One of the best ways to get a feel for a new place is by exploring the local nightlife, especially if you’re staying at a private rental or a smaller hotel without its own bar on vacation. On Hawaii Island (also known as Big Island), many visitors plan on venturing out to explore the nightlife once it gets dark, only to find out just how limited the choices are. Truthfully, most Hawaii Island residents choose to create their own nightlife through backyard barbecues, beach cookouts, and house parties. While there is nowhere near the same level of nightclubs and bars available on nearby Oahu, there are plenty of bars and restaurants with great drinks, live music, karaoke, and even dancing on Hawaii Island.
Most of the Hawaii Island’s bars that are open late stop serving food well before last call for drinks, so don’t forget to fill your stomach with some dinner or snacks. Grab a late-night bite at these restaurant bars before moving on to one of the island’s livelier venues:
- Quinn’s Almost By The Sea: A relaxed, locally-owned spot just across from the pier in Kailua-Kona, open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- Kona Brewing Company: This is the place where you can sit back with a pint of locally-brewed beer on a 2,000 square-foot outdoor lanai. If you get peckish, there is a menu of standard pub fare. There is live music every day from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
- KANPAI - Sushi, Noodle, & Sake Bar: KANPAI is a trendy spot with Japanese food, sake, and cocktails in downtown Hilo. It's open until 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
- Red Water Cafe: An award-winning restaurant in Waimea with an outdoor beer garden and an eclectic menu.
Dancing and Live Music
While Hawaii Island isn’t known for nightclubs, you can usually find locals dancing at the Hilo Town Tavern on the west side of the island and Blue Dragon Coastal Cuisine & Musiquarium in Waimea after the sun goes down.
For what Hawaii Island lacks in clubbing, it makes up for with great live music performed by local musicians. Many of the island’s bars and restaurants feature some form of live music throughout the day, but for nighttime jams head to Humpy’s Big Island Ale House in Kailua-Kona and Pineapples in Hilo.
The best late-night views on Hawaii Island are undoubtedly along its stretching coastline. Enjoy Hawaii Island’s warm evenings with open-air bars and restaurants along the famous Kona coast complete with killer happy hours, live music, and easygoing ambiance. Check out Huggo’s On the Rocks and Don’s Mai Tai Bar for a casual, tropical feel right on the sand in Kailua-Kona, or Beach Tree Bar & Lounge for something a little more elegant inside the Four Seasons Hualalai.
Sports Bars and Karaoke
Oceans Sports Bar & Grill is a local bar in Kailua-Kona known for its fish tacos, happy hour, and abundance of flat screen TVs. Nearby, Sam’s Hideaway is a neighborhood sports bar that features karaoke and friendly bartenders. On the other side of the island, Joann’s Lounge in the heart of Hilo town offers open-mic karaoke that runs all night long.
For a unique evening out on the Big Island, consider Kozy’s Tiki Palace inside The Shops at Mauna Lani for a night of comedy and magic. Rays on the Bay at the Kona Sheraton has open-air tables with great views of the wild manta rays who frequent the waters below. Gertrude’s Jazz Bar in downtown Kailua-Kona plays an assortment of tunes from jazz to blues to Latin music along with dancing and small bites. If a festival vibe is more your style, the quiet town of Hilo comes alive every first Friday of the month for the Downtown Hilo Art Walk, celebrating art and live music in front of the bay.
Tips for Going Out on Hawaii Island
- Hawaii Island makes up almost half of the entire state in terms of size, but the population is much smaller than on Oahu. Don’t expect it to be as easy to get around as other islands.
- Renting your own car is the only way to take full control of your transportation, so be sure to designate a sober driver if you plan to go out.
- Uber and Lyft have a very limited presence on the island, and if you manage to snag one it will probably take them quite a while to get to your location. Taxis can be found around the Kona area on the west side of the island, as well.
- Another transportation option is the public bus (Hele-On-Bus), which primarily runs during working hours. On the Hilo side, Hele-On offers a Shared Ride Taxi Program where participants can travel by cab throughout the Hilo area by purchasing taxi coupons.
- Excluding some of the more expensive resorts along the Kohala Coast, dress codes are extremely laid-back inside Hawaii Island bars. Most places will let you in with sandals, shorts, and a shirt.
- “Last Call” on Hawaii Island won’t be much later than 10 p.m. for restaurants and midnight for bars. There are a few exceptions; Hilo Town Tavern, Ocean’s Sports Bar, Humpy’s Alehouse, and LGBTQ-friendly My Bar in Kailua-Kona all close at 2 a.m.