In & Around Kailua-Kona
Kailua-Kona's shopping prospects pour out into the streets in a festival atmosphere of T-shirts, trinkets, and dime-a-dozen souvenirs, with Alii Drive at the center of this activity. But the Coconut Grove Market Place, on Alii Drive, across the street from the seawall, has changed that image and added some great new shops around a sand volleyball court.
Shopping stalwarts in Kona are the Kona Square, across from King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel; the hotel's shopping mall, with close to two dozen shops; and the Kona Inn Shopping Village, on Alii Drive. All include the usual assortment of T-shirt shops. One highlight is Alii Gardens Marketplace at the southern end of Kailua-Kona, a pleasant, tented outdoor marketplace with fresh fruit, flowers, imports, local crafts, and a wonderful selection of orchid plants. There's cheesy stuff here, too, but somehow it's less noticeable outdoors.
Another outdoor/indoor market, the Kona International Market, 74-5533 Luhia St. (near Kaiwi St.), in the Old Industrial Area, is a series of small open-air shops in a large pavilion with food vendors, similar to Waikiki's International Market. Unfortunately, with just a few exceptions, I find this "market" disappointing. I searched all the vendors looking for something made in Hawaii, and with very few exceptions (some jewelry), most of the trinkets sold here were not from the Big Island, and not even from Hawaii, and prices were not that attractive.
Art Appreciation -- The finest art on the Kona Coast hangs in, of all places, a bank. Award-winning First Hawaiian Bank, 74-5593 Palani Rd. (tel. 808/329-2466), has art lovers making special trips to view Hiroki Morinoue's mural, John Buck's prints, Chiu Leong's ceramic sculpture, Franco Salmoiraghi's photographs, Setsuko Morinoue's abstract fiber wall piece, and other works that were incorporated as part of the bank's design. Artists Yvonne Cheng and Sharon Carter Smith, whose works are included, assembled this exhibition, a sterling example of corporate sponsorship of the arts.
Edibles & Everyday Things -- The Big Island's green markets are notable for the quality of produce and the abundance of Island specialties at better-than-usual prices. Look for the cheerful green kiosks of the Alii Gardens Marketplace, 75-6129 Alii Dr. (at the south end), where local farmers and artists set up their wares, Wednesday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm. This is not your garden-variety marketplace; some vendors are permanent, some drive over from Hilo, and the owners have planted shade trees and foliage to make the 5-acre plot a Kona landmark. There are 40 to 50 vendors on any given day, selling jewelry, woodcrafts, produce, macadamia nuts, orchids, and an assortment of other fabulous "buys."
Java junkies jump-start their day at Island Lava Java (tel. 808/327-2161), the hot new magnet for coffee lovers at the Coconut Grove Market Place, on Alii Drive. At the other end of Kailua-Kona, in the New Industrial Area, between Costco and Home Depot, the handmade candies of the Kailua Candy Company, 73-5612 Kauhola St. (tel. 808/329-2522, or 800/622-2462 for orders), also beckon, especially the macadamia-nut clusters with ground ginger or the legendary macadamia-nut honu (turtle). Other products include truffles, pure Kona coffee, shortbread cookies, toffee, T-shirts, mugs, mustards, and other gift items.
Kona Wine Market, in the Kona Commons Shopping Center, 74-5450 Makala Blvd. (tel. 808/329-9400), has a noteworthy selection, including some esoteric vintages, at prices you'll love. This is a wine lover's store, with selections from California, Europe, and points beyond, as well as gift baskets, cheeses, cigars, oils and vinegars, specialty pastas and condiments, Riedel glassware, and friendly, knowledgeable service.
For everyday grocery needs, KTA Super Stores (in the Kona Coast Shopping Center, 74-5588 Palani Rd., and in the Keauhou Shopping Center, 78-6831 Alii Dr.) are always my first choice. Through its Mountain Apple brand, KTA sells hundreds of top-notch local products -- from Kona smoked marlin and Hilo-grown rainbow trout to cookies, breads, jams and jellies, taro chips, and kulolo, the decadently dense taro-coconut steamed pudding -- by dozens of local vendors. The fresh-fish department is always an adventure; if anything esoteric is running, such as the flashy red aweoweo, it's sure to be on KTA's counters, along with a large spread of prepared foods for sunset picnics and barbecues.
