The best shopping in Hawaii is found on the island of Oahu. The city of Honolulu is the most obvious destination if you have money to spend, and here you will find huge markets, high-end boutiques, and shopping malls. All of the usual US department stores (Costco, Wall-Mart, Best Buy, and Radio Shack) have outlets across the city, and there are also plenty of unique options as well. Other rewarding shopping experiences are to be found elsewhere on the island in places like Kailua, Haleiwa, and Kapolei. A visit to a farmers’ market is a must during a trip to Oahu if you wish to enjoy an authentic shopping experience.
What to Buy on Oahu?
It is nice to pick up some local products when visiting somewhere exotic like Oahu. You are going to be bombarded with shops selling things like Hawaiian shirts and Aloha t-shirts, but there are also plenty of unique gifts available as well. Some of the local products you can choose from include:
- Hawaiian Coffee – try Waialua Estate Coffee
- Shell jewelry
- Hawaiian salad dressing
- Objects made from monkey pod wood (Albizia saman)
- Koa wood ring
- Fresh island fruit (such as papaya, longan, Lychee, pineapple, star fruit, and mango)
- Macadamia Nuts
- Local jams
- Traditional clothing
- Hawaiian print bags
- Hawaiian teas
- Hawaiian Leis
- Paintings or other work by local artists
- Hawaiian style chili sauces
- Surf boards – you will find plenty of small shops in the main surfing areas of the island such as Haleiwa.
Main Shopping Areas on Oahu Include:
Honolulu is the largest city and capital of Hawaii – it has a population of one million people. One of the best places to go shopping in the downtown area would be the Ala Moana Shopping Center (see below). There is a Chinatown to the east of the downtown area, and this is a good place to go for exotic fruit and Asian groceries. The area close to the intersection at Nuuanu and Pauahi is good for things like antiques and art. The Aloha Tower Marketplace (see below) is located down by the waterfront.
Waikiki is the main tourist area in Honolulu – it is to the east of downtown. There are many resorts and hotels here and plenty of great opportunities to go shopping. The International Market Place is on Kalakaua Avenue (see below), and there are also plenty of malls to choose from such as the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, DFS Galleria, and Waikiki Shopping Plaza (see below). If you are looking for an old fashioned grocery store, you might want to check out the Food Pantry (2370 Kuhio Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815).
There are a few notable shopping opportunities here such as the Kailua Town Center Mall (see below). Global Village (539 Kailua Road 104, Kailua, HI 96734) is a ‘mom n pop’ boutique which sells locally crafted jewelry as well as clothing for men, women, and children. The East Honolulu Clothing Company is a good option if you are looking for cool clothing that you won’t find anywhere else on the island.
Kapolei is becoming a real jewel when it comes to opportunities for shopping. This town has undergone a great deal of development in recent years, and local commerce is really starting to blossom. The best selection of outlets is to be found at the Kapolei Shopping Center (see below).
Haleiwa (Hale’iwa) is a small town on the north of the island. There are some charming looking shops (plantation style buildings) here where you can pick up things like surf boards. It’s a laid back kind of place, and most of the visitors who come here spend their time riding the waves. If you have a sweet tooth, you will want to check out the North Shore Chocolate Factory (66-470 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa, HI 96712). There are a number of art galleries in the area where you can pick up some interesting items to take home. There is a farmer’s market here on Thursdays between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. (see below).
Best Malls on Oahu
There are some excellent indoor and outdoor malls to choose from on Oahu.
Ala Moana Shopping Center
1450 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96814
Hours: Monday to Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Ala Moana is the largest shopping center in Hawaii and the largest outdoor mall in the world. This is a shopper’s paradise with over 300 stores and restaurants to choose from. You could walk around Ala Moana for hours and still only scratch the surface of what is available here – it covers an area of 2,100,000 square feet. There is a good mix of shops selling luxury goods (e.g. Tiffany & Co., Prada, and Lacoste) as well as plenty of mid-range shops and places selling local crafts and souvenirs. There are four department stores including Macy’s, Shirokiya, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus. Other popular stores at Ala Moana include Banana Republic, Longs Drugs, ABC Stores and GameStop. There are also many dining options such as the California Pizza Kitchen, McDonalds, Chinatown Express, Subway, and the Steak & Fish Company.
Kahala Mall Shopping Center
4211 Waialae Avenue, Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96816
Hours: Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 a.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Kahala Mall Shopping Center is the largest indoor mall in Hawaii. It is a bit less intense than Ala Moana because it tends to be less crowded – the fact that it is indoors with air-conditioning means it is a good place to go to escape the heat. There is a good range of shops to be found here including the big names like: Macy’s, the Whole Foods Market, Banana Republic, Longs Drugs, Radio Shack, Sunglass Hut, T-Mobile, The Walking Company, and Verizon. Anyone who wants to work on their physical fitness can check out Core Power Yoga or the free Tai Chi lessons available at the center court on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays (8 a.m. to 9 a.m.). Diners get to choose from plenty of great options like Aloha Salads, California Pizza Kitchen, Chili’s Grill & Bar, Taco Bell, Panda Express, and Pizza Hut.
