Maui is a shopaholic's dream as well as an arts center, with a large number of resident artists who show their works in dozens of galleries and countless gift shops. Maui is also the queen of specialty products, an agricultural cornucopia that includes Kula onions, upcountry protean, Kaanapali coffee, world-renowned potato chips, and many other tasty treats that are shipped worldwide.
With a well-heeled flourish, The Shops at Wailea, an upscale shopping-and-restaurant complex, opened in South Maui in 2001. The 16-acre complex features more than 50 shops and five restaurants, including Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Gap, Banana Republic, and the ever-popular local retailers Martin & MacArthur and Ki'i Gallery. This is resort shopping much in the vein of Whalers Village in Kaanapali, where shopping and restaurant activity is concentrated in a single oceanfront complex. The Shops at Wailea signal a repositioning of the resort as a place of heightened commercial activity.
Don't ignore central Maui, home to some first-rate boutiques. Watch Wailuku, which is poised for resurgence. The town has its own antiques alleys, the new Sig Zane Designs has brought a delightful infusion of creative and cultural energy, and a major promenade on Main Street is in the works. The Kaahumanu Center, in neighboring Kahului, is becoming more fashionable by the month.
Upcountry, Makawao's boutiques are worth seeking out, despite some attitude and high prices. The charm of shopping on Maui has always rested in the small, independent shops and galleries that crop up in surprising places.
Kahului's best shopping is concentrated in two places. Almost all of the shops listed below are at one of the following centers:
The once rough-around-the-edges Maui Mall, 70 E. Kaahumanu Ave. (tel. 808/877-7559), is the talk of Kahului. Newly renovated, it's now bigger and better and has retained some of my favorite stores while adding a 12-screen movie megaplex that features current releases as well as art-house films. The mall is still a place of everyday good things, from Long's Drugs to Star Market to Tasaka Guri Guri, the decades-old purveyor of inimitable icy treats, neither ice cream nor shave ice but something in between.
Queen Kaahumanu Center, 275 Kaahumanu Ave. (tel. 808/877-3369), 5 minutes from the Kahului Airport on Highway 32, offers more than 100 shops, restaurants, and theaters. Its second-floor Plantation District offers home furnishings and accessories, and gift and accessories shops. Kaahumanu covers all the bases, from arts and crafts to a Foodland Supermarket and everything in between: a thriving food court; the island's best beauty supply, Lisa's Beauty Supply & Salon (tel. 808/877-6463), and its sister store for cosmetics, Madison Avenue Day Spa and Boutique (tel. 808/873-0880); mall standards like Sunglass Hut, Radio Shack, and Local Motion (surf and beach wear); and standard department stores like Macy's and Sears and great specialty shops like Sharper Image.
Edibles-- The Star Market and Long's Drugs in the Maui Mall, Foodland in the Kaahumanu Center, and Safeway at 170 E. Kamehameha Ave. will satisfy your ordinary grocery needs. On Saturday you may want to check out the Maui Swap Meet.
Down to Earth Natural Foods, 305 Dairy Rd. (tel. 808/877-2661), a health-food staple for many years, has fresh organic produce, a bountiful salad bar, sandwiches and smoothies, vitamins and supplements, fresh-baked goods, snacks, whole grains, and several packed aisles of vegetarian and health foods.
Maui's produce has long been a source of pride for islanders, and Ohana Farmers Market, in the Kahului Shopping Center (tel. 808/871-8347), is the place to find a fresh, inexpensive selection of Maui-grown fruit, vegetables, flowers, and plants. Crafts and gourmet foods add to the event, and the large monkey pod trees provide welcome shade.
Wailuku-- Located at the gateway to Iao Valley, Wailuku is the county seat, the part of Maui where people live and work. Wailuku's attractive vintage architecture, smattering of antiques shops, and mom-and-pop eateries imbue the town with a down-home charm noticeably absent in Maui's resort areas. The community spirit fuels festivals throughout the year and is slowly attracting new businesses, but Wailuku is still a work in progress. It's a mixed bag -- of course, there's junk, but a stroll along Main and Market streets usually turns up a treasure or two.
