Hawaii is full of things you can’t take home, like pearly white coconuts, fiery red lava, and iridescent triggerfish. Fortunately, each of the main Hawaiian islands also sports a booming community of craftspeople, artisans, and foodies that make some truly authentic Hawaiian gifts. Whether you’re looking to send Hawaiian gifts to friends and family back home or just know someone who loves all things Hawaiian, you’re sure to find your island makana here!
Hawaiian Gifts: The List!
1. Screen Prints and Posters by Nick Kuchar
Fans of mid-century modern style will appreciate Nick’s eye for sensual lines, creamy colors, and perfectly balanced compositions. His original art is happy, wistful, and somehow evokes both the past and the future at once.
You don’t have to have a tiki bar in the basement to hang one of Nick’s travel posters on the wall. And you don’t have to be sitting on a beach to use one of his stylish “Party Wave” coasters for your coconut mojito. Everything ships from ‘Ewa Beach on Oahu.
2. 100% Kona Coffee from Mokulele Farms
True Kona Coffee is expensive because only beans grown along a narrow swath of land in the mountains above Kona can legally use the moniker. You’ll see lots of Kona blends out there at lower price points, but they’re just a sad watered down version of the real thing. Mokulele Farms is as authentic as it gets. They’ll ship you a one pound bag of hand-picked freshly roasted 100% Kona coffee beans at a fair price in a stay-fresh bag. It feels good to know every dollar goes to the farm, doesn’t it?
There’s also a monthly Hawaii coffee tour subscription for true coffee nuts.
3. Men’s Koa Wood Watch
This watch tells time all right, but it’s the silky smooth and nicely grained koa wood that steals the show. Koa is native to Hawaii and only the dead trees are harvested after a lifespan of 50-80 years. It’s particularly plentiful on the Big Island, where forests of koa used to dominate the middle elevations. Over time, the word koa came to mean “warrior” since it’s solid enough to use for carving weapons. It’s also the material that the first surfboards were made from. This simple and subtle watch honors the long history of Hawaii’s most famous species of tree.
4. Temporary Tattoos from Kauai
Take a turtle and some island waves home with you! Tats 4 Now honed their design skills on Kauai and takes inspiration from native Hawaiian art with a little bit of hip-hop mixed in for good measure. Their 5 x 7″ sheet of glittery silver and gold temporary tattoos is chock full of island-themed glam. Who knew “ALOHA” could still read as “ALOHA” upside down? Ships from Kapaa on Kauai.
5. Tropical Sugar Cookies by Melissa Burns
If the reviews are to be trusted, these are among the freshest and most delicious cookies in all of the Pacific. The fact that they’re meticulously decorated in tropical island themes and packaged up beautifully for shipping to the mainland is a total bonus. Melissa’s Etsy shop, A Little Bit of Paris, makes everything to order and then ships promptly anywhere in the world from Kea’au on the Big Island of Hawaii. Sets of 12 cookies arrive fresh, intact, and ready to devour!
6. Vintage Hawaiian Shirts
I still have the first real Hawaiian shirt I ever bought, from a thrift shop in Honokaa on the Big Island. It’s the real deal, circa 1962 with marvelous wooden buttons and a faded blue print that only gets more faded with time. Thanks to the internet, you can now order up your very own vintage Hawaiian shirt from thrift shops like Pele’s Treasure Trove and Chic Vintage Hawaii. No Tommy Bahama impostors here!
7. (Dehydrated) Macadamia Nuts
If you’re used to eating the typical roasted and salted macadamia nuts you find at Trader Joe’s or your local grocery, then you’re missing out on the real deal. We had our first taste of dehydrated unsalted macadamia nuts south of Kona on the Big Island, and they are without a doubt more crispy, more delicious, and fresher tasting than their more processed brethren. The dehydration process locks in the natural oils and produces a snappy crunch that’ll keep for up to six months when refrigerated. Try ’em and you’ll never again buy regular old macadamia nuts!
For flavored and otherwise sweetened, spiced, and dressed up macadamia nuts, it’s hard to beat Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company’s incredible selection.
8. A Fresh Flower Lei
It’s no secret that your sense of smell is intimately linked to your deepest memories and emotions. When you drop a fresh flower lei on someone, there’s no telling where their mind may wander. This tropical sensory experience used to be reserved for Hawaiian royalty but it’s now available to anyone with a credit card and a mailing address. Aloha Island Lei has a colorful selection and a reliable shipping program that’ll get your leis to your doorstep looking and smelling as fresh as the moment they were strung.
For a masculine look, check out the Deluxe Kukui Nut Lei.
9. Hawaii In Paint Wall Art
This limited edition print by Denise Wong nicely captures the fleeting colors of the Pacific Ocean and the improbable volcanic islands that interrupt its vast blue expanse. Hawaii in Paint is printed on archival paper with deluxe pigment inks for vibrant colors that last longer than memories. It’s available framed and unframed in many sizes, from a simple 5 x 7 all the way up to a show-stopping 54 x 40 inches.
Instagrammers will love this sun-drenched shot of Waikiki.
10. An Authentic Hawaiian Ukelele
If you ever find yourself in Hawi at the very northern tip of the Big Island, definitely drop by a little shop called Hawaii Cigar & Ukelele. They have one of the finest selections of vintage ukeleles (and Hawaiian shirts) in all the islands. Then be sure to hike the Pololu Valley trail. It’s short, steep, and makes you think you’re on Kauai for a spell.
11. Manta Ray Necklace
Manta rays are among the least understood and most graceful creatures that plumb the depths of the Pacific. Their gentle demeanor is perhaps surpassed only by their amazing ability to glide silently underwater at speeds up to forty miles an hour. There are few places on Earth where you can swim with manta rays, and the Big Island is one of them. Celebrate these gentle giants with a sterling silver necklace made right in Kona.
12. A Vintage One-of-a-Kind Find
You never know what strangely amusing piece of Polynesia you’ll discover when you duck into a thrift shop or vintage store in Hawaii. Fortunately, you don’t have to buy a plane ticket to poke around Mauna Kea Galleries in Honolulu. They post some of their most unique and original finds to their Etsy shop and their shipping costs to the mainland are exceedingly reasonable.
13. Hawaiian Music Playlists
Gone are the days when you could tee up your twelve favorite songs, record a mixtape, and handwrite a sweet note on the inside cover. In its place, are ungodly long Spotify playlists put together by serious connoisseurs of just about every genre under the sun. Luckily for you, that includes plenty of Hawaiian music, from traditional to more hip-hoppy fare. Here are our favorites:
To send someone a Spotify playlist as a gift, navigate to the playlist in the app, click on “Share” and then use the “Send To” tab to enter their name. Finally, add a short gift note and send away.
14. Give Them A Little Poke
This is the one book I’ve taken with me on just about every trip to Hawaii. To the newly exposed, the raw fish dish known simply as poke may seem simple and easy to execute. But there’s much more to poke than fresh ahi and soy sauce. Sam Choy gets all the details right in this tiny tome. Who needs to order that $19 tuna tartare appetizer when you can make a pound of poke at home for the same money?
Did we miss one of your favorite Hawaiian gifts? E kala mai iaʻu! Let us know about it in the comments and we might include it in a regular post update.