Best Oahu Bookstores to Visit on Your Next Hawaii Vacation
With an area of less than 600 square miles, the island of O'ahu may be small, but it's the most frequently visited of the Hawaiian islands, particularly among first-time visitors to the Aloha state.
Visitors flock to the small island of O'ahu to try surfing at Waikiki, hike to waterfalls, learn the hula, and relax on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Sadly, however, many visitors view Hawaii simply as a domestic paradise: a beautiful beach destination without the necessity of a passport for US citizens. They don't realize that Hawai'i was an independent Kingdom (and at one point, consisted of many kingdoms) with its own rich history and culture far pre-dating when it was forcibly annexed into the United States.
Locals get understandably frustrated by the lack of care shown by many tourists who disrespect the land, endangered species, history, and culture of Hawaii.
If you are coming to visit Hawaii, just a couple of the ways to ensure your visit to Hawaii is respectful and ethical include:
Supporting local businesses
Educating yourself on Hawaii's culture and history
Hawaii visitors can make strides toward both of these (and have a lot of fun) by visiting local bookstores on the Hawaiian islands.
I recently posted about the best 5 Big Island Bookstores; it's time I got around to sharing my favorite bookstores on Oahu. There may not be a plethora of Oahu bookstores to choose from, but there are definitely some unique, high quality indie bookstores worth the visit.
How to Visit a Hawaiian Bookstore
As always, my recommendation when visiting a bookstore while on vacation is to head straight to the section featuring local topics.
If you visit a bookstore on the Mainland, you're not likely to find a very extensive selection of books relating to Hawaii or the Pacific. However, come to Hawaii, and any and all of these Oahu bookstores will boast an extensive selection of local literature to choose from, and even some books in the Hawaiian language.
Browse through the Hawaiiana section in each of these Oahu bookstores, and choose some books that help you better understand the history and culture of the place you are visiting. And don't hesitate to ask one of the bookstore workers for recommendations, as there will be a lot to choose from!
Local bookstores also frequently carry locally made products that make great souvenirs and gifts (far preferable to the cheap products made overseas that are carried in many chain stores).
Any traveling bookworm visiting the island of O'ahu will want to check out the following Oahu bookstores during your visit here.
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1. Idea's Music & Books
670 Auahi St A-6
Of all the bookstores on Oahu to choose from, Idea's is perhaps my very favorite. It's exactly the kind of bookshop I most enjoy, with an eclectic and extensive collection of not only new and used books, but also comic books, DVDs/Blu-Rays, vinyl records, CDs, and even cassettes.
Idea's Music and Books is a bookstore that oozes a fun, eclectic, retro vibe, and it's the kind of store you can easily get lost in all day (in the very best way of course).
In addition to a vast selection of comic books, there's a great selection of all genres of new and used books, so browsing is a delight. Most books range from $2-12, depending on the book and its condition. They also periodically run sales and specials, so make sure to keep an eye out for those!
The Hawaiiana selection at Idea's is excellent, and it's even subdivided into subsections depending on your specific interest in Hawaii. I recommend checking out this section first, as you're sure to find several books to interest you that you're unlikely to find in many other places.
Idea's bookstore is located in a unique, up-and-coming neighborhood in Honolulu called Kaka'Ako. It's an urban, industrial neighborhood that's been undergoing a community-driven revitalization effort in recent years. You'll find lots of small, trendy shops and eateries in the neighborhood and no shortage of murals painted just about everywhere by local artists.
Idea's Music and Books is open from 10-5, 7 days a week.
You can follow them on Instagram to stay updated on sales and hours.
2. BookEnds Kailua
600 Kailua Rd #126
Kailua, HI 96734
If you love a bookshop with books overflowing from the shelves and tight aisleways partially obstructed with stacks of books that come waist-high, then BookEnds in Kailua is the bookstore for you. It's located on the eastern, or windward side of Oahu, in the heart of Kailua Town, and it's a must visit for any book lover on Oahu.
BookEnds is a whimsical, fun Oahu bookshop in which to get lost for an hour (or two, or three). Second-hand and new books are mixed together, and there's just about every genre of book imaginable, including an extensive section of Hawaiiana (mostly new). You can even buy Hawaiian language copies of some bestselling books, like Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which makes a fun and unique souvenir from your Hawaii trip.
The children's section is particularly impressive. It's whimsically decorated with fake trees and 6-foot-long stuffed snakes hanging overhead. The children's book section is brimming with best-selling books for all ages and children's books written by local authors. If you're looking for a souvenir for a child from your Hawaii trip, head straight to this section and pick out a book that will immerse them in Hawaiian culture, like Good Night Mokoluas.
While visiting this Oahu bookstore, make sure to check out the end cap near the register featuring rare and signed editions of books. It's stacked several rows deep, and you never know what treasures you'll find.
Located in the same shopping center as the popular coffee and lunch spot The Morning Brew, you can find a great read at BookEnds and then grab a latte and settle in. Also in the same shopping center is Lanikai Juice, a popular place for açai bowls on the island.
3. Hawaii Friends of the Library bookstores
Ward Village & other locations
Oahu is dotted with Friends of the Library bookstores, which are usually attached to library branches, like the Kailua library. These smaller store locations are currently still shut down due to COVID, but in 2020, they opened a new, central Hawaii Friends of the Library bookstore in Ward Village in Honolulu.
Whether you make it to the Ward Village bookstore location or some of the satellite bookstore locations after they reopen, the library bookstore is a great place to find second-hand books for a steal, with most books priced in the $1-4 range. I have a hard time visiting and walking away with fewer than 20 books!
These Oahu bookstores even feature affordable antiquarian books and even some donated artwork, often by local artists (again, a fantastic way to support the local economy and local artists, plus you come home with a unique Hawaii souvenir).
The Hawaii Friends of the Library bookstores have undergone a lot of changes during COVID times, so follow them on social media for the most recent updates, store closings, and openings.
4. da Shop: books & curiosities
3565 Harding Ave
da Shop is a beautiful store to walk into and browse, from the gorgeous floors to the bookshelf tree in the front window to the beautifully curated shelves.
da Shop is an Oahu bookstore with a very specific niche: here, you will find almost exclusively books by local authors and/or books relating to Hawaii in some way or another, and it's only new books you'll find here, nothing second-hand.
One thing that makes da Shop really unique among other Hawaii bookstores is that it shares its building space with Bess Press, a Hawaiian book publisher that's been around since 1979.
"Bess Press has produced over 300 books for all age groups that are related to the people, histories, and cultures of Hawaiʻi and the greater Pacific."
Not surprisingly, you'll find many of these publications for sale at da Shop, books that are much harder to find once you leave the Hawaiian islands.
The children's book selection here is excellent, which makes sense when you see that da Shop's motto is: Children who read become adults who think!
Tip: Parking in the neighborhood of da Shop is hard to come by, so be prepared to drive around to find a public lot and have a bit of a walk.
Follow da Shop on Instagram for store updates and spotlights on local authors.
After reading this list of 4 cool bookstores to visit on Oahu, which one is at the top of your list for your next Hawaii vacation?
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