Lahaina- merchants and art galleries go all out from 7 to 9pm on Friday, when Art Night brings an extra measure of hospitality and community spirit. The Art Night openings are usually marked with live entertainment, refreshments, and a livelier-than-usual street scene.
What was formerly a big, belching pineapple cannery is now a maze of shops and restaurants at the northern end of Lahaina town, known as the Lahaina Cannery Mall, 1221 Honoapiilani Hwy. (tel. 808/661-5304). Find your way through the T-shirt and sportswear shops to coffee at Sir Wilfred's Coffee House, where you can unwind with espresso and croissants, or head for Compadres Bar & Grill, where the margaritas flow freely and the Mexican food is tasty. For film, water, aspirin, groceries, sunscreen, and other things you can't live without, nothing beats Long's Drugs and Safeway, two old standbys. Roland's may surprise you with its selection of footwear, everything from Cole-Haan sophisticates to inexpensive sandals. At the recently expanded food court, the new Compadres Taquería sells Mexican food to go, while L & L Drive-Inn sells plate lunches near Greek, pizza, Vietnamese, and Japanese food booths.
The Lahaina Center, 900 Front St. (tel. 808/667-9216), is still a work in progress. It's located north of Lahaina's most congested strip, where Front Street begins. Across the street from the center, the seawall is a much-sought-after front-row seat to the sunset. There's plenty of free validated parking and easy access to more than 30 shops, a salon, restaurants, a nightclub, and a four-plex movie-theater complex. Ruth's Chris Steak House has opened its doors in Lahaina Center, and Maui Brews serves lunch and dinner and offers nighttime live music on weekdays. Among the shopping stops: Banana Republic, the Hilo Hattie Fashion Center (a dizzying emporium of aloha wear), ABC Discount Store, and a dozen other recreational, dining, and entertainment options.
The conversion of 10,000 square feet of parking space into the re-creation of a traditional Hawaiian village is a welcome touch of Hawaiiana at Lahaina Center. With the commercialization of modern Lahaina, it's easy to forget that it was once the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom and a significant historic site. The village, called Hale Kahiko (www.lahainacenter.com/hale_kahiko.html), features three main houses, called hale: a sleeping house, the men's dining house, and the crafts house, where women pounded hala (pandanus) strips to weave into mats and baskets. Construction of the houses consumed 10,000 square feet of ohia wood from the island, 20 tons of pili grass, and more than 4 miles of hand-woven coconut sennit for the lashings. Artifacts, weapons, a canoe, and indigenous trees are among the authentic touches in this village, which can be toured privately or with a guide.
Kaanapali-- Whalers Village, 2435 Kaanapali Pkwy. (Tel. 808/661-4567). Although it offers everything from whale blubber to Prada and Ferragamo, it is short on local shops, and parking at the nearby lot is expensive. The complex is home to the Whalers Village Museum, with interactive exhibits and a 40-foot sperm-whale skeleton, but shoppers come for the designer thrills and beachfront dining. You can find most of the items featured here in the shops in Lahaina and can avoid the parking hassle and the high prices by skipping Whalers Village.
Kahana/Napili/Honkowai-- Those driving north of Kaanapali toward Kapalua will notice the Honokowai Marketplace on Lower Honoapiilani Road, only minutes before the Kapalua Airport. There are restaurants and coffee shops, a dry cleaner, the flagship Star Market, Hula Scoops for ice cream, a gas station, a copy shop, a few clothing stores, and the sprawling Hawaiian Interiorz.
Nearby Kahana Gateway is an unimpressive mall built to serve the condominium community that has sprawled along the coastline between Honokowai and Kapalua. If you need women's swimsuits, however, Rainbow Beach Swimwear is a find. It carries a selection of suits for all shapes, at lower-than-resort prices, slashed even further during the frequent sales. Hutton's Fine Jewelry offers high-end jewelry from designers around the country (lots of platinum and diamonds), reflecting discerning taste for those who can afford it. Tahitian black pearls and jade are among Hutton's specialties.
