Hawaii is well known for surfing, rugged and Jurassic-like mountains, sprawling tropical resorts, and for being the birthplace of Barack Obama (actually, maybe that's not so well known). But Aussie travellers in the know – numbering in the hundreds of thousands annually – also head to the "Land of Aloha" for shopping.
Despite all the things Australians love about Hawaii – mai tais, sunsets, volcanos and beautiful beaches to name but a few – shopping is our number one favourite pastime, says Hawaii Tourism Oceania. Some (albeit highly organised) Australian travellers reportedly do their annual shop here – snapping up bargains on clothing, shoes, cosmetics and Christmas gifts.
Hawaii's busiest and most populated island, Oahu, in particular, is a shopper's paradise with its mix of outlet stores, cool local boutiques, discount shopping, US chain and department stores. Maui also boasts outlet shopping, local boutiques and designer wear, but on a smaller scale.
For savvy shoppers, the best time to coincide your visit is peak sale periods – Thanksgiving (Black Friday in particular) and Memorial Day – when bargains of up to 50 per cent can be found across Hawaii, giving you even more bang for your Aussie dollar.
For those planning a Hawaiian sojourn, here's Traveller's guide to the best of Hawaii shopping. Just be sure to squeeze some beach time in too.
OUTLET AND DISCOUNT STORES
Waikele Premium Outlets (premiumoutlets.com), a mega centre, offers good value retail stores and factory outlets including Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger, True Religion Brand Jeans, Polo Ralph Lauren, Saks Fifth Avenue and more. A shuttle operates from Waikiki and takes about 40 minutes.
Ross Dress for Less (rossstores.com) is a no-frills discount retailer with numerous stores across Hawaii, including one in Waikiki, and a second outlet soon to open at Ala Moana (more on that later) shopping centre. You need to scour the racks (organised by size) for hidden treasures, but bargains reward those willing to put in the effort.
On Maui you'll find a bunch of terrific outlet stores at Lahaina (outletsofmaui.com) featuring the likes of Gap, Michael Kors, Coach, Adidas and an Aloha Swimwear Outlet. A West Maui shuttle service operates between resort properties in Ka'anapali as well as Lahaina Harbor.
SHOPPING CENTRES AND MALLS
The world's largest open-air shopping centre, Ala Moana (alamoanacenter.com), offers more than 290 stores, including the flagship stores for major international, national and local retailers. Here you'll find surf shops such as Town and Country and Hawaiian Island Creations, upscale boutiques such as Chanel and Gucci, and staples including Macy's and Nordstrom. Bloomingdales has just recently opened here, Ross Dress for Less is set to open any day soon; while kids love the Disney Store. Refuel at the Makai Market, Hawaii's largest international food court, take in a hula show (daily at 1pm) and reward yourself post retail frenzy with a mai tai at the rooftop MTB.
The Ward Village Shops (wardvillageshops.com), a short distance from Waikiki, also features a terrific bunch of shopping, dining and entertainment options including a 16-screen movie theatre. Here you'll find Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx as well as locally-owned boutiques selling everything from designer muumuu (Hawaiian dresses) through to homewares and cookware.
Another notable retail hub on the eastern side of Oahu is Kahala Mall (kahalamallcenter.com), 10-15 minutes' drive from Waikiki, offering dozens of independent local retailers and hip boutiques like Adore, Ohelo Road and In My Closet.
BOUTIQUES, BARBERSHOPS AND VINTAGE ALOHA WEAR
Hip jersey dresses and tunics by Fighting Eel (fightingeel.com) can be found in Hawaii's boutiques and stores, or scoop up last season's collections at bargain prices in Honolulu's Chinatown. Fair trade, independent designer wear along with fun, frivolous and handmade products abound at Owens and Co (owensandcompany.com); see Echo and Atlas in China Town for effortless island style and hand-picked curios; while Barrio Vintage (barriovintage.com), also in China Town, has retro threads and ubiquitous Hawaiian shirts covered. Homecoming Boutique (shophomecominghonolulu.com) offers wall-to-wall "Hawaiian rock'n'roll" fashion, and spiked ballerina flats. A hop, skip and jump away, men can snack, shop and shave at Mojo Barbershop (mojobarbershop.com) which offers haircuts, straight razor shaves and cold beer.
On Maui, numerous stylish boutiques can be found in the Hawaiian plantation township of Paia on Maui's North Shore, including Mahina (shopmahina.com) for breezy sundresses and striking accessories, Nuage Bleu (nuagebleu.com) for upscale women's and kid's wear, while Imrie Industries II (imrieindustries.com) rocks cool bikinis and casual wear for both sexes.
Upcountry in the bohemian town of Makawao, you'll find locally made goods and swimwear at the Designing Wahine Emporium (designingwahine.com), while clutches, textiles and chic women's wear can be found at Holiday and Co (holidayandcomaui.com). The super cute Sip Me (sipmemaui.com) offers a welcome coffee and cake stop.
On the Big Island, the whimsical Hula Moon (hulamoonboutique.com) can be found in the Hawaiian cowboy (paniolo) township of Waimea. Trust me, you won't leave this boutique without buying something. Afterwards enjoy a coffee on the veranda of the Waimea Coffee Company (waimeacoffeecompany.com).
See also: Twenty reasons to visit Maui
Hawaii's answer to Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue, Waikiki's palm-fringed Kalakaua Avenue – stretching from downtown Honolulu to Kapiolani Park – boasts big-name brands, high-end boutiques and everything in between. Along the strip you'll find the Royal Hawaiian Centre (royalhawaiiancenter.com) with more than 150 upscale stores including Kate Spade, Apple, Ferrari, and more; 2100 Kalakua Avenue (luxuryrow.com) for top-shelf retailers including Tiffany and Co, Chanel and Vera Wang; Waikiki Beach Walk (waikikibeachwalk.com) featuring Quiksilver, Yard House, a ukulele store and more. The new-look International Marketplace (shopinternationalmarketplace.com) featuring Hawaii's first Saks Fifth Avenue, has reopened following a $US500 million plus redevelopment. Hawaii's biggest selection of antique aloha shirts, jewellery and memorabilia meanwhile can also be found along this jam-packed retail strip at Bailey's Antique and Aloha Shirts (alohashirts.com).
Be sure to stop and revive over brunch and a decent coffee at Bill's Hawaii (billshawaii.com), just off Kalakaua Avenue. Mahina and Sons in the Surf Jack Hotel (surfjack.com/eat-shop) is another good option, delivering up island cuisine with a twist and coffee made from beans roasted onsite.
Maui's main shopping hub, Front Street (frontstreetlahaina.com), in the historic waterfront village of Lahaina may offer way too many touristy T-shirt shops, however it's here you'll find the outlet stores (see above), as well as the odd interesting art gallery and the excellent Pacific 'O (pacificomaui.com) serving up terrific farm-to-table produce in a magical beachfront setting.
Cosmetics are another good buy in Hawaii. Try Macy's (l.macys.com/ala-moana-center-in-honolulu-hi), which has several Hawaiian outlets; Sephora (sephora.com/store-locations-events), which has three outlets on Honolulu and one at Whalers Village, Maui; Long's Drug Stores and the DFS T Galleria (dfs.com/en/tgalleria-hawaii) in Waikiki, which boasts a whole floor of beauty products.
Don't forget you've got a whopping 32 kilograms of luggage allowance if you're flying Hawaiian Airlines. Believe me, you're going to need it.
Sheriden Rhodes was a guest of Hawaii Tourism Oceania. See gohawaii.com/au