top of page
  • Writer's pictureConstance M, A Well-Read Wanderer

5 Cool Bookstores to visit on Hawaii's Big Island

Updated: Jul 24

<div data-vi-partner-id=P00089037 data-vi-widget-ref=W-e00263d1-f22f-4c3d-b9cc-86e58a49d2cb ></div>

<script async src=""></script>

cool indie bookstores big island hawaii big island book buyers used books
Big Island Bookbuyers in Hilo, Hawaii

If you're at all like me, when you travel someplace new, you search for the coolest indie bookstores you can pop into to break up all the sightseeing.

Whether at home or abroad, nothing rejuvenates or excites me more than browsing through the shelves of a really unique independent bookstore and loading up on my wish list books. I can spend hours in a bookstore, and my only real limitations are the shop's closing hours and the limits of my so-called budget.

I recently spent a week on the Big Island of Hawaii and tracked down every single indie bookstore on the island, just as I've visited and written about every Oahu bookstore and Kauai's only bookstore. Sadly, two Big Island bookstores (not listed below) have gone out of business in the last year. Still, Hawaii's Big Island still has a thriving indie bookstore scene on both sides of the island. I came home with half a suitcase loaded with books and really tested that 50-lb checked bag weight limit.

What can I say, I live on the edge.

So in between visiting Hawaii island's black sand beaches, active volcano sites, and delicious eateries, here are 5 cool bookstores to visit on your trip to the Big Island:

Oh, and before you come, don't forget to read these 11 surprising things no one warns you about visiting Hawaii.

As always, this post may contain affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you, shopping from them may generate small commissions to support the operations of this blog.

Whenever possible, I recommend buying books at local bookshops or through, because shopping there puts the profits right into the hands of indie bookstores all over the country.


1. Kona Bay Books

cool bookstores hawaii big island kona bay books
Kona Bay Books

My favorite type of bookstore is one that carries an extensive collection of both new and second-hand books, stacked high and deep, in a winding maze of bookshelves where you can get lost for hours. One of Kona's indie bookstores, Kona Bay Books, delivers exactly that experience in such a satisfying way!

There's a great variety of books in every subject, including a substantial section of Hawaiiana, or books set in Hawaii, in addition to the go-tos of fiction/literature, sci-fi/fantasy, romance, thriller, comics, children's books, and lot of nonfiction categories.

cool bookstores hawaii big island kona bay books

When I visited, they were in the process of moving to a new location, so some of the shelves were already packed up. Still, it was incredibly satisfying to spend a couple of hours browsing in here. I can't imagine how full the new bookstore location will be once it's all unpacked.

Kona Bay Books also buys used books, so while you're visiting you can trade in the books you already finished on the plane for some new reads to get you home.

cool bookstores hawaii big island kona bay books

Make sure to allow yourself plenty of time to check out this unique indie bookstore in Kona on the western side of the Big Island.

Not coming to the Big Island any time soon? You can shop some of their book selection online and have it shipped!

Kona Bay Books

open 11-6 daily

74-5487 Kaiwi St

Kailua-Kona, HI 96740


Related: Looking for the best books set in Hawaii? I've got a list of 15 books set in Hawaii to read before, during, or after, your next trip.


2. Still Life Books & Vinyl

cool bookstores hawaii big island hilo side still life books and vinyl
Inside the quaint Still Life Books & Vinyl

Still Life Books and Vinyl on the Hilo side of Hawaii's Big Island is the smallest of the stores on this list, but it was one of my favorites.

Tucked into a tiny shopping strip next to a nail salon just down from Hilo's Public Library, you might miss this tiny indie books and records store if you don't know to look for it.

unique indie bookstores hawaii big island hilo side still life books and vinyl
Look for this road-side sign to help you find it

The selection is small, but it's highly curated. I found it to be a more condensed shopping experience but with lots of books I got excited about (without wading through all the books I'm not interested in).

There's also a good selection of children's books. While we were visiting, the owner had a selection of Hawaiian language children's books he was giving away for free. All in all, we walked away with quite a hefty stack of books considering it's such a small shop.

The owner of this cute indie bookstore lives locally and opens roughly at 11 each day so he can spend the morning surfing. Feel free to stop by outside of hours on the off chance it's open early or late. The owner will likely be playing a favorite record and sitting at the front digesting a good book (my son said he has a great job!).

This is your quintessential, small Hawaiian beach town business with a great, friendly feel.

unique indie bookstores hawaii big island hilo side still life books and vinyl
Tucked into a shopping center next to Chic Nails

Needless to say, vinyl music lovers and collectors will also find much to entertain in this store. There's an impressive selection of nostalgic records to dig into.

