Hawaii Kanoe Miller dances the hula beneath a century-old keawe tree.
2233 Helumoa Rd.
Tel: 800-422-0450, 808-921-7272
The Halekulani’s sister property is a cheaper date—a sleek new-wave Waikiki hipster, with tropical urban energy coursing through its veins, and ebony hardwood, backlit glass walls and undulating acrylic panels sheathing its public areas. The 297 rooms have a languorous minimalist look, with crisp white bedding, floor-to-ceiling plantation-style shutters and lighting that can be adjusted to excellent romantic effect. The Parc isn’t on the beach, but its ocean-vista rooms gaze out to sea across the graceful grounds of the Halekulani, where Parc guests have signing privileges. At the twice-a-week mixer beside the rooftop pool, guests sip wine and sample Pacific-fusion canapés. The Room and Vroom package offers two nights of lodging with the 24-hour use of a Lotus Elise sports car.
THE ROYAL HAWAIIAN
2259 Kalakaua Ave.
Tel: 866-716-8109, 808-923-7311
When the "Pink Palace of the Pacific" opened in 1927, she was unspeakably chic. Nowadays, with her Moorish cupolas about as fashionable as a flapper’s tiara, the old granny gets by on her iconic retro charm. What hasn’t changed is the glorious real estate she holds along Waikiki’s choicest stretch of beach. Catching a sunset from the venerable Mai Tai Bar (birthplace of the Shirley Temple) is still something to write home about. The 528 rooms and suites are divided between the original building and a skyscraping addition. The vintage rooms have an undeniable pre–jet age elegance, with canopy beds and Queen Anne–style writing desks. The modern rooms are larger, with lanais and ocean views. Old and new rooms alike are awash in pale crimson hues. (Note: The hotel will be closed during the last half of 2008 for renovations.)
WAIKIKI BEACH MARRIOTT RESORT AND SPA
2552 Kalakaua Ave.
Tel: 800-367-5370, 808-922-6611
With not one but two of the tallest towers (25 and 33 stories) in Waikiki, the Marriott really stands out. Sure, it’s a behemoth, but it’s not only the large number of the hotel’s rooms and suites—1,310—that distinguishes them. It’s also their extra-comfy Marriott beds, their spaciousness, their marble floors and granite counters, their breezy island decor and their private lanais with—in almost every case—knockout views. The hotel stands right across the street from Waikiki Beach and a short walk from Kapiolani Park, the zoo and the aquarium. The romance packages include an ocean-view corner room, champagne or sparkling cider and chocolate-covered strawberries on your arrival, with a couple’s option at the full-service spa created and managed by well-known hairstylist Paul Brown.
129 Paoakalani Ave.
We love Waikiki’s flaming-tiki-torch mentality and go-go-go pace. But we also love the oasis of calm that this 72-room boutique hotel represents. A mere half block from the beach, Renew just emerged from a modern-Asian makeover that put handsome limestone and sandblasted oak in its common areas and shoji doors and bamboo accents in its rooms. Its trickling-water yin side is balanced by a high-tech yang side—Wi-Fi throughout the building and, in the rooms, digital amenities like iPod docks, flat-screen TVs with wireless keyboards and InnNetwork’s Everything on Demand entertainment system. The hotel’s name hints at its environmental ethos, evident in its organic coffees and teas, in-room recycling and dimmable lights that can both save energy and set a dreamy mood for newlyweds.
W HONOLULU–DIAMOND HEAD
2885 Kalakaua Ave.
You know the W formula by now: boutique hotels staffed by hip young things—and that’s what you’ll find here. It’s a casually elegant place where the employees will bend over backward for you chanting "Whatever/Whenever," the corporate mantra, which is such a linchpin of the W identity that it’s stamped on a button on each room phone. This one’s small for a W: only 50 rooms and suites, each decorated with teak furnishings and white linens. It’s not on the beach but, rather, just across the street from quiet Kapiolani Park. (The beach is close, though.) On weekends the restaurant becomes a popular nightclub. The romance package includes a bottle of wine in your room, breakfast for two each day and a late—2 p.m.—checkout.
