Traveling is one of the greatest joys we get to experience in life. Seeing other countries, learning about different cultures, and meeting interesting people are a bonus on any travel itinerary. For most of us, experiencing breath-taking new destinations inspires us to bring back a little piece of our adventure for friends and family, hoping that the beauty and excitement from our journey rub off a bit onto them. Knowing what to buy can be tricky, and meeting airline luggage limitations even more so. For your next trip to the islands of Hawaii, consider the following ten items as “Must Buy” Hawaiian gifts and save room in your bags accordingly:
- Aloha Wear
- Hawaiian Jewelry
- Koa Wood
- Macadamia Nuts
- Coconut Oil
- Hawaiian Music
- Shark Teeth
Top 10 Hawaiian Souvenirs or Gifts
There is nothing as soothing as the strumming of the ukulele to evoke pleasant memories of your time on the Islands. Originally from Portugal, the ukulele made its way to Hawaii and was quickly adopted into Hawaiian culture. King David Kalakaua is credited for making the instrument gain popularity, but since then, it has surged in popularity to include top popular artists.
Popular Ukulele Artists:
- Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
- Grace VanderWaal
- Tiny Tim
- Daniel Ho
- Genoa Keawe
This four-stringed instrument is made of island wood and is light enough to carry in its own case or mail home. It looks like a mini-guitar and is found at just about any gathering on the islands that includes music. Ukuleles are found across the islands in specialty stores. However, you can find inexpensive toy replicas in any gift shop making this the perfect Hawaiian gift for any children you will be gifting upon your return.
Do not underestimate the power of the ukulele — you may want to pick up one for yourself and relive the sounds of the Islands while learning to play a new instrument.
2. Aloha Wear
At the mention of a Hawaiian shirt, some of us conjure up the image of a very sexy Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I. or Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii. There is no denying that the Hawaiian shirt, or aloha wear in general, has been a staple in our culture for years, and anyone would be thrilled to receive an authentic Hawaiian gift such as this!
Though the exact origin is unknown, it is thought that the aloha shirt made its first appearance in the 1920s or ‘30s when local Japanese women cut down kimono fabric for men’s shirts. A nice, button-up, collared Aloha shirt is considered formal attire anywhere on the islands. Short-sleeved, cool, and printed with bright colors, Hawaiian shirts bring some fun to anyone’s wardrobe. Aloha wear is bright and cheerful, catching the eye and bringing joy to both the wearer and those who see it. Be sure to pick up an extra aloha shirt for yourself; the friend or family member who receives this Hawaiian gift will be the hit of the next picnic or beach party!
3. Hawaiian Jewelry
Want to make a big impression while taking up little luggage space? Jewelry is always the perfect choice. Hawaiian jewelry is often crafted with natural materials. Floral plumeria designs, inspired by the Islands’ most iconic flowers, are currently quite popular in Hawaiian jewelry design.
Hawaiian jewelry is located in stores throughout the Islands and comes in a variety of designs, prices, and quality. Whether it is a Tahitian Pearl, Koa wood, or designed by a local artist, Hawaiian jewelry is sure to be a hit with anyone back home who wants to relive your adventure of the islands with you.
Another popular type of Hawaiian jewelry is heirloom jewelry. Dating back to Hawaii’s monarchy, this jewelry is fourteen karat gold with a black enamel inlay and is called “Hawaiian heirloom jewelry.” In 1887, while celebrating her Fiftieth Year Golden Jubilee, Queen Victoria presented Hawaii’s Princess Lili’uokalani with a solid gold bracelet.
Traditional pieces of this Hawaiian jewelry include a woman’s Hawaiian name written on gold in black enamel. The best pieces of this type of Hawaiian jewelry can be expensive, so it is important to be mindful of quality when shopping.
If you are a big fan of coffee or have friends and family who are, you will be happy to know that Hawaii is home to over 700 coffee farms growing specialty coffee. As the only U.S. state where coffee is grown and harvested, Hawaii is best known for Kona Coffee grown in the Kona District on the Big Island of Hawaii. The Islands are uniquely situated in the “coffee belt,” where the temperatures allow the trees to flourish, sustaining the production of over eight million pounds of coffee annually.
Each island has specialty coffees and gift shops to buy the coffee, but you do not have to travel to each island to enjoy the many varieties of coffee available. Coffee makes a great Hawaiian gift and can be brought to the mainland of the U.S. in unlimited supply. And, your friends and family will be able to replenish the thoughtful Hawaiian gift of coffee you brought them through online stores. However, after tasting the coffee, you will have inspired them to take their own trip to Hawaii!
5. Koa Wood
Koa trees are unique to Hawaii and are the second most common tree in the Islands. Originally used by King Kamehameha the Great’s warriors to make canoes and weapons, local artists now use this beautiful hardwood tree to create specialty pieces of all shapes and sizes.
Because of its beauty and rarity, Koa wood is expensive and can only be harvested from dead trees on public lands. These Hawaiian gifts deserve a special place of prominence in the house that receives this island treasure.
