Hawaii Costco stores are as popular with visitors as they are with those of us who live here. Management tells us that one-third of all Costco Hawaii sales are to visitors.
So here’s a list of things we highly recommend looking out for and some flops you might want to avoid on your Hawaii vacation.
Here’s something surprising you won’t find at Costco: ukuleles. Costco Hawaii stores have sold them occasionally but no longer have them in stock.
1. Flower necklace.
Not called leis, the same word is singular and plural in Hawaiian. Either way, Costco regularly stocks lei with prices starting as low as $5 each (actually, two for $9.99). They also sell more interesting lei at prices starting at around $15 and up.
BOH: If you’re at Costco, that’s a good place to buy them. If you’re looking for something more exotic, however, this isn’t the best choice.
Here is a tip on how to present a lei to someone. Drape it over their shoulders instead of their neck. A lei is a way to honor the recipient on their birthday, anniversary, or other personal milestone. It can be given or worn at any time and for any reason, and has become a symbol of Hawaii.
2. Surfboards and bodyboards.
There’s no better place to get in the water than here for surfers and bodyboarders. With year-round berths in the islands, pick up a board in Hawaii, then bring it home when you go. Some Costco employees say visitors want to return their boards to Costco before leaving the islands. Costco doesn’t have a “council loan” program, so if it’s been used, you’re out of luck. Read below if your airline will charge you to send it home.
On a recent visit, we noticed that Costco sells some great one-packs and two-packs of decent bodyboards. The ones pictured above were just $45. There were also surfboards in stock. The 8 foot foams below were only $120. They also sometimes sell paddle boards.
BOH: Bodyboards are great value. We saw the same ones at Walmart for $35 more.
By the way, here’s how it works to bring your boards home from Hawaii:
On American Airlines, surfboards are charged at regular checked baggage prices. No supplement. The same goes for Alaska Airlines, which considers a surfboard as baggage. Southwest Airlines has a lot going for it in that surfboards under 50 pounds fly like one of your two free checked bags. For heavier boards, it will cost you $75.
On the other hand, Delta Airlines has a $150 fee for surfboards, so if you’re flying with them, it might not be the best plan. Hawaiian Airlines charges $100 for a surfboard to check out. Finally, United Airlines considers surfboards normal checked baggage to California, as far as we’ve learned. If, on the other hand, you’re traveling beyond California, expect to pay no less than $150 to have your board travel with you.
BOH: Bodyboards at Costco are good value. It’s better if you travel to Alaska, America or the Southwest when traveling with a surfboard.
2. Chocolate coated candies, nuts and macs.
These popular candies and a plethora of others are available at Hawaii Costco stores. They come in bulk crates for gifts and in bags for eating, with some individually wrapped. Mac nuts in 6-packs are also on sale. Many think macadamia nuts originated in Hawaii, but they actually originated in Australia. They were introduced to Hawaii in the early 1880s and are grown primarily on the Big Island.
BOH: Generally cheaper prices compared to grocery and specialty stores, Walmart, Target or Longs.
3. Fresh local sushi and Hawaiian poke.
Popular with visitors and locals alike, Hawaiian poke is sold in various forms at Costco. Not only that, but Hawaii Costco stores also serve local sushi (starting at $9.49) at every store. Reasonable price and high quality.
BOH: A great take-out lunch or dinner at Costco. Poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish made from diced raw fish. This Lomi salmon was $12.99. It is now a global phenomenon. We even saw Poke stores in London last month.
4. Local Hawaiian pineapples.
You might be able to find more interesting pineapples in Hawaii at the farmers market, but for year-round availability and a price under $4, you can’t beat it. Costco’s pineapple is grown locally in Maui. The pineapple can also clear agriculture at the airport, provided it is in good condition and has no weak spots.
5. Hawaiian style car seat covers.
Again popular with residents and visitors alike, these can slip into the seats of your rental car before heading home. Reasonably priced and relatively long-lasting, in beautiful Hawaii-themed designs, starting around $20 for a 2-pack.
6. Hawaii Beer, Wine and Spirits.
Many selections, including these cases of made-in-Hawaii beer for $31 (24 cans).
8. Many local Hawaiian products.
Local Products: Hawaii Costco stores specialize in many local products. These range from mac nuts, coffee, crisps and snacks to cookies, bread, honey etc. Also, check out Hurricane Popcorn for $15.49.
9. Local seafood.
From Kauai Shrimp to Hawaii, catch ahi ($16.99 a pound), ono, swordfish and more, depending on the season. Perfect for your vacation rental barbecue.
9. Everything for the beach.
From Hawaiian-designed towels ($11.00) to reef-friendly sunscreen, snorkeling gear, swim goggles (3 for $16), bathing suits, and more.
10. Hawaiian souvenirs of all kinds.
Whether for yourself or others, consider Hawaiian t-shirts ($19.99) and other clothing, hats and more that will make your trip memorable for years after you get home.
1. Dairy products.
Unless you need large quantities, you’re probably better off at Safeway or Target stores. This is true for milk, cream, butter, etc. For the same price at Target, you can buy organic milk in 1/2 gallon quantities without buying three.
A part is good, but it can also rot quickly and in large quantities. We can get frustrated with the shelf life of their products, and we live here. But going back to the store to return it – no thanks.
3. Soft drinks and bottled water.
Again, mostly too much to use on vacation. Try Target, Safeway or Walmart instead.
4. Anything else oversold.
They carry the full range of their products, and sometimes it’s even difficult to use them when you live here.
And a dodgy question: should you buy Costco gas?
Everything depends. We previously wrote, “Visitors to Hawaii waste no time shopping at Costco.” This article caught your attention, has been read 100,000 times and has many interesting comments.
Today the price difference was small compared to the nearby gas station. But if you’re already at Costco and there’s no long line, why not. On the other hand, the potential savings compared to a very long queue probably doesn’t make sense when you’re on vacation.