Apart from its primary function as an inexpensive outdoor market, the Aloha Flea Market has evolved into a place for families to gather, to share their cultural diversity and take pride their heritage - a melting pot of "Aloha Spirit.'' For many kama'aina, (local residents), weekends at the flea market have become a social ritual.
The location of the Aloha Flea Market is Aloha Stadium, a 50,000-seat facility that opened in 1975. The stadium is also home to Oahu's largest swap meet, which can be the source of some confusion. In fact, the flea market grew out of the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, whose history dates all the way back to 1979. Today, the two are virtually indistinguishable from each other.
Both are open from 8am to 3pm on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays in tented stalls surrounding the stadium. The primary distinction is that the Aloha Flea Market comprises the outer two rings of vendors, the so-called "Marketplace,'' where some 700 merchants pay monthly fees to display their goods. In this sense, their tented shops are "permanent,'' unlike the day-by-day swap meet venues.
Many manufacturers who cannot afford to rent retail space in Waikiki offer their products at the Aloha Flea Market. For this reason, it is sometimes described as Hawaii's largest "factory outlet.'' It can take more than two hours just to circle the outer ring of merchants.
Among the regulars here are vendors of every kind. They sell clothing, jewelry, accessories, household goods, arts and crafts, luggage and bags, souvenirs, personalized products, plants, footwear, electronics, sporting goods, pre-packaged foods, antiques, collectibles, health and beauty supplies, fresh produce, beachwear, hats and even travel services.
The atmosphere of the flea market is festive, the variety of goods is incomparable, and the prices are very competitive. Those who enjoy haggling over merchandise will appreciate the vendors' willingness to strike bargains. In fact, bartering is expected; paying full price is the exception, rather than the rule.
Official management of the Aloha Flea Market has been contracted by the State of Hawaii to a major catering organization known as Centerplate. The company has long provided the food and beverage concessions for Aloha Stadium, and it specializes in overseeing such operations for many professional sports stadiums, civic arenas, and airports.
Among the current concessions visitors will find here are soft drink and snack stands, ice-cold Hawaiian shaved ice, Leo's Taverna offering gyros, and Aloha Foods for a full menu of hearty meals. Visitors are advised, however, to bring bottled water, hats and sunscreen. Folding chairs can also come in handy, as there are few places to sit and rest.
Transportation to the thrice-weekly shopping event from hotels in Waikiki is provided by the Aloha Flea Market Shuttle. The round-trip fare is $6.00, which includes adult admission to the market. Alternatively, visitors may take THE BUS, for a fare of $1.50 each way.
Those who wish to drive will find ample free parking available. Just follow the Aloha Stadium signs from Moanalua Freeway, State Route 78. Admission is $1 for adults and free of charge for children under eleven.