Let’s face it… The Kona Coast on the big Island of Hawaii has never been celebrated as a shopping destination. It’s perfect for a romantic getaway/honeymoon/family/fishing/girlfriend trip, but is there good shopping? YES! And I’m not talking about muumuus.
I wisely chose to stay at the Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel (www.konabeachhotel.com) on Ali’i Drive, smack dab in the center of Kailua Village. The hotel is a newly revamped four star property and the best shops and markets are all about a ten-minute walk away.
King Kam Mall
This is one of my favorite shopping spots and it’s location, right next to my hotel, is perfect. The King Kam Mall (not to be confused with the King Kam Shopping Center in the hotel) is a small laid-back neighborhood mall and caters more to locals than to visitors. The best stores include da Bead Shop (www.dabeadshop.com), a two-floor beader’s emporium where the owners will help you create the jewelry of your dreams. Great bead and shell selections along with every tool, wire and clasp needed to do the job. When I asked two friends who live in Kona where they shop for clothing, both recommended Ginger and Koi. It’s an upscale boutique featuring contemporary clothing and accessories that you’ll wear at home as well as on holiday. Quilters will want to visit Quilt Passions (www.quiltpassions.net) for fabrics and inspiration.
Kona Inn Shopping Village
This is basically a cutie-pie hotel shopping center for tourists. There are art galleries, gift shops, swim and beachwear boutiques and a nice restaurant where you can order frozen fish and gaze out at the ocean. I needed another swim suit and found a couple of shops selling Havianas, my flip-flop of choice. Don’t miss Keoki’s Donkey Balls and Coffee. These world famous candy balls are made of Hawaiian macademia nuts rolled in Guittard chocolate and then flavored with toppings including sea salt. Clever marketing has no doubt played a role in their success but frankly, it’s great candy and a wonderful gift to bring home. “Donkey balls, boar balls, goat balls, monkey balls – all balls, all the time”. The courtyard atrium of the hotel is home to some pretty impressive fishing trophies. My friend, Pam Basco, holds the women’s world record for yellowfin tuna and along with her “catch”, there are other huge fishing trophies on display.
We drove up the Kohala Coast one day to have lunch at the fab Four Seasons Resort and made a stop at the Queens’ Market Place, a local mall for the Waikoloa Beach Resort’s many residents and visitors. Along with a great food market, Island Gourmet, you’ll find Hawaiian Quilt Collection, Reyn’s, Persimmon, and other upscale boutiques. There’s a Dairy Queen in the food court where I happily spent $3.28 on a small vanilla cone. This same treat was 28 cents at the Siam Paragon Mall in Bangkok in December. Oh well. Across the street, you’ll see the Kings’ Shops where you can find big name fancy stores. But really… did you come to Hawaii to shop at Louis Vuitton and Tiffany?
There are probably more than a hundred pearl shops on the island and after visiting at least a dozen, I gave up. Seriously, every piece of jewelry I saw was overpriced, poor quality and so ordinary…. BORING! If you’re serious about pearl shopping, book a cheap flight to Manila and head to the Greenhills Shopping Center.
Once a month on Sunday (usually mid-month), you can browse among arts and crafts vendors when Ali’i Drive is turned into a pedestrian marketplace. Kokua Kailua takes place from 1 – 6pm in Kailua Village. More than 100 local merchants, artist and artisans exhibit and sell unique merchandise, gift items, original art and crafts. Check www.historickailuavillage.com for details and dates.
Your Paradise Gal
Okay, you’ve fallen in love with Kona and you’re thinking about renting a condo next time, or even buying a holiday home. The first thing on your must-do list is to contact Carol Fuller (firstname.lastname@example.org). She’ll organize your space, stock your fridge and cupboards, and jump overboard to make sure your needs are met.
Hopefully, you won’t need to know this, but if a medical situation requires a look-see, head straight to Hualalai Urgent Care, 77-311 Sunset Drive. It’s about a ten minute taxi ride from downtown. The wonderful Dr. Tomkin took great care of me and saved my holiday.