Expect mostly touristy shops in Poipu, the island's resort mecca; here you'll find T-shirts, souvenirs, black pearls, jewelry, and the usual quota of tired marine art and trite hand-painted silks.
There are exceptions. The formerly characterless Poipu Shopping Village, at 2360 Kiahuna Plantation Dr., is shaping up into a serious shopping stop. Blue Ginger features easy to wear tropical resortwear designed in Hawaii. Also in Poipu Shopping Village, the tiny Bamboo Lace boutique lures the fashionistas; its resortwear and accessories can segue from Hawaii to the south of France in one easy heartbeat. Across the courtyard, Sand People is great for understated resortwear (such as Tencel Jeans) and Indonesian coconut picture frames. Don't miss out on Sand Kids, with its adorable kids' clothes, books, gifts, T-shirts, and jewelry, plus cute stuffed "sea creatures" (like mermaids). It's one of the best places to get sunglasses for kids. The newly renovated Overboard rides the wave of popularity in alohawear and surf stuff, plus great swimwear, linens, a selection of Tommy Bahama clothing and accessories, and other island-style merchandise. Take a break from all the shopping at Puka Dog, serving up a range of island hot dogs (even veggie ones).
The shopping is surprisingly good at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, with the footwear mecca Sandal Tree, Water Wear Hawaii for swim stuff, and Reyn's, an institution in Hawaii for alohawear. My favorite store here (and it's worth the drive) is the Kohala Bay Collections, filled with resort casual clothing with top names like Tommy Bahama, Toes on the Nose, Jams World, and M Mac, all at very wallet-pleasing prices.
Across the street from Poipu Beach, on Hoone Road, Nukumoi Surf Shop is a pleasant surprise. It has an excellent selection of sunglasses, swimwear, surf equipment, and watersports regalia, and not just for the under-20 crowd.
In neighboring Old Koloa Town, you'll find everything from Koloa Mill's ice cream and Island Soap and Candle Works (where you can watch them make soap and candles), to Crazy Shirts and Sueoka Store on Koloa's main drag, Koloa Road. Walk the long block for gifts, souvenirs, sunwear, groceries, soaps and bath products, and everyday necessities. You might want to stop in at Hula Moon, 5426 Koloa Rd. (tel. 808/742-9298), which has a unique selection of gifts, especially hand-painted tiles with sayings like "I'd Rather Be On Kauai," or "Please Remove Your Shoes." If you are looking for a beach bag or Hawaiian-print hats, dresses, or T-shirts, Paradise Clothing, 5402 Koloa Rd. (tel. 808/742-1371), has a great selection. Another great place for island-style clothes is Progressive Expressions, in Koloa town (tel. 808/742-6041), which also has every kind of surfboard and surf accessory, as well as a great selection of sunscreens. For more stylish fashions, go to Jungle Girl, 5424 Koloa Rd. (tel. 808/742-9649), which markets their clothes, jewelry, shoes, and artwork as "island funk and flash."
On Poipu Road, between Koloa and Poipu, there is an exceptional place you cannot miss: Pohaku T's, 3430 Poipu Rd. (tel. 808/742-7500), only sells clothing, artwork, T-shirts, and other whimsical things designed and produced by Kauai artists. All the products either have a great sense of humor or promote awareness of Hawaii's cultural and environmental issues. Prices are excellent. Farther down Poipu Road, in the tiny Poipu Plaza, nestled next to Sea Sport Divers and Outfitters Kauai, is the Kukuiula Store -- a shop for everything from produce and sushi to paper products, sunscreen, beverages, and groceries. Occasionally, when fishermen drop by, the store offers fresh sliced sashimi and poke, quite delicious and popular with sunset picnickers and nearby condo residents.
The newest addition to the Poipu resort area is Kukui'ula Village (www.kukuiulavillage.com). Built around a center court, it is host to a farmers' market Wednesday's from 4 to 6pm, complete with music and cooking demonstrations. Retailers making Kukui'ula Village home include Lappert's Ice Cream; Tommy Bahama (tel. 808/742-8808), with its upscale resort wear for men and women; Bikini Planet (tel. 808/742-8860), featuring Brazilian style bikinis and stylish beachwear; Quicksilver (tel. 808/742-8088), and its cool fashions for the 20- and 30-somethings; Bungalow 9's (tel. 808/742-1961) furniture, Pacific rim gifts, and unique jewelry; a handful of galleries like Halele'a (tel. 808/742-9525), with a focus on works by island artists in different media; and Living Foods Market & Café (tel. 808/742-2323), opened by Jim Moffat of Bar Acuda fame. The market carries locally grown produce as well as a wide selection of gourmet meats, cheeses and packaged items, a well-stocked wine department, and nifty cooking tools.
In Kalaheo, condo dwellers and locals flock to the solitary, nondescript building that is Medeiros Farms, 4365 Papalina Rd. (tel. 808/332-8211), for everything they raise and make including chicken, range-fed beef, eggs, Italian pork, and Portuguese sausages. The meats are hailed across the island, and the prices are good. Medeiros Farms chicken is so good it's mentioned on some of the upscale menus on the island. Tucked into the tiny shopping center with Kalaheo Café & Coffee Co. is Malie Organics (tel.808/332-6220), manufacturer of luxury bath and body products all made from ingredients sourced in Hawaii.
You can take paradise home with you -- well, at least the outrageously beautiful flowers. The best place to order flowers to be sent home is Tropical Flowers by Charles, 3465 Lawailoa Lane, Koloa (tel. 800/699-7984 or 808/639-8492; www.thetropicalflowers.com). Not only is Charles a flower genius (who grows a range of tropical flowers, including some very rare and unusual varieties), but his hardy blooms and his skill at packing means that your little bit of Kauai will live for a long, long time. For all this, at extremely reasonable prices, we highly recommend Charles.
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.