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hawaii design guide: kauai

by Grace Bonney

today we’re continuing with our three-part city guide to shopping in hawaii. last week we visited the islands of oahu and maui, and today shaunna from pacific weddings magazine is bringing us the best spots to shop in kauai. click here for the full shopping guide and stay tuned next week for the final installment of shopping in hawaii: the big island. thanks, shaunna!

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-Kaua’i isn’t typically known for high fashion so the recent opening of the Buddha Boutique was kind of a big deal! Expect sweet summery looks from Roberta Oaks and funky, deconstructed pieces from Kaua’i’s own Machine Machine at this stylish boutique on Umi Street in Lihue.

-If you’re on the North Shore, follow signs to the Lighthouse, a beautiful lookout point. Along the road you’ll see a historic stone building that houses Oskar’s K-Town Underground, a cool shop of unique clothing items, gifts and adorable children’s wear, too.

-Kapaa is a bohemian’s dream with yummy vegan restaurants, juice bars, a yoga shala and eclectic shops full of earthy offerings! The Root is one such boutique that stocks a fresh mix of island designers and unique accessories.

-Ginger Boutique on the North Shore caters to the girlie girl— besides the interior awash in hot pink shades and dramatic chandeliers, the boutique carries bikinis, clothing, skin care (Malie Kaua‘i is my favorite), mineral makeup and jewelry. Also noteworthy for the fashion set is Cake at the Kong Lung Center in Kilauea. (4270D Kilauea Road, Kilauea, HI- 96754 [808-634-8818])


-Although the Kilohana Clothing Co. in Kapaa carries their own line of handmade Aloha wear, their authentic vintage Hawaiian fabrics, prints and home decor items are the reason to peak in.

-For the best selection of antiques and vintage clothing there is Bambulei in Kapaa. A crazy mix of Asian and Polynesian antiques, oddities and retro Hawaiiana fabrics from the ‘40’s and ‘50’s are displayed in this Island-style shack at the edge of a cane field.

-You will find everything imaginable at the Kaua‘i Products Fair where the most talented island artists exhibit their creations. Handmade paper, banana bark journals, old-school postcards and surf memorabilia are displayed under big bright canopies. The fair is open from Wednesday to Sunday, located on Kuhio Hwy. in Kapaa.

-On the South Shore of the island is Spouting Horn Flea Market, a swap meet style, outdoor marketplace packed with island goodies from organic produce to fresh-cut flowers and vintage crafts, open daily. (Spouting Horn Parking Area, Poipu, HI 96756)

-You may score a throwback item at Kokua Thrift Shop on the West side, your standard secondhand shop! (Kaumuali’i Highway across Hanapepe Fire Station)


The Bikini Room is one of my all-time favorites! Imagine an endless selection of suits, sun hats, and cover-ups in a tiny attic-of-a-space where the sales girl always gives rave reviews when you step out of the dressing room!

Hanalei Surf Co. is one of the classics— I’m continually surprised by how many items I actually want to purchase and would probably wear daily! Island designer Indah and Hinano Tahiti make the sweetest dresses.

-For such a tiny place, Hanalei has the best food and shopping around. In the Ching Young Village Shopping Center is the Back Door, a tiny surf and skate shop with walls covered in bamboo and boards. They stock the best around from daytime looks to night: Obey, Standard James Perse, Lucy Love and Nixon to name a few.

-At the Harbor Mall in Nawiliwili you’ll find San Lorenzo Kaua‘i, the go-to for Brazilian bikinis and most recently, organic cotton swimwear.

-Liko Kaua‘i Surf Shop on the West side is loaded with surfboards, water gear and the cutest swimwear. (8595 Waimea Road Waimea, HI 96796 (West Side) Tel. (808) 338-0333)


The selection of home shops in Kaua‘i is very limited— furniture is either shipped in or homemade, but here it goes…

-“On The Road To Hanalei” is a great little shop of decorative items, furniture, jewelry, and books. I like it for their interesting ceramic vases and dinnerware. There is a room solely dedicated to tapa cloth and exotic tapestries.

-Elephant Walk is a combination gallery and storefront that carries quite a mix of local art, furniture, home goods and accessories. Their koa wood boxes are a fine example of the Hawaiian woodworkers’ skills. (2360 Kiahuna: Dr, Koloa, HI 96756 (808) 742-9634)

-Down Lighthouse Rd. you’ll find Kong Lung Company, a gift shop with surprising design offerings. Within this historic stone building that dates back to 1922 is the most extensive “made on Kaua‘i” art and home decor selection around. Kong Lung has beautiful Japanese sake and tea sets, too.

