10 Best Shopping Experiences in Puna Offer Unique Diversity
By Jade Eckardt
Puna is a district on the east side of the Big Island, and while it may be big on natural beauty and secluded areas, shoppingisn't exactly its strong point. In our list of the top ten shopping experiences in Puna, we even had to throw in a few that are technically in the Hilo district, but hey, they're barely past the border. Yet there's still enough shopping to satisfy a need for a little retail therapy, and most of it is in unique small shops and large outdoor markets.
Three outdoor farmers market can be found in the super rural area of Puna. Out by quirky Pahoa town you'll find the ultra big Maku'u Farmers Market on Sundays. Then up towards Volcano National Park the Hilo Coffee Mill Farmers Market takes place every Saturday. Meanwhile the longest standing market is the Hilo Farmers Market, every Wednesday and Saturday. All markets offer a whole lot more than food, they're great places for souvenir and gift shopping.
For a more upscale yet local style shopping experience Hana Hou is a must. Offering high end Hawaiian and Polynesian jewelry, accessories and clothing, Hana Hou is one of the newest and classiest shops in town. Stop by to find that special piece of jewelry that will hold meaning as a souvenir forever.
Have checking out the unique and varied wares sold in these Puna shops, and remember, always bring a reusable shopping bag.
Prince Kuhio Plaza
The Big Island's most modern mall, enclosed Prince Kuhio Shopping Plaza is home to department stores like Macy's and Sears, as well as to popular specialty shops like Foot Locker, Gamestop, Claire's, American Eagle Outfitters, and Pacific Sunwear. Nine-screen Prince Kuhio Stadium Cinemas is a terrific rainy-day option, and small kids love paying a visit to Plenty Fun Family Entertainment Center near the food court. The food court offers expected mall food options, and a supermarket an drug store on the same property, but not adjacent to the building fulfill other needs. The mall is small compared to mainland malls, but is the biggest on the Big Island. (808-959-3555)
Basically Books is the quintessential small and independently owned bookstore. It's apparent that the books, crafts, maps and art sold in the store were carefully chosen and have a nice balance of artistic quality, educational value, and cultural relevance. Located in Downtown Hilo across from the ocean, the book store is nestled among other small shops and restaurants making it an easy stop while exploring the area. This is where you'll want to visit for that perfect souvenir or gift, or of course a great book to read at the beach. A lot of local authors and artists are featured on the shelves. ((808) 961-0144)
Volcano Art Center
Founded in 1974, the Volcano Arts Center is dedicated to preserving and promoting worldwide awareness of the Hawaiian Islands' rich artistic history. The center hosts a variety of monthly exhibits and art sales that showcase paintings, wood sculptures, baskets, jewelry, and Polynesian-influenced masks. The exhibition gallery is located in the historic Volcano House Hotel, which dates to 1877. Visitors will find paintings, drawings, sculptures, stained glass pieces and jewelry here, all made by local crafters. Traditional Hawaiian pieces like feather work, hula dancing adornments and gourd drums, called ipu in Hawaiian, are also on display. Located in the cooler climate of Volcano, it's a unique place to visit. (808-967-7565, 866-967-7565)
Hilo Coffee Mill Farmers Market
The farmers market at the Hilo Coffee Mill in Puna is one of the newest farmers markets on this side of the island. Taking place in the back yard of the Hilo Coffe Mill, the market is still on the smaller side but offers a good array of crafts, produce and ready to eat food. Shoppers must bring a reusable shopping bag, and there's usually live music and quite a social scene. You will see wild hens running free around the 24-acre piece of land, and can enjoy local coffee inside of the mill. Taking place every Saturday from 8 a.m. till 1 p.m., the market offers a unique perspective into local life. (1-866-982-5551)
Named after a famous classic hula dancer, Hilo Hattie is the go to place in the islands for local style formal wear. Offering an abundance of aloha wear, Hilo Hattie offers tons of clothing and souvenirs perfect for any visitor. Men's, women's, and children's wear are all available. From aloha shirts, to mu'u mu'us, to leis, shorts and fashionable mini dresses, Hilo Hattie offers everything aloha themed. A button up and collared aloha shirt is all any man needs for a night out on the Big Island, and the dresses are ideal for women. Hilo and the rest of the Big Island maxes out at aloha wear when it comes to dressing up, so this is the spot to go to prepare for a nice dinner out. ((808)961-3077)
Hilo Farmers Market
Over 200 vendors of all kinds frequent the Hilo Farmers Market. Although it's open daily, the biggest days are Saturdays and Wednesdays from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. every other day. At the market you'll find everything from jewelry, to fresh flowers, to clothing and home decor, to food, ready to eat and to bring home and cook. The market is a bustling place to socialize or window and is a classic Hilo attraction. Located in Downtown Hilo across from the ocean, the market is a great place to people watch, browse, or pick up gifts and souvenirs. ((808) 933-1000)
According to the store owner, Hana Hou has a goal to perpetuate and educate the Hawaiian and Oceania culture. They offer one of kind handcrafted items made by master weavers and artisans from Hawaii and throughout Oceania. Located right on Bay Front in Historic Downtown Hilo, they sell handmade lauhala bags, shell jewelry, Tahitian pearl and silver jewelry, and a wide array of Hawaiian style clothing and accessories. This is wear locals go to find upscale yet "local style" goods to wear when they need to dress up island style. The crafts in the store are so beautiful it's worth even just window shopping. ((808) 935-4555)
The small shop called Jungle Love is as unique as the community it's in - colorful, wild, eclectic and fun. Jungle Love is family run by a mother and daughter, long time residents of the area. The shop sells locally made art and home decor, as well as imported goods from Indonesia, Thailand, and the like. Shopping here offers some of the most interesting finds on the island. From bamboo chimes to local paintings and photography to batik clothing and sarongs - if it's different you'll find it here. The staff here have all lived in the area for decades and are usually happy to chat. ((808) 965-7775)
Island Naturals Hilo Market & Deli
Best described as a natural food superstore, Island Naturals in an island staple for natural food, products, spirits, beauty products, and home supplies. What really awesome is that their breakfast hot bar serves just about everything you could want in the morning, no matter your taste. Eggs, sausage, fake sausage, tofu, pastries, and more along with really good Hawaiian coffee. Take it on the road or enjoy outside at tables. With locations in Pahoa, Hilo, and two in Kona, natural food can be obtained all over the island. The store has just about everything organic, natural and eco-friendly you could need. A highlight here is the hot bar and salad bar, with a changing menu each day that offers really good ready to eat food all day long. ((808) 935-5533)
Maku`u Farmers Market
The Maku`u Farmers market is huge. Seriously. Here you can find everything from clothing (new and used), home decor, house wares, garage sale like things, fresh plants for the yard, kid's toys, fresh produce, and a huge amount of ready to eat food. Taking place every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., the market is swarmed with people shopping, eating, and socializing. There's usually live music to accent the experience. The market never fails to be packed with people and is constantly growing. After passing Maku`u Drive on Highway 130, you'll see the market on your left. Parking can be tough to find but the huge parking lot usually allows for enough space for everyone. ((808) 896-5537)
About Jade Eckardt
Raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jade has traveled the world and doesn't intend to stop, yet the Hawaiian Islands are still her favorite place. She spent seven years living on Oahu and exploring the island. A regular visitor to Kauai, Jade recently authored a full-length Kauai guide book. She is a writer and photographer, whose work has been published in numerous regional and national magazines. When she's not writing, Jade enjoys a good beer, a good surf, and time in her garden with her son.
Read more about Jade Eckardt here.
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