November 25, 2022

8 local and independent bookstores you must visit in Hawaii

You don’t have to be a bookworm to appreciate these local treasures.
Talk Story Bookstore in Hanepepe, Kauai is one of many beloved local independent bookstores on the islands. Photo: Mallory Roe

No matter where I go – Kenosha, Wisconsin or Kyoto, Japan – I seek out independent bookstores. I love browsing the shelves, running my fingers along the tattered spines, or finding something unexpected in the not always organized rows of books. And you can also learn a lot about the place you’re visiting at these local stores, which often feature staff picks and offer sections of local books.

So next time you’re on the islands, head to one of these independent bookstores and find the book you’ll get lost in while lounging on the nearest beach.


1. Da Boutique, Kaimuki

Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

Tucked away in a small building in the Kaimuki business district, less than three miles from Waikiki, this hip new community bookstore, run by local publisher Bess Press, offers a variety of locally published books, as well as national bestsellers and international titles. It also offers a fine selection of keiki (kids) books, lounge seating, and an event space that hosts read-alouds, lectures, and live performances. Can not find what you want ? Da Shop’s easy-to-access digital database has over a million titles, each of which can be purchased in-store and shipped directly to you.

Da Shop, 3565 Harding Ave., (808) 421-9460,

2. Bookends, Kailua

Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

This family-run bookstore has been loved by Kailua residents and book lovers for over 20 years. Located near Kailua Beach, BookEnds offers a huge selection of new and used books, as well as an incredible array of reads about Hawaiian history and culture. (Fair warning: it’s organized chaos in there.) It’s the perfect place to grab a cheap book for the beach or get some recommendations from the helpful staff.

600 Kailua Road #126, (808) 261-1996

3. Na Mea Hawaii, Ala Moana

If you are interested in all things Hawaiian (language, culture, history), head to Na Mea Hawaii in Ward Village. This well-respected store is the premier place for books about Hawaii. Its diverse collection includes books on Hawaiian mythology, sea life, ethnic cuisine, hula, Polynesian trip, music and more. Also find novels by local writers and keiki books here. The shop also sells locally made gifts, from shell jewelry to clothing to koa wood carvings, and hosts craft classes and live music events.

1200 Ala Moana Blvd., #270, (808) 596-8885,


4. Maui Friends of the Library Bookstore, Miscellaneous

This non-profit, cash-only bookstore has three locations on Maui – Kahului, Lahaina, Puunene – staffed entirely by volunteers. Awards are based on donations and all proceeds fund programs for Maui County Public Libraries. This concept solves two problems: keeping books out of the landfill and providing you with cheap books (some cost 25 cents!). Also find used CDs and DVDs here.

Visit his website here.


5. Talk Story Bookstore, Hanepepe

Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

Talk Story Bookstore has become the destination for book lovers in Hanepepe since it opened in 2004. Not only is it the westernmost bookstore in the United States, but it has over 150,000 titles in its vast selection. of new, used, and out-of-print books, in addition to Hawaiian vinyl records, sheet music, old magazines, and comic books. For decades, visitors have flocked to this plantation-era structure in the former sugar city from around the world; it is now the only bookstore on the island. Another bonus: you might be able to meet the owner’s cat, Celeste, the shop’s unofficial mascot. She even has her own Instagram!

SEE ALSO: Talk Story Bookstore in Kauai is a bibliophile’s dream

3785 Hanapepe Road, (808) 335-6469,


5. Big Island BookBuyers, Hilo

Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

Located in downtown Hilo, this bookstore specializes in used and out-of-print books and DVDs, though it does offer new materials including Hawaiiana books, guidebooks, and novels by local authors. You can also trade and sell books whenever a buyer is available.

14 Waianuenue Ave., (808) 315-5335,

7. Still Life Books and Vinyl, Hilo

This basement bookstore survived severe flooding last year caused by Hurricane Lane. Although owner Royce Wilson had to move the store – it’s now on higher ground, albeit half the size at 420 square feet – it still has a wide variety of books and vinyl records, with enough rarities and collectibles that keep fans coming back.

235 Waianuenue Ave., (808) 334-2904

8. Kona Stories Bookstore, Kailua-Kona

Find this community bookstore, opened in 2006, in the Keahou Shopping Center. It focuses on Hawaiiana and keiki books, although you can also find gifts and greeting cards. Kona Stories also offers consignments for local self-published writers looking to promote their work, and hosts book clubs and wine events. And keep an eye out for Chloe, the store’s resident cat.

Keahou Mall, 78-6831 Alii Drive, (808) 324-0350,