In Hawaii, "aloha" is more than just a greeting. Aloha is a way of life, guided by the principles of mutual caring, harmony, and kindness. Perhaps because of this loving island spirit, Hawaii has a history of being one of the most gay-friendly places to visit in the U.S., and as the capital and largest city, Honolulu is the epicenter of gay life in the state.
With a metropolitan population of nearly 1 million residents, Honolulu is a far cry from a tranquil little island town. The island of Oahu is not only popular with tourists, but it's also the cultural and financial center of Hawaii. The capital city offers all types of ways for LGBT travelers to let loose, from gay bars to gay beaches. Whether you're coming with your partner, a group of friends, or on your own, you'll be living the aloha lifestyle as well long before it's time to return home.
To find Honolulu's gay bars, you'll have to venture away from downtown and head toward the famous Waikiki Beach. Honolulu's gay nightlife scene is concentrated in this area, meaning you can conveniently spend the day lounging under the sun and then head straight to the bars. And if you're staying in one of the numerous resorts in Waikiki, you can imbibe without worry and easily get back to your hotel on foot.
- Wang Chung's: This lively gay bar in Waikiki is known for its raucous karaoke stage every night. Show off your singing talent—or lack thereof—while enjoying a tasty cocktail and laughing with friends. The bar is open until 2 a.m. every day of the week, and on Sunday mornings puts on a spectacular drag brunch.
- Bacchus Waikiki: Self-proclaimed "friendliest gay bar" of Honolulu, Bacchus serves a nice mix of basic and top-shelf drinks, including a wide range of wines and several good beers. There's a compact main room, a smaller side seating area that's a perfect spot to hold court with a few friends, and a narrow outside balcony and railing overlooking the street below.
- In Between Waikiki: It takes a little effort to find In Between Waikiki, a cozy little bar which is nestled in a small alleyway. This neighborhood gay lounge draws a predominantly male crowd with a conversation-friendly noise level and personable bartenders. The karaoke machine is always available, so you can jump on stage to belt out your favorite diva tune at any time of the day.
The gay dance clubs in Honolulu throw raucous parties. Two clubs in particular cater to the LGBT crowd, and both of them promise to delight guests. Hula's Bar & Lei Stand is conveniently located in Waikiki, a short walking distance from the rest of the gay bars in Honolulu. If your evening plans bring you to downtown, then Scarlet Honolulu is right around the corner.
- Scarlet Honolulu: This campy nightclub is the premier gay dance spot in Honolulu with its two dance floors and weekly drag shows. The interior is decorated like a giant dollhouse, which only adds to the kitschy vibe. The music tends toward electronic dance or top hits, perfect for moving your body on the dance floor. Scarlet Honolulu is open Fridays and Saturdays until 2 a.m., and the Saturday drag show typically includes a visiting contestant from the television show "RuPaul's Drag Race."
- Hula's Bar & Lei Stand: No gay bar in Honolulu is more celebrated and arguably beloved than Hula's Bar & Lei Stand, which occupies a second-story, semi-open-air perch inside the Waikiki Grand Hotel. The handsome club with a good-size dance area, a center bar, and lots of balcony seating is open from morning to late night, shifting from beach bar to lounge to nightclub depending on the time of day you visit. For an authentic gay Hawaiian experience, sign up for one of Hula's gay catamaran cruises on Saturday afternoons. It's a fun way to meet people and bring the bar out to the sea.
Most major metropolitan areas have some sort of gay neighborhood, but not many cities in the world can boast that they have a gay beach. Continue walking along Waikiki Beach toward the famous Diamond Head State Park—away from downtown—and you'll eventually come across Queen's Surf Beach, the unofficial gay seashore. The beach is open to all, but LGBT visitors especially tend to congregate on these sands. It's a great place to meet and mingle with other gay travelers before heading over to the nearby gay bars.
Throughout the month of October, enjoy all types of queer events from movie screenings and art expositions to pool parties and sing-alongs, all culminating in the Honolulu Pride Parade and Festival at the end of the month.
For over 30 years, the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival has premiered LGBT-themed feature films, documentaries, shorts, and animations from Hawaiian filmmakers and from around the world. It's one of the longest-running and most esteemed film festivals of its kind, and it takes place in August of each year.
- If you want to stay near the majority of gay bars, look for accommodations in Waikiki.
- Bars and clubs in Hawaii stop serving alcohol at 2 a.m.
- As the most populous island, Oahu offers the most options to LGBT travelers. However, if you plan to island-hop, Maui and the Big Island also enjoy their own share of gay locales worth checking out.