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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!