THE KAHALA HOTEL & RESORT
5000 Kahala Ave.
Since Oahu’s original luxury resort opened in 1964, it’s seen a nonstop procession of glitterati, royalty, pro golfers and presidents. Part of the draw is the location: tony Kahala neighborhood, lovely beach, quiet (except during the Sony Open) golf course—and all just 10 minutes from Waikiki. It’s secluded, in other words, but also close to major attractions. A recent renovation beat any mustiness out of the 312 spacious rooms and 31 opulent suites, leaving them with a contemporary island decor: think ivory and coffee tones, parquet floors, ceiling fans and two- or four-poster beds. Yes, Waikiki is just over the hill, but the Kahala is so rich with amenities (it’s even got a dolphin lagoon) that you could happily stay put for days.
TURTLE BAY RESORT
57-091 Kamehameha Highway
Tel: 800-203-3650, 808-293-6000
Spread over 880 acres on the northernmost tip of the island, this rural resort is a world away from Waikiki—perfect for a peaceful honeymoon in the country. The 421 sleek and spacious rooms and suites are loaded with amenities, but the 41 beach cottages are the real gems. With their polished Brazilian walnut floors, 15-foot ceilings, feather comforters over king-size four-poster beds and practically-in-the-water oceanfront locations, you may not want to leave. If you do break away, the resort has riding stables, two heated swimming pools, four restaurants, 36 holes of golf, five miles of shoreline and pineapple pedicures in the Spa Luna.
LANIKAI BEACH RENTALS
1277 Mokulua Drive
Tel: 800-258-7895, 808-261-7895
For an alternative to the hotel scene, head to the famously laid-back beach town of Kailua on Oahu’s sunny windward side. Lanikai Beach Rentals handles around 20 vacation rentals there, either on the beach at Lanikai—Kailua’s most desirable neighborhood—or just around the corner. The offerings run from luxury homes to studio apartments attached to stately old beach houses. Lanikai Garden Studio is one of the latter, an airy little high-ceilinged honeymoon hideaway with a private entrance just 100 yards from the beach. Another gem is the Lanikai Cottage, a charming one-bedroom island-style home with a garden deck, and it too is just steps from the sand. Expect five- to seven-night minimums (which force you to settle in and get comfy) and starting rates on par with those of a swanky hotel room.
WATCH THE WAVES
Winter is big-wave season in Hawaii: Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, the Banzai Pipeline and all the other breaks along the famous North Shore "go off," as surfers say when the ocean gets exciting. If it’s going off when you’re there, a road trip out for a look-see is a fun way to pass the afternoon. But keep in mind three caveats: 1) When the surf’s up, traffic just barely crawls along the two-lane highway; that’s OK, though, because it allows the driver to take in the view too. 2) The bigger the waves get, the farther out they break, so bring binoculars. 3) Stay out of the water, unless you’re under the supervision of someone from Baywatch (see Learn to Surf, below).
LEARN TO SURF
Of the multitude of beach-boy kiosks hawking surfing lessons along Waikiki Beach, our favorite is Aloha Beach Services, in front of the Moana Surfrider hotel. If you’re lucky you might snag the legendary beach boy Blue Makua Jr. (whose father surfed with Duke Kahanamoku back in the day) as your instructor. There’s no phone, but you can call the hotel (808-922-3111) and ask to be connected to the school. For surf lessons in less tourist-clogged waters, paddle out on the North Shore with Sunset Suzy (808-981-2692; sunsetsuzy.com), who appeared in the movie Blue Crush and served as a stuntwoman on Baywatch. And don’t worry about the North Shore’s monster surf—Susy knows where the beginners’ breaks are.
