As you make your way from Lihue to the North Shore, you'll pass Bambulei (tel. 808/823-8641), bordering the cane field in Wailua next to Caffè Coco. Bambulei houses a charming collection of 1930s and 1940s treasures -- everything from Peking lacquerware to exquisite vintage aloha shirts to lamps, quilts, jewelry, parrot figurines, and zany salt and pepper shakers. If it's not vintage, it will look vintage, and it's bound to be fabulous. Vintage muumuus are often in perfect condition, and dresses go for $20 to $2,000. Closed Sundays.
Wood-turner Robert Hamada (tel. 808/822-3229) works in his studio at the foot of the Sleeping Giant, quietly producing museum-quality works with unique textures and grains. His skill, his lathe, and his more than 60 years of experience have brought luminous life to the kou, milo, kauila, camphor, mango, and native woods he logs himself.
Kauai Water Ski & Surf Co. (tel. 808/822-3574) has everything you could possibly need for playing in the water, from swimwear to equipment (fins, mask, snorkel, and so on), all for sale and for rent.
Moving toward Kapaa on Hwy. 56 (Kuhio Hwy.), don't get your shopping hopes up; until you hit Kapaa town, quality goods are slim in this neck of the woods. The Coconut Marketplace features the ubiquitous Elephant Walk (tel. 808/822-2651) gift shop, Gifts of Kauai (tel. 808/822-1464), and various other underwhelming souvenir and clothing shops sprinkled among the sunglass huts. Also check out Ship Store Gallery (tel. 808/822-7758) for an unusual collection of nautical artwork, antiques, and contemporary Japanese art and the Hawaiian Music Store (tel. 808/823-0302; www.hawaiianmusicstore.com), which has a great collection of Hawaiian Music.
Nearby, set back from the main road across from Foodland supermarket, is Marta's Boat (tel. 808/822-3926). Once one of the island's more appealing boutiques for children and women, today it's more art and unusual gift items, but you still can find terrific accessories and chic clothing.
Among the green-and-white wooden storefronts of nearby Kauai Village, you'll find everything from trite marine art to Yin Chiao Chinese cold pills and organic produce at Papayas Natural Foods (tel. 808/823-0190). Although its prepared foods are way overpriced, Papayas carries the full range of health-food products and is your only choice in the area for vitamins, health foods to go, health-conscious cosmetics, and bulk food items.
Less than a mile away, on the main road, the Waipouli Variety Store (tel. 808/822-1014) is Kapaa's version of Maui's fabled Hasegawa General Store -- a tangle of fishing supplies, T-shirts, thongs, beach towels, and souvenirs. Fishermen love this store as much as cookie lovers swear by nearby Popo's Cookies, the ne plus ultra of store-bought cookies on the island. Popo's chocolate-chip, macadamia-nut, chocolate-macadamia nut, chocolate-coconut, almond, peanut butter, and other varieties of butter-rich cookies are among the most sought-after food items to leave the island. If you start craving a good loaf of bread while on the island, Country Moon Rising (tel. 808/822-2533) bakes tasty loaves of whole wheat, sourdough, and more. Their cookies and bars are worth the stop.
And Kapaa town is full of surprises. On the main strip, across from the ABC Store, you'll find the recently expanded Kela's Glass Gallery (tel. 808/822-4527), the island's showiest showplace for handmade glass in all sizes, shapes, and prices, with the most impressive selection in Hawaii. The gallery now has new owners who display more than 50 artists specializing in glass. Go nuts over the vases and studio glass pieces, functional and nonfunctional. The gallery also has a great collection of hand-carved and hand-painted wooden flowers. Continue on to Hula Girl (tel. 808/822-1950), where the wonderful and the dreamy prevail, with aloha shirts (very pricey), vintage-looking luggage covered with decals of old Hawaii, zoris, sandals, sunglasses, and shells.
Across the street is the town's favorite fashion stop, Island Hemp & Cotton (tel. 808/821-0225), where Hawaii's most stylish selection of this miracle fabric is sold. You'll find gorgeous silk-hemp dresses, linen-hemp sportswear, hemp aloha shirts, Tencel clothing, T-shirts, and wide-ranging, attractive, and comfortable clothing and accessories that have shed the hippie image. It's also a great store for gift items, from Balinese leather goods to handmade paper, jewelry, luxury soaps, and natural-fiber clothing for men and women. A few doors to the north, Orchid Alley (tel. 808/822-0486) gets our vote for most adorable nursery on the island. A narrow alcove opens into a greenhouse of phalaenopsis, oncidiums, dendrobiums, and dozens of brilliant orchid varieties for shipping or carryout.
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.