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Island Shopping Secrets : Bargain-hunt like a kaamiina and Hawaii won't cost you the flowered shirt off your back.

April 16, 1993|GERI COOK

For the average tourist, shopping for bargains in Honolulu may seem hopeless, but it isn't if you follow a couple of rules. Always bypass the obvious tourist traps, such as shopping in any resort. To find the deals, follow the locals. And if a shop is advertised in the newspaper, chances are it's not a real deal.

Here are three great places to shop that usually only the kaamiinas (locals) know about.

At Betty's Import & Export Inc. the prices reflect a formula of wholesale plus 10% to 20%. You will find everything from shell, wood or beaded jewelry and artifacts to pearls, cubic zirconium and cloisonne.

For a dime, you can pick up carved wooden earrings that sell at many stores in Hawaii for three for $5. Shell bracelets are 50 cents, hair scrunches $1. Imagine $32 for a 30-inch string of hand-knotted fresh water pearls. A similar necklace goes for $119 at a Honolulu hotel.

Jewelry made of semiprecious stones and high-end handbags up to $300 are among the offerings, some of which are imported from Southeast Asia and India, and some are manufactured in the Philippines. Many U.S. retailers, especially those on the West Coast, buy from Betty's Import & Export Inc.

Betty's Import & Export Inc., Waikiki Shopping Plaza, 2250 Kalakaua Ave., Suite 508, Honolulu HI 96815. Open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, till 5 p.m. Saturday. American Express, Visa, MasterCard accepted. Call (808) 922-3010.

Visitors are delighted when told about the factory outlet for a Hawaiian manufacturer that sells under the Crazy Shirt label. Here they can purchase high-quality T-shirts, tank tops, shorts and leggings at deep discounts. At this outlet store, it's 30% to 50% off retail on Hawaiian designs, cat designs, funky fish and some less touristy patterns favored by the locals, all of which are 100% cotton and manufactured in Hawaii.

The bulk of the inventory ranges from $9 to $25. Figure $9 for a crew-neck shirt. Sweat shirts are a steal at $19 to $21 (retail $35 to $45) and the socks are $4 to $5, instead of the regular $8 to $10. Sales help will direct you to appropriate racks for specific designs. Since locals shop here, it's a good idea to plan bargain hunting on weekdays to avoid the crowds and get the best selection.

Crazy Shirt Factory Outlet, Costco Commercial Center, 4400 Lawehana St., Aiea HI 96818. Open 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, till 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. American Express, MasterCard, Visa accepted. Call (808) 422-4552.

Weekends and Wednesdays find many locals at the Aloha Flea Market, a huge circular swap meet wrapped around Alona Stadium. Vendors will sell you almost anything available for sale or barter in Hawaii.

Grab hair ties and makeup for as little as $1. Bikinis range from $15 to $35. Pick up a muumuu for about $20. T-shirts start at four for $1. Souvenirs like coconut purses, hula costumes and Hawaiian jewelry are priced a lot better than at the tourist shops.

This is a terrific place to purchase Hawaiian food specialties like macadamia nuts, Kona coffee or dried exotic fruits to take home as well as fresh cold coconut milk in the shell to drink on the spot. Chances are that whatever you wanted at the high-priced tourist shops can be found here at a much lower price. Seasoned shoppers go in the mornings, since the afternoons can get pretty hot, and bring cash--it's better to barter with.

Aloha Flea Market, Aloha Stadium. Main entrance is on Saltlake Boulevard, Aiea HI 96818. Open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays (and some holidays). Some vendors accept credit cards and personal checks. Call (808) 732-9611.

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