There’s something we find really difficult about visiting Hawaii – leaving!
That’s why we always bring back a little piece of the islands with us in the form of some of the best souvenirs from Hawaii.
They help keep our happy memories of Pacific Ocean breezes, gorgeous beach sunsets, refreshing Mai Tais and delicious Hawaiian fruit alive, long after we’ve unpacked our suitcases back home.
There are so many uniquely Hawaiian souvenirs to choose from that it’s also easy to find authentic gifts for family and friends.
From small and inexpensive to high-quality and precious items, loved ones at home are always thrilled to receive presents from the islands of Hawaii.
Best souvenirs from Hawaii
Through our numerous trips to Hawaii over the years – from the garden isle (and all the fabulous things to do in Kauai) to Maui, the Big Island and Lanai – we’ve discovered which items we think make the best Hawaiian souvenirs.
So if you’re wondering what to buy in Hawaii to take home when you go on vacation, here we’re sharing our list of the top 17 mementos and gifts!
1) Macadamia nuts
Rich, buttery, crunchy and ever-so delicious – it’s hard not to go nuts over macadamia nuts.
Hawaii is bursting with them. Visiting the islands of Hawaii and not bringing macadamia nuts back as Hawaiian souvenirs is almost unthinkable!
You can find the most popular brand, Mauna Loa, at any ABC Store or popular gift shop. With so many tasty flavors to choose from – chocolate-covered, honey roasted, Maui onion-and garlic, Hawaiian sea salted or unsalted – you’re bound to find the perfect gift for all your family members.
If you’re staying on the Big Island and want to find the most exclusive Hawaiian gifts for macadamia nut lovers, check out the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company. Local farmers grow all their macadamia nuts. And the company uses only green energy production practices (almost all electricity is solar or biomass energy).
For a truly unique flavor experience, try their signature wasabi or spam flavors!
Be sure to grab a few extra bags or cans for yourself too. Can you think of a better snack than macadamia nuts for longer car rides when exploring the islands or for munching on the airplane when flying home?
2) Hawaiian quilts
For truly unique made-in-Hawaii gifts, it doesn’t get more special than Hawaiian quilts.
Quilting became a local tradition back in the 1820s when missionaries introduced the technique to the women of the islands.
Now these quilts are treasured items that locals and tourists alike buy for their colorful tropical designs. They can be used as crib bedding, a blanket, a tablecloth or even a wall hanging. And they make the best souvenirs from Hawaii!
To shop for original handmade quilts at the most reasonable prices, your best bet is to head to a local flea market.
There’s also Moana Quilts, a well-known retailer of traditional quilted products in Waikiki.
Another trusted seller is Hawaiian Quilt Wholesale near Honolulu, where you’ll find everything under the sun in the world of Hawaiian quilt products.
3) Aloha shirt
What’s more Hawaiian than a Hawaiian shirt? Nothing!
If you want to bring the true spirit of aloha back with you, aloha shirts make some of the best souvenirs from Hawaii – and they’re so fun! It’s practically impossible to have a bad day when you’re wearing an aloha shirt!
You can find Hawaiian shirts anywhere on the islands of Hawaii. They range from modestly to luxuriously priced, depending on the quality and brand you’re looking for.
If you don’t have an aloha shirt in your closet, this is a must-buy. And if you do, go ahead and add another one to the collection. You can’t have too many Hawaiian shirts!
4) Kona coffee
Kona coffee is one of the easiest and best Hawaii souvenirs.
And it makes a great gift from Hawaii for your friends and family too. There isn’t a coffee lover anywhere who wouldn’t gleefully accept a bag of Kona coffee straight from the islands.
The near-perfect coffee growing conditions and volcanic soil on the Big Island of Hawaii make Kona coffee a specialty coffee, giving it an edge above your normal everyday brew. While you’ll find the best coffee on the Big Island, where it originates, it’s easy to find it anywhere throughout the islands.
Grab a few extra bags in case you get home and realize that you forgot someone!
5) Fresh fruit
Pineapples, mangos and lychees… There aren’t too many places in the world that do fresh fruit better than Hawaii!
Feasting on a breakfast of fresh mango, pineapple and guava is something we look forward to every morning on our Hawaiian vacations.
Visitors often ask if you can take fresh fruit back as Hawaiian souvenirs. The answer is mixed.
The broad answer is no. But travelers going to North America from Hawaii are usually allowed to bring a pre-packaged box of airport-ready pineapple and treated papaya.
