There are many Japanese cultural traditions and customs now woven into Hawaii’s social fabric. Among them is omiyage (oh-mee-YAH-ghee), or the tradition of bringing something, usually edible, back from your travels away from home to present to family, friends, or coworkers as a token of honor and respect. It should be something that is unique to the place you’ve visited, not too expensive, and not too, well, cheesy. (Easy to carry is nice, too.) The custom is not unique to Japan, of course, but here in Hawaii it’s just something we do, like removing our shoes before entering someone’s home.

Perhaps the most common item brought back from a Hawaii vacation is an obligatory box of chocolate covered macadamia nuts. And while such an offering would certainly be happily received, there are other products unique to each island that suggest that you thought more about the omiyage than a quick stop at a convenience store. Here are some suggestions for thoughtful gifts at reasonable prices that will make fine omiyage for loved ones, while helping support Hawaii farms and businesses. And meeting the people behind them may just make you a lifelong friend.

Close up of macadamia nuts
But don’t forget the macadamia nuts. People love those.

Big Island

Kona Coffee is a hugely popular product, maybe Hawaii’s most widely-known export. In fact Big Island growers have taken steps to protect the term, which cannot be used unless the beans were grown in North or South Kona.

Anything less than 100% Kona Coffee must be labeled as a “Kona Blend,” which typically contains only 10% Kona Coffee with the rest being cheaper bean varieties. A relatively inexpensive pound of coveted Kona Coffee would make any coffee addict happy, while supporting the farmers that grew it.

Maui

The pineapple industry has a long history on Maui, and although it’s seen a decline in recent years, the pineapple remains a major part of Maui’s story. In addition to the myriad culinary concoctions that can be made with pineapple, soaps, lotions and other products are made by many Maui artisans. Know someone who would love some Maui Pineapple salsa? They make that! Pineapple/oatmeal foot scrub? They make that, too!

Oahu

Oahu is famous for the winter big waves on the North Shore. Sure, Waikiki, Diamond Head, and the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial get top billing, but the waves of the North Shore are unmatched in their power and spectacle. This has inspired artists for many decades.

Along the “Seven Mile Miracle” between Haleiwa and Sunset Beach is strewn a collection of small, independent galleries featuring artwork inspired by the power and beauty of the North Shore’s waves. From kitschy gimcracks to legitimate fine and functional art, many North Shore artists have been at it their whole lives. Their work makes a poignant memento.

Kauai

As Kauai is known as the Garden Isle, it’s no surprise that a wide variety of agricultural products are made on the island. In addition to guava jams and passion fruit jellies, baked goods and barbeque sauces, textiles, lotions and beauty products, two more products have recently entered the market from Kauai: cigars from Kauai Cigar Company and rum from Koloa Rum Company. For the boss back home, maybe.

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