jennifer binney samudra hawaii city guide garance dore photos

8 years ago by

I first met Jennifer through her brand, Samudra, and especially like her clutches – I just love them and posted them on my Instagram, the blog, carried them around… And one day, about five years ago, we ran into each other in Montauk. We exchanged a few words of appreciation and, in one second, I knew I loved her. She told me something like, “If you ever come to Hawaii, call me!”

That’s what I did, only… Five years later.
I thought she would just take me out for a coffee, but two things happened. First, she really wanted to show me around, so I had the best tour of Oahu possible. And then… We literally became best friends in one second. You know when these things happen right away, don’t you?

So Chris and I ended up spending a lot of time with her, experiencing the Hawaiian warm, easy, totally cool state of mind. She’s just an inspiration for me, and I’m very happy she’s sharing her Hawaii secrets here. I already know I’ll be back there soon. It’s a wonderful, amazing, very special place, and I really really recommend it.


How would you describe Oahu to someone who has never been?
Oahu is known as the “gathering place”. It’s sort of the hub of the islands.
It has a bustling city scene, arts, music, and food… And it’s juxtaposed by beautiful empty beaches. I think Oahu is one of the best islands.

When are the best times to visit and why? 
Honestly, I feel that there is never a bad time to visit, but I do think that the fall is quite special, we have beautiful weather and good surf on all sides of the island.

Your love for Hawaii runs deep. Can you tell us what you personally find so magical about this place? 
I do love Hawaii… I was born and raised here. It was a love that started before I could even understand it. I think what makes Hawaii so magical is the relationship the people here have with the culture and the incredible natural environment that surrounds us. 

You lived in NYC for a while, do you miss the city? 
I do, I love that electric buzz that the city gives you when you are walking around. I miss the food, the parks and the people with their beautiful straightforward way! 

How is living here totally different to anywhere else? 
I think due to our history and the unique location of the islands there is a natural fusion of cultures that I have never seen anywhere else; a melting pot of people, food, culture, art, etc – I love it.

Where do you recommend friends stay when they visit from out of town? 
I always tell people to do a little combo of that quintessential Waikiki, maybe a luxury moment at the Halekulani or something more contemporary at the Modern Honolulu and then get out of town and stay at a B&B on the north shore or in my little town of Kailua.

Can you explain what you told me about going there with your love? It can be kind of a shock, right? 
Haha! Well, it’s been said that Hawaii has a way of flushing things out, kind of a purifying environment, and if anyone has done a cleanse or two in their life it sometimes can be amazing, challenging, painful, rewarding… I have observed over the years that when couples come to Hawaii there is usually a little flushing out that happens… Sometimes good, and sometimes…

And what are the best restaurants? 
Wow. That is a hard one. People in Hawaii take food very seriously and there is huge range; fine dining to hole-in-the-wall, but I have to say I am drawn to authentic restaurants whether it be Korean BBQ at Million to Hawaiian food at Ono’s for lunch, or an amazing seven-course traditional kyoto style kaiseke at NANZANGIROGIRO

Where can you get the perfect Hawaiian cocktail on the island? 
My house!! But obviously not everyone can come over for a handmade cocktail, so I would have to say I love my neighborhood restaurant Buzz’s. They make some killer cocktails served with yummy pupus – my suggestion would be the freshie with a red rim.

Is there a special spot to watch the sunset? And, for any crazy early risers, the sunrise? 
I love sitting on a big sandy beach on the north shore with friends watching the sun slip away… There is nothing like it. For the sunrise that’s easy: head straight to the Lanikai Beach. Certain times of the year the sun will rise right between the mokulua islands and it’s spectacular. If you are extra adventurous you could take a quick hike up to the Pillboxes and get the insane sunrise view.

There are obviously some crazy water activities you can do here. What are your favorites and where can people go to experience them? 
I love to surf and canoe paddle, so of course I am always dying to get friends out in the water. I always think Waikiki is good place to begin, but there are so many spots. A very special treat would be to go on my friend’s dive boat Island View Hawaii. Kaiwi and his crew have, for multiple generations, been fishing and diving on the north shore of Oahu. They will take you on free dive adventures with creatures that are out of this world, safe and not commercial – I highly recommend it!

Or, if someone just wanted to completely relax, where should they go for a massage? 
Halekulani Spa.

Where do you shop? 
Actually when I am home, I am not a huge shopper but I have couple favorite places. Friends of mine recently opened a great little shop in Haleiwa called No.808 – they carry a little mix of mens, womens, vintage and lifestyle goodies. Owens and Co. in China Town is a great place for gifts and Missy the owner is the best. Oliver in Kailua is THE PLACE to get your man a gift or some new digs, and, of course, I shamelessly have to say that my new store, Aloha Superette, would be the place to find something unexpected.

Tell us a little bit about Aloha Superette. 
This is a concept I have had in my mind for years, growing up on Maui there was a store called Pukalani Superette – they sold groceries, beer, farm stuff, clothes, some hardware items, candy etc. I just loved the idea that whatever day you popped in it would be an unexpected shopping moment, with lots of variety. Based on this idea of “unexpected shopping,” I thought of creating a collaborative space of art, home, object, and mainstream items that would offer this same experience. So Aloha Superette was born! We are located in Kailua in a small space, and the goal is to have a retail moment that could also moonlight as a venue for art openings, book signings, live music etc. For me, it’s a way to share with Hawaii what I see when I travel, and it’s a way to share Hawaii with people when they come to visit.

Your company, Samudra, uses beautiful images of Hawaii. Why is it so important that this is at the core of your designs? 
Thanks for saying that, it’s a huge compliment… I think the images speak to people, they tell a story, they become a memory, or they just evoke a feeling of tropical bliss… Who doesn’t want to be transported somewhere fabulous?

Are there certain things about Oahu that you think most travelers miss when they visit? 
Yes so much, but it takes time to get past the hustle and bustle of Honolulu. I always tell people to rent or rent a car ;) and just drive around. There are beautiful winding country roads and so many opportunities to just pull over at a beautiful beach.

Describe your ideal day in Oahu…
Ooh that is a hard one. I have a few renditions, but my favorite would be to wake up, watch the sunrise from my deck, load up the truck with all the beach toys, (tents, boards, chairs, coolers, snorkels etc) head to the west side, set up camp on a beach and do this: surf, snorkel, shell, eat, repeat until the sun goes down – all with good friends!

And last, what’s Oahu’s best kept secret? 
I can’t tell… just kidding. Probably the fact that we have the best ocean access of all the islands and the best year round conditions to enjoy them…  (Maybe a few hidden tide pools, too!)

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