Our advice is to take advantage of the fresh fruit as much as possible during your stay – as a Hawaiian gift to yourself.
6) Tropical fruit jams
The best and tastiest way to bring Hawaiian fruit flavors back home with you (that will clear customs) is with tropical fruit jams.
They make great made-in-Hawaii gifts because they’re a way of giving friends and family back home a real taste of Hawaii. Chances are they don’t often spread their toast with lilikoi, guava or passionfruit mango jam from their local store at home!
Another well-known popular brand is Hawaiian Sun.
7) Hawaiian music
When you return home, nothing will take you back to the islands of Hawaii quicker than listening to traditional Hawaiian music.
Just one sound of the ukulele and those sultry voices, and you’ll feel yourself instantly transported back to the beaches in Kauai (or watching the sunset in Maui with a Mai-Tai or Pina Colada in hand).
To ride that wave of nostalgia at any time, pick up a Hawaiian music CD.
Among the best-loved popular artists of Hawaiian music is Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, known for his classic Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World medley – one of the most famous Hawaiian songs of all time. But you’ll find plenty of choices at a local ABC Store or gift shop.
Hawaiian music CDs also make great Hawaii-themed gifts for music-loving family members and friends. Music is a perfect way to spread the aloha!
8) Koa wood products
Among the best things to buy in Hawaii for authentic souvenirs are Koa wood products. Koa wood is found naturally only in Hawaii, making it a highly-valued local natural resource.
One reason koa wood is so special is its grain, which reflects interesting wavy patterns. The wood is multi-colored, so the same product could have light golden brown hues along with brushes of auburn or deep chocolate.
So if you’re looking for one of the most beautiful Hawaiian souvenirs or unique gifts, then check out Hawaii’s koa wood items – from masterfully created wood carvings to authentic koa wood bowls crafted by local artisans.
You’ll find a ton of other gorgeous koa wood products too, like kitchen accessories, phone cases and jewelry at well-established retailers like Koa Wood Ranch on the Big Island or Martin & MacArthur on Maui.
9) Hawaiian sea salt
The pristine waters of Hawaii yield some of the world’s best salt. The salt has more minerals and is richer in flavor than regular iodized salt.
Hawaiian sea salt is thus one of the top choices in the world of gourmet condiments.
The range of flavors is incredible – Hawaiian chili pepper, garlic, fresh herb, Maui onion, spicy Hawaiian seaweed – so any chef, cook or grill master you know will welcome this gift. We have pink salt from Hawaii in our kitchen at home and love the flavor pop that comes out from the salt grinder.
A local sea salt business brand, Sea Salts of Hawaii, is sold at many retailers throughout Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. You can even find their beautifully packaged flavored sea salt at some ABC Stores.
Inexpensive, versatile and easy to pack, who knew that salt would be one of the best souvenirs from Hawaii?
10) Hawaiian T-shirt
If there’s one thing that there’s no shortage of at every Hilo Hattie, ABC Store or local souvenir shop, it’s Hawaiian T-shirts.
Available in every size, color and style, a T-shirt jazzed up with a picture of surfers or whales is the perfect Hawaiian-themed gift for kids and teens – okay, even adults too.
Let’s face it, T-shirts branded with any ordinary location aren’t usually the most desirable gifts or souvenirs. But Hawaii is anything but ordinary. Even locals wear Hawaiian T-shirts with pride and sass. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think that Hawaii is cool!
Take advantage of the BOGO (“Buy one, get one”) or bulk deals available at gift shops and bring Hawaiian T-shirts back for the entire family!
11) Fresh flower leis
Another quintessential Hawaiian item is the flower lei.
Not only are fresh flower leis beautiful, they naturally exude the spirit of aloha and bring instant joy. This makes them one of the most authentic Hawaiian gifts that anyone would be delighted to receive.
If you want to take fresh leis back with you, you’ll want to package them up in a plastic container or buy them pre-packed at the airport so they don’t get crushed during transport.
You can also buy silk lei necklaces that can withstand more wear and tear.
12) Hawaiian jewelry
Maybe you’d like something from Hawaii that will last forever? Then think Hawaiian jewelry.
There’s such a wide variety of Hawaiian-themed necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings, it’s easy to find something for everybody on your gift list, including yourself!
The most popular symbols in Hawaiian jewelry include sea turtles, pineapples, plumeria flowers, hibiscus flowers and fish hooks. You can find pieces in all price ranges, from inexpensive puka shell items to pricey gold Hawaiian heirloom jewelry.