My other favorite is Kona Natural Foods, at the Crossroads Shopping Center, 75-1027 Henry St. (tel. 808/329-2296). It's been upgraded from a health-food store to a full-on healthful supermarket. And it's the only full-service natural-food store for miles, selling bulk grains and cereals, vitamins, snacks, fresh-fruit smoothies, and sandwiches and salads from its takeout deli. Organic greens, grown in the South Kona area, are a small but strong feature of the produce section.
Upcountry Kona: Holualoa
Charming Holualoa, 1,400 feet and 10 minutes above Kailua-Kona at the top of Hualalai Road, is a place for strong espresso, leisurely gallery hopping, and nostalgic explorations across several cultural and time zones. One narrow road takes you across generations and cultures. Paul's Place is Holualoa's only all-purpose general store, a time warp tucked between frame shops, galleries, and studios (www.holualoahawaii.com).
Prominent Holualoa artists include the jewelry maker/sculptor Sam Rosen, who years ago set the pace for found-object art and today makes beautiful pieces at Hale O Kula Goldsmith; the furniture maker and wood sculptor Gerald Ben; and Hiroki and Setsuko Morinoue of Studio 7 gallery. All galleries listed are on the main street, Mamalahoa Highway, and all are within walking distance of one another.
In Kealakekua, the Kamigaki Market, on Hwy. 11 (Mamalahoa Hwy.), is a reliable source of food items, especially for regional specialties such as macadamia nuts and Kona coffee.
In Honaunau, farther south, keep an eye out for the Bong Brothers Store, on Hwy. 11 between mile markers 103 and 104 (www.bongbrothers.com), and its eye-catching selections of fresh local fruit -- from cherimoya (in season) to star fruit and white Sugarloaf pineapples. The Bongs are known for their deli items, produce, and Kona coffee fresh from their own roasting room, but I think their black, very hip Bong Brothers and Bong Sistah T-shirts are the find of the region. The deli offers homemade soups and smoothies made with fresh local fruit.
In the town of Captain Cook, look for the big banana bread sign (you can't miss it) across the street from the fire station on Hwy. 11, and you'll come across the Captain Cook Baking Company, which bakes excellent banana bread with macadamia nuts, under the Auntie Helen's label. The bread is made with Big Island bananas and macadamia-nut honey, and baked right here in the kitchen. This bakery/sandwich shop also sells Lilikoi Gold passion butter, cheesecake brownies, and submarine sandwiches on its own house-made breads.
Farmers Market, Fruit Stands & Espresso Bar -- South Kona, one of the best growing regions on the Big Island, has a weekly farmers market every Saturday from 8am to noon at the Keauhou Shopping Center parking lot, near Ace Hardware. It's a true farmers market, selling only produce grown on the Big Island. Another great vegetable and fruit stand down south is the South Kona Fruit Stand, 84-4770 Mamalahoa Hwy. between mile markers 103 and 104, Captain Cook (tel. 808/328-8547), which sells some of the most unusual tropical produce from the Big Island.
The Kohala Coast
Most Kohala Coast shops are concentrated in and around the resorts, listed below.
Hilton Waikoloa Village -- Among the hotel's shops, Sandal Tree carries footwear with style and kick: Italian sandals at non-Italian prices, designer pumps, and other footwear to carry you from dockside to dance floor.
Kings' Shops -- The King's Shops (www.kingsshops.com) are located at the entrance to the Waikoloa Beach Resort. A recent find here is Walking in Paradise (tel. 808/886-2600). The footwear -- much of it made in France (Mephisto, Arche) -- can be expensive, but it's worthwhile for anyone seeking comfort while exploring the harsh lava terrain of this island or the pedestrian culture of Kailua-Kona's Alii Drive. Toward the mauka (mountainside) end is Noa Noa, filled with exotic artifacts from Java and Borneo, plus tropical clothing for the easygoing life on the Pacific Rim. At Under the Koa Tree, some of the island's finest artists display their prints, woodcrafts, and paintings. For snacks, ice, sunscreen, wine, postcards, newspapers, and everyday essentials, there's the Whalers General Store, and for dining on the run, a small food court with pizza, plate lunches, and the Jungle Edge Coffee for a steaming cup of brew.
