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Shopping in Hawai'i

Hawaii Bag and Beach

Shopping in Hawai'i

story by: Jo Wedlock

While the mention of Hawai'i conjures up images of longboards, sunsets, cocktails and a laid back way of living, there is a lot more to Waikiki and the island of O’ahu than the beach.  On a recent trip to Hawai'i with 3 girlfriends, no kids and sans husbands with three full days up our sleeve, we decided to investigate the shopping potential and see if Hawai'i was all it is portrayed by the American public at large and a viable option for a long weekend.

In the past, shopping in Waikiki has been limited to the malls, but in the last couple of years, the big names (think Coach, Burberry, Victoria’s Secret, Kate Spade, Juicy, Sephora and much more!) have opened flagship stores along the main street of Waikiki.  This doesn’t mean you need to avoid the malls – oh no – this just means you get a double shot at the shopping!  Surprisingly the stores in the malls don’t seem to be linked with the Waikiki main street ones and often stock different merchandise and can have competing prices! 

Day one of our holiday dawns bright and sunny – just as I suspected it should!  After a leisurely start to the day with a walk on the beach and a coffee from Starbucks (yes, I know – but that is the one thing you will struggle to find anywhere in Hawai'i – good espresso!), we dined al fresco by the pool on fruit, fresh breads and a stunning omelette made tableside.  The Halekulani once again outdoing itself in cuisine.

The girls are keen to make a start at the mall this morning and then have an afternoon by the pool so we discuss the options and Ala Moana mall wins out.  It’s about a 2km walk, a $7 taxi or a shuttle bus ride away from the hotel, and we opt for the taxi in the delightful anticipation of too many bags on return for walking or the bus!

The taxi drops us off underground which doesn’t give an appreciation of the sheer size of this shopping mall.   The complex is on 3 levels and each level is made up of 4 wings.  To give you an idea of scale, in 3 hours we managed 1 wing of 1 floor! 

We decide to start on the mid-level where the mid-range designer names are located.  Think Tory Burch, Diane Furstenberg and Burberry where we score a range of items from sunglasses to sandals and bags.  Another stop at Starbucks (iced coffee this time as the mall is open-air and therefore not air-conditioned) before we head back to our poolside paradise and some fresh bluefin tuna salad for lunch.

This evening we decided to dine outside of the hotel and head down the main strip of Waikiki looking for inspiration.  It comes in the form of cocktails at the Royal Hawaiian beachside where there is a live band playing at a corporate function on the lawn – who are we to not take advantage of free entertainment?  We decide not to eat here however as the bar snacks – while looking yummy, were not overly geared towards low calorie!  After roaming a little longer, we ended up at the Cheesecake factory for salads and of course the obligatory cheesecake and a small cheeky wine on the side – all in all, very well priced and tasty.

The next morning dawns much the same as the last and today half our group decides to head to the outlets and see what can be got for a bargain.  There is a shuttle bus that departs Waikiki and makes its way around most of the major hotels before heading for the outlet centre, about 40 minutes out of town.  Think ‘Dress-Mart’ for Kiwis but on a much bigger scale. 

Admittedly the outlets were packed and apparently it was quite frantic and crowded with lots of pushy tourists looking for a bargain – sounds horrendous, but the bargains are worth it if you can put up with the crowds!  2 for 1 at Converse –and the ‘1’ costs around $10!  Havaianas for $12 and all the latest season’s trends – Vans for $20 and with a buy 1 get 1 free thrown in!  The girls headed back with between 9 – 11 pairs of shoes between them…I think another bag home will be in order!  It’s not a relaxing way to shop, but if you are here with a budget, you can certainly get a fantastic deal. 

After all that bargain hunting and fighting the local Americans for a deal, it’s definitely time for a slushy mojito by the pool.   The Halekulani has music every night for the sunset and it’s the ideal place to watch this iconic event.  If you are lucky you’ll see the ‘green flash’ at sunset as Miss Hawai'i dances while the local groups play songs written specifically for this very occasion.  While a busy place, its relaxed, laid back, luxurious and everything a sunset cocktail evening needs to be.

