Every active Hawaiian woman knows you can’t buy a bikini on looks alone; those two pieces of fabric have to stay put when you’re pulling into a barrel at surfing hot spot Ala Moana Bowls or crossing the treacherous Kaiwi Channel between Molokai and Oahu on a one-man canoe. To put it plainly, this is not the place to bring your skimpiest beachwear. Instead, try on a suit from one of these swimwear lines on for size. Each one is tested and worn by Hawaiian mermaids, ensuring that suits are both fun and functional.
Big-wave surfer and watersport stuntwoman Iwalani Isbell knows firsthand how important it is for a bikini to be reliable. So, the Big Island native decided to design her own swimwear inspired by her lifestyle. “My passion for designing suits for active women began when I decided that we shouldn’t have to think about our suits falling off while enjoying our favorite sports,” says Isbell, who now has two Pualani Hawaii locations. “Who needs that distraction?” What sets Pualani bikinis apart from other brands lies in the material; each swimsuit is made with high-quality, four-way stretch European fabrics and — the key — ultra-soft lingerie lining. No wonder Hollywood starlet Cameron Diaz is a fan.
Best bikini: Isbell’s favorite style is her Sport Tie top and Double Tie Side bottom. Both versatile items allow her to cinch down on the ties when the waves get too big or loosen them when she relaxes on the beach.
In 2002, the Peru-based San Lorenzo Bikinis landed on the shores of Hawaii, bringing its unique designs and construction along to the islands. Within three years, its popularity grew so fast that the company opened two retail stores on Oahu and quickly became a favorite of surfers around the island. Today, there are seven stores across the Hawaiian Islands. The company’s allure is its collection of hundreds of high-end bikinis, made in Brazil and Peru, that perfectly lend themselves to mixing and matching with different prints, colors and styles. You can even order custom bikinis.
Best bikini: The Hipster bottom has minimal back coverage and stays in place around the hips. Pair this with the sliding adjustable halter-style top — there’s one with a thicker edge, too — to stay covered, even in a wipeout.
ACACIA Swimwear is designed for women whom founders Naomi Newirth and Lyndie Irons call “gypsetters.” Like the designers, gypsetters love traveling to and enjoying exotic beach locales. The company’s line of swimwear fuses low-cut Italian bikinis and the legendarily flirty Brazilian fit. “Our swimwear is one-of-a-kind,” Newirth says. She grew up on Maui and understands the needs of Hawaiian women. Similarly, Irons lives on Kauai, where she raises the son she shares with the late surfing champion Andy Irons. “From custom-designed prints to innovative cuts, we aim to bring you pieces that can be found nowhere else,” Newirth says of the line that can be purchased on numerous websites and retail outlets around the world. “That’s why we’re different.” The swimsuits, which have been featured in glossies such as Glamour and Cosmopolitan, boast detailed, unique custom prints and lining in a buttery-soft fabric that’s both comfortable and functional. Just ask celebrity customers Rihanna and LeAnn Rimes.
Best bikini: For the active woman, Newirth and Irons pick the Yelapa top — with a fixed T-back and no ties — with either the Ulus or Ho’okipa bottom. “Both are fabulous for surfing,” Newirth says.
Photo Courtesy of Pualani Hawaii Swimwear