Shopping Finds: Downtown

1) Fighting Eel

The flagship store of Fighting Eel, a Hawai‘i-based clothing line, is making waves around the world with its beach-chic jersey tunics, flowing dresses and colorful rompers.

All women know - finding the perfect outfit can be more slippery than, well an eel. But O‘ahu-based designers, Rona Bennett and Lan Chung have hit just that sweet spot with local boutique Fighting Eel, a line of clothing that captures Hawai‘i's effortless style with an assortment of island-inspired attire, jewelry and accessories that can take you from a bikini at the beach to a night on the town.

Though the company has since expanded to open stores in Kailua and Waikiki, its original flagship shop remains tucked in Downtown Honolulu, making it a convenient detour to pick up a gift for your girlfriends or sister back home. And of course, you can't leave without grabbing something to complement your new tan - we personally dig their maxi dresses and handmade shell jewelry, pieces as cool as the island's breezes.


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2) Lei Shops

The practice of sharing lei is a tradition that has spread around the world and endures as an accessory synonymous with the Hawaiian islands. For the freshest, most aromatic flower lei there isn't any place better than Honolulu's Chinatown for its selection of mom and pop lei shops, many which have been an island staple for anywhere from two to four decades.

Strolling through Chinatown you're sure to spot a table full of proprietors deftly stringing flowers into long strands. Here, the bright pops of colors are sure to stop you dead in your tracks - if you aren't seduced first by the soft, sweet scents of orchid, plumeria, ginger, and pikake. Lined up side by side (some as many as three deep) there are as many lei shops to choose from as there are types of Hawaiian lei. Many local favorites are third-generation, family-run Chinatown institutions such as Lin's Lei Shop and Cindy's Lei Shoppe, both on Maunakea Street, and Lita's Leis on North Beretania Street.

Pick up a simple haku lei (a lei strung to be worn perched atop the head) or ti leaf lei intertwined with your favorite tropical flower (ginger and pikake are amongst the most fragrant) to wear as you stroll through Downtown. If you're in the islands for a special occasion or visiting friends or family, a nice Hawaiian lei also makes for a perfect gift.

A tip for travelers: because lei are considered a symbol of affection and aloha, you should never refuse lei. If you must remove lei for whatever reason (such as allergies) do so discreetly.


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3) Owens and Co.

Relative Chinatown newbies Owens & Co. has cooked up a carefully culled selection of home and fashion must-haves - the perfect complement to any home from Laguna to Lahaina.

Painting the town - or at least Honolulu's art district - blue and yellow, Owens & Co. owner Missy Owens Mull has transformed Downtown's The Stack Building into an enviable space chock-full of colorful silverware from France, bright beach bags, fresh fragrances, and the perfect-for-your-windowsill potted plants. In fact, Owens & Co. is Waikiki Parc's Aki O.'s fave boutique for cute stationary and locally designed jewelry.

For your favorite niece and nephew (or all nine of them) let loose at the O‘ahu shop's new keiki section, overflowing with unique children's toys and accessories from designers across Hawai‘i and the world, including cuddlely cute stuffed toys and hand-appliquéd onesies and tees. Now when you get home you just need to think of an excuse to set up a play date.


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