Koa wood is used to create:
- small bowls and plates
- writing pens
- picture frames
- small vases
The word “Koa” is Hawaiian for brave, bold, fearless, or warrior – all the words that describe you as a traveler, exploring the Islands for its history and natural beauty. Your adventuring spirit will be reflected in this Hawaiian treasure, inspiring whoever receives it to want to relive the bold journey you experienced on the Islands. Authentic Koa wood can only be purchased in Hawaii, making it the perfect gift to entice friends and family to travel to the island – or the perfect reason for you to go back.
6. Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts had a rather inauspicious beginning in Hawaii, considering they are such a sought-after staple currently. Brought to the Island by plant collector William Purvis after a trip to Australia in 1881, he originally planted the trees as a windbreak among the sugar cane trees. The nuts became popular among the sugar barons when they came to the Island to start the sugar industry. Macadamia nuts, which are known for their rich sweet flavor, began to be planted commercially around 1921. Most of the macadamia nuts in Hawaii come from the Big Island and are available in a variety of flavors, including chocolate-covered, roasted, and honey-roasted. Some macadamia nut companies also produce specialty flavors such as wasabi and spam! They are widely available across the islands and are easily tucked into handbags for a tasty treat while exploring the island or into luggage for a delicious Hawaiian gift for a lucky person back home!
7. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is the perfect Hawaiian gift for the Vegan in your life. The health benefits of coconut oil are matched only by its exhilarating scent. Whoever receives this Hawaiian gift will have a little adventure of their own, discovering all its rewarding advantages. This oil does wonders for a flaky crust, drizzled over popcorn, or a variety of uses in the kitchen. Rich in fatty acids, coconut oil does wonders in infusing moisture and luster back into hair and skin.
Coconut oil is infused into many other products that are desirable Hawaiian gifts as well, including:
- body creams
- hair products
- body wash
A thoughtful gift indeed, you should be sure to wrap it in plastic or a zip lock bag and pack this in your checked luggage as it is a liquid. The gift of coconut oil might start a new addiction for the person who receives it. The smell alone will transport them to the Islands! Get ready to relive your wonderful Island experience every time you catch the scent of coconut on the friend or family member who receives this Hawaiian gift.
8. Hawaiian Music
You will hear music unique to each island and the Hawaiian experience throughout your time on the Islands. While the music of the Hawaiian people is primarily religious in nature, it has impacted many music genres worldwide. Hawaiian-inspired music is often included on Hollywood soundtracks, and country music was changed forever by the introduction of the steel guitar.
Their soothing blend of ukuleles, slack guitars, acoustic guitars, and mandolins spans all types of genres, including:
- hip hop
While you are in the Islands, please contribute to the growth of Hawaiian talent and support a local artist by buying their music. Traditional Hawaiian music makes an inspiring Hawaiian gift because it is relaxing and timeless, creating an environment that will bring your friends and family to the islands instantly.
Despite being young volcanic islands, Hawaii has a wealth of beautiful fossils that can make a stunning Hawaiian gift. Most of the fossils available in Hawaii are representatives from marine life when the sea level was much higher than it is today. These beautifully preserved moments in history make a special gift for that nature-minded friend or family member.
Some fossils, like ammonite, are displayed in Hawaiian jewelry that allows others to enjoy its beauty as well. Because of the age of the Islands, dinosaurs were never discovered in Hawaii, which ensures you will have plenty of room in your luggage to take home fossils for display or in Hawaiian jewelry to wear as an homage to your memorable time in Hawaii.
10. Shark Teeth
For a very cool little Hawaiian gift that fits neatly into a purse or carry-on bag, consider shark teeth as a fascinating little memento of your time in the Islands. Megalodon teeth are a particularly rare find as that shark lived more than twenty million years ago, and its teeth are highly sought after.
A singularly remarkable gift, Megalodon teeth can be worn as Hawaiian jewelry or displayed prominently in the new fossil collection you will start after your trip to Hawaii. Whether affixed to a necklace chain as Hawaiian jewelry or loose in your hand, showing friends and family the shark teeth collected during your stay in Hawaii is sure to convince them of the uniqueness of your vacation destination.
After spending time on the islands, you may find that all the extra room you planned on having in your suitcase for gifts is filled with Hawaiian gifts for yourself! No need to worry – there are plenty of small souvenirs that can be found throughout the islands to give to friends and family.
Whether it is a little gift someone can carry with them every day as a reminder or a small something they will see each day, souvenir shops have some unique Hawaiian gifts to inspire your friends and family to travel.
Favorite Mini Souvenirs:
- bottle openers
- loose gemstones or shells
When we travel, we are inspired to share our adventures with others; and for many of us, sharing comes in the form of gifts. While our wish is to give the joy of our experience to our friends and family, the only gift they truly want is for us to enjoy our trip and to be in the moment. Our compromise? We will find them the best Hawaiian gifts that memorialize our time in the islands – and take us all back to the rhythm of the ocean and the soothing sounds of a ukulele.