It’s a custom I grew up with.
While it’s rooted in Japanese culture — omiyage are souvenirs you bring back home from a trip that you give to others — just about everyone in Hawai‘i does this.
And every time I travel to a Neighbor Island — namely, Maui, Kaua‘i and the Big Island — I’m always thinking of unique gift items to bring back home.
And it’s not easy.
So here are my go-to omiyage from Maui, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i Island, in no particular order.
Portuguese sweet bread from the Kona Historical Society (81-6551 Māmalahoa Highway, Kealakekua, 808-323-3222). These loaves are made every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the pasture below the H.N. Greenwell Store Museum. In fact, not only can you buy them for $8 each, you can make them, too, learning how to roll the dough and bake it in a traditional large wood-fired stone oven. Even more personal!
Frozen fruit pies, Holy’s Bakery (Holy Bakery Road, Kapa‘au, 808-889-6865). Sure, you can buy the frozen pies from Holy’s Bakery (808) 889-6865) in Kapa‘au at KTA Super Stores or even in certain grocery stores on O‘ahu. But it’s nothing compared to actually going to the bakery on Holy Bakery Road, behind the Nambu Building off Akoni Pule Highway. And maybe you can get different flavors or a tub of chocolate chip cookies.
Anything made from pohā berries from the Hilo Farmer’s Market (Kamehameha Ave. and Mamo Street, Hilo, 808-933-1000). Anything, really, at this farmer’s market, held daily (though the big ones are on Wednesdays and Saturdays), is worth bringing home. But I especially love the value-added products using pohā (cape gooseberry) that are grown on the Big Island.
Candy-filled mochi from Two Ladies Kitchen (274 Kilauea Ave., Hilo, 808-961-4766). While most people get the shop’s famed strawberry mochi — a fresh whole strawberry inside a hand-shaped mound of soft mochi with sweet azuki beans — for obvious reasons, I much preferred the assorted candy-filled mochi that’s usually always available in the shop or at certain KTA Super Stores. The colors don’t matter, either. You might find a piece of caramel or chocolate inside — and that’s half the fun!
Kula strawberry jam from Kula Country Farms (375 Koheo Road, Kula, 808-878-8381). This fourth-generation farm is located on the slopes of Haleakalā, and its charming roadside farm stand boasts a variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables — and a nice selection of value-added items including these jams, made from strawberries grown in Kula. But be warned: jams — even honey and salsa — should be put into checked luggage and not carry-on bags. Sometimes they don’t make it past the TSA agents.
Guri guri from Tasaka Guri Guri Shop (Maui Mall, 70 E. Ka‘ahumanu Ave., Kahului, 808-871-4513). There’s only two flavors here — strawberry and pineapple — so you won’t have to stress out about that. I honestly don’t know a single person who wouldn’t want this creamy Maui speciality, a cross between sherbet and ice cream. Take-out containers are available in 2-quart sizes at $11 each, frozen solid so you can take it back with you. But like the jams and honeys, you may want to check this in; some people have had problems carrying this on board.
Manju from Sam Sato (1750 Wili Pa Loop, Wailuku, 808-244-7124). The good thing about grabbing the homemade manju from Sam Sato, a popular old-fashioned restaurant in Wailuku known for its dry mien dish, is that you usually don’t have to wait in line. These traditional Japanese baked pastries filled with sweetened beans are in a display case right in the front of the restaurant. And if manju isn’t your thing, the restaurant also sells turnovers filled with apple, peach, blueberries, coconut and pineapple.
Peanut butter and milk chocolate mochi from Maui Specialty Chocolates (180 E. Wakea Ave, Kahului, 808-871-1222). OK, maybe this is just my personal favorite thing, but the PB and chocolate-filled mochi from this specialty shop is melt-in-your-mouth perfection. A five-piece box is $6, eight pieces are $9.60, and a dozen is $14.40. Don’t forget to grab something for yourself, too.
The Rosé from MauiWine (14815 Pi‘ilani Highway, Kula, 808-878-6058). I love rosé wines, and the 2014 vint from MauiWine in ‘Ulupalakua is particularly wonderful. It’s fresh, it’s perky, it’s bright, it’s got strawberry and Meyer lemon notes. It makes me immediately feel like I’m on vacation. What better gift to give than that!
Taro and sweet potato chips from Taro Ko Farm Chips & Factory (3940 Hanapepe Road, Hanapepe, 808-335-5586). I almost hate giving away this small shop in the little plantation town of Hanapepe — but I do want Taro Ko to stick around. On every trip to Kaua‘i — no matter where I’m staying — I make a stop here to grab bags — yes, plural — of taro and sweet potato chips. The best anywhere. Period. Tell Dale I sent you.
Liliko‘i chiffon pie from Hamura Saimin Stand (2956 Kress St., LĪhuʻe, 808-245-3271). Though the prestigious James Beard Foundation recognized this old-school saimin stand as one of the more venerable and beloved of eateries for its housemade noodles and secret-recipe broth as an American classic, it didn’t take into consideration its liliko‘i chiffon pie. And most people don’t know that you can actually buy one of these frozen to take home. And let me tell you, it’s just as good the next day.