Oahu may be better known for its surf breaks than its nightlife, but if you look hard enough, you’ll find an eclectic music scene with venues that range from upscale lounges to backroom dive bars and everything in between. Here are five places where you can keep the party going long after the postcard-perfect sun has set:
Located poolside at the recently updated Outrigger Reef Hotel is one of Honolulu’s most popular spots for local live music. Though Kani Ka Pila Grille — kanikapila is Hawaiian for an impromptu jam session — is more restaurant than concert venue, the draw here is the top-notch live entertainment lineup of some of the state’s best musicians. Some of the notables who perform here regularly include legendary slack-key artist Cyril Pahinui, award-winning harmonizing foursome Kaukahi, island favorite Sean Naauao and the energetic and multigenerational group Manoa DNA.
This sophisticated lounge in the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Halekulani in Waikiki is a great spot to relax with an Old Fashioned and listen to live jazz. Lewer’s Lounge is all about the classic, expertly crafted cocktails, many created by Tastemaker Dale DeGroff, the “King of Cocktails” from New York City’s famed Rainbow Room. Catch the duo of Maggie Herron and Rockford “Rocky” Holmes on Tuesdays through Saturdays, or Noly Paa on the piano on Sundays and Mondays, each promising a smooth dose of classic and light jazz in a lounge decked in dramatic drapes and cozy banquettes. Smart dress attire is a must.
On the third floor of the Ala Moana Center, the state’s largest mall and the country’s biggest open-air shopping complex, is a bar that’s been serving up happy hour cocktails and live music since it opened more than a decade ago. The Mai Tai Bar is also a frequented spot for after-work drinks. It’s got comfy patio-style furniture and a relaxing vibe, with live music twice a day. There are two daily happy hours — one from 4 to 7 p.m., the other from 8 to 11 p.m. — with drink and food specials, and specialty elixirs such as the red sangria cocktail and a Mandarin sweet tea cooler. Every fall for the past 13 years, the alfresco bar hosts the Mai Tai Rumble, one of the state’s best live band competitions with more than $18,000 in cash and prizes. The contest starts on Tuesday nights in October with local bands and musicians competing for the finale in December. On these nights, it’s often standing room only.
For something a little low key, Hank’s Café in Honolulu’s lively Chinatown neighborhood may be your answer. The friendly, laid-back set-up with live music nightly has a steady stream of regulars who love the unpretentious spot. Owner Hank Taufaasau is more than just the bar’s namesake, too. The man created all the Polynesian-themed art that adorns the walls of this dive. (He originally wanted to open an art gallery, but he put in the bar to pay the bills.) The music here is as varied as its patrons, from classic rock to jazz. On alternate Saturdays, though, the Oahu Songwriters Group — with instruments — meets at the café and an unscripted night of fun and fabulous music generally follows.
If you like your tunes to come with quality nosh, RumFire in the Sheraton Waikiki is the best call. Not only does this bar have oceanfront seating, but it boasts one of the best happy hours in Honolulu, with discounted cocktails and dishes such as pulled short rib sliders and its signature kimchee fried rice from 3 to 5 p.m. daily. In addition to a flavorful menu, the place has comfortable lounge seating, tiki torches and stellar views of the Pacific Ocean. There’s live nightly entertainment, varying from contemporary Hawaiian to acoustic folk rock.
Photo Courtesy of Halekulani