TAKE A HIKE
If you’ve had your fill of the city, leave Honolulu for a taste of the island’s natural beauty. Popular hikes with big rewards include Manoa Falls Trail, a short jaunt through the rain forest to a lovely waterfall and swimming hole; the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, a scenic 1.4-mile climb to the top of an iconic headland with excellent winter whale watching; and the Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve, where the trail follows an old sugar-cane railroad line through wild coastal sand dunes where albatrosses nest. If you’re feeling more adventurous, call the Sierra Club (808-538-6616) for a schedule of guided hikes on more difficult trails.
BOND WITH THE SEA LIFE
See spinning dolphins, leaping "wolphins" (whale and dolphin hybrids) and those oh-so-cute waddling penguins at Oahu Sea Life Park (41-202 Kalanianaole Highway; 866-766-6284; sealifeparkhawaii.com). At the park’s "Splash University," you can swim with the dolphins as you help "train" them (or so the clever marine mammals would have you think). For a dip on the wilder side, head out to blue water with North Shore Shark Adventures (808-228-5900; sharktourshawaii.com) and jump into a protective shark cage for nose-to-nose encounters with the top-of-the-food-chain predator. They won’t believe it back home until they see the video of you holding on to your sweetie as Jaws swims by.
TAKE A TRIP TO SHANGRI LA
Mad with a passion for the Islamic arts she discovered on her (first) honeymoon, which took her deep into the Middle East, the billionaire tobacco heiress Doris Duke built herself a palatial hideaway right out of The Arabian Nights. She started work on "Shangri La" in 1937 and kept at it until her death in 1993—and you can have a peek. Every garden, courtyard, dining hall, library and prayer niche in the five-acre seaside complex at the foot of Diamond Head is done up in Islamic style and loaded with Islamic art—a collection ranging from 1500 B.C. to the 20th century. Tours are given Wednesdays through Saturdays. You leave from the Honolulu Academy of Arts (900 S. Beretania St.), and you’re advised to reserve well in advance (866-DUKE-TIX; shangrilahawaii.org ).
HEAD FOR THE BIG TOP, HAWAIIAN-STYLE
Cirque Hawaii (325 Seaside Ave.; 808-922-0017; cirquehawaii.com ) suggests a scaled-down, more intimate (if a show with 30-plus performers can be intimate) version of Cirque du Soleil. Which is hardly surprising, since that’s where some of the people who started it came from. All the New Circus elements are here: magic, comedy, costumes and sexy young contortionists and acrobats from such exotic locales as Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Los Angeles. The 90-minute show flies by faster than the Chinese identical-twin aerialists who are among its stars.
VISIT THE CROWN JEWELS
Who could pass up a tour of the only official royal residence in the United States? Built in 1882 by King David Kalakaua, the Florentine-style Iolani Palace (364 S. King St.; 808-522-0832; iolanipalace.org) was occupied by Hawaiian royals for just 11 years before a cabal of non-Hawaiians overthrew the monarchy. Jewels from the king’s crown were stolen, but they were recovered, and you can see them here today, along with the rest of the crown jewels and other regal items attesting to the monarchy’s love of red and gold. Photography isn’t allowed, which is a shame, because you would cherish a picture of your guy and you in the little plastic booties they make you wear to protect the highly polished wooden floors and reproduction carpets.
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN ART
Since Honolulu is the Crossroads of the Pacific, naturally its foremost art museum, the Honolulu Academy of Arts (900 S. Beretania St.; honoluluacademy.org), is going to have a phenomenal Asian art collection. (Check out the iconic Great Wave off Kanagawa.) And obviously it’s going to have a top-notch Hawaiiana collection; the pictorial record of the islands stretches back to the first European contact. Less expected are the Western masterpieces, like Whistler’s Arrangement in Black No. 5: Lady Meux (said to have been commissioned by the former actress’ fiancé in an image campaign intended to make her more respectable) and Gauguin’s Two Nudes on a Tahitian Beach. And the museum is in the coolest stucco, hip-roofed, island-style building in the whole Aloha State.
