Best of Honolulu 2021: The Best Shopping on O‘ahu
We asked our readers and searched the island for the best of everything—from locally designed house dresses and locally made hand sanitizers, gifts to art, jewelry to native plants—all so you can live better in Honolulu.
Best Grocery Store with Stylish Gifts to Buy
Most markets have stands of seasonal merch to tempt a spontaneous splurge. But, honestly, much of that superfluous crap ends up cluttering cabinets or under car seats (for years). Foodland offers an exception. The family-run stores have chic, cute and covetable holiday hauls and gift-y goods sprinkled throughout the aisles. Each location carries its own unique mix from our favorite local and national retailers including Jana Lam x Plant Sax plant holders, Jules + Gem candles, Bradley & Lily greeting cards, Workshop 28 kitchen essentials, Food52 cookbooks and Sugarfina candies. Really, whichever location you shop, you’ll find something cool and fresh—besides lettuce, of course.
Best Jewelry Store
Diamonds can be a man’s best friend, too, if you shop at Tiffany & Co. The luxury jewelry retailer known for engagement rings recently debuted a line for men, with single diamonds set in thick bands for a new version of the style popularized by the company. For almost 30 years in the Islands, Tiffany has been a go-to for jewelry, from the Paloma Picasso and Elsa Peretti collections to more recent collabs, such as with Blackpink pop star Rosé. The local stores also offer Hawai‘i-exclusive items including surfboards, cotton canvas beach totes, silk pareos and Turkish towels, all in that trademark Tiffany blue.
Best Surf/Beach Art Gallery
A visit to Hale‘iwa’s Polu Gallery creates a delirious déjà vu for the scene you’ve just left outside its doors—the bright beachy miracle of the North Shore surf scene. Countless visitors and locals have taken home a Polu artist’s original vision to pop on a wall for its restorative vibes. Building on his Japanese and Waikīkī Green Room Gallery, Jun Yoshimura opened Polu in 2016 and has curated mostly local artists ever since. You can browse rows of cellophane-wrapped prints stored in racks just like vinyl records, with the same dreamy pleasure. Even if you don’t buy a print or painting, you can always pick up a pack of notecards.
Best Local Hand Sanitizer
When hand sanitizer gained impulse-buy status, dozens of local makers started mixing up their own. Our favorite is at Lanikai Bath and Body. Unlike liquid versions, the thicker gel is ultra-moisturizing without being sticky, won’t drip off your palm, and comes in light-but-true scents including plumeria, pīkake and beach. The Kailua-based shop also offers sprays in bottles or key-chain-appropriate dispensers that are small enough to pass TSA inspections (1.3 ounces) and come in silicone cases in bright, poppy colors. Give them a hand.
Best Aloha Attire
Fittingly, our readers selected the godfather of aloha shirts, Reyn Spooner, for Best Aloha Attire. No raised eyebrows here. The esteemed fashion house is renowned for its unique Hawaiian fabrics, dependable classic cuts and unwavering quality—we know plenty of grandpas who still wear the same aloha shirts from back in the ’70s. With that said, the beloved brand also focuses on fashion-forward ingenuity and creativity to remain relevant here and across the globe; its face masks were in high demand during the pandemic. Newer lineups of aloha shirts that showcase hand-painted patterns by popular local artists and commemorative times and events will, no doubt, become your next closet trophy pieces.
Best Place to Start Your Native Garden
It’s all indigenous and canoe plants at Hui Kū Maoli Ola, the nursery that spills across the verdant slopes of Ha‘ikū Valley. Twenty-two years after Rick Barboza and Matt Schirman launched their post-college experiment with a few plants on a bench, their babies are now carried at City Mill, Home Depot and the Navy Exchange Mall near Pearl Harbor. The nursery’s new landscaping division is putting finishing touches on the re-envisioned grounds of Turtle Bay Resort—including towering coconut palms and hala trees, 7,000 white-petaled naupaka and 10,000 flowering pōhinahina plants covering the ground. “Hawai‘i is the extinction capital of the world,” Barboza says, “but there’s small things everyone can do to help reverse that trend.”
Best Locally Designed House Dress
Knit dresses and fancy bedazzled gowns are what’s trending this fall. Are you frockin’ serious? Sorry, Vogue, with Hawai‘i’s humidity, spring’s airy house dresses are sticking—especially Gillia’s effortless basics. The local label wins us over with its ultra-soft cotton dresses that feel like you have nothing on, yet the chic cuts are fabulous enough to wear from the coast to the city. Its newer Essence collection features ethereal caftans in soft muted hues produced by a natural plant dye process, and some pieces have pockets! You know, to hold all the compliments you’ll be receiving.
Best Local Necklaces for Layering
We love to layer: Jell-O, clothing, necklaces, you get the gist. However, there’s an art to creating a stylish #neckmess; it’s heavily dependent on texture, length and look. Love Me Knots, a local jewelry house helmed by girl bosses Sophia Vuong Pai and Jaclyn Park, offers more than 50 varieties of necklaces including chunky chain links, personalized charms, sleek gold strands, beaded ballers and herringbone chokers. With so many to select from, you’re bound to find styles that complement each other—and your wardrobe. And if you need a li’l inspo to master the layering trend, check out LMK’s website; it’s stacked with luster samplings.
SEE ALSO: Best of HONOLULU Family 2021
Allison Izu Song loves to connect personally with her customers. But when the pandemic hit, the only way to “connect” was online. Like other local brands, Allison Izu expanded digitally, updating its website and showing up more on social media. What we really appreciated last year was Izu Song’s delivery service, courtesy of her team and Roberts Hawai‘i drivers. And we still appreciate her ongoing Izu/Tri Before You Buy program. Customers can try six pieces, plus two that Izu Song recommends, for a $10 fee, with discounts available if you end up buying three or more. Plus, being part of her click has down-the-line benefits. Currently, she’s strengthening the service by working with other local brands that can be included in deliveries in which customers try on clothes. She says, “The more we research and learn, the more unique opportunities will come.”
The Rest of the Best: Reader Picks
Best Aloha Attire
Best Furniture Store
Finalist: Inspiration Interiors
Best Jewelry Store
Finalist: Nā Hōkū
Best Place for Home Accessories
Winner: SoHa Living
Best Place to Go Shoe Shopping
Best Place to Purchase Art
Winner: Pictures Plus
Finalist: Nohea Gallery