Mililani Shopping Center
95-390 Kuahelani Avenue Building 2, Mililani, HI 96789
Hours: Twenty-four hours for some businesses
Visitors to Mililani will find a much better selection of shops in the shopping center than they will in the nearby town center. It can sometimes be difficult to find parking outside of here but a free space will always become available if you are patient. There are about seventy shops and restaurants to choose from here including: GameStop, Jamba Juice, Jack in The Box, T-Mobile, and Foodland. There is also a branch of 24 Hour Fitness.
Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center
2201 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815
Hours: Monday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center is the largest mall in Waikiki. There are 110 shops and restaurants here to explore. Big spenders will be able to burn off some money by visiting high-end places like Rolex Kaimana Kea, Ferrari, Cartier, Hermès, Marciano, or Salvatore Ferragamo. This is not the best place on the island to go if you are looking for a bargain, but this venue does provide a nice shopping experience. The food court here is particularly good with a wide selection of options. The Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center provides a complimentary cultural program which includes things like live Hawaiian music and dancing, ukulele lessons, hula dancing, lei-making, and Hawaiian quilting – check out their website for the events on this week.
Waikiki Shopping Plaza
2250 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815
Hours: Monday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Waikiki Shopping Plaza is another shopping destination where the focus is on tourists with plenty of money to spend. There are a number of specialized shops here such as Victoria Secret’s, Armani, and Alter Ego. Waikiki Shopping Plaza is divided into three different buildings, so it can get a bit confusing to get around if it is your first time. The food court here has a good variety of options, but it is not as good as the one at the nearby Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. They have nightly shows here in the lobby, and they also offer free Hawaiian quilting lessons on Tuesdays and Fridays at 5:30 p.m. – although anyone who wants to take part will need to purchase a $32 quilting kit (as of late 2013).
330 Royal Hawaiian Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815
Hours: Monday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The DFS Galleria is the place to go for duty free shopping. There are thousands of products here to choose from, and the fact that there is no tax (for foreign tourists) to pay means that it is possible to pick up some good bargains including top brands like DKNY, Burberry, Coach, and Ray-Ban. One of the really nice things about this place is you can pick up plenty of free samples, and they also have a DJ here every Saturday between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. – one option if you are looking for a cheap night out.
Kailua Town Center Mall
609 Kailua Rodd, Kailua, HI 96734
Hours: Individual shops have their own set hours
Kailua Town Center Mall is part of Kaneohe Ranch and spread out over a number of streets (all of the properties are owned by Harold K.L. Castle and Alice H. Castle). This is a pedestrianized area with and the architecture of the buildings based on a modern Hawaiian style. Shops here include Longs Drugs, Whole Food Market, Foodland Super Market, Bookends, Game Stop, Macy’s, and Radio Shack. There is also a good selection of dining options such as Bob’s Pizzeria, Jamba Juice, K & K Barbecue Inn, Maui Tacos, Teddy’s Bigger Burgers, and Subway.
Aloha Tower Marketplace
1 Aloha Tower Drive, Honolulu, HI 96813, United States
Hours: Monday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Aloha Tower Marketplace is located down by the harbor area of Downtown Honolulu. The focal point of this area is the Aloha Tower, and you can go up here for free to enjoy some nice panoramic views of the city. This is a lovely area to walk around, especially where there is a nice sea breeze, and there are plenty of options for shopping as well as dining. There is live music here throughout the week at different times throughout the day (see their calendar for details). There are shops selling every type of item imaginable including: clothing, accessories, home décor items, candles, sarongs, local art, jewelry, Hawaiian print bags, children’s toys, and macadamia nuts. There is also an abundance of places to eat and drink.
Kapolei Shopping Center
91-590 Farrington Highway, Kapolei, HI 96707
Hours: Individual shops set their own hours. Some open 24 hours
There are about thirty stores at Kapolei Shopping Center including options such as: Safeway, Radio Shack, Longs Drugs, AT&T Wireless, Jeans Warehouse, GameStop, and Kapolei Jewelry. It is a convenient place to shop, but there can be a problem finding a parking space when it is busy – it is best to come here early in the morning or late in the evening if you have a car. Dining options at Kapolei Shopping Center include: Taco Bell, Tasty Korean Barbeque, Subway, Sushi Bay, Baskin Robbins, KFC, McDonalds, and Chili’s Grill & Bar.
Best Markets on Oahu
One of the real joys of shopping in Oahu is visiting the farmers markets and swap meets. Some of the best options for this would include:
International Market Place
2330 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815, United States
Hours: Monday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The International Market Place arguably offers the most interesting shopping experience in the whole of Hawaii. The best day to go here is usually Thursday when the place is in full swing. There does tend to be many stalls selling similar things, but this level of competition also makes it easier to pick up a bargain. This is the place to go if you are looking for cheap souvenirs, clothing, knick-knacks, traditional crafts, jewelry, beach wear, and new age products. It is highly recommended that you haggle hard here – if you accept the original price you will be paying more than you need to. There are also many stalls where you can pick up some tasty snacks or food to take home.
