Kauai's North Shore is the premier shopping destination on the island. Stylish, sophisticated galleries and shops, such as Kong Lung, in a 1942 Kilauea stone building (the last to be built on the Kilauea Plantation) off Hwy. 56 on Kilauea Road (tel. 808/828-1822), have launched these former hippie villages into top-drawer shopping spots. Save your time, energy, and, most of all, discretionary funds for this end of the island. Kong Lung, through all its changes, including pricier merchandise in every category, remains a showcase of design, style, and quality, with merchandise from top-of-the-line dinnerware and bath products to aloha shirts, jewelry, ceramics, women's wear, stationery, and personal and home accessories. The book selection is fabulous, and the home accessories -- sake sets, tea sets, lacquer bowls, handblown glass, pottery -- are unequaled in Hawaii. The items are expensive, but browsing here is a joy.
Directly behind Kong Lung is Lotus Gallery (tel. 808/828-9898; www.jewelofthelotus.com), a showstopper for lovers of antiques and designer jewelry. Good juju abounds here. The serenity and beauty will envelop you from the moment you remove your shoes and step through the door onto the bamboo floor. The gallery contains gems, crystals, Tibetan art, antiques and sari clothing from India, 12th-century Indian bronzes, temple bells, Oriental rugs, and pearl bracelets -- items from $30 to $50,000. Owners Kamalia (jewelry designer) and Tsajon Von Lixfeld (gemologist) have a staggering sense of design and discovery that brings to the gallery such things as Brazilian amethyst crystal (immense and complex), emeralds, a fine 100-strand lapis necklace ($4,000), and Kamalia's 18-karat pieces with clean, elegant lines and gemstones that soothe and elevate.
Also behind Kong Lung is Island Soap and Candle Works (tel. 808/828-1955; www.handmade-soap.com), which has been making traditional soaps for more than 2 decades. What started as a mom-and-pop operation in 1984, today is still the only soap and candle factory in Hawaii, with two locations on Kauai and a third on Oahu. You can stop by to watch them hand-pour the soap and, depending on which soap they are making that day, see them add coconut, olive, palm, macadamia, or kukui nut oils, as well as herbs and essential oils, to each bar. There is a small retail shop on the property.
In Hanalei, at Ola's, by the Hanalei River on the Kuhio Highway (Hwy. 560) after the bridge and before the main part of Hanalei town (tel. 808/826-6937), Sharon and Doug Britt, an award-winning artist, have amassed a head-turning assortment of American and island crafts, including Doug's paintings and the one-of-a-kind furniture that he makes out of found objects, driftwood, and used materials. Britt's works -- armoires, tables, lamps, bookshelves -- often serve as the display surfaces for other work, so look carefully. Lundberg Studio handblown glass, exquisite jewelry, intricately wrought pewter switch plates, sensational handblown goblets, and many other fine works fill this tasteful, seductive shop. Be on the lookout for the wonderful koa jewel boxes by local woodworker Tony Lydgate.
From health foods to groceries to Bakelite jewelry, Hanalei has it all. For quick and healthy lunches or shopping for a week's groceries try Harvest Market, 5-5161 Kuhio Hwy. (tel. 808/826-0089). Just across the street the Ching Young Village Shopping Center, in the heart of Hanalei, covers a lot of bases. It's more funky than fashionable, but Hanalei, until recently, has never been about fashion. Hot Rocket (tel. 808/826-7776) is ablaze with aloha shirts, T-shirts, Reyn Spooner and Jams sportswear, flamingo china, backpacks, pareu, swimwear, and, for collectors, one of the finest collections of Bakelite accessories you're likely to see in the islands. Savage Pearls (tel. 808/826-9397; www.savagepearls.com) features a terrific collection of Tahitian black pearls, with everything from loose pearls to elegant settings to custom designs (they even repair jewelry).
Next door to Ching Young Village is On the Road to Hanalei (tel. 808/826-7360), which is definitely worth your time to wander around in and check out the unusual T-shirts (great gifts to take home because they don't take up much suitcase space), scarves, pareu, jewelry, and other unique gifts.
Across the street in the Hanalei Center, the standout boutique is the Yellowfish Trading Company (tel. 808/826-1227), where owner Gritt Benton's impeccable eye and zeal for collecting are reflected in the 1920s to 1950s collectibles: menus, hula-girl nodders, hula lamps, rattan and koa furniture, vases, bark-cloth fabric, retro pottery and lamp bases, must-have vintage textiles, and wonderful finds in books and aloha shirts.
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.