Honolulu's best bars provide unique atmospheres and eclectic selections
By Jade Eckardt
Big Island, Honolulu, and Kauai Local Expert
If you're in the mood for a wild night dancing near the ocean, or if you're looking to keep it mellow and classy while sampling wines and desserts, then our list of Honolulu's top ten bars is for you. Luckily for those in search of the right fit when it comes to a bar, this list not only present the best bars in Honolulu, but across a wide range of styles and atmospheres. So get out the button up aloha shirt or your little black dress and get ready to explore the nightlife in Hawaii's busiest town.
Our Honolulu guide capitalizes on first-hand experience and extensive research. We've located the best bars in Honolulu for hanging out and kicking back in. From long-lived mainstays like Duke's Canoe Club to busy places like The Green Room at Indigo that is a tried and true place for younger Honolulu professionals and socialites, we present the top bars in town and offer details about them all. What's the energy like? How do the bartenders pour? Are most bars located in the Waikiki area? No fear - we share all the facts!
For a mix of of comfort food, artisan drinks, and a little bit of a fame, drop into MAC 24/7 any time of day. Yes, it's true there's a classy bar open all day long. For bar time local style, drop into The Shack Waikiki to blend in with the locals. This is where you'll find tropical drinks poured all night long in a very laid back and casual atmosphere.
So whatever you're looking for bar wise, just remember that 10 Best has you covered for all your watering hole needs!
10 Mai Tai's
If you're longing for authentic Hawaiian ambiance, there's no better way to satisfy the craving than at this charming bar. Its beach locale, terrific panorama of Diamond Head, and relaxed clientele all contribute to an ideal experience, and the fantastic tropical drinks -- especially the lush mai tai's -- ensure that your mood remains upbeat. A host of other beverages can also be found, along with food offerings and local entertainment in the evenings. (808-923-7311)
Hugely popular thanks to great music and incredible views of Waikiki Beach, this hotel nightclub is a sure bet any night of the year. Yet it's more than just a night club, you can also stop in for a few great cocktails before moving down the road. RumFire serves terrific European-Pacific cuisine, from fresh island fish and a grilled filet mignon to a wealth of flavor-packed tapas. Terrific cocktails and vintage rums add to the appeal, as does the daily happy hour, which often features DJ mixes and live bands. The atmosphere is upscale but friendly, and people often come with a group of friends for the most fun. (808-922-4422, 866-952-3473)
8 Hula's Bar and Lei Stand
A longtime favorite with Hawaii's gay community, this relaxed bar has welcomed folks for more than a generation. Granting views of Kapiolani Park and the ocean beyond, the comfortable club also offers a terrific bar scene, and patrons frequently hang out, just enjoying the ambience and the company. Other attractions include drink specials, a pool table, dancing, volleyball competitions, go-go dancers, and regularly scheduled special events. (808-923-0669)
7 Kemo`o Pub
Pub, restaurant, or dive bar, whatever you may call it, Kemo`o Pub is one of those long standing joints where people can go for reliable and good bar food, friendly service, and a great selection of beers. Although each day the pub is open for restaurant and bar service, the bar scene usually goes late into the night. In addition, live music and themed events often happen here too. They even have a mechanical bull sometimes. Kemo`o is located directly across from Schofield Barracks, an Army base, so it's a convenient stop for those staying on the base and it's very close to the North Shore too. Since it's located in Wahiawa, it's actually a rather short drive from Honolulu or the North Shore. You can find all kinds of food here from breakfast, to burgers to steak, but most importantly you'll find reliable nightlife here. There's usually a mi of locals, surfers, military and visitors. ((808) 621-1835)
6 Kona Brewing Co.
The second location of this popular bar and restaurant (the other is on the Big Island) makes its home on Oahu. Over a dozen ales and lagers are hand-crafted on the premises, including popular Wailua Wheat, Big Wave Golden Ale, and Longboard Island Lager. Many of the beers make their way into the food as well, including delicious pizzas and entrees like Garden Isle Grilled Chicken with a red ale glaze and beer-braised ribs in a Black Sand Porter sauce. The open-air dining room allows for pleasant breezes and mild temps -- in short, the perfect setting in which to knock back a few brews. (808-394-5662)
5 The Shack
This relaxed spot overlooks Koko Marina and offers suds and sustenance to a host of college kids and energetic 20-somethings. This is a very casual and "local style" place to party and dance, meaning you'll find many people wearing flip flops and sundresses or mini skirts and sassy heals rather than fancy resort wear. The Shack is usually frequented by a lot of younger folks, but that doesn't mean there isn't a fair share of people over 40 also. There's a lot of surfers and locals at The Shack, but visitors are definitely welcome and can always be found there. (808-396-1919)
4 Bar 35
Beer connoisseurs can find haven in Honolulu when they visit Bar 35. Situated in downtown Chinatown, this casual, upscale bar presents over 150 brews from over 20 different countries. Belgian to American, lager to porter, there is something that will suit every taste. Also, sake and a creative list of classic and house specialty cocktails are available. If you are daring, try their signature Cherry Bloom Princess or Red Lantern. Local DJs and live music keep the atmosphere upbeat and animated while catering to a mixed crowd. (808-537-3535)
3 Amuse Wine Bar
Following a clever do-it-yourself pattern, Amuse Wine Bar allows young 20 to 30 somethings to test their taste buds on 80 different wines in a very modern, trendy atmosphere. You take the role of server, pouring your desired portion from a number of bottle dispensers. In addition, you can nibble on cheese platters, while enjoying live music. It's a wine bar, and naturally there's a lot more drinks then just wine. Check out the cocktail menu for truly unique and tasty house designed drinks that will light your senses and make you feel pretty darn good. Definitely don't forget to taste their cocktail menu. (808-237-5428)
2 MAC 24/7
No matter what time of day or night it is, MAC 24-7 is open and ready to satisfy your hunger cravings. This 24-hour joint has an all day menu of hearty pancakes, soups, sandwiches, pastas, steaks, appetizers...and the list goes on. The MAC bar is open from 6am-4am daily where you can indulge in one of their exotic signature martinis like the "Lilikoi" made with Finlandia mango, Alizé Gold, and lilikoi juice. To top off all of these enticing elements, MAC's can also add TV stardom to the list. Their pancake challenge was featured on an episode of the Travel Channel's "Man vs. Food" in 2009. (808-921-5564)
1 Duke's Canoe Club
In tribute to Duke Kahanamoku, Hawaii's renowned swimmer, surfer and Olympic athlete, this casual restaurant offers patrons a wealth of island culture. Memorabilia, live Hawaiian music, and fresh local seafood are among the attractions that have folks returning again and again. Food is served all day, and lunchtime brings fresh fish, steaks, burgers, pizza, and sandwiches. A midday buffet features kalua pork, teriyaki chicken, just-caught fish, and a salad bar. The hula pie, a house special, is not-to-be-missed. Dinner reservations are a must, and this is a perfect place for a fun group dinner or date night. Dress up a bit, but keep it island style. (808-922-2268)
About Jade Eckardt
Raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jade has traveled the world and doesn't intend to stop, yet the Hawaiian Islands are still her favorite place. She spent seven years living on Oahu and exploring the island. A regular visitor to Kauai, Jade recently authored a full-length Kauai guide book. She is a writer and photographer, whose work has been published in numerous regional and national magazines. When she's not writing, Jade enjoys a good beer, a good surf, and time in her garden with her son.
Read more about Jade Eckardt here.
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