Plantation-style architecture adds a sense of place to Shops at Kukuiula, in Kauai's sunny Poipu region. // © 2014 Shops at Kukuiula
Feature image (above): Moana Center's tropical landscaping and open-air design remind shoppers they're in Honolulu. // © 2014 Ala Moana Center
Searching for souvenirs is a favorite pastime for travelers, and Hawaii’s open-air shopping centers introduce a shot of paradise into the experience.
Capitalizing on the islands’ ideal weather year-round, many malls sport an indoor/outdoor design enlivened by tropical landscaping. Local boutiques, galleries and restaurants rub elbows with brand-name retailers, resulting in something for everyone.
Take a stroll through these open-air shopping centers, where sunshine and trade winds enhance the hunt for the ultimate keepsake.
Ala Moana Center, Oahu
The world’s largest outdoor shopping center reminds clients that they’re in Honolulu with its ponds, palms and views of the beach, which is right across the street. National retailers abound here, but we particularly like the only-in-Hawaii emporia such as Hawaiian Quilt Collection and Sera’s Surf ‘N Shore. Its standout restaurant is Alan Wong’s The Pineapple Room, serving Hawaii Regional Cuisine by one of the state’s top chefs.
Coconut Marketplace, Kauai
Embraced by a coconut grove in Kapaa town, this east shore spot exudes a casual vibe that’s perfect for Kauai. The alfresco hub caters to visitors with a large array of souvenir shops, local boutiques and galleries touting island artists. Its eateries such as Eggbert’s — a breakfast mainstay — are equally laid-back. Free hula shows take place each Wednesday and Saturday, while there is live music on Fridays and a farmers market on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
Kings’ Shops, Hawaii Island
High-end brands prevail at this Waikoloa Resort esplanade, but it honors Hawaii as well. Its farmers market on Wednesdays sells island produce and goods. Ukulele and lei-making lessons are often offered. Performers serenade shoppers at sunset. Two outstanding restaurants here are Roy’s Waikoloa Bar & Grill, created by a Hawaii Regional Cuisine star, and The Three Fat Pigs, from Big Island-born chef Ippy Aiona.
Queens’ Marketplace, Hawaii Island
Across the street from Kings’ Shops, this outdoor oasis is bathed in light and cooled by trade winds. Dazzling flowers and fountains reflect the island’s natural gifts. An open-air gazebo sets the stage for cultural demonstrations, hula shows and concerts. Our favorite Hawaii-specific shops are Kona Surf N’ Sandals and Genesis Galleries. When it’s time to refuel, stop by Ippy’s Hawaiian BBQ, which is a hit with residents.
Royal Hawaiian Center, Oahu
Waikiki has loads of big-name stores, but we gravitate toward the relaxed mood of this three-block-long center. Although it’s four tiers tall, Royal Hawaiian Center’s airy design lets the outdoors in. Island vendors include Aloha Aina Boutique, Island Soap & Candle Works and Simply Wood Studios. Its Royal Grove hosts free shows and cultural classes. Save room for Mahaloha Burger’s Hawaii-grown beef and Malie Kai’s regional chocolates.
Shops at Kukuiula, Kauai
Sun-drenched, plantation-style architecture sets the tone at this south Kauai gem. Interspersed with national brands are local lures such as Blue Ginger and Blue Ginger Kids, home of fashionable aloha wear. Ocean Jewelry & Gifts showcases Hawaii designers, and Halelea Gallery sells works by island artists. For regional cuisine by two of the movement’s originators, try Merriman’s Fish House and Josselin’s Tapas Bar & Grill.
Shops at Wailea, Maui
This posh shopping and dining destination tips toward the high-end side of the scale, but its indoor/outdoor ambiance channels the Maui spirit. Along with well-known lines, browsers can discover regional retailers such as Mele Ukulele, Honolulu Cookie Company, Mahina, Tori Richard and Martin & MacArthur. On Wednesday evenings, an arts festival features live entertainment, demonstrations and shopping and dining specials.
Whalers Village, Maui
This northwest Maui gathering place hugs the Kaanapali beachwalk, and gentle ocean breezes make for a sublime shopping experience. Among its 90 stores are Honolulu Surf Co., with island-inspired duds; Maui Divers, offering fine Hawaiian jewelry; and Lahaina Scrimshaw, harking back to the whalers who called Maui home in the 1800s. A whaling museum rounds out this quintessential Hawaii open-air shopping center.