Queen's Surf gay beach, Waikiki
When you think of gay-friendly, stunningly beautiful, tropical getaways, Hawaii leaps immediately to mind. And the capital city of Honolulu, with its vibrant though rather heavily developed Waikiki beachfront, contains the heart of the state's gay scene. This dramatically situated city on the island of Oahu has several gay bars, a great dining scene, and proximity to many notable attractions. Here's a gay guide to Honolulu through pictures.
By far the most popular gay beach in Hawaii, and one of the most scenic and well-known in the world, Queen's Surf Beach is a relatively secluded stretch of sand in the heart of Waikiki, but along a section with no direct hotel frontage - this accounts for the fact there's more privacy and fewer families here than to the north or south. The beach here draws a mostly gay-male crowd, although certainly not exclusively so, as plenty of lesbians and straights seeking seclusion tan their hides here, too.
Queen's Surf is easy to reach - it's just a short walk along the beachfront south of where Kapaluhu Avenue intersects with Kalakaua Avenue at the beach (not far from Hula's gay bar). The approximate street address is 2715 Kalakaua Ave., across from Honolulu Zoo and the northwest edge of Kapiolani Park, and just north of Waikiki Aquarium. There's a small covered pavilion along the grassy area behind the beach that has restrooms and a snack bar, and plenty of GLBT folks also lie along this grassy section. A bit farther northwest along the beach, you'll also find a nice-size volleyball court
There's no nudity along here, and it's far too centralized to qualify as cruisy in any racy way, but that's not to say this isn't an excellent spot to mingle, make new friends, and find out what's on during the evening. As the day progresses and the sun sets, many of the beachgoers here walk over to nearby Hula's gay bar for some post-beach socializing and hobnobbing. It's a very congenial scene, not particularly attitude-y or stuffy. All shapes and sizes congregate here, including plenty of tourists just working on their tans.
Waikiki and Diamond Head at sunset, viewed from Pu'u Ualaka'a State Wayside
Just as the sun sets at Pu'u Ualaka'a State Wayside, you're treated to a lovely view southeast toward Diamond Head Crater and Waikiki.
Shangri La, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA)
You may not automatically associate Honolulu with Islamic art, or even necessarily with iconic heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke (1912-1993), but Shangri La decorative details, and architectural pieces from throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Doris Duke built the elegant, largely open-air mansion on 5 acres overlooking the surf below Diamond Head in the late 1930s. Upon her death, she willed her former home to be managed as the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA), with the intention of promoting "the study and understanding of Middle Eastern art and culture." The estate is open to the public by tour only, and it takes a little effort to get here, but a guided walk through this fanciful homage to Islamic artwork is worth doing (and paying for - the cost of admission is $25).
Guided tours of Shangri La take visitors through the entry courtyard, the ornately decorated foyer, past a central courtyard and vintage powder room (complete with a fabulously retro Mylar ceiling), into a living room with a fully retractable wall that instantly converts it to an open-air parlor, through the dining room, out to the lanai, past the 75-foot saltwater pool, and through the exceptionally stunning Turkish and Baby Turkish rooms. Guides here tend to be extremely well-versed in the life of Doris Duke, her collection, and her dedication to Islamic art (she was not, by the way, a practitioner of Islam but rather of ardent aficionado of the Islamic aesthetic).
Tours (lasting 2.5 hours) of the mansion are administered through the Honolulu Academy of the Arts, which has a helpful Shangra La information page with details on buying tour tickets. The tours leave the Honolulu Academy of the Arts (corner of Beretania and Victoria Sts., 808-532-8700; purchase tickets over the phone by calling 866-DUKE-TIX) by 15-minute minivan ride, and only guided tours are permitted. They're offered Wednesday through Saturday, three times per day, and advance reservations are a must.
Hula's Bar & Lei Stand, the famed gay nightclub in the Waikiki Grand Hotel
A traditional Hawaiian Kama'aina breakfast at Ihilani's Naupaka Terrace
Among the handful of excellent restaurants (including Azul for contemporary seafood, and Ushio-Tei for authentic Japanese fare) at southwestern Oahu's JW Marriott Ihilani Resort , the open-air Naupaka Terrace is well-regarded for its expansive breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffet spreads as well as first-rate a la carte fare. Sunday's champagne brunch is another favorite meal, during which you might try such Hawaiian specialties as the Kama'aina breakfast (pictured here), Loco Moco, banana-macadamia-nut pancakes, scrambled eggs with Kalua pork, and Puna papaya with lime. The Kama'aina breakfast mixes Hawaii's local and Portuguese traditions and features a pair of eggs cooked as you like them (I like mine sunny-side up), over Lup Chong Jasmine fried rice with bacon, slightly spicy Portuguese sausage, traditional breakfast link sausage, and green onions. It's especially tasty if you shake a few (or a few dozen, in my case) drops of Tabasco sauce on the entire spread. Also in this photo, note the plate of delicious grapefruit segments, topped with fresh mint and Hawaiian sea salt.
USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor
The USS Arizona (parking at Arizona Memorial Place, off Hwy 99, the Kamehameha Highway - it's well-signed, 808-422-0561), which commemorates the devastating surprise air attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces in 1941, hardly needs an introduction. Many consider it the one attraction on Oahu that simply mustn't be missed, and indeed, a good case could be made for this. Visiting the Arizona is free and involves watching an excellent short (23-minute) movie about the attack and then boarding a boat for a trip out to the memorial site (built atop the sunken Arizona battleship, whose gun towers still poke out of the water). It's a poignant experience, and one that takes a little bit of planning to avoid long lines.
A few things to keep in mind - the longs can be very long, especially in the afternoons, on weekends, and during the busier times of year in Hawaii. You can avoid lines, sometimes entirely, if you arrive very early in the morning (the park is open daily from 7 am until 5 pm), especially on Sunday mornings.
The set-up is as follows: accessible on foot from the parking area is the newly opened (in 2010), $58 million open-air visitor center, which contains moving exhibits that document not only the attack but also the role of Hawaii in World War II and life on the island at this time. When you show up, you'll be handed a ticket, which is good for an assigned time to watch the movie, which is shown in a theater at the visitor center. When the movie ends, you exit the theater and immediately board a boat, which makes the short trip across the harbor to the Memorial. On arrival, passengers disembark from the boat onto the Memorial platform and are free to explore it, take pictures, and observe the wall listing the names of 1,177 crew members who perished during the attack (all told, 2,402 U.S. military personnel died during the attack, which took out several other ships and occurred in two different waves).
After exploring the Memorial, passengers are whisked back by boat to the visitor center. There you're free to explore the exhibits, walk the grounds, shop in the very well-stocked bookstore, or plan visits to the USS Bowfin Submarine, which is right next door, or tour the USS Missouri, which lies just southwest of the Arizona, docked at Ford Island. You can buy tickets for the Bowfin and Missouri at the USS Bowfin Museum.
Diamond Head Beach - Lighthouse Beach Gay Section
Although it's neither as popular nor as gay-identified as Queen's Surf Beach at the southeast end of Waikiki, the secluded Diamond Head Beach (just off 3300 Diamond Head Road, below the lighthouse, and requiring a bit of a hike down to the sand) does have a bit of a gay following. Some visitors sunbathe in the nude here (this is technically illegal but often overlooked - still, it's prudent to wrap up quickly if you spot authorities patrolling).
This is beautiful, remote stretch of sand, which is also known as Lighthouse Beach, is free from the overcrowding that's common around the bend in Waikiki. There's limited parking along the road, which winds around the southern base of Diamond Head crater, between the southeast end of Waikiki (near Kapiolani Park) and the Kahala area (home to Kahala Hotel & Resort and Doris Duke's Shangri La). Once you find a parking spot, walk back toward Waikiki, and you'll find a narrow lane just north of the lighthouse leading down to the beach (there are a few parking spots along this lane, too). Given how difficult the parking is here, you might want to walk from Waikiki - it's about a half-mile walk from the southeast end of Waikiki's beachfront, or a 1.5-mile walk from the more central intersection of Kapahulu Avenue and Kalakaua (near Hula's gay bar and Queen's Surf Beach).
Bacchus Waikiki, a trendy gay wine bar and lounge on Lewers Street
Waikiki Beach at night, from the jetty by the Outrigger Reef Hotel
A view of Waikiki beach and its string of high-rise hotels at night, from the groin (jetty) that extends from the Outrigger Reef on the Beach Hotel (it's to the left of the Halekulani Hotel, the property pictured here on the very left - the Reef is one of the most luxurious of the several Waikiki hotels that make up the gay-friendly Outrigger chain).
Hammerhead shark in marine pool at JW Marriott Ihilani Resort
One of the most interesting aspects of staying at Oahu's gay-friendly JW Marriott Ihilani Resort is the chance to interact with marine life, including the hammerhead sharks (as shown here) that swim around the resort's marine pools. Guests are always welcome to observe the sharks in this pool, and other marine life (sea urchins, stingrays, sea cucumbers, etc.) in a neighboring pool, and for a fee, guests can also participate in interactive feeding and marine programs at the resort.
Surfing and Paddle-Surfing off Waikiki, near the Royal Hawaiian Resort
Many companies and hotels give surfing and paddle-surfing lessons (and also rent a variety of boats and water crafts) along Waikiki Beach. Here's a group of participants testing their look at both surfing and paddle-surfing out in the waves near the Royal Hawaiian Resort on Waikiki. Honolulu has its own gay surf club, whose contact information is listed with GayHawaii.com's resource page.
Waiola Shave Ice, just off Kapahulu Avenue
Just a short drive or slightly longer walk northeast from Honolulu's little gay epicenter around Kapahulu and Kalakaua avenues, you'll find a slew of inexpensive, funky eateries that form something of an offbeat Restaurant Row along Kapahulu, with Waiola Shave Ice (3113 Mokihana St., just off of Kapahulu Ave., 808-735-8886) one of this area's definitive must-tastes. The bare-bones bakery and ice-cream shop is most famous for doling out some of the city's best shave-ice treats.
