Las Vegas: The Ninth Island

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Aloha!

A few years ago, I heard Las Vegas referred to as the “Ninth Island”. I thought “Huh? How is it an island?” Turns out, this refers to the eight islands of Hawai’i and the close link between Hawaii and Las Vegas.

It seems a lot of Hawaiians vacation in Las Vegas. (Well, where else do you go on vacation when you already live in paradise?) Many have also moved to Vegas (around 200,000, according to a recent number I saw online during my ramblings).

What appeal does the desert city hold to so many Hawaiians? Who knows. I can’t even speculate. Maybe one of my readers from Hawaii can enlighten us.

 

Hawaiian Marketplace

King Kamehameha statue in the Hawaiian Marketplace, Vegas

 

This week, I’m off to one of the original eight islands. Since I’ll be flying home next week during my regularly scheduled post, The Vegas Solo will be taking a week off. In the meantime, while I’m in the Hawaiian mood, I thought it might be fun to list a few places in Las Vegas where you can get that island feeling if you can’t quite make it to the real thing. As for me, I’ll be sitting at a beach bar, sipping mai tais all week.

The Hawaiian Marketplace

Las Vegas’s Hawaiian Marketplace was modeled after the original, which was, until late last year, located in Waikiki. The Marketplace in Waikiki is being torn down to built a shopping center for high end stores like Saks Fifth Avenue–because nothing says “Hawaii” like Saks Fifth Avenue (snark). Sadly, I imagine the one in Las Vegas will probably suffer the same fate eventually. But for now, it’s there, and has some inexpensive eateries, kiosks selling cheap souvenirs, a King Kamehameha statue, fake pineapples, and entertainment on an outdoor stage.

 

Hawaiian Marketplace

The stage at the Hawaiian Marketplace, early morning.

 

The California Hotel

This Downtown hotel has made its reputation by catering to Hawaiians. They do a lot to make visitors from Hawaii feel at home. They have a quick bites shop called Aloha Specialties where you can pick up a plate meal, noodle dishes and rice bowls. Market Street Cafe features a Hawaiian theme, with its Luau Breakfast Buffet, Mahi Mahi sandwich, Island Curry Stew Pot, Saimin, Butterfish, and nightly specials that include Kalua Pig and Cabbage twice a week.

 

The California Hotel

The California Hotel

 

ABC Stores

Get your macadamia nuts here! In Honolulu, there is an ABC Store on every corner. They’re not quite that prevalent in Las Vegas, but you can easily find them. This Hawaiian convenience store can be found in the Miracle Mile Shops, at the Fashion Show Mall, the Showcase Mall, on Fremont Street, and more. The prices are terrific; it’s a great place to stock up on beverages and snacks, drug store items, souvenirs—even clothing if you forgot to bring a sweatshirt or something.

 

ABC Store

ABC Stores originated in Hawaii

 

Na Hoku at the Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes

This is a high-end Hawaiian jewelry brand with locations in several U.S. States. Hoku means “star” in Hawaiian. Their pendants feature things like flip-flops, sea turtles, seahorses, palm trees, Hawaiian flowers, and more. I’m not one to spend money on jewelry that costs over $100, but I have to say, their designs are so attractive, it’s really tempting.

Crazy Shirts

This is hands down my favorite clothing brand. I’m a pretty casual person, and I really like the laid-back surfer style of Hawaiian clothing. I discovered this store for the first time during my last trip to Hawaii, and when I stumbled across one of their stores at the Miracle Mile Shops in Las Vegas, I was so happy, I nearly did a backflip. I now own several Crazy Shirts and a favorite sweatshirt.

 

Wearing a Crazy Shirt

That’s a Crazy Shirt I’m wearing in this picture.

 

Cariloha

I just discovered this cool store in Mandalay Place on my last trip to Vegas. They sell island-inspired (Hawaiian and Caribbean) textiles (clothing, bedding, towels) made of bamboo. It’s as soft as cotton (apparently, they soak the bamboo in something to soften it enough to work with), but cooler than cotton, and wicks moisture away from your body.

