Insider Tips for Best Shopping on Maui
Looking for the best shopping on Maui? Even if shopping is not a high priority on your Maui to-do list, you are likely to find something on the island that entices you to open that wallet—a unique handcrafted item, colorful Hawaiian clothing, islandy gifts for friends and family back home, or maybe just some exotic fruit from a local farmer’s market. Statistics show that shopping is one of the most popular things to do on Maui for visitors, coming in third on the list after exploring Haleakala and the Road to Hana! There are lots of shopping options on Maui, and my foremost suggestion is that you migrate toward places that feature authentic made-on-Maui or made-in-Hawaii products that will be truly meaningful mementos from your trip. (Unless you really WANT a plastic hula dancer with a Made in China label on it.)
Here are my personal tips for the best shopping on Maui:
Maui’s charming little towns provide great venues for compact shopping excursions, with everything concentrated within just one or two main streets. My favorite shopping towns:
Paia (on the North Shore), with its “hippie” beach town vibe, tops my list because it offers such a great combination of small boutique shops, locally made products, and yummy little restaurants and cafes. Definitely some of the best shopping on Maui here!
The paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) town of Makawao (located Upcountry) is also a favorite of mine for its combination of charming boutiques and eateries. Front Street in Lahaina (pictured at top, courtesy of Polinahe Photography) offers a lovely stroll along the waterfront and a more extensive and eclectic shopping experience ranging from big name restaurants and art galleries to typical “touristy” souvenir and t-shirt shops (just keep on moving), with some wonderful local shopping and dining gems tucked into the midst of all that activity.
And the historic plantation town of Wailuku (pictured on right) in Central Maui is newly emerging as a unique shopping destination, although on a limited scale right now. Browse along the one main block of Market Street and swing around the corner onto Main Street (go left on Main to find Native Intelligence, one of my favorite stores featuring handcrafted Hawaiian products)–you’ll discover some delightful locally-owned shops. Wailuku is just a short distance to Iao Valley State Park, so it’s ideal to pair a visit to the Iao Needle with a shopping stop in Wailuku.
At the other end of the spectrum, Maui’s shopping centers offer everything from high-end designer stores to hand-made island products. So if your fondest dream is to carry a Louis Vuitton bag you purchased from Maui or you just want some comfy “slippahs” for the beach, you’ll likely find both here. My favorite shopping center for a mix of high-end brand names and more down-to-earth local stores is Whalers Village in Kaanapali (West Maui), with The Shops at Wailea (South Maui) a close second (but a bit more on the high end).
Maui’s shopping centers are also a great source of free entertainment from hula shows to ukulele lessons, so check out their entertainment schedules. Lahaina Cannery Mall is the only fully-enclosed air-conditioned shopping center on the island, so when the weather is too hot or too rainy, that’s a good low-key place to take cover, wander through some shops, and enjoy some entertainment at their center stage.
Yes…on Maui, Costco stands alone in its very own shopping category. EVERYONE shops at Costco, locals and visitors alike. It is “the great gathering place” on our island – the place where you are most likely to run into your neighbor or friend or boss. So if you are a member, bring your Costco card with you to Maui. (If you are not familiar with Costco, it is a U.S. membership-only warehouse store that carries pretty much everything at a reasonable price). Prominently located near the Kahului Airport, Costco is a cost-efficient place to stop and stock up on groceries for your kitchen if you have rented a condo or vacation home. And it’s got excellent prices on island products like coffee, macadamia nuts, beach equipment, and other items to enjoy or take home to friends and family.
Swap Meets, Crafter Fairs, and Farmers’ Markets
If you are looking for great souvenirs or unique island products, head to Maui’s biggest swap meet every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the University of Hawaii Maui College campus in Kahului. I love taking visiting friends here. You’ll see both visitors and locals wandering through the rows of open-air booths, where you’ll find arts and crafts, souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, food, flowers, produce, and everything else you can imagine from around 200 vendors. Not everything at the swap meet is a bargain, but it costs just 50 cents to get in and it’s a fun place to search for some one-of-a-kind island products.
In West Maui, head for the weekly Maui Gift & Craft Fair. This event, featuring approximately 50 local vendors, took place for many years in the Lahaina Civic Center, but due to ongoing renovations at the civic center it has found a temporary new home at Lahaina Gateway Center. (The shopping center across the street from Safeway/Lahaina Cannery.) Every Sunday. Free admission and plenty of free parking.
Another place to find great locally-made art, jewelry, and gifts is at the weekend art festivals hosted by Lahaina Arts Society. For years, these art and craft fairs took place regularly at Banyan Tree Park, but the event has moved to Lahaina Cannery. Lahaina Arts Society publishes scheduled dates for the event, so you won’t miss out.
On any given day of the week, there is at least one farmers’ market taking place somewhere on this island offering a delicious selection of fresh produce, literally direct from the farm. (And sometimes you’ll find handmade foods and gifts at farmers’ markets, too.) In addition to familiar favorites like tree-ripened bananas and papayas, you’ll undoubtedly discover some fruits and vegetables you’ve probably never seen before. Give ’em a try! When you’re here on the island, check the local papers or ask at your accommodations to get the schedule for nearby farmers’ markets.
Other Stores Worth A Mention for Best Shopping on Maui:
Maui Clothing Outlet on the upper highway in Kihei (South Maui) is a favorite of mine for reduced-price bargains on brand-name island-style clothing that is selling for higher prices at other stores all over Maui. Swimsuits, aloha shirts, ladies aloha wear, etc. Some of the best shopping on Maui at discount prices. Definitely worth a stop.
Kula Marketplace, the store located next to Kula Lodge (upcountry Maui). I love this place for its vast selection of high quality, island-made products. If you are doing an upcountry day (and you SHOULD while you’re here!), stop in.
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Candy Aluli, Publisher
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