Outlet shopping has never been my forte, so my aim now is to head into Waikiki and see if I can get some of the horrendous list of Christmas presents covered.  I figure with the dollar this good, there must be a bargain to be had and I might be able to bring back presents that can’t be bought in Godzone that will pleasantly surprise the rellys.

First stop is Sephora.  For the uninitiated this is like a ‘supermarket’ for beauty product brands.  You can get all your usual makeup, bath and beauty products here at amazing prices.  Anything you were planning on buying duty free (Clarins day and night creams, YSL concealer and Mac mascara…or is that just me?) you can get here cheaply – so don’t buy duty free on the way into Hawai'i – save it for the way home and make sure you do a price comparison first!  I got some great gift packs here – bath oils, face creams, makeups, nail polish, etc.  It’s the best place for present shopping I’ve found yet!

Next stop needs to be the infamous Victoria’s Secret.  There is a Vic Secret at Ala Moana, but the one in Waikiki is bigger and had a much better range so make sure you check it out.  I’ve found a good tip with Victoria’s Secret is to research what you want online and then go in with a list – a personal shopper will ‘pounce’ on you as soon as you are in the door – so you can give them the list and then watch in awe as they swoop around the store with ease.  Another great tip with Victoria’s Secret is there bra fitting service – it’s free and they will measure you and find the best styles and fits for you while you relax in the dressing rooms.  You don’t need to do anything as they’ll bring it all to you – there is even a call bell in the dressing room just for you!

Another great new Waikiki shopping attraction is the DFS galleria on Waikiki. The bottom level is all regular shopping but the top level offers you a duty free discount if you are prepared to take your passport and tickets with you and pick up your item at the airport.  It’s worth the extra hassle as you can save significantly – especially if you are planning on buying a decent handbag or pair of shoes!

My stop of the day was Louis Vuitton where I accidently slipped and bought a new handbag…hmmm guess I can’t tell husband that this one came from Trademe?
Kate Spade got a fair amount of my attention on this Waikiki explore also – she’s located in the Royal Hawaiian village along with the Apple Store and Juicy and have some lovely pieces.  Too much shopping, not enough time and certainly not a big enough budget!

Lastly, before returning to NZ, it’s back to Ala Moana to try and work out way around the rest of the mall.  One of my favourite stops is Nieman Marcus.  I’m a fan when I travel to the states as it’s so hard to buy online – I keep getting asked for USA credit cards even though they profess to have ‘international shipping’ etc.  Your best bet, if you want any of their delicious dresses and the like, is to buy it in person while here on holiday. 

Don’t go past Lululemon while here.  This yoga/workout brand has exploded in NZ in the last 12 months, and is significantly cheaper in the states that what you’ll buy at home.  Stock up on the latest workout gear a good 2 months before it hits our shores and you’ll be the envy of everyone at the gym.  I also couldn’t resist heading into J Crew and getting a few ‘essentials’ (read: a cashmere sweater that I just HAD to have and several items for daughter ‘miss 5’). 

The list is endless…American Apparel, Diesel, Gap, Norstorm, Toys "R" Us, etc… if only! There is a point where the shopping has to end before the luggage gets to the point of excess.  Now that we’ve established that 2 out of the 4 of us need to buy new suitcases to take home the purchases, that point has been reached.  While we all have full tickets which give us plenty of luggage allowance, I’m sure the 40+ kilos per person and 5 bags extra will test the patience of any check-in handler!

So all in all, Hawai'i for a short break and a shopping expedition has more than lived up to the hype.  Its only 9 hours or so on the plane and the dollar and quality of options are out of this world!  Forget those Asian short breaks and head to Hawai'i – cliché I know, but well worth the visit…just don’t tell the bank manager!

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