An independent shopping guide: Make your holiday gift run local and affordable

Barb Forsyth

KAIMUKI—This time of year there is no shortage of gift suggestions, coming at shoppers from every direction. Often times, this makes the task of shopping for holiday gifts tougher, not easier. If you’re like me, short on time, and cash, but determined to display originality and style, then here some great ideas that are both locally made and affordable for everyone on your list.

In Kaimuki, three shops are sure to satisfy your gift-giving sensibility, all within a few blocks from each other.

First stop: Drift, 434 Waialae Ave. #4. Fresh picks at this eco-chic boutique across from Town restaurant include skull earrings and bangle bracelets by Wild Thing ($30 and up), perfect for an earthy, yet edgy hipster. Also just in is a new collection of super-soft silkscreen tees by Vers, of which the standout design is a peace sign comprised of various sea life, available for both adults and children ($35).

Cotton dish towels from Sugarcane

Sugarcane boutique, 1137 11th Avenue, #101 (next to Hog Island BBQ), makes for good one-stop shopping. Offering fun items that you don’t see anywhere else, it is the ideal place to score both a unique “White Elephant” gift and the perfect present for your BFF.  Light cotton printed scarves by Bungalow 360 ($20) can also be worn as a belt or a headband. Although they are from California, not Hawaii, their cheery honu-and-peace-sign print screams Hawaii and therefore had to make this list. The same print is available in canvas totes, wallets, and other practical formats. 

Another great grab bag or hostess gift is a printed cotton dish towel, from Kailua, in a selection of sunny colors and decorated with your choice of hula girls, mermaids, sea shells, monstera, seahorses, or pineapples. At just $10 a piece, they are a versatile for teachers, neighbors, friends, and relatives that breath fresh life into an island aesthetic. 

Bess Press books

When in doubt, local books from Kaimuki’s own Bess Press are another good bet. The small-format Waikiki Tiki book ($22.95), packed with photos, is ideal for any lover of Hawaiiana, while the Hawaiian Word-a-Day Calendar is great for an office mate.

For any woman you know who loves to cook, consider a handmade apron from Back in Time ($36). Donna Moore, who lives on the North Shore, uses fun fabrics for her colorful apron, including a vintage-feeling tiki print ($36). There is also a good selection of aprons for children ($28). 

Lily Lotus tanks

Around the corner from Sugarcane, on 12th Avenue, is the Lily Lotus, 1127 12th Ave. The boutique features yoga and lounge wear chic enough to wear around town. Their line of tie dye and embellished tanks for adults and children ($25 to $44) are a perennial favorite. They also have a small, yet excellent, selection of jewelry, such as the very wearable Bliss Mauimari ocean jewelry designs (earrings and bracelets starting at $32).

Machine Machine apparel at Aloha Aina Boutique

Slightly further afield, the brand new Aloha Aina Boutique, Royal Hawaiian Center 2301 Kalakaua Ave. suite #214C (Next to Island Vintage Coffee), which opened on November 25. The boutique is a convenient destination for those who live and work in Waikiki. Co-owner Kristy Carrina Curnow has has a long history of working in retail, much of it catering to visitors, and wanted to open a boutique offering high-quality, locally-made goods as an alternative to the cheap imports that flood the tourist marketplace—about 80 percent of their merchandise hails from Hawaii. Pop in after work or after dinner (it’s open until 10:00 p.m.), and pick up a fetching clutch or makeup bag made from vintage fabrics by Lanai’s own Cory Labang (starting at around $30) or a funky, one-of-a-kind Machine Machine cap for the hipster surfer chick ($38 and up). For your favorite little princess, check out Happy Honu skirts, sewn with love in Maui ($45). Aloha Aina also carries an extensive collection of jewelry from such local designers as Laakea, Nina Kuna, Drift, Omnia, Leaf and Pearl, and more.

Cory Labang clutches at Aloha Aina Boutique

Gastronomes can be a discerning bunch, and Hawaii’s own Alan Wong just released The Blue Tomato ($40) that is guaranteed to both challenge and inspire any budding chef. Part cook book, part personal journey, this beautiful volume is chock full of signature regional cuisine recipes, beautiful photos, factoids, tips, and more. Copies will be for sale at the Kuahiwi Ranch tent at the KCC Farmers Market this coming Saturday, December 11 and online at

Kauai’s Koloa Rum

Finally, Kauai’s own Koloa Rum is now available in Oahu, at various locations such as Whole Foods’s newly opened spirits section. Yes, I featured this in last year’s guide, but back then one had to go to Kauai to get their award winning dark rum, which is a clever substitution for the go-to-bottle-of-wine gift, and would also make a killer egg nog. Cheers to that!

Store info:
Drift is open daily from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at 3434 Waialae Ave., Suite 4, (808) 284-1177.
Sugarcane is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. at 1137 11th Ave. #101, (808) 739-2263.
Lily Lotus is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. at 127 12th Avenue, (808) 735-3400.
Aloha Aina Boutique is open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. at the Royal Hawaiian Center 2301 Kalakaua Ave suite #214C (Next to Island Vintage Coffee) (808) 924-4333.