Trying to find unique gifts on the West Side can be a daunting task. From Kapalua to the southern end of Lahaina Town, a jumble of big name boutiques and seemingly endless souvenir shops crowd tight streets and shopping centers. But there’s hope there—there is culture in Lahaina and West Maui.
Lahaina is known for art, but where do you go for something other than a plein air seascape or airbrushed whale picture? A good place to start is Bella Vetri Gallery in the Kapalua Shops. There you’ll find an incredible assortment of very colorful and very expensive hand-blown glass. Like Tom McGlaughlin’s “Miss L Looks Askance,” which retails for just $3,500 and would look very pretty in anyone’s front parlor. Oh, and you needn’t bother checking out the rest of the shops—except for Sansei and that place that sells Kapalua logo wear, there’s really nothing there.
Further south in Ka’anapali is the larger and more crowded Whaler’s Village. That’s where high fashion boutiques compete with other high fashion boutiques while big-name jewelry stores look on in disgust. But nestled in a nook on the lowest level is Lahaina Printsellers, Ltd., a tiny shop that sells maps. The walls are covered in authentic originals, some dating back hundreds of years, showing strange and mysterious lands populated with dragons and tigers that have since come to be known as Oregon and California. Anyway, they’ve also got plenty of far cheaper reproductions that will still give your father’s den that olde world flair it so desperately needs.
As you inch your way closer to Lahaina Town, make a stop at the Lahaina Cannery Mall for a couple gift ideas. Honolua Surf Co. offers boards, bags, sunglasses, slippers, aloha-print luggage and the latest in beach and surf wear, from Billabong, Volcom, Element, Ezekiel and more. Or check out some tropical IKEA-esque island home decor at Banana Wind, where you can stock up on your bamboo frames, raffia bedskirts, tiki mugs and Giant Porcupine Fish—a hanging, stuffed puffer with spines that’s sure to scare the bejesus out of the little ones as well as entertain the most drunken of your holiday guests.
Just a block away from Front Street in Lahaina is where you’ll find the best Westside selections in booze, glorious booze. Mr. Wine has over 600 selections in wine, as well as specialty liquors and import beers. But don’t be intimidated—just ask Brian or any of his qualified oenophiles for help and let the liquid sunshine flow!
If you live in Lahaina then you know that cruisers are the only transportation in town: Point A to point B in mere minutes with no parking hassles. West Maui Cycles in the industrial section of town has a wonderful selection of remarkable bikes. There are cowgirl bikes with denim and fringe and Schwinns that come equipped with badass ape hanger bars.
Front Street can be a terrifying place for the uninitiated shopper, with its densely packed T-shirt shops, ABC Stores and art galleries. Much of this is really only useful to someone watching the clock to see when the last launch heads back to the cruise ship.
But there are a few finds for those willing to seek out real cultural gems. The first place to start has to be the Old Lahaina Book Emporium, where an educational present goes a long way. Jo Ann has Hawaiiana, fiction, travel, true crime and a handsome selection of early Hunter S. Thompson works. Can’t say it with a book? Then head around the corner on Lahainaluna to Aunty Panty’s Lahaina Lingerie and pick up some fetish wear. Of course she’s also got a complete selection of adult toys and lingerie, depending on your price range and level of interest in the person you’re shopping for.
When you are in the market for some handmade gifts that really show craftsmanship, head toward the Banyan Tree. Every weekend there are artists under the tree selling their wares. From jewelry to oil paintings, there’s a lot to choose from. Across the street at the Wharf Cinema Center you will find Michael the sandalmaker crafting handmade leather sandals at Island Sandals, designed around the time of Christ. He even ships to your home: just send in an outline of your foot to get a custom fit.