Don’t worry! We’re not here to give out Google Maps directions to anyone’s favorite “secret” waterfall. But we are here to share some hidden gems on Oahu—our favorite local businesses. With our guide, you’ll enjoy a unique, only-on-Oahu experience while supporting our local artists, artisans, farmers, makers, chefs, business owners, and entrepreneurs.
The vibrancy of Oahu’s culture rests on the businesses run by local individuals and families—and they’re a huge part of what makes Oahu so special. We encourage you to shop and support local on the Gathering Place as much as you can. Use this list of our favorites as your starting point.
#1: Mori by Art + Flea
Tucked into the South Shore Market (a great stop for shopping local!), you’ll find Mori by Art + Flea. This small boutique packs a big punch, with art, accessories, stationery, home décor, clothing, and more from 200+ local artists, creators, and brands. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind gift with some authentic creative flair, Mori by Art + Flea is a perfect place to shop.
Need a recommendation? We’re particularly fond of Lauren Trangmar’s matted prints, which meticulously deconstruct some of Hawaii’s most beloved objects, activities, and more.
#2: Frankie’s Nursery
Whether you’re a visitor or a resident, Frankie’s Nursery in Waimanalo has plenty to offer.
If Oahu is your home, Frankie’s is THE place to go when you’re ready to add some fruit trees to your property. Given the diverse range of microclimates on Oahu, consulting with the experts at Frankie’s ensures you’ll choose trees that will thrive on your property—and produce plenty of delicious fruit for years to come. There’s nothing like enjoying mangoes, avocados, papayas, lychee, citrus fruits, and more right from your yard.
If you’re just visiting Oahu—or you’ve already got your hands full where landscaping is concerned—Frankie’s also sells fruit from their trees, harvested daily. Selection varies, based on what’s in season. Their famously sweet Meli Kalima “Honey Cream” pineapples, patented by owner Frank Sekiya, are available year-round.
#3: The Best Kahuku Shrimp Truck
When it comes to the shrimp trucks in Kahuku on Oahu’s North Shore, Giovanni’s is probably the one you’ve heard of. However, they’re by no means the only spot slinging shrimp in Kahuku. Below, we’ve put two other contenders we like—Fumi’s and the Famous Kahuku Shrimp Truck.
Which one is the best? That’s up to you to decide. Head on up, and make sure you bring cash. All three trucks are cash-only—no cards. (That’s true of most of the food trucks on the North Shore, so stock up accordingly.)
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
56-505 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku, HI 96731
Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp
56-777 Kamehameha Highway. Kahuku, HI 96731
Famous Kahuku Shrimp Truck
56-565 Kamehameha Highway Kahuku, HI 96731
#4: Bookends in Kailua
As is the case on the mainland, many bookstores in Hawaii have shut their doors. However, Bookends in Kailua is still going strong, and remains one of the most vibrant neighborhood bookstores on Oahu. Founded in 1998 by Pat Banning, Bookends has a huge selection of new and used books, plus games, puzzles, cards and more. You’ll find something for every member of the family at Bookends. And, if you need some help finding the right book, their friendly team members are always happy to assist.
#5: Shige’s Saimin Stand
Saimin is one of those only-in-Hawaii dishes that puts the island chain’s diverse cultural influences on full display. This noodle dish likely got its start on Hawaii’s plantations, with workers from different ethnicities adding their own ingredients to a shared meal to create this distinctive meal. (Think: ramen with a twist.)
Everyone’s got their own saimin place, and ours is Shige’s. They make their noodles fresh every day, and it shows. Their cheeseburgers are pretty good, too. Order one along with a bowl of saimin and relish the contrast.
#6: Bailey’s Antiques and Aloha Shirts
Did you know that “casual Friday” started in Hawaii as “aloha Friday?” Whether you want to embrace the original roots of this tradition at your job on the mainland—or you’re just doing business in and around Hawaii—it all starts with the right aloha shirt. Bailey’s is the place to go. (Ladies, we have thoughts about aloha wear for you, too, but that’s another article entirely!)
Bailey’s features 15,000+ aloha shirts in four categories: new, used, vintage, and specialty. Whether you’re starting your aloha shirt wardrobe or filling it out, check out the vast selection at Bailey’s. You’ll also find a whimsical collection of Hawaiiana at their Diamond Head location.
#7: Fresh Catch
1113 Kapahulu Ave
45-1118 Kamehameha Highway
98-371 Kamehameha Highway
If you’re starting to notice that a lot of our favorite spots involve food…it’s no accident! Food is a big part of life here in Hawaii, and you’ll find it at the center of many social gatherings. Oahu residents take their food seriously, and there are plenty of ono grinds all over the island.