Kapalua-- A Creative Way to Spend the Day--Make a bowl from clay or paint a premade one, then fire it and take it home. The Art School at Kapalua (tel. 808/665-0007; www.kapaluamaui.com), in a charming 1920s plantation building that was part of an old cannery operation, features local and visiting instructors and is open daily for people of all ages and skill levels. Projects, classes, and workshops at this not-for-profit organization highlight creativity in all forms, including photography, figure drawing, ceramics, landscape painting, painting on silk, and the performing arts (ballet, yoga, creative movement, Pilates). Classes are inexpensive. Call the school to see what's scheduled while you're on Maui.
Kihei is one long stretch of strip malls. Most of the shopping here is concentrated in the Azeka Place Shopping Center on South Kihei Road. Fast foods abound at Azeka, as do tourist-oriented clothing shops like Crazy Shirts. Across the street Azeka Place II houses several prominent attractions, including General Nutrition Center, the Coffee Store, and a cluster of specialty shops with everything from children's clothes to shoes, sunglasses, beauty services, and swimwear. Also on South Kihei Road is the Kukui Mall, with movie theaters, Waldenbooks, and Whaler's General Store.
Makawao-- Besides being a shopper's paradise, Makawao is the home of the island's most prominent arts organization, the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center, 2841 Baldwin Ave. (tel. 808/572-6560; www.huinoeau.com). Designed in 1917 by C. W. Dickey, one of Hawaii's most prominent architects, the two-story, Mediterranean-style stucco home that houses the center is located on a sprawling 9-acre estate called Kaluanui. A legacy of Maui's prominent kamaaina (old-timers) Harry and Ethel Baldwin, the estate became an arts center in 1976. Visiting artists offer lectures, classes, and demonstrations, all at reasonable prices, in basketry, jewelry making, ceramics, painting, and other media. Classes on Hawaiian art, culture, and history are also available. Call ahead for schedules and details. The exhibits here are drawn from a wide range of disciplines and multicultural sources, and include both contemporary and traditional art from established and emerging artists. The gift shop, featuring many one-of-a-kind works by local artists and artisans, is worth a stop. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm.
Edibles-- Working folks in Makawao pick up spaghetti, lasagna, sandwiches, salads, and wide-ranging specials from the Rodeo General Store, 3661 Baldwin Ave. (tel. 808/572-7841). At the far end of the store is the oenophile's bonanza, a superior wine selection housed in its own temperature-controlled cave.
Down to Earth Natural Foods, 1169 Makawao Ave. (tel. 808/572-1488), always has fresh salads and sandwiches, a full section of organic produce (Kula onions, strawberry papayas, mangos, and litchis in season), bulk grains, beauty aids, herbs, juices, snacks, tofu, seaweed, soy products, and aisles of vegetarian and health foods. Whether it's a smoothie or a salad, Down to Earth has fresh, healthy, vegetarian offerings.
T. Komoda Store and Bakery, 3674 Baldwin Ave. (tel. 808/572-7261), has spent in this spot, untold numbers have creaked over the wooden floors to pick up Komoda's famous cream puffs. Old-timers know to come early, before they're sold out. Then the cinnamon rolls, doughnuts, pies, and chocolate cake take over. Pastries are just the beginning: Poi, macadamia-nut candies and cookies, and small bunches of local fruit keep the customers coming.
Fresh Flowers in Kula
Like anthuriums on the Big Island, proteas are a Maui trademark and an abundant crop on Haleakala's rich volcanic slopes. They also travel well, dry beautifully, and can be shipped with ease worldwide. Among Maui's most prominent sources is Sunrise Protea (tel. 808/876-0200; www.sunriseprotea.com), in Kula. It offers a walk-through garden and gift shops, friendly service, and a larger-than-usual selection. Freshly cut flowers arrive from the fields on Tuesday and Friday afternoons. You can order individual blooms, baskets, arrangements, or wreaths for shipping all over the world. (Next door, the Sunrise Country Market offers fresh local fruits, snacks, and sandwiches, with picnic tables for lingering.)