Honolulu is on Oahu, the most populous of the Hawaiian chain. More than 75 percent of Hawaiians make their home on this verdant island. The surfing is good at Makapuu and Sandy Beach, along with Waimea, Sunset and Pipeline beaches in the winter. If you prefer, you can snorkel among dolphins and colorful tropical fish in Hanauma Bay.
Hawai'ians surprised Captain Cook's crew in 1779 with their bisexual ways, and King Kamehameha came aboard Cook's ship to travel with his young