Queens' MarketPlace -- The Queens' MarketPlace (www.queensmarketplace.net), located across the street from the Kings' Shops, offers a range of shops from Giggles, Lids, and Local Motion to eateries like Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar, Charley's Thai Cuisine, Queen's Deli, Island Gourmet Markets, and Starbucks.
Hualalai Resort -- The Hualalai Trading Company, or the Seaside Beach Boutique in the same resort, carry winning retail sections of beauty and treatment products, including Hana Naia aromatherapy oils. The selection includes mango and jasmine perfumes, Bulgarian rose water, and herbal lotions and potions.
Mauna Lani Resort -- The recently opened Shops at Mauna Lani (www.shopsatmaunalani.com) is a high-end cluster of well-known name stores and a sprinkling of local, homegrown places such as terrific Monstera and Kimobean Hawaiian Coffee. Shops include Lahaina Galleries, Caché, Kohala Goldsmiths, and Foodland Farms. Chain eateries include Ruth's Chris Steak House, and Tommy Bahama's Tropical Cafe.
Waimea is lei country as well as the island's breadbasket, so look for protea, vegetables, vine-ripened tomatoes, and tuberose stalks here at reasonable prices.
Two of the best farmer's markets are the Waimea Farmers Market, Hwy. 19, at mile marker 55 on the Hamakua side of Waimea town (on the lawn in front of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, West Hawaii office), which draws a loyal crowd from 7am to noon on Saturday; and at the other end of Waimea, the Parker School Farmers Market, held Saturday from 8am to 1pm.
Other shops in Waimea range from the small roadside storefronts lining Hwy. 19 and Hwy. 190, which intersect in the middle of town, to complexes such as the Waimea Center, where you'll find the trusty old KTA Super Store, 65-1158 Mamalahoa Hwy., the one-stop shop for all your basic necessities, plus a glorious profusion of interesting local foods. Across the street, with its upscale galleries and shops, Parker Square, 65-1279 Kawaihae Rd., will likely be your most rewarding stop.
Shopping in Hilo is centered on the Kaikoo Mall, 777 Kilauea Ave., near the state and county buildings; the Prince Kuhio Plaza, 111 E. Puainako St., just off Hwy. 11 on the road north to Volcano, where you'll find a supermarket, drugstore, Macy's, and other standards; the Bayfront area downtown, where the hippest new businesses have taken up residence in the historic buildings lining Kamehameha Avenue; and the new Waiakea Plaza, where the big-box retailers (Ross, OfficeMax, Borders, Walmart) have moved in. For practical needs, there's a KTA Super Store at 321 Keawe St. and another at 50 E. Puainako St.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
The airy Volcano studio/showroom of Phan Barker (tel. 808/985-8636), an international artist, is a mountain idyll and splendid backdrop for her art, which includes batik paintings on silk, acrylic painting on wood, oil on paper, dye on paper, and mixed-media sculptures. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums ranging from the Smithsonian to Saigon. In addition to studio visits (by appointment only), she offers beginner classes in silk painting and drawing.
Adding to the vitality of the Volcano arts environment are the studio visits offered once a year, usually around Thanksgiving, by the Volcano Village Art Studios (http://volcanogardenarts.com/events-studiotour09.html; tel. 808/985-8979). Several respected artists in various media open their studios to the public by appointment. Artists in the hui include Ira Ono (tel. 808/967-7261), who makes masks, water containers, fountains, paste-paper journals, garden vessels, and goddesses out of clay and found objects; and sculptor Randy Takaki (tel. 808/985-8756), who works in wood, metal, and ceramics.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.