Best Places on Oahu to Listen and Dance to Live Music
By Jade Eckardt
Big Island, Honolulu, and Kauai Local Expert
The power of live music is undeniable. It makes folks feel good, it helps people relax, and it's the most fun type of music to dance to. Luckily for those in search of joy of sound, live music is on full display at a host of Honolulu nightclubs, bars and restaurants. From raging bars with rowdy live bands to upscale ocean side lounges with mellow music, Honolulu has it all when it comes to music venues. While many venues on the local music scene are clustered in the Waikiki area, terrific places to hear live music are also found on the North Shore.
Out on the North Shore Surfer, the Bar has live music is offered on a regular basis and karaoke happens every Sunday night. Opening at 6 p.m. daily, Surfer is part bar, part restaurant and part night club. Great happy hour cocktails are offers along with the full bar and classic Hawaiian cocktails.
In historic Haleiwa town is Banzai Sushi Bar. Delicious locally sourced sushi, a full sake bar, and hip crowd can be found all nights of the week at this small eatery. Live music happens on the lanai on weekends backed by surf videos on a large screen.
In Honolulu Duke's Canoe Club draws those in search of fun to great drinks, food and live music overlooking Waikiki Beach. The best places for live music on Oahu are as varied as the island's subcultures.
10 Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant
Always bustling, this fabulous microbrewery is one of the area's top destinations for flavorful beers and incredible, pub-inspired fare. Views of the harbor greet patrons, who love the sociability of the place. Able to hold legions of folks, Gordon Biersch offers a couple of bars if you want to mix with friendly singles. Plus, the bartenders will let you sample the beers so that you can be sure of which one you want! Happy hour is popular with young professionals, but the party is pretty constant. On occasion, you'll find live music, but you're always guaranteed a good time here! (808-599-4877)
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 Kelley O'Neil's
Bringing the spirit of the Emerald Isle to the Aloha State, this lively pub and music venue provides all the trappings of the luck o' the Irish. Pints of Guinness are easy to come by; knock one back as you take in raucous performances of Celtic music, rock, and acoustic tunes that reverberate loudly through the small, square space. Music can be heard most nights of the week, so kick back with a beer and a beef cottage pie or a basket of fish and chips and enjoy the show. This Honolulu bar allows dancing, and friendly regulars chat each other and newcomers up. (808-926-1777)
7 Banyan Court
Set right along Waikiki Beach inside of the gorgeous Moana Surfrider Resort, this open-air bar offers the best of Hawaii, from balmy temperatures and gentle sea breezes to views of Diamond Head in the distance and terrific people-watching as well. This magical setting is right by the beach, as well as the resort's pool and hot tub. In the evenings, as the sun begins to set, folks gather for live music -- both guitar and piano -- and for hula dancing in the authentic manner. The combination of delights is a real sensory feast and an experience you won't soon forget. (808-921-4600)
6 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. Happy is awesome here with exotic cocktails for just a few dollars, and the happy hour is actually hours. (808-537-3535)
5 Duke's Canoe Club
In tribute to Duke Kahanamoku, Hawaii's renowned swimmer, surfer, and Olympic athlete, this casual bar and restaurant in the Outrigger Waikiki offers patrons a wealth of island culture. Memorabilia, live Hawaiian music, fruity cocktails, and fresh local seafood are among the attractions that have folks returning again and again. Food is served all day, and the bar scene is constantly hopping, populated by lively barkeeps and folks from all walks of life. Celebrities occasionally make an appearance too, and the ocean side setting just seems to make mingling that much easier. This is a great place to feel the Hawaiian vibes and dance, eat and drink. (808-922-2268)
4 The Veranda
Surrounded by stately palm trees and manicured grounds and looking towards the ocean in the distance, this upscale establishment offers a perfect bridge between daytime leisure and nighttime pleasures. Ideal from the afternoon onwards, the place is a treat for wine, cocktails, and nibbles, when savory morsels accompany well-mixed drinks, and the sun begins to sink beneath the horizon. The Victorian architecture is a refreshing change from the rest of Waikiki, and the venue is shaded by a large beautiful banyan tree. When evening finally comes, musicians play live jazz and other soothing melodies, and folks revel in the civility of it all. (808-739-8888)
3 Hang Ten Bar & Grill
Located right on the edge of both the ocean and pool at Turtle Bay Resort, Hang Ten Bar & Grill is the place you'll want to hang at to get your night started. With amazingly strong mai tais with a special Turtle Bay mix, an array of local beers on tap, and a huge selection of signature tropical drinks, Hang Ten is the best place on the North Shore for a sunset drink. You can hang out of a couple hours after dark enjoying the big screen TV with sports and chatting with the friendly bartenders. Entertainment at dark varies on different nights of the week, including live music, fire knife dancing, hula dancing and other shows. You can watch surfers catch waves right there and go for a stroll along the waters edge. This is a perfect place to get the night started whether you're staying at the hotel or just passing through the North Shore. (8082936000)
2 Surfer, the Bar
Always a good bet for nightlife, Surfer, the Bar is Turtle Bay Resorts new endeavor into nighttime entertainment. Opening at 6 p.m. daily, Surfer is part bar, part restaurant and part night club. Great happy hour cocktails are offers along with the full bar and classic Hawaiian cocktails such as the lava flow and the mai tai - their strongest drink. Live music is offered on a regular basis and karaoke happens every Sunday night. Other forms of entertainment like "Talk Story" on Wednesdays offer guests an inside look at the life of people in the surf industry via live interview. Call ahead of time or check the website for nightly happenings. (8082936000)
1 Banzai Sushi Bar
Sushi, sushi, and more sushi - all made from locally caught fresh fish and seafood can be found at the North Shore's Banzai Sushi Bar. And yes, there's definitely a full bar boasting a varies amount of beers, wine and specialty cocktails. Live music happens throughout the week and it's best to check beforehand what's going on that night. In addition to the delicious menu and casual Hawaiian ambiance, Banzai Sushi is also a hot spot for nightlife. From a mellow bar scene to wild dance parties boasting unique and fun themes, Banzai Sushi is an all around fun place. ((808) 637-4404)
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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