Aloha Stadium Swap Meet
99-500 Salt Lake Boulevard, Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96818
Hours: Wednesdays and Saturdays 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (some Saturdays closed for the UH Football Season).
It costs one dollar to gain admission to Aloha Swap Meet and for that price you have the opportunity to pick up some of the best bargains on the island. Souvenirs can be significantly cheaper here than you will pay in the resort areas, but you have to be willing to haggle. This is the largest open-air market in Hawaii with usually around three hundred sellers. Vendors set up their stalls in a ring shape around the stadium, and it can take a few hours to do this market justice.
KCC Farmers’ Market
Kapiolani Community College, 4303 Diamond Head Road, Honolulu, HI 96816
Hours: Tuesday 4 pm. to 7 p.m. and Saturday 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
KCC Farmers’ Market is a superb option if you are looking for fresh fruit and vegetables. It is best to get here early if you want to have a good selection of products. There are also plenty of cooked food options and snacks if you want to eat something on the go. You can also pick up flowers and plants here including orchids. It does get crowded here, but it has a nice atmosphere.
Haleiwa Farmers’ Market
Beautiful Waimea Valley, 59-864 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa, HI 96712
Hours: Thursday 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Here you will find a good selection of locally grown products. They also usually have some live music, so it can be a pleasant place to visit for a couple of hours on a Thursday afternoon. On busy days a lot of the fruit and vegetables will be long gone before six, so it is a good idea to get here as early as you can.
Kai Farmers’ Market
Kaiser High School, parking lot, 511 Lunalilo Home Road, Hawaii Kai, HI96825
Open Hours: Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
One of the nice things about Kai Farmer’s Market is that it doesn’t get too packed, and it less touristy than some of the other options. There is a good selection of products on sale including fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh baked goods, pastries, and even a fire oven pizza wagon. The market is made up of stalls as well as product tents.
Best Places to Buy Books on Oahu
You will have no problem finding reading material during your stay on Oahu. The most popular bookshops include:
Barnes & Noble has a number of stores on the island including branches at Waialae Avenue (Honolulu), Kahala Mall, Ala Moana Mall, and Keawe Street (Honolulu).
Bookends can be found at Kailua Town Center Mall
Jelly’s Honolulu (98-023 Hekaha Street #9, Aiea, HI 96701) sells new and used books.
Revolution Books (2626 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96826) offers an eclectic mix of titles.
Best Places to Buy Computers, Appliances, and Electrical Goods on Oahu
There is an Apple store in Ala Moana Shopping Center, Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, and Kahala Mall Shopping Center. Radio Shack has branches all over the island – including in most of the malls. Best Buy has a branch on Alakawa Street in Honolulu. It is also possible to pick up some reasonably priced computers and electrical goods at Costco. Wal-Mart has branches at Keeaumoku Street (Honolulu), Kuala Street (Pearl City), and Lanikuhana Avenue (Mililani).
Where to Buy Souvenirs on Oahu?
All of the main resorts areas will have an ample selection of shops selling souvenirs, but they can be more expensive to buy here. The International Market Place offers the most choice, and you can pick up some great deals here as well. Another option for souvenirs would be the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet – if you know how to haggle, you will be able to get the best deals here. If you are looking to take back food items, the best option will be the farmers’ markets.
One of the most popular souvenirs that people will take back home with them from a trip to Oahu is a ukulele. These are on sale everywhere, but they are not always good quality. If you want to be sure of getting something decent, you might try somewhere like Easy Music Store (1314 South King Street, Honolulu) – they have about fifty different quality models. It is also possible to buy directly from the factories on the island, if you want to get the best possible deal.
Where to Buy Food on Oahu?
If you are looking for cheap groceries you might try Costco – there are branches at Alakawa Street (Honolulu), Ka Uka Boulevard (Waipahu), and Kapolei Parkway (Kapolei). Safeway has branches at Kapahulu Avenue (Honolulu), East Manoa Road (Honolulu), and Farrington Highway (Kapolei). Anyone staying in Waikiki will be able to pick up reasonably priced groceries at the Food Pantry on Kuhio Avenue. If you are looking for fresh goods the farmers’ markets will be the place to go. The Whole Foods Store has branches on Waialae Avenue (Honolulu), and Kailua Road (Kailua).
Where to go shopping with Kids on Oahu?
Kahala Mall Shopping Center has ‘toddler time’ every Wednesday (10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.), and this involves things like crafts, toddler yoga, and fairy stories. Children tend to enjoy the International Market as there are plenty of street performers and interesting stalls, but it might be worth giving this place a miss at peak times. The Rhelm Adventure Theater at Aloha Tower Marketplace is like a cross between a theme park and a children’s museum. Haleiwa Farmers’ Market puts on activities to keep kids entertained such as arts and crafts.