SNORKEL OR DIVE AT HANAUMA BAY
There’s good snorkeling and scuba diving all around the island, but nowhere are the fish friendlier than in the sheltered waters of Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve (7455 Kalanianole Highway; 808-396-4429). Although this partially collapsed volcanic cone has a gorgeous palm-tree-fringed crescent beach, it’s first and foremost a nature preserve, and fishing is off-limits. Consequently the wrasses, moorish idols and other fish are as thick as rush-hour traffic and as tame as kittens. Go early to get parking, and allow an extra 10 minutes to watch the mandatory video on how to be an eco-friendly snorkeler.
ALA MOANA CENTER
1450 Ala Moana Blvd.
You can’t avoid Ala Moana Center—and you wouldn’t want to anyway. Sprawling over 2.5 million square feet just outside Waikiki, this four-level Promised Land for shopaholics was the largest shopping mall in the world when it opened in 1959. Now it’s simply the largest "open-air" shopping mall in the world. The 290 or so tenants run the gamut from fashion temples like Armani, Fendi and Tiffany to standards like Banana Republic, Gap and Old Navy to a variety of homegrown Hawaiian retailers (see Hawaiian Island Creations, below). There’s even a Japanese department store (see Shirokiya, below).
Ala Moana Center
1450 Ala Moana Blvd.
This purveyor of all things Japanese makes you feel like you’ve slipped through a wrinkle in the time-space continuum and popped out in Tokyo. In fact, it’s older than Tokyo, having opened as a dry-goods store in the 17th century, when Tokyo was a little collection of grass houses called Edo. Flash forward to 1903, when the venerable store reinvented itself as a Western-style department store. Flash forward again to 1959, when Shirokiya began expanding overseas, and then again to the 1990s, when the Japanese economic bubble burst, taking the Shirokiya empire with it. The Honolulu Shirokiya is the last one standing, and the best place east of the Land of the Rising Sun to find painted parasols, pickled plums, appliances that can turn themselves on and off and, of course, anything having to do with Hello Kitty.
HAWAIIAN ISLAND CREATIONS
Ala Moana Center
1450 Ala Moana Blvd.
Also at 348 Hahani St., Kailua; 808-266-6730
Ward Entertainment, 310 Kamakee St., Honolulu; 808-593-7873
66-224 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa; 808-637-0991
95-1249 Meheula Parkway, Mililani; 808-627-7100
Pearlridge Shopping Center, 98-1005 Moanalua Rd., Aiea; 808-483-6700
590 Farrington Highway, Kapolei; 808-674-4001
When HIC opened in the 1970s, in the beach town of Kailua, the local surf rats proudly sported the T-shirts of their hometown surf shop. They all knew that HIC’s logo—a lone palm in front of a volcano erupting with what must be life itself—was way cooler than any other surf shop’s. Now there are HICs all over the island, but the logo hasn’t changed, and because some of their stuff is next to impossible to find outside Hawaii, it still carries considerable cachet. You’ll discover it adorning backpacks, tube tops, ladies tees and scant, sexy little board shorts with "enjoy the ride" arching across the back. It’s on the surfboards too, of course. But the T-shirts are cheaper.
ANNE NAMBA DESIGNS
324 Kamani St.
Anne Namba’s grandfather sailed to Hawaii from Japan in 1905; her grandmother came as a picture bride, and she herself was raised in Honolulu, Bangkok and Tehran. She studied fashion in New York City, cut her sartorial teeth in the garment industry there and designed for the costume department at Radio City Music Hall. Back in Honolulu, she’s woven all those threads into her distinctive East-meets-West clothing designs: tapered Mandarin jackets with carved jade buttons, Saigon floats, tie-dyed kimono fabrics. She even does Japanese wedding gowns. Are you wondering, in the back of your mind, Who is it I’ve heard of that wears Namba? Hillary Rodham Clinton, of course.