These icy, sweet confections are cousins to the sno-balls of New Orleans and Italian Ices of New England, but they have their own distinctive flavor in these parts. You can get a fairly basic one with any number of sweet syrups, but more interesting are the treats that locals tend to favor, such as the one topped with condensed milk, mochi, and red azuki beans (an employee of Waiola, pictured here, spoons azuki beans onto my soon-to-be-devoured Azuki Bowl).
The store's original location is at 2135 Waiola Street (808-949-2269) and is every bit as popular.
ABC Store at Lemon and Paoakalani, a block from Hula's
The ubiquitous ABC Stores you see all over Honolulu (and all throughout Hawaii, for that matter) have an interesting history - you can read about the chain's humble origins on their website. There are nearly 80 stores throughout the Pacific Rim, mostly on Hawaii but also on Guam and Saipan. There's even a branch in Las Vegas, which makes sense given the close ties between Hawaii and Sin City (lots of Hawaiians vacation there, and vice versa). The ABC Store pictured here is at the corner of Lemon Road and Paoakalani Avenue, right by the fab Hotel Renew and a block from Hula's gay bar. So while there certainly aren't any ABC Stores with a specifically gay mission, this one arguably draws more "family", because of its location, than any other ABC Store in Hawaii.
For the un-initiated, ABC Stores are, at their most basic, extremely well-stocked gift-convenience stores carrying a wide range of snacks, souvenirs, touristy doodads, and both fun and necessary miscellany (everything from contact lens solution to chocolate-covered macadamia nuts). Some of them have full delis and sell cosmetics, liquor, and even clothing). Spend a little time traveling around Honolulu and the rest of the state, and you'll come to find these prolific shops indispensable.
Pu'u 'Ualaka's State Wayside viewing platform
Majestic views aren't especially hard to come by in Honolulu, what with the soaring vistas enjoyed from the trail up to Diamond Head, and some fine vantage points had from different hotel high-rises throughout Waikiki. But few places in the city offer a more dazzling perspective on Honolulu, Waikiki, and Diamond Head than the viewing platform at Pu'u 'Ualaka'a State Wayside, which is just a 10-minute drive from downtown off Round Top Drive. This is the spot in Honolulu to watch both sunrise and sunset.
The park opens at 7 each morning and closes at 6:45 pm (it's open till 7:45 pm from late spring through Labor Day). There are restrooms here but no other facilities, and temperatures at the park are generally a good 10 degrees cooler than in town. You get here by taking north from downtown (you can access it from S. Beretania Street) and following it up the hill until you reach Round Top Drive. Take a left onto Round Top, and just follow it as it winds its way up the hill - you'll eventually come to signs for the parking area for Pu'u 'Ualaka'a. From the parking area, it's just a quick little stroll to a viewing platform (pictured here) that takes in pretty much the entire city, from Pearl Harbor and the airport to the west all the way across downtown and over to Diamond Head and beyond to the east. It's a quite romantic perch to wind down a day of exploring the city.
Fusion gay bar, on Kuhio Avenue
Gay Catamaran Cruises, offered by Hula's gay bar
Catamaran cruises are a favorite way to tour the waters off Waikiki. Honolulu's Hula's gay bar offers these cruises. The trip takes place on Saturdays at 2 pm - just call the bar or check out the cruise webpage for details. Nude sunbathing is permitted onboard, and mai tai cocktails are served. These excursions are a great way to meet fellow GLBT visitors to Honolulu.
Downtown Honolulu Skyline, viewed from Pu'u 'Ualaka'a State Wayside
View looking south over downtown Honolulu, from Pu'u 'Ualaka'a State Wayside.
Waikiki Beach, outside the Royal Hawaiian Hotel
Crescent-shaped Waikiki Beach, with its inviting golden-sand beaches and turquoise waters, plus an iconic view of Diamond Head volcano in the background, is one of the world's great locales for swimming, surfing, and relaxing in the sun. This image is taken from outside Starwood's glitzy Royal Hawaiian Resort, which underwent an impressive makeover in 2008 - the view is southeast, with Diamond Head in the background. This part of the beach, which is fronted by numerous high-rise resorts, tends to be quite crowded - gays and lesbians tend to congregate farther southeast (toward Diamond Head), at Queen's Surf Beach, and also well around the point at Diamond Head Beach.
Puka Dog gourmet hot-dog stand, on Kuhio Avenue
Ever since culinary raconteur Anthony Bourdain featured it on TV's No Reservations, Puka Dog (Hawaiian Town Center, 2301 Kuhio Ave., 808-924-7887) has been a darling of quirky nibblers. This has led quite a few visitors to this somewhat glorified gourmet hot-dog stand to gush effusively about Puka's strange and-not-so-little frankfurters, and others to protest about excessive hype, high prices, and bland buns. So here's my take on Puka - for a bit more than you'd normally pay for a hot dog, you're treated to a memorable, reasonably tasty treat. It's probably not going to change your life, and at several bucks a dog, you likely won't find it worth eating here every day, but for an occasional dose of flavorful street food, Puka Dog hits the spot.
Puka Dog began on Kauai - the Waikiki version, which is little more than a humble stand at the fringes of the otherwise drab Waikiki Town Center, opened in 2007. Much is made of the propriety means by which the Puka Dog preparers pierce the buns, but really, the buns - at least as flavor and texture go - aren't anything all that special. More noteworthy are the Polish sausage dogs (veggie dogs are also available, but really, if you don't eat meat, this probably isn't worth the bother), that's then doused with garlic-lemon "secret sauce" (which comes in any of four flavors: mild original, spicy jalapeno, hot chili pepper, or hot hot habanero). I ordered mine hot habanero and was not felled by a bolt of lightening - in fact, I found the sauce pleasantly piquant but not especially hot. So for all but the most coltish condimentarians, I suggest going this route.
Next, you choose a relish for your Puka Dog - wimps can opt out at this point by requesting simple ketchup and mustard (why would you do this? just go home if you're not willing to play along in the proper spirit). If you've made it this far, opt for one of the tropical relishes, such as Polihale Sunset (papaya) or, my own personal favorite, coconut. I finished mine with a bit of lilikoi (passion fruit) mustard. Consider ordering an accompaniment of fresh-squeezed lemonade (good, but a bit too much sugar added? seemed too sweet). Compared with other only-in-Hawaii culinary experiences, such as Liliha Bakery and Waioloa Shave Ice, Puka Dog is indeed a tad overrated, but it's still a worthy notch in the belt of any inveterate Honolulu food explorer.
Reef on the Beach hotel, part of the gay-friendly Outrigger brand
Having completed a multi-million renovation in 2009 that took several years and including a top-to-bottom overhaul, the Reef on the Beach (2169 Kalia Rd., 808-923-3111) hotel now ranks among the gay-friendly Outrigger brand's most alluring and appealing accommodations - indeed, it's safe to call this the Outrigger's flagship hotel (although the nearby Outrigger Waikiki is also very impressive). The Reef has some notable features, including the beloved Shore Bird Restaurant and more modern and upscale Ocean House Restaurant).
The Outrigger is at the west end of Waikiki Beach, directly fronting the golden sands. The completely rebuilt high-rise has rooms with both direct and angled ocean views, and amenities that include free in-room WiFi, free long-distance calls within the U.S. and Canada, a slew of notable shops, a library containing noted Hawaiian literary works and artifacts from the Bishop Museum, access (for a fee) to Outrigger eco-sail and snorkel tours and catamaran rides, body treatments and massage at the Serenity Spa, and close proximity to the many retailers and shops at Waikiki Beach Walk.
Honolulu Zoo, in Kapiolani Park at Kapahula Avenue (by Hula's gay bar)
Next to Kapiolani Park, and across from two of Waikiki's most prominent gay hangouts - Queen's Surf Beach and Hula's gay bar, the Honolulu Zoo (151 Kapahulu Ave., 808-971-7171) is a popular and easily accessed attraction. The 42-acre habitat may not be the largest zoo you'll ever see, but it is notable for its giraffe, zebra, and red-footed tortoise enclosures, and it also offers visitors a chance to see the rather elusive state bird, the nene.
In Between gay bar, off Lewer Street by the Waikiki Joy Hotel
Hotel Renew, on Paoakalani Avenue near Waikiki beach and Hula's
On a relatively quiet street corner just a block from Waikiki's golden-sand beaches and also a very short walk from Hula's gay bar and Queen's Surf gay beach, the hip and trendy Hotel Renew (129 Paoakalani Ave., 808-687-7715) doesn't look all that snazzy from the outside. But this 72-room midsize property has an artful, minimalist aesthetic and a smart, knowledgetable staff - it's one of the best hotels in Waikiki for design-minded visitors seeking a sleek, luxurious, but understated hotel.
Guests at this very gay-friendly hotel are greeted with complimentary beverages and scented cold towels on arrival. The pet-friendly, eco-conscious property has free Wi-Fi throughout, a hip little bar and lounge area, and rooms with 32-inch flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, in-room safes, Kimono robes, and - on request - in-room spa services. There's a particularly gay-popular ABC Store next door, if you're short on batteries, sundries, or macadamia nuts.
JW Marriott Ihilani, view of ocean and grounds from guest room
A view of the lush grounds and oceanfront, taken from a guest room's private lanai at the elegant JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa, about 25 miles west of Honolulu.
Irifune Japanese Restaurant, on Kapahula Avenue
Irifune (563 Kapahulu Ave., 808-737-1141) might just be the best of the several impressively good and foodie-favored hole-in-the-wall eateries along Kapahulu Avenue's de-facto Restaurant Row. This low-frills, relatively affordable Japanese-seafood place is justly famous for one particular dish, garlic ahi (available in a variety of ways, from tempura to stir-fried), but you'll all sorts of tasty bits here. The campy decor and less-than-sleek aesthetic account for a curious clientele of local characters, budget gourmands, and adventuresome tourists. It's along the same stretch as such local restaurant stalwarts as Aloha BBQ, Waiola Shave Ice, and Rainbow Drive-In.
Bamboo Hotel & Spa, part of gay-friendly Aqua Hotels
A stylish and hip member of Honolulu's gay-friendly Aqua Hotels brand, the Bamboo Hotel & Spa (2425 Kuhio Ave., 866-971-2782) is just a five-minute walk from Waikiki Beach and very close to the gay bars Angles and Fusion.
Kahala Hotel & Resort, and Dolphin Quest encounter
A short drive around Diamond Head Crater from Waikiki in the beautiful and peaceful Waialae neighborhood, Kahala Hotel & Resort (5000 Kalaha Ave., 808-739-8888) is an elegant, luxury property (formerly part of the Mandarin Oriental brand, and now independent). It's a good choice if you're seeking a posh Honolulu hotel experience but would rather not be set smack in the middle of bustling (and sometimes very crowded) Waikiki. The 338-room resort has a full slate of amenities, including restaurants, a quite impressive spa, and an enviable setting on a picturesque and relatively uncrowded section of beach. The hotel is close to the gay-popular section of Diamond Head Beach, and also to Doris Duke's Shangri La.
Kahala most notable asset might just be that it's also home to Honolulu's Dolphin Quest dolphin encounter. These opportunities for visitors to interact with dolphins take place at the hotel's 26,000-square-foot natural lagoon (pictured here, along with one of the resident dolphins), in which six Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins reside. Dolphin Quest offers wide range of programs, and these are open to both hotel guests and nonguests.
Shangri La's public beachfront
No matter how important you are, or how secluded and private your estate is, Hawaii's beaches and shorelines are - by law - open to the public. You can clear evidence of this law if you tour Doris Duke's famed estate, Shangri La, where these Honolulu teenagers frolic on the rocks below the estate, with Diamond Head crater in the background.
Azuki Bowl from Waiola Bakery and Shave Ice, on Kapahulu Avenue
A close-up of an Azuki Bowl (a shave-ice sundae with topped with condensed milk, mochi, and red azuki beans), served at the delightful Waiola Bakery and Shave Ice stand in Waikiki.
Royal Hawaiian Resort, a Starwood Luxury Collection property
Following a massively ambitious renovation by the gay-friendly Starwood hotel group, Waikiki's vaunted (and uber-pink) Royal Hawaiian Resort (2259 Kalakaua Ave., 808-923-7311) reopened in January 2009 as part a Starwood Luxury Collection property. The 529-room property with an enviable setting on Waikiki Beach blends contemporary elements and style with the hotel's grand, old-world character, making it one of the most desirable accommodations on the island of Oahu, and a favorite among trendy GLBT visitors. The resort's swanky pool area is one of the prettiest in Honolulu.
USS Missouri Battleship museum, at Ford's Island in Pearl Harbor
The last battleship constructed by the United States, the USS Missouri fought in several prominent World War II campaigns (Iwo Jima, Okinawa) and following a modernization even took part in the 1991 Gulf War. Since 1998, it's been docked at Ford Island, just southwest of the sunken USS Arizona, in Pearl Harbor and open to the public as a museum. You can purchase tickets to visit the USS Missouri from the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, which is next to the USS Arizona Visitor Center. Visitors of the Missouri can take audio tours of the ship, too - just rent an iPod with a preloaded Guide2Go tour, which has fascinating video and audio material (including interviews with veterans). This is a fun and informative way to tour the ship, and to do so at your own pace.
The photo of the USS Missouri here was taken from the platform of the USS Arizona Memorial, facing south. In the lower right, you can see a few remnants of the sunken Arizona poking out of the water, and you can also detect discoloration in the water that's a result of the oil that continues to leak very slowly from the wreckage. The ball-shaped white buoy on the lower right marks where the very stern of the Arizona lies beneath the water's surface.
Liliha Bakery and 24-Hour Coffeeshop, Honolulu
Hawaiians revere their bakeries, and in an unassuming neighborhood in northwestern Honolulu, Liliha Bakery and Coffeeshop (515 N. Kuakini St., 808-531-1651) has been attracting a loyal contingent of devotees since it opened in 1950. The big draw here are the coco puffs (no, not the treacly cereal but rather ethereal chocolate-cream puff pastries, also available filled with green-tea cream), but you'll also find astoundingly good turnovers, doughnuts, chantilly cakes, and more. The bakery is open pretty much all the time but Monday (i.e., 24 hours from 6 am Tuesday morning until Sunday evening at 8 pm), and adjacent to the bakery counter is a long coffeeshop/diner section that's always packed with colorful locals noshing on such delicacies as pancakes, Portuguese sausage and eggs, Spam-and-egg sandwiches, grilled mahimahi, saimin (served with, yes, more Spam and green onions), burgers, banana cream pie, and plenty of other home-style treats, of both traditional Hawaiian and American origin. There's a reason this place is an Oahu institution among both working-class Joes and discerning foodies.
Queen's Surf Beach snack bar and restroom facilities
Just behind the sand at Queen's Surf gay beach in Waikiki, adjacent to the tree-shaded green lawn that also draws plenty of GLBT sunworshipers, there's a pavilion containing a snack bar and public restrooms. There's also an outdoor shower (to the right, in this picture), which is helpful for cleaning sand off yourself before donning flip-flops or shoes.
Puka Dog, up close and personal (and topped with coconut relish)
Here's an up-close image of a genuine Puka Dog, topped with coconut relish and "hot hot habanero" garlic lemon secret sauce. That's some big bun happening there.
Max's Private Club, a gym and gay bathhouse on the edge of Waikiki
USS Arizona Memorial, a wall of remembrance honoring the dead
At northwest end of the USS Arizona Memorial interior platform, a wall lists the names of all 1,177 crew who died when the hulking battleship was felled during the infamous Japanese air raid that paralyzed the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. More than 2,400 lives were lost in the attack, which saw the destruction of 188 aircraft, four battleships (plus damage to four more), and several other ships.
Diamond Head Crater, viewed from Waialae-Kahala neighborhood
A view of the southeast side of Diamond Head State Monument volcanic crater (a very popular hiking venue), as well as Kuilei Cliffs Beach Park at the base of the crater, looking northwest from Doris Duke's former estate, Shangri-La, which is now a center for Islamic Art opened to the public. This is also the splendid view many residents of Honolulu's Waialae-Kahala neighborhood enjoy, as well as guests at the Kahala Resort. The stretch of sand you see in the very distance, where the coast bends around Diamond Head, is the gay-popular Diamond Head Beach.
Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center, which opened in 2010
The new Pearl Harbor Visitor Center at the USS Arizona Memorial, from which you can catch a tour boat back and forth to the memorial itself. The impressive new, $58 million facility opened in 2010 and contains fascinating exhibits - the two key ones are "Road to War" and "Attack." With dramatic interactive story boards, photos, signage, and audio and video, these exhibits provide a powerful and unforgettably stirring (at times even disturbing) look at the attack as well as the world events leading up to it. Touring the visitor center and grounds is free, and here you can purchase tickets to tour the memorial and other ships.
Rainbow Drive-In, on Kapahulu Drive, great spot for "plate lunch" meals
For a chance to sample Hawaii's classic "plate lunch" meal, a cheap and filling set meal that includes a main entree, two scoops of rice, and a scoop of either macaroni salad or cole slaw, try the iconic Rainbow Drive-In (3308 Kanaina Ave., at Kapahulu Dr., 808-737-0177). The restaurant has been around since 1961 (the owners previously had similar drive-in establishments around town dating back to World War II). Complete plate lunches cost between $5 and $7, and Rainbow has even cheaper fare at breakfast.
Typical entrees for the main dish include fried chicken, mahimahi, barbecue steak, Portuguese sausage, corned beef hash, and chili (there are also daily specials, like Shoyu chicken and teriyaki ahi); for a little extra, you can order additional sides, such as gravy, a hamburger, or the dreaded state delicacy, Spam. If you're in for breakfast, try sweet-bread French toast or fried rice and eggs. Rainbow also serves plenty of other state favorites, from saimin (a ramen-like noodle dish), and Loco Moco (a dish developed on the Big Island in the town of Hilo, consisting of white rice topped with a hamburger, fried egg, and brown gravy). Grab dessert just down the block at Waiola Bakery and Shave Ice
Hotel Renew Bar and Cafe
The trendy, sleek bar and cafe at the Waikiki's Hotel Renew is a pleasant spot to meet up with friends.
Shangri La, pool and playroom view
A view of Shangri La's pool and play room. Tours of Doris Duke's Shangri La are given by the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Visitors cannot enter the grounds of Shangri La on their own, although here you can see an aerial image of the property, which is located at 4055 Papu Circle.
Waikiki Joy Hotel, part of the gay-friendly Aqua Hotels brand
Honolulu Waterfront at Night, from Fort DeRussy north beyond Ala Wai Harbor
Looking north from the groin (jetty) by the Outrigger Reef Hotel in Waikiki. The view takes in Fort DeRussey Beach Park and hotels to the right, the Hilton Hawaiian Village in the center, and the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor and downtown Honolulu waterfront beyond that, to the left. Here's the view from the same spot, but looking south at the Waikiki skyline.
Royal Hawaiian Resort pool, Waikiki
The glamorous pool and lanai at Starwood's trendy Royal Hawaiian Resort, one of the iconic hotels of Waikiki. Just beyond the palm-shrouded pool, with its dozens of private cabanas, you'll find one of the most alluring stretches of golden sand in Waikiki.
Town Restaurant, in the Kaimuki neighborhood
Queen's Surf lawn, behind the gay beach
In addition to the golden sand sunning area at Waikiki's scenic Queen's Surf gay beach, there's a verdant, palm-shaded lawn behind the promenade and next to the snack bar and restrooms pavilion. This expansive stretch of lawn is also major draw for gay sunbathers, although typically not as crowded as the beach below the promenade.
Ono Hawaiian Foods, on Kapahulu Avenue
Not to be confused with the mainland fast-food chain Ono Hawaiian BBQ, the quirky, homespun restaurant on Kapahulu Avenue known as Ono Hawaiian Foods (726 Kapahulu Ave., 808-737-2275) has been doling out fantastic, completely authentic, traditional Hawaiian favorites since it opened nearly 40 years ago. In this modest dining room that fits in well with the other low-keyed, no-frills eateries along Kapahulu you can sample such regional delicacies as Kalua pig, butterfish or squid luau, salt meat watercress, lomi salmon, poi, beef stew, tripe stew, and more. For value and the chance to try a few different things, order one of the four combo plates, which include a nice mix of specialties. There's nothing touristy about the menu here, although plenty of food-loving visitors in-the-know have been coming to this hole-in-the-wall eatery for years.
Shangri La, view of a ceiling
A look at one of the ornate ceilings inside a room at Doris Duke's legendary Shangri-La estate, in Honolulu.
Pu'u 'Ualaka'a State Wayside, looking west toward Honolulu International Airport
Looking southwest from Pu'u 'Ualaka'a State Wayside, you can see the western side of downtown Honolulu, the Lower Punchbowl area, Sand Island, and Honolulu International Airport.
Waikiki Beach Walk shops and restaurants, by the Embassy Suites Honolulu
After a dramatic renovation along the once dowdy Beachwalk and Lewer streets between Kalia Road and Kalakaua Avenue, the Waikiki Beach Walk shopping and dining district is looking pretty spiffy. The collection of mid-price to upscale galleries, boutiques, and restaurants - which includes outposts of popular chains like Roy's, Ruth's Chris Steak House, and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf - adjoins the elegant and very gay-friendly Embassy Suites Honolulu is a block from the beach. Also close by is the Outrigger Reef Hotel, a handsome beach-front resort that also underwent a major transformation in recent years. If it's been a while since you visited Waikiki, you're unlikely even to recognize this part of the neighborhood, which now looks far better than it has in decades.
Waikiki Wave Hotel, part of Aqua Hotels
One of the more luxurious members of Honolulu's gay-friendly Aqua Hotels brand, the Waikiki Wave (2299 Kuhio Ave., 866-971-2782) is just a five-minute walk from Waikiki Beach and very close to the gay bars Angles and Fusion.
JW Marriott Ihilani Resort, 25 miles west of Waikiki
The JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa, which is on the southwest coast of Oahu about 25 miles from Waikiki, is one of the most luxurious properties in Hawaii. If you're seeking seclusion but still wish to be within striking distance of the gay scene, luxe shops and restaurants, and fascinating cultural attractions of Honolulu, this is an excellent base.
Queen's Surf Beach, viewed from slightly farther southeast
Another vantage point of the gay-popular Queen's Surf Beach, this one taken from a bit southeast of the main action, the grassy lawn, and the snack bar and restrooms pavilion, looking north toward the busiest stretch of hotel development along Waikiki Beach.
Ocean House Restaurant, Outrigger Reef on the Beach hotel
It's generally a given that restaurants overlooking the water deliver on the view but generally not as well on the food. A happy exception to this adage is the Ocean House Restaurant (808-923-2277), on the ground floor of the gay-friendly Outrigger Reef resort in Waikiki. This open-air restaurant with dazzling views of the ocean turns out consistently good contemporary American and Hawaiian Regional cuisine - nothing overly adventuresome or necessarily haute gourmet, but reliably excellent and fresh. For a romantic meal overlooking the water, this is one of the top spots in Waikiki.
Again, the food and wine here both tend toward straightforward and unsurprising, but that's not to say the presentation and quality of ingredients fall anything short of excellent - standouts include Kahala-style fire-roasted pork spareribs with Maui gold-pineapple barbecue sauce, ahi-and-Maui-onion tartare, pan-seared kampachi with a ginger vinaigrette, and Hapu'upu'u (local sea bass) with sauteed bananas, macadamia nuts, Frangelico sauce, and Jasmine rice.
Diamond Head, viewed from Shangri La's grounds and gardens
Diamond Head State Monument, viewed from the grounds of Doris Duke's famed Shangri La estate.
Hokondo Waikiki Beachside Hostel, a gay-friendly hostel close to the beach
If you've just managed to afford a plane ticket to Hawaii and not much else, and finding a cheap, gay-friendly place to stay is an issue, consider staying at the rock-bottom-priced Hokondo Waikiki Beachside Hostel (2556 Lemon Rd., 808-923-9566 or 866-478-3888), which has a terrific location just two blocks from the beach (very close to the gay section at Queen's Surf), and not even a block from Hula's gay bar. Waikiki Beachside Hostel has private rooms (with shared baths) as well as small (two- to four-person) and large (eight-person) dorms rooms (which are available both co-ed and female-only).
Rates vary according to the accommodation you choose, beginning around $26 per person for a bunk in one of the larger dorm units to about $70 for a private unit. Rooms are generally quite clean and although basic, they do have cable TV, lanais, phones (with free local calls), Wi-Fi, basic Continental breakfast, and full kitchens. There's also a coin-op laundry, lockers and storage rooms, an outdoor lounge with barbecue grill, daily housekeeping, and all the other niceties you need for a fun trip. If you're not planning to spend a ton of time in your room, this place is a great find - there's no curfew, and the front desk is staffed 24/7. Although Waikiki Beachside Hostel gears itself toward youth (i.e., 18 and over), and most guests tend to be in their 20s, there's no max age limit - all are quite welcome. As hostels go, this is a very nice one and popular one, and definitely a good bet for GLBT visitors to Honolulu
Gun Towers from the USS Arizona, visible from the memorial platform
Still visible from the platform of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor are a few parts of the sunken battleship, including the truncated and severely rusted gun towers pictured here. At the lower left-hand side of the photo, you can still see evidence of oil leaking very slowly from the wreck and creating a slick on the water.
Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki's main shopping and hotel thoroughfare
Kalakaua Avenue is the main drag through bustling Waikiki, threading its way southeast from central Honolulu, where it crosses Ala Wai Canal and initially forms a busy stretch (pictured here, close to the Waikiki Beach Walk retail and dining development) of high end boutiques and shopping centers before joining with and running parallel to the beach, where it's lined with high-rise hotels Traffic runs one-way, in a southeasterly direction, until Kalakaua intersects with Monsarrat Avenue at Kapiolani Park and the Honolulu Zoo.
Diamond Head Crater at sunset, viewed from Pu'u 'Ualaka's State Wayside
Looking down at Diamond Head Crater at sunset from Pu'u 'Ualaka'a State Wayside park.
Counter at Liliha Bakery and Coffeeshop, northwestern Honolulu
The long counter at Liliha Bakery and Coffeeshop buzzes with activity 'round the clock - it's a fine place to mingle with longtime locals and enjoy no-nonsense breakfast, lunch, and dinner fare (plus tantalizing sweets from the bakery section of the establishment).
DFS Galleria Waikiki, off Kalakaua Avenue
Big spenders won't want to miss the ultra-luxe DFS Galleria Waikiki (330 Royal Hawaiian Ave., off Kalakaua Ave., 808-931-2700) along the relatively recently swank-tified Kalakaua Avenue (a block north of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel). This posh shopping mall with branches in such far-flung destinations as Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, Sydney, Saipan, San Francisco, and New York contains plenty of gay-fave shopping brands, including Cartier, Chloe, Calvin Klein, Vera Wang, Bulgari, Armani, Marc Jacobs, Swarovski, Dunhill, Emilio Pucci, Fendi, Tumi, and Paul & Joe. The mall is open daily from 9 am until 11 pm.
Velvet Video adult bookstore and arcade, next to In Between gay bar
Just above the cozy and cruisy In Between Waikiki gay bar, the Velvet Video (2155 Lau'ula St., 2nd floor, 808-924-0868) is one of Honolulu's most popular adult video arcades - a reliable spot to pick up gay porn (in the form of magazines and DVD/movies), plus various toys and trinkets.
Embassy Suites Honolulu - Waikiki Beach Walk
The twin-towered Embassy Suites Honolulu - Waikiki Beach Walk (201 Beachwalk St., 800-EMBASSY) is an excellent, gay-welcoming lodging option that's a block from the beach and adjacent to the many shops and restaurants of the handsomely revitalized Waikiki Beach Walk. An attractive pool and sundeck, pictured here, separates the hotel's two towers.
Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine, at the Waikiki Beach Walk
Adjacent to the gay-friendly Embassy Suites Honolulu at the Waikiki Beach Walk shopping and dining district, there's a popular outpost of the famed chain of upscale Hawaiian eateries, Roy's Fusion Cuisine (park at the Embassy Suites, 201 Beachwalk St., 808-923-7697. Known for chef Roy Yamaguchi's assertively bold and creative European-meets-Pacific-Rim cooking, Roy's turns out a consistently inventive mix of favorites, and many feel the Hawaiian members of the chain are the best. Longtime classics include the Lakanilau roll (seared Kobe beef wrapped around Yuzu crab with tempera asparagus and avocado) and blackened ahi tuna with a spicy soy-mustard-butter sauce.
Volleyball court, on Waikiki Beach near Queen's Surf gay section
Just a short walk west of Queen's Surf Beach's gay section, there's a volleyball court overlooking the Waikiki action. This court is also a very short stroll from Hula's gay bar.
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue Waikiki, on Kuhio Avenue
Of course Waikiki has a branch of the popular and rapidly expanding chain L&L Hawaiian Barbecue (808-924-7888). This outpost of the cheap and simple plate-lunch and barbecue restaurant is at 2280 Kuhio Avenue, a couple of blocks from Angles and Fusion gay bars.
Sunset over Waikiki, viewed from upper floor of Embassy Suites Honolulu
Sunset over Waikiki, viewed from an upper floor at the Embassy Suites Honolulu - Waikiki Beach Walk.
Interior of USS Arizona Memorial
A view of the interior platform of the USS Arizona Memorial, which sits directly above the sunken battleship that it honors.
Kapi'olani Park, in Waikiki, with a view toward Diamond Head
A tranquil 300-acre preserve of verdant lawns, massive banyan trees, and pleasant picnic groves, Kapi'olani Park at the southern end of Waikiki, just beyond where the main drags of Kalakaua Avenue, Monsarrat Avenue, and Kapahulu Avenue meet. It's famed for its knockout views of Diamond Head Crater, and a walk through this beautiful swath of nature offers a wonderful contrast from the busy beach scene (including gay-popular Queen's Surf Beach) that lies just to the west of it. The park is home to a number of attractions, from tennis courts and recreation fields to the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Shell concert amphitheater. The park is named for Queen Kapi'olani, and having been established in 1876, it's the oldest public park in the state.
Sam Choy's Breakfast, Lunch & Crab (closed)
Note: Sam Choy's Breakfast, Lunch & Crab has closed, but Sam Choy's Seafood Grille & Hapa Bar remains an excellent choice