Our Favorite Travel Essentials of the Year
Everything you need for your 2023 travel: our editors’ picks for on-the-road...
Once, at a party, I was reminiscing about my hometown, Honolulu, with a chic Tokyo-ite who had just returned from a visit there. We chatted about what we loved about the city: its people, its scents, its beaches, its . . . "two Louis Vuittons!" she squealed. The city does boast some of the Pacific's best shopping—just ask the thousands of Asian tourists who flock to the island's Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, Loewe, Celine, and Vuitton outposts every day. But it's also home to excellent independent galleries and stores, many of which feature the exquisite handiwork of contemporary local artisans and artists who are dedicated to preserving Hawaii's rich tradition of native crafts. Vintage-crazed Honolulu also has a buzzing antiques market, where you can buy anything from a polished hardwood chest from Meiji-era Japan to a plastic hula doll from the 1950s.
NOHEA GALLERY This family-owned gallery stocks the island's most extensive collection of work by local artists. Nohea is best known for its lathe-turned bowls made of native hardwoods like koa and milo, as well as Norfolk pine, which are so translucent they're luminous ($45 and up to thousands of dollars for large carved calabash bowls). Other excellent pieces include Russell Lowrey's evocative landscape paintings and pastel drawings of Oahu's idyllic, shade-dappled windward-coast beaches ($1,200 to $10,000), and Ulana O Kukui's exquisite woven gold and platinum bracelets and rings ($125-$1,295). At Ward Warehouse, 1050 Ala Moana Boulevard, 808-596-0074; Ward Center, 1200 Ala Moana Boulevard, 808-591-9001; Sheraton Moana Surfrider, 2365 Kalakaua Avenue, 808-923-6644; and The Ohana Reef Towers in Waikiki, 227 Lewers Street, 808-926-2224; www.noheagallery.com.
NATIVE BOOKS/NA MEA HAWAII This co-op is a showcase for astonishing native handiwork, including museum-quality Ni'ihau shell necklaces ($150-$4,000), carved and stained gourds ($35-$500), feather and seed leis ($125-$200), and koa-wood bowls ($200-$1,000). There is also an interesting collection of books in both Hawaiian and English, as well as Hawaiian CDs (of everyone from Gabby Pahinui, the godfather of modern slack-key music, to Kaumakaiwa "Lopaka" Kanaka'ole, a rising falsetto singer and chanter), and a nicely packaged selection of local food, including homemade lilikoi butter, macadamia-nut shortbread, and mango chutney. At 851 Fort Street, 808-548-2665; and Ward Warehouse, 1050 Ala Moana Boulevard, 808-596-8885; www.nativebookshawaii.com.
HONOLULU ACADEMY OF ARTS GIFT SHOP Accomplished local craftspeople, such as Ed Higa and Kathleen Kam, sell their work at the Academy of Art's serene and well-edited store. Look for Higa's vivid Raku-inspired Japanese ceramics (a small bowl is $35) and Kam's intricately carved gourds ($35-$200). The shop also carries a large selection of books about Hawaiian and Asian arts and silky lengths of beautiful, bruise-colored ikats ($35-$350) and cool cotton batiks ($30-$85). At 900 South Beretania Street; 808-532-8703; www.honoluluacademy.org.
HAWAII ANTIQUE CENTER Hawaii may have inspired some truly glorious art, but it's also inspired some truly glorious kitsch. And we don't mean airport-giftshop kitsch, but rare, highly collectible pieces from Hawaii's pre-statehood days. Look for surfing-themed objects like carved monkey pod bookends ($650) and vintage 1930s posters ($100-$1,000), as well as hand-painted hula figurines from the '20s to the '50s ($50-$1,000), and a handsome collection of vintage rattan furniture upholstered in tropical bark cloth fabric ($100-$2,000 for a sofa). At 932 Kapahulu Avenue; 808-734-6222.