Still Life Books & Vinyl

open ~ 11-3 daily

235 Waianuenue Avenue

Hilo, HI 96720

3. Big Island Book Buyers

cool bookstores to visit on hawaii big island hilo big island book buyers
The high stacked shelves of Big Island Book Buyers

Here's another cool indie bookstore to get lost in: Big Island Book Buyers in downtown Hilo.

Wind your way through shelf after shelf of books in every genre, organized with non-fiction by sub-category in the front of the store, including a great selection of books about Hawaii, to fiction genres and children's books in the back half of the store.

And get ready to climb, because these shelves are packed to the top! Look for stools and step ladders around the shop to assist you in your ascent.

cool bookstores to visit on hawaii big island hilo big island book buyers
Lots of DVDs and Blu Rays for sale

In addition to books, there's a sizable selection of used Blu-Ray and DVD movies and TV series as well as audiobooks on CD (talk about nostalgic!)

Big Island Bookbuyers, as the name might suggest, buys used books, DVDs, and audiobooks if you have any to off-load while you're on the Big Island.

cool bookstores to visit on hawaii big island hilo big island book buyers
Located right in downtown Hilo along Hilo Bay

Before you leave, make sure you walk 100 feet up the street to Makani's Magic Pineapple Shack for an absolutely delicious (not to mention Instagrammable) acai bowl, smoothie, or ice cream in a pineapple. Trust me on this one.

Big Island Book Buyers

open Mon-Sat from 10-5

14 Waianuenue Ave

Hilo, HI

4. Kona Stories Bookstore

cool indie bookstores to visit on hawaii big island kona stories
The children's section in Kona Stories bookstore

Kona Stories Bookstore is another fun indie bookstore to browse on Hawaii Island's Kona side. This shop sells a moderate selection of new books in most categories, with an extensive children's book section.

They've got a great kids' section, including a kids' table and toys to keep the keiki occupied while you browse.

cool indie bookstores to visit on hawaii big island kona stories
Locally designed card selection

This is also a great store to buy a unique souvenir. A good third of the store is dedicated to greeting cards designed by local artists as well as other unique artwork, windchimes, and other gift or souvenir items made on the island.

There's also a sizable selection of Tarot and Oracle cards and crystals.

cool indie bookstores to visit on hawaii big island kona stories

Kona Stories Bookstore

open 7 days a week, check hours on the website

78-6831 Ali'i Drive #142

Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

(in the Keauhou Shopping Center)

5. Basically Books

cool indie bookstores to visit on hawaii big island hilo basically books
Inside the whimsical Basically Books

The final indie bookstore to check out in Hilo on the Big Island is Basically Books.

This small indie bookstore is located right near Ken's House of Pancakes (a must-visit for breakfast food kinda place)

cool indie bookstores to visit on hawaii big island hilo basically books
Fun children's section of the store

Nearly all the books you'll find in this cute shop focus on Hawaii, from dual language children's books to Hawaii guidebooks to books by Hawaiian authors. The children's section is extensive, if we're going to understate it. Your child will find much to entertain him or herself here.

cool indie bookstores to visit on hawaii big island hilo basically books

It's also another great shop to find locally made souvenirs and gifts on the windward side of the island.

Basically Books

open Mon-Sat 12-6

1672 Kamehameha Avenue

Hilo, HI


Travel Resources At-A-Glance

All of the following are links to sites and services I actually use to book and plan my travel or to purchase books or travel gear.

For flights: Skyscanner is my number one go-to resource for booking flights. I love using the “explore” function to find the cheapest places I can fly during a given time, or using the fare calendar to identify the cheapest days to fly.

For hotels and lodgings: For hotels, and for vacation rentals, I’ve had much better experiences with private rentals through this website than through other popular private vacation rental websites.

For car rentals: Kayak allows comparisons across a wide range of booking agencies and lists reviews of companies as well. I’ve found this to be the most user-friendly and efficient way to compare car rental prices.

For tours & excursions: Viator is my top choice for booking excursions and tour experiences in a new destination.

For travel gear: and REI for more outdoorsy items. Check out my travel gear recs here.

Best travel credit card: My favorite travel rewards credit card has been the Chase Sapphire Rewards card. Some of the travel benefits I love on the Chase Sapphire include free TSA pre check or Global Entry (worth it every time), an annual $200 travel credit, an annual $200 hotel benefit, built-in rental car and trip insurance, and points are worth 50% more when used to book travel.

For books: often has prices as good as Amazon or sometimes better, but profits go to indie bookstores all over the country. Whenever possible, consider buying your books from this online indie bookshop resource.


Pin this now to reference when planning your next Hawaii Big Island trip!


Hi, thanks for dropping by!

I'm an avid reader and traveler, writing all about literary travel, books, tea, and chocolate.

Recent posts

bottom of page