Pretend You're Not A Tourist: Hawaii Edition


A disclaimer: This is more of a reminder for me than a tutorial for those of you who grew up outside of Hawaii. After four years of living in New York, I’m worried I’ve become a helpless haole (tourist) when it comes to the Hawaiian standard of living. To remedy that and a slight bout homesickness, I chatted with a few hometown friends for a refresher on the quintessential Aloha State products. Apply liberally and as often as possible for best results. Here goes:


When you step off the plane in Hawaii, the smell of flowers wafts with the trade winds. That, bottled, is Kai Perfume Oil. Founder Gaye Straza spent summers in Hawaii and her blend of gardenia, pikake, and other tropical flowers smells just like the islands. Dabbing on a blend of floral essential oils also works in a pinch.


Endless sunny days require seriously strong SPF. The Hawaiian surfer girls like Zinka. For lying on the beach, the scented and certified-organic Coola is another favorite. Shiseido makes a bomb lip and under-eye SPF. For daily wear, I like CeraVe AM moisturizer (recommended by my hometown dermatologist).

Bathing Suits

A rule of thumb when it comes to bikinis: The back should always be smaller than the front. At mainland beaches, people probably think we’re running around in thongs by comparison—but better that than a diaper! Any Brazilian-cut bikini will do—favorite brands include mixed and matched offerings from MIKOH, Acacia, Gypsy, and Issa de Mar. For wetsuits, check out Billabong or Cynthia Rowley.


This is an absolute must. Both Manoï de Tahiti and Kukui Nut oil are skin savers (and can conversely be used as tanning aids). Another friend claims they serve as an “emergency hair treatment' after a long day of sun and salt damage.

Tita Bun

The original top-knot—only higher on the head. Ideally, it can hold itself in place sans bands or pins, so the more hair you have, the better. Texture is key (this is one instance in which sun damage is unabashedly your friend). Tita refers (endearingly and respectfully, I might add) to an older woman who holds her own and doesn’t take any crap. Alternatively, these Japanese hair ties have a cult following with Hawaii girls. Add a flower behind the ear (right if you’re single, left if you’re taken), a smile, and a shaka because you get points for attitude, too.

—Alexis Cheung

Kailua girl Michelle Vawer for Gypsy, photographed by Daeja Fallas.