Black pearls from Hawaii are especially precious and make the most elegant jewelry items.
The best places to buy black pearls are at established jewelry stores like Maui Divers Jewelry (with stores in Honolulu, Lahaina and other Hawaiian centers) or Royal Hawaiian Heritage Jewelry in Oahu to make sure you’re getting the real deal.
13) Pineapple wine
If you think pineapple wine sounds refreshing and delicious, good news – it is! This tasty tropical twist on sparkling white wine makes the ideal gift for any wine lover, even if that wine lover is you.
Pineapple wine is sweet and best served chilled. Sip it as an aperitif or dessert wine, or use it as a base in pineapple wine punch, pineapple margaritas or other festive tropical cocktails. We also like it poured over ice-cream.
The most well-known pineapple winemaker is Maui Wine in the quaint town of Kula on Maui. Why not book a wine tasting at the winery, buy a couple of bottles of pineapple wine and make a day out of it?
As far as musical instruments go, it doesn’t get more Hawaiian than the ukulele.
There are cute toy versions available at all ABC Stores and gift shops – they make sweet and unique gifts from Hawaii for kids or any music-lover you know.
Then there are the authentic versions made for serious ukulele enthusiasts who want to put their musical skills to the test.
If you want to learn how to play this musical piece of the Hawaiian islands correctly, you may want to invest in a high-quality instrument from a reputable store like Lanikai Ukuleles or the Kamaka Hawaii brand of ukulele (available at several stores throughout Hawaii).
15) Hawaiiana books
One of the most enchanting things about Hawaii is its rich history and culture.
The islands are the origin for story-telling at its finest – about the creation of the islands, Hawaiian chiefs like Kamehameha the Great, Hawaiian gods and goddesses, Captain Cook’s last voyage and more.
For the curious on your gift list, consider checking out Hawaiiana books to bring home.
From stunning coffee table books full of Hawaii’s breathtaking landscapes to literature about the history of the Hawaiian monarchy, there’s no shortage of wonderful books about Hawaii.
16) Coconut oil
Coconut oil is amazing. It’s gained a lot of popularity over the last few years and is recognized for its beneficial properties in everything from cooking to skincare.
Hawaiians have been using coconuts for centuries – they’re infused into almost everything that’s made in Hawaii.
You’ll find coconut oil in locally-sourced body lotion, sunscreen, lip balm, hair conditioning masks and skin cream. It’s because it’s that good! (It’s said to ease skin inflammation, calm redness and act as an antioxidant.)
Coconut oil from Hawaii is some of the purest in the world, making anything with coconut oil firmly one of the top souvenirs from Hawaii.
Just take one whiff of the coconut scent and you’re back on the islands! And ladies, your skin will look and feel supple too.
17) Hawaiian keychains and licence plates
Easy to find, easy to pack and inexpensive. What more could you want when it comes to Hawaiian gift ideas? Say hello to licence plates and keychains from Hawaii!
The Hawaiian license plates with names are especially popular items in local souvenir shops.
Or for something smaller and lighter again, bring family members a keychain that says “ohana” (family). Don’t worry about finding a wide variety to choose from – the ABC Store and Hilo Hatties are chock-full of them!
We recommend buying a few keychains, whether you think you need them or not. Chances are you’ll get home and realize you need an extra souvenir to give. Having an extra keychain in the house will always come in handy too.
Don’t bring home lava rocks!
Whatever you do, do not bring home lava rocks from Hawaii. The curse of Pele has deep roots in Hawaii, and she’s not someone you want to mess around with!
Legend says that taking lava rocks or sand from the islands unleashes the wrath of Pele, goddess of volcanoes and fire. Tourists who don’t take heed and carry home these items are cursed to have bad luck until the lava rocks or sand are returned.
And if there’s someone you don’t want to enrage, it’s a goddess of fire!
Now you know the best souvenirs from Hawaii
The islands of the 50th state really are a special piece of paradise, where the Hawaiian culture is very much alive.
When you’re looking for things to buy in Hawaii, you’ll discover so many authentic Hawaiian products that you simply can’t get anywhere else. It’s these local cultural staples that make the best Hawaiian gifts and cherished mementos.
Have you visited the aloha islands?
What souvenirs or presents have you brought back? We’d love to hear about them! Tell us what they are in the Comments below.
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Photo credits: 3 Mauna Loa | 6 Royal Kona Coffee Company | 8 Maui Upcountry Jams and Jellies | 10 Koa Wood Ranch | 17 Hawaii National Park Service