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Oahu in Hawaii is an island where it pays to go beyond the beach.

WORDS: Hilary Doling

IIt is confession time. Forget the golden beaches, the crashing surf and gourmet restaurants; one of the things that appeals to me most about a trip to Oahu, Hawaii is the shopping. Go on admit it; that goes for you too. Call me shallow, but the siren song of all those designer outlets and sparkling hotel malls is strong. And besides, the kids really need to get out of the sun don’t they?

The truth is that for lovers of luxury brands, the island of Oahu is a merchandising mecca with temptation everywhere along Honolulu’s main streets and in the surrounding suburbs. Outlet stores in the US are a completely different breed from outlet stores at home in Australia, and in Hawaii you’ll find incredible offerings of designer brands and children’s clothes with the kind of variety it is difficult to find at home.

Waikele Premium Outlets is widely regarded as the best as it has a plethora of appealingly up-market stores in one mall. Waikele is a half-hour’s drive from Waikiki with more than 50 name-brand discount stores, including Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren, Coach and Calvin Klein. The last time I was in Hawaii we hired a convertible so we could drive round the island with the top down and our windswept son in the back. The only downside was we just couldn’t get enough shopping bags in the boot – we didn’t allow for just how tempted we were going to be. Maybe next time we should rent a 4WD. If you don’t have a hire car, take the Roberts Hawaii Waikiki Shuttle round trip which costs around $US15.

Of course, for those who never want to hear anyone say, “that’s so last season darling”, the full retail cost may be a small price to pay. In that case you’ll find Luxury Row on Kalakaua Ave, right in the throbbing consumer heart of Waikiki. Here you can browse up-to-the-minute offerings from Miu Miu, Chanel, Tiffany & Co, Gucci and Hugo Boss, among many other starry stylish names.

I am particularly fond of the Collections of Waikiki idea. These are capsule collections of up-market retailers found in your five star hotel so you don’t even have to hit the streets to shop. Find the best ones at Royal Hawaiian, Moana Surfrider, Sheraton Waikiki and Princess Kaiulani. Last time I stayed at the blushing-pink Royal Hawaiian; I also loved the Panama hat store in the courtyard.

Lastly, if you must go native style-wise at least choose the more tasteful options. Bailey’s Antiques and Aloha Shirts on Kapahulu Ave has vintage Hawaiian shirts and some new ones, too. You’ll also find old Hawaiian records if you want to set the mood to go with your shirt. For a modern take on the Hawaiian print try, Tori Richard on Kalakaua Ave. I really should have sent my husband there because the Hawaiian shirt he brought home with him last time really didn’t travel well.

Top overseas shopping tips

1. Know your exchange rate. It is easy to get confused about conversion.

2. Buy brands in the country of origin. Prada bags tend to be cheaper in Italy, Ralph Lauren in the US , Burberry in the UK, etc.

3. Have a hit list of what you want. Some vendors are irrestistibly persuasive.

4. Consider what a purchase will look like or how it will fit in back home. Do you really need that ukulele?

5. Watch your wallet. True anywhere, but the excitement of being somewhere new can make us less vigilant.

How to entertain the kids

1. When shopping overseas, emphasise the cultural difference – point out things you can’t buy back home: “Have you tried Hawaiian shaved ice?”

2. Children can embrace the joy of shopping if they get to buy even a small thing themselves. Toy shop stops work.

3. Limit the time. An all-day shopathon is not going to go down well.

4. Pick a venue with kid-friendly options; some have play centres or a fun activity nearby.

5. If in doubt – stop for ice-cream! hawaii T

This article appeared in volume 8 of Five Star Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.

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