1050 Ala Moana Blvd.
226 Lewers St.
The four surfer-skater-entrepreneurial dudes who started this pair of urban-clothing boutiques did so in their own streetwise Honolulu-hipster images. The look involves equal parts West Coast hip-hop and Hawaiian-style action sports, with a good dash of Japanese anime. Look for designs by Freshjive, Fiberops, Crooks and Castles, Daggers Drawn, Methamphibian and the like, along with In4mation’s homegrown line of T-shirts, hats and hoodies. Occasionally the stockroom is graced with some limited-edition kicks, like the ones Nike put out in its unlikely alliance with Heineken (which happens to be one of Hawaii’s favorite beers). Slowly but surely, the young punk owners are beefing up the selection of women’s apparel.
550 South St.
What Stradivari was to violins, Kamaka is to ukuleles. The big difference is that you can still buy a new Kamaka. While there are lots of Kamaka dealers around, buying at the factory is much more satisfying. (You can’t take one away with you, though—you place your order and they ship it to you.) Take the free tour (10:30 a.m., Tuesday–Friday) and you’ll learn about the painstaking process involved in fashioning raw koa lumber—aged four years before it’s even touched—into these exquisite instruments. You’ll also get to test-drive each of Kamaka’s nine models, including the patented Pineapple, an oval uke with a distinctly mellower sound than the traditional figure-eight. With ukulele prices starting at around $650, the 10-percent factory-direct discount is another plus.
HULA SUPPLY CENTER AND HAWAIIAN TRADERS
2338 S. King St.
The world’s largest Polynesian dance-supply retailer has always had a curious combination of culturally correct accoutrements for the serious hula dancer and ticky-tacky touristy gewgaws. Not that we have anything against ticky-tacky gewgaws. You could go home with an authentic ti-leaf hula skirt—but it wouldn’t wear nearly as long as a Day-Glo cellophane-grass skirt. (Actually, you have to order the former two weeks in advance.) Either one will go great with a coconut-shell bra. Through the years the souvenir side of the Hula Supply Center spilled over into the space next door and became a separate-but-not-really store, Hawaiian Traders. For do-it-yourselfers, there’s a lovely selection of Hawaiian tapa-print fabrics.
NATIVE BOOKS/NA MEA HAWAI'I
1050 Ala Moana Blvd.
Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa
2005 Kalia Rd.
A lot of allegedly Hawaiian souvenirs are really made in the Philippines or Malaysia, but not at this classy Hawaiian-run book, gift and souvenir shop. All the handicrafts, jewelry, clothing, body-care lotions and potions and whatnot sold here are made in the Hawaiian Islands. OK, maybe some of the books are printed elsewhere—but they’re all about Hawaii. Titles range from scholarly works on history and language to guides covering Hawaiian birds, fish and hiking to collections of local recipes for anything from tropical rum cocktails to Spam. (NB: The gift shop at the Hilton Hawaii Village in Waikiki stocks only a few books.) There are sometimes classes on Hawaiian crafts, such as lauhala weaving, and Hawaiian musicians perform regularly in the miniature amphitheater outside. Check the store’s Web site for the calendar of events.
ALOHA STADIUM SWAP MEET
99-500 Salt Lake Blvd.
With more than 500 vendors arranged in concentric circles around the 50,000-seat Aloha Stadium, there’s simply too much variety here to convey with a few examples. But for starters: Hawaiian jams, jellies, honey and doll clothing; Bob Marley bumper stickers and other reggae gift items; custom-made Hawaiian jewelry; and handbags and accessories. There’s also an amazing concession stand that sells Hawaiian food. Go early, before the die-hard collectors snatch up all the vintage silky aloha shirts and hula-girl lamps liberated by garage sales, and before the sun heats up the asphalt parking lot to desert temperatures.