Fresh Catch is no exception. They’ve got three locations dishing out some of the best poke on Oahu, plus classic plate lunches and party platters. Our favorites include the ahi limu poke and the ahi katsu spicy bento.
(And if you want to hear owner Reno Henriques talk story about founding Fresh Catch and spending time with Guy Fieri, check out his episode on the What School You Went? podcast.)
#8: Native Books at Arts & Letters
Learning about the culture, language, ideas, history, and traditions of the native Hawaiians adds a new dimension to life on Oahu. Among the many resources on Oahu, including Iolani Palace and the Bishop Museum, you’ll find Native Books. The store was founded in 1990 by Maile Meyer, who spent her first years selling books at community events.
Today, Native Books focuses on carrying every book in print on every and any aspect of Hawaii, a philosophy that’s embodied by the phrase mai he kumu a ka welau—which means “from the trunk to the tip of the leaf.” You’ll find this distinctive shop in the Arts & Letters building on Nuuanu Avenue. Stop in to snag a lesser-known gem of a book on one of the many fascinating aspects of Hawaii.
#9: Boots & Kimo’s Homestyle Kitchen
The real draw at Boots & Kimo’s is their famous banana mac nut pancakes—banana pancakes smothered in creamy macadamia nut sauce. (Yes, they’re as good as people say!) However, that doesn’t mean this restaurant is a one-trick pony. Boots & Kimo’s is also a great stop for some local classics, including loco moco, short ribs, and Portuguese sausage. When we’re craving comfort food, Boots & Kimo’s is our go-to stop.
#10: House of Mana Up
With a retail location right in the Royal Hawaiian Center in Waikiki, the House of Mana Up is an easy stop for many Oahu visitors. Like Mori by Art + Flea, the House of Mana Up revolves around offerings from Hawaii-based artists, makers, and artisans. While Mori is a bit more art- and object-oriented, the House of Mana Up has a stronger focus on clothing, accessories, and beauty products. Visit both to get the broadest range of items—and maximum exposure to Oahu’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs and artists.
#11: Little Village Noodle House
With so many restaurants in Chinatown, it can be overwhelming to pick the right one. Although there are plenty of tasty spots, we keep coming back to Little Village Noodle House. You can’t go wrong with their salt and pepper pork chops, honey walnut shrimp, scallion pancakes, or mapo tofu. Plus, the service is generally friendly and efficient.
Tip: There are a few free parking spots in the back, but they fill up quickly. You’ll also find a paid municipal lot nearby on Beretania. Either way, it’s well worth the trip into Chinatown.
#12: Koolau Farmers
45-580 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, HI 96744
1127 Kailua Road, Kailua, HI 96734
1935 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96826
When you’re greening your space, there’s no place that can match the sheer variety you’ll find at Koolau Farmers. Between fruit trees, palms, orchids, shrubs, vegetables, and bromeliads (and more!), they’ve got your gardening needs covered. Plus, their extremely knowledgeable staff will match you with the right plants and supplies so you’re set up for success from the start.
Koolau Farmers origins go all the way back to 1938, when several east Oahu farmers banded together in a cooperative, along with several members of a nearby Kailua papaya cooperative. Since then, the company’s focus has shifted to home gardeners—and it’s expanded from its original Kaneohe location to include stores in Kailua and McCully. Whatever you’re aiming to grow, the friendly team at Koolau Farmers will get you going.
#13: The Public Pet
Bring your favorite furry friend a souvenir from Hawaii or spoil your Oahu-based pet at Kaimuki’s Public Pet. You’ll find shave ice and spam musubi squeaker toys, plus plenty of healthy treats and supplements to help your pets live their best lives. If you don’t have a pet, the Public Pet also features some pretty fun items for humans, including t-shirts, accessories, cards, stationery, and pins.
You’ll find the Public Pet in Kaimuki, home of the “Keep It Kaimuki” movement, which was started by the boutique’s founder, Jordan Lee. Keep It Kaimuki celebrates the eclectic and unique spirit of Kaimuki, powered by its locally owned businesses. That’s certainly a movement we can get behind!
Shop, Eat, and Enjoy Local on Oahu
The big-name businesses on Oahu certainly offer convenience, but it’s the locally owned, only-on-Oahu businesses that are the true heartbeat of the island. By supporting these local enterprises, you’re also supporting the people behind them—the individuals and the families who call this island home. They help keep Oahu the diverse, rich, and fascinating place we love.
Are you considering a move to Oahu? (Or anywhere else in Hawaii?) We’d be happy to help! We’ve got teams in Honolulu—and on Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. We’d love to help you make a safe, easy, and affordable move. Just reach out for a free quote to get started.
And if you’re looking for more things to do on Oahu, check out:
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