Say “Aloha!” to shopping at Honolulu International ....
Honolulu International airport is not the most inspiring international gateway for a destination as beautiful and welcoming as Hawaii. Passengers invariably complain about its dark, unappealing 1970s architecture, the confusing signage, the lengthy queues to check in and clear security, and the unhelpful airport staff. These complaints are only anecdotal of course, but taken as a whole, they don’t paint a particularly bright picture.
In fairness the state-owned airport authority has long recognised that an overhaul was badly needed. Indeed, a $2.3 billion modernisation programme has been underway at Honolulu International since 2006. It has already brought significant improvements such as a better flight information display system, faster inter-terminal shuttle buses, a new car park and more cafés and restaurants. Future developments will include the construction of a new 11-gate, $140m concourse, which will feature much more of a Hawaiian design and feel.
In the meantime it has to be said that the current shopping offer at Honolulu International, while a pale shadow of the dizzying array of shopping options downtown, is still pretty good for a medium-sized international airport. Two-thirds of international visitors departing the airport are bound for Japan so unsurprisingly beauty and fashion brands that appeal to the Japanese such as Coach, Anna Sui and LeSportSac are prominent, but passengers of all nationalities should find something of interest. Here is our guide to the best of what’s on offer.
As the name suggests, the Interisland Terminal handles mostly inter-island traffic within the archipelago along with a few US mainland and Hawaiian Airlines international flights. The shopping offer is pretty limited, stretching to a couple of gift shops, a flower cart and a newsagent. The Flight Deck offers a surprisingly mixed product range for such a small shop: travel accessories, office and art supplies, footwear and Hawaiian Airlines logoed merchandise are all sold.
Be warned. What concessions there are here, close rather early at 7pm in the evening.
Serving smaller airlines flying to other islands in the archipelago, the small Commuter Terminal features just one newsstand and a bar, which closes crazily early at 6.30pm.
The choice of shops is thankfully much, much better in the Main Terminal, which is officially named after John Rodgers, the first pilot brave (or daft) enough to try and fly from the US mainland to Hawaii in 1925. It has three concourses (Diamond, Central and Ewa) and takes around 15 minutes to walk from one end to another, but the open-air walkways and tropical palms make it a pleasant walk.
Inside the Central Concourse it is hard to get away from signs for Duty Free Shoppers (DFS), which have been running the duty-free concession at Honolulu International for donkey’s years, and have plenty of experiencing of honing their customer service levels and product offering to the exacting standards of the Japanese shopper.
The roll-call of fashion and accessories names stocked inside these DFS stores reads like the wish-list of the archetypal female Japanese traveller with plenty of cash to flash: Bally, Coach, Bvlgari, Hunting World, Prada, Fendi, Cartier and Montblanc are just a few of the A-list names making an appearance.
The DFS Galleria beauty store in the Central Lobby area is particularly impressive. Fragrance brands sold there include Bvlgari, Calvin Klein, Harrajuku Lovers, Gucci, L’Occitane and Marc Jacobs. A few recent fragrance releases (as of April 2011) include Anna Sui Flight of Fancy eau de toilette at $61, Calvin Klein Ck in 2U Her eau de toilette at $44, and Lola Marc Jacobs eau de parfum at $78.
For travellers wanting to browse the latest fragrance and cosmetic launches at DFS before they travel, as well as to spot any special events or promotional offers, log on to DFS’s handy website, http://www.dfsgalleria.com/en/hawaii/
, where you can also reserve items for pick-up on your arrival. Still in the Central Concourse area shoppers with deep pockets will discover three standalone fashion boutiques from LeSportsac, Celine and Coach, which sell a wide range of styles of handbags, purses, totes and backpacks. Meanwhile The Maui Divers Jewellery outlet is run by the largest manufacturer and retailer of jewellery in Hawaii, specialising in handcrafted black and gold coral jewellery. Styles featuring diamonds and pearls are also available: see the company’s website, http://www.mauidivers.com/
, for more details.
Ever popular Hawaiian souvenir and gift lines including the ubiquitous flowery Hawaiian shirts, delicious chocolate-coloured macadamias, Hawaiian ukuleles, pearl jewellery, Hula dolls and much more can be found at gift shops such as Hawaiian Isle Memories (Gate 9), Hawaii Market (Gates 29-30) and the recommended Dole Plantation (Gates 24-25), which specialises in pineapple products.
When you are done flexing the plastic, can we recommend a couple of dining establishments? Samurai Sushi & Bento (Gates 24-25) is the perfect place to stop by for a healthy bento box, while for those with more time and bigger appetites should head to the Kona Brewing Company in the Central Concourse, which serves punters the brewery’s five flagship beers along with salads, sandwiches, gourmet pizzas and grilled meat dishes.
Honolulu International airport official website