MING'S ANTIQUES Behind its modest, plate-glass facade, this dusty, sleepy shoebox of a store is packed with a well-edited collection of Chinese antiquities, including cinnabarred armoires ($2,600), a selection of gleaming, low-slung elm and walnut wood benches, and delicate teacups and wooden pastry molds ($20-$100). We particularly loved the elaborately carved Tibetan altar tables ($850) and an inlaid-bronze incense burner from Vietnam ($3,880). The store's owner, who is usually on-site, is as friendly and gracious as he is knowledgeable. $ At 1144 Bethel Street; 808-585-8877. MING'S ANTIQUES Behind its modest, plate-glass facade, this dusty, sleepy shoebox of a store is packed with a well-edited collection of Chinese antiquities, including cinnabarred armoires ($2,600), a selection of gleaming, low-slung elm and walnut wood benches, and delicate teacups and wooden pastry molds ($20-$100). We particularly loved the elaborately carved Tibetan altar tables ($850) and an inlaid-bronze incense burner from Vietnam ($3,880). The store's owner, who is usually on-site, is as friendly and gracious as he is knowledgeable. $ At 1144 Bethel Street; 808-585-8877.
ROBYN BUNTIN GALLERIES Among serious collectors of Asian and Pacific art and artifacts, these two nearby galleries are among Hawaii's best-known and most trusted. The Asian gallery specializes in Japanese woodblock prints, carved jade ($500-$40,000), Buddhist sculptures ($6,000- $225,000) and netsuke, which are small, carved figurines, often made of ivory, that were once used as accessories to traditional Japanese clothing ($600-$18,000). The second gallery, Oceania, sells framed Hawaiian art, stacks of 19th- and 20th-century etchings, lithographs, and paintings of Hawaii and Polynesia ($65- $10,000), and some stunning found art, including two massive, lichen-covered basalt stones ($10,000-$12,000). At 848 and 820 South Beretania Street; 808-523-5913, 808-545-5572; www.robynbuntin.com.
GARAKUTA-DO Entering this Japanese antique store is like walking into a cabinet of wonders: beautiful tansu chests ($500-$6,000), shoji screens ($100-$400), antique kimonos and other astonishingly hand-wrought silks and textiles ($25-$900), and heaps of glittering, gold-threaded obis ($15-$600). It's possible to spend hours here just admiring owner Wataru Harada's collection. At 1833 Kalakaua Avenue; 808-955-2099.
BERNARD HURTIG A mainstay among Hawaiian jewelers, Hurtig is renowned for its pieces using Tahitian black pearls and 18-karat gold. But we really love the store's Hawaiian heirloom bracelets ($180-$1,025). Popularized during the Victorian era by Hawaii's last queen, Liliuo'kalani, the 14-karat yellow or white gold bangle is engraved with either a stylized Hawaiian flower or plant and finished with the owner's name set in glossy black enamel. Locals present these bracelets to their wives or daughters on special occasions. The bracelets (as well as their companion pendants and rings) are then handed down through the generations. Hurtig also sells Japanese antiquities; be sure to browse the shop for Imari ware and netsuke. At Hilton Hawaiian Village, 2005 Kalia Road; 808-947-9399; www.4bernardhurtig.com.
HILDGUND A local favorite, the elegant Hildgund shops (there are satellite stores on Maui and the Big Island) sell fantastic handcrafted jeweled confections. It's the only place in Hawaii you'll find this caliber of colored gemstones: Each is cut by craftsmen in Idar-Oberstein, Germany (reputed to have the best cutters in the world), then turned into whimsical pieces, such as a morganite necklace ($80,000) and a 9.27-carat aquamarine ring ($8,975). Hildgund also specializes in custom-made pieces, which start at about $800 and run into the tens of thousands. Soon it will re-create a line of royal jewelry featuring the Hawaiian coat of arms. At the Kahala Mandarin Oriental, 5000 Kahala Avenue, 800-636-3306, 808-737-8663; and at the Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa on Oahu, 92-1001 Olani Street, Kapolei, 808-679-0222; www.hildgund.com.
LIN'S LEI SHOP and CINDY'S LEI & FLOWER SHOPPE Maunakea Street, which threads through Honolulu's Chinatown, is dotted with more than a dozen lei shops. Two of the best are Lin's and Cindy's, which can always be counted on for the street's freshest and most diverse selection, including a dendrobium orchid lei ($3-$5); a delicate green pakalana blossom or pikake lei ($15-$20); or a white Micronesian ginger lei ($10-$15). Both can fulfill requests for special orders (like a triple-strand lei made with the relatively scarce pale purple-crown flower) and both ship leis, wrapped in fresh ti leaves, to the mainland as well. Locals give leis to one another for birthdays, holidays, graduations, or just because. Wear one for a day and you can't help feeling—and smelling—like a queen. Lin's: At 1017 Maunakea Street; 808-537-4112. Cindy's: At 1034 Maunakea Street; 808-536-6538.