Yellowfish Trading Co. in Hanalei sells an impressive mix of vintage collectibles and beach-inspired furniture. Owner Gritt Benton has an antique dealer’s eye, scouring the island for deals of his own.

-Leigh over at Hapa Hale blog introduced me to Haleiwa interior designer Shirly Shivhon’s eponymous rug collection, available at her showroom and online. She designs striking tropical patterns using the traditional Tibetan hand-knotting technique.

-This space seems to be continually changing but the Kaua‘i Design Center in Kapaa is worth checking out. The three-story showroom features everything from teak and Indonesian carved furnishings to silk, oriental rugs with nice, intricate detailing.


-Just like the surrounding islands, Kaua‘i has its very own Friday Night Art Walk in Hanapepe, a quaint town with wooden storefronts and art galleries. The Banana Patch Studio features kitsch hand-painted wall tiles, pottery and fine art by nearly twenty Kaua‘i artists. Check out the Hanapepe Art Center for the most interesting crafts and Kaua‘i Fine Arts for their antique maps and prints. (3871 Hanapepe Road Hanapepe, HI 96716)

-In Kapaa, I like to stop into Caffee Coco, an art space within a cafe that supports a wide range of local, original art.

-If you’re on the East side in Lihue, check out the Grove Farm Museum, one of the oldest sugar farm centers in the state that has done an amazing job preserving this era. Also in Lihue is the Kaua‘i Museum which has progressive ethnic art exhibits and Hawaiian speakers.


Postcard Cafe in Hanalei is kind-of world-famous for their delicious vegetarian dishes and gourmet seafood. They are serious about “keeping it local” with a menu of organic, additive-free veggie items and locally raised seafood. It’s easy to mistake pricey for fancy at this laid-back cafe!

Bar Acuda is as happening as it gets for nightlife on the North Shore! The sleek tapas bar setting feels like city dining minus the pretentiousness and crowds.

-Hit up Tahiti Nui (“the Nui”) afterwards for stiff drinks and a rowdy set of live music!

Java Kai is my favorite coffee shop on the North Shore. The girls behind the bar are always sweet and they serve up delicious smoothies- try the “Taste of Aloha”.

Papaya’s Natural Food & Cafe in both Kapaa and Hanalei is the only health food market around and luckily its a good one!

-Everyone raves about Mermaids in Kapaa, an unassuming sidewalk cafe that serves up the tastiest ahi wraps, curries and satays using fresh local ingredients. They serve breakfast too— go for the coconut custard French toast, made with Hawaiian guava-taro bread, yum.

-Across the way is an impossible-to-miss bright blue coffee shop, the Small Town Coffee Company, the best local hangout and live music spot. Their latte foam art is pretty insane, too!

-I mentioned Hawaii’s famous local dishes in my Oahu guide above (ahi poke, saimin noodle, kalua pig) so I’ll just recommend the Koloa Fish Market for the best plate lunch around. Dine at Hamura’s Saimin situated on a narrow backstreet in Lihue. This iconic spot has basically gone unchanged since the ‘50’s and the saimin noodles are unmatched any where else.

The Fish Hut in Lihue is the place to go for fish and chips a laid-back atmosphere. Kailua Fish Market is so very tasty for seafood too!

-For a big greasy burger and fries, hit up Ono Char Burger in Anahola across from the Taro Patch.

-For a romantic setting and authentic island cuisine, The Beach House Restaurant in Koloa is the spot. The deck offers incredible sunset views!

Suggested For You


  • Across the way is an impossible-to-miss bright blue coffee shop, the Small Town Coffee Company, the best local hangout and live music spot. Their latte foam art is pretty insane, too!

  • One restaurant you missed is the Hanalei Dolphin in (go figure) Hanalei. Some of the best food I’ve had, just about anywhere. Nice views from the porch seating, great sashimi and their signature broiled tuna is incredible!

  • I used to work at Java Kai. Yummy smoothies and don’t forget to try a surfer sandwich. A stop by the Hanalei Cafe is in order too.

  • wow cool to see a Kauai shout out. we’ve been living on the north shore for the past year and love it. we are going to rent out our little cottage over the holidays actually… got to get the add on craigslist today.
    One more spot, in the back of the Dolphin (in Hanalei) the Fish Market has delicious sushi hand rolls and specials to go… on the cheap!

  • Hanalei Music Strings and Things is also a fun place. It is a music store that also has a decent yarn selection, too! Don’t forget Lappert’s Ice Cream or the Kauai Cookie Company…YUM!

  • what wonderful timing! my honeymoon is this december, and this is definitely coming with us! thanks!!

  • Kauai the Garden Isle! I am thrilled that the island where I was born made it on this awesome blog! Hamura Saimin is a definite stop located on Kress St. in Lihue, it’s a family favorite! In Kapa’a Town on the east side there’s an amazing VEGAN restaurant: Blossoming Lotus. Their dishes are sooo delicious and also their food presentation is photo worthy! They also have a cute bakery/juice bar across the street. And yes, Kung Lung Village! Oh, how I love that place! Their main shop is sooo lovely and their visual displays are quite the eyecandy! You can’t help but pick up something cool in that shop! I’ll be going back to Kauai for Thanksgiving and this posting has gotten me even more excited to go back home! Aloha, Merissa.

  • Oh how I miss the islands!! We recently moved back to the mainland after 2 years living in Honolulu… these posts make me want to go back so SO badly!! Especially right about now when it’s getting so cold!!

  • I am going to Kauai in December for the first time and now I am even more excited! Thanks for the tips!

  • Go to Havaiki for the most wonderful tribal pieces from the Pacific islands. It is in downtown Hanalei.
    For a great dinner a must is
    Bar Acuda in hanalei.

  • Also, you can’t forget the best ice cream on the island. I grew up in Poipu and we would go to Lapert’s Ice Cream in the Old Town at least once a week. It’s a little tourist-y but it’s got the BEST mango sorbet. To die for. Worth the trip.

  • also i heard there is a new shop call Puka Boutique and Gallery that has a selection of RockaBella’s Jewelry, they are all friends with machine machine clothing you said above.

  • Looks like Hanalei Valley! We were just in Kauai, North Shore last month. It was beautiful, amazing, awesome. We love, love, loved our time there.
    Must hit ke’e for snorkeling and do hanakapea’i falls hike!!

  • don’t buy sarongs anywhere until you check out Coconut Style at Kong Lung Center in Kilauea. There sarongs are really quality, not cheap stuff. Plus their bedding, if you like bright and tropical, is out of this world. Wonderful stuff.

  • Just wondering when the guide on the big island is coming? I am going on a family vacation in April and would love to have some informtaion on great shopping locations.

  • Be sure not to miss the fabulous quilt shop with authentic Hawaiian fabrics called Kapaia Stitchery. You can also have a shirt made for $75.00 and pick out any material in the store.

  • Just came back from Kauai. We had happy hour at Hanalei Gourmet everyday – the Lilikoi margarita on the rocks was really good. For jewelry, Lotus Gallery behind Kong Lung has awesome Indian jewelry and pearls. Island Works soap shop has nice smelling soaps — I am not a big soap user but I loved the eucalyptus sage soap.

  • You should check a little store in the Seto Building in Kapaa, called Collectible Designs. It’s a different kind of store, unique, with many different artist from Kauai and other islands. They have a wide range of items from jewelry,high fired porcelian,photos, and hand painted sarongs that are designed from people from the islands.

  • i love the places on this stie i live on kauai and im always looking for beautiful unique gifts and finds!please come to old kapaa town and see my dream come true!ive opened a small boutique called serendipity…home decor,vintage apperal,and handmade gifts.hope to see you!

  • For Kelly, who was looking for a suggestion of a place to stay… We were on Kauai a year ago at this time and stayed here: http://www.kauai-sunset.com/index.htm. It’s not fancy, but it was perfect for what we wanted (we didn’t want a big resort – my husband and I just wanted to some comfy, mellow time together). The hosts were delightful, really laid-back, and incredibly welcoming and helpful and gave us baskets of fruit picked from the property, great coffee, and other treats for our stay. We also stayed at the Waimea Plantation Cottages later in the trip, but enjoyed our time at the Aloha Sunset Cottage much more.

  • I want to go in November, but keep hearing how much rain it gets. Any experience? thanks

  • Where is the Big Island city guide? It’s referenced in this post, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere. Headed there Thursday!

  • Where do you recommend staying the night? You have to include that on any designers guide.

  • Hi! I was looking for a cool Kauai guide, and love the recommendations here. Unfortunately, a lot of the links are dead/re-routed now, but I was able to find a lot of the spots just by googling the names. May I suggest updating the links and deleting the ones for businesses that have closed? The information is still very much appreciated/needed!