Kahunaville

Located at Treasure Island, this bar and restaurant features an island party vibe. You can grab some Hawaiian-style grub, like macadamia-crusted mahi mahi and pina colada chicken, not to mention tropical beverages (while watching flair bartenders). In keeping with the island theme, one morning while I was eating breakfast here, a girl came into the restaurant and went table to table trying to sell leis for charity.

 

Kahunaville at Treasure Island

Kahunaville at Treasure Island

 

Frankie’s Tiki Room

I have not been to this place, since it’s off Strip (1712 W. Charleston Blvd), but it sounds like good, kitschy fun. Who doesn’t love a tiki bar? They’re open 24 hours a day, which is even better.

Downtown Grand’s Ninth Island

Ninth Island serves up the best shave ice I’ve ever had (and that includes the one I had in Hawaii—gasp) and daquiris. Enjoy.

 

Shave ice

Shave ice

 

Island Sushi & Grill Express

Dear God in heaven, you can get malasadas here! How did I not know this before now??? Malasadas are a Portuguese pastry (like a sugar-dusted donut, but without the hole and often filled with a flavored cream) that is wildly popular in the islands. You can also get plate lunches, pupus, and poke here. There is an outlet of Island Sushi at the Plaza Downtown.

More Hawaiian Restaurants!

Surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly, given how many Hawaiians now live here) there are a lot of Hawaiian restaurants in Vegas. Check it out: Urbanspoon’s listing of Hawaiian restaurants in Las Vegas.

Where do you go to get a taste of Hawaii in Las Vegas? Feel free to name drop in the comments below!

 

Hawaiian Marketplace

Gotta love those fake pineapples

6 thoughts on “Las Vegas: The Ninth Island

  1. Brian

    The main reason so many Hawaii residents vacation in Vegas is due to Sam Boyd and his hotels offering very cheap deals through Vacations Hawaii packages. For about $700.00 pp it covers air, room, meals, transportation and baggage handling for up to 5 days/4 nights. People from here love to gamble and once exposed to life on the mainland many residents decided to make the move there for the cheaper cost of living and opportunity to own their own home. Much cheaper in the desert vs. the islands.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Wow, that’s a pretty sweet deal! I wonder if I could convince a Vegas resort to offer that kind of package to Vermonters? We don’t have any casinos here either. I can understand Hawaiians moving to the mainland for cost of living. It does seem pretty expensive to live in Hawaii.

  2. Barry

    Hawaii is one of only two states that have no form of legalized gambling.

    Besides visiting the neighbor islands, every other location to vacation at is at least 5 hours away and Las Vegas is just beyond that.

    Sam Boyd employed a business strategy decades ago to cater to the Hawaiian market by selling package deals (junkets) that made it about the most affordable vacation one could take from Hawaii as well as the most convenient. Get on your flight, jump on the shuttle from the airport to the Cal, Fremont, Main Street Station (and Stardust back in the day), meal vouchers provided and restaurants serving local Hawaiian food. Even if the weather is now what Hawaiians are used to, it’s not an issue as some don’t even leave the building for their entire stay which is a big part of why there is an enclosed bridge between the Cal and MSS.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Thanks for the info, Barry! That does seem pretty convenient, and obviously they’re drawing the numbers to continue it at a time when resorts don’t cater quite as much to gamblers as they used to. There do seem to be drawbacks to living in Hawaii–not the least of which is that it’s hard to take an “easy” weekend getaway when the closest non-Hawaii vacation location is 5 hours away by plane, and airfare sure isn’t cheap these days. But you can still have a cheap vacation in Las Vegas, once you get there.

  3. Hardware

    it has been so long since i spent significant time exploring the strip that i didn’t even know the hawaiian marketplace exists. (i don’t think you mentioned the location.)

    and where does a guy go in vegas to get spam!

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Hi, Mike – It’s been there for several years now. It’s south of Planet Hollywood on the Strip (near the Harley Davidson Cafe). I’m pretty sure you could get some spam at the Hawaiian restaurants mentioned in this post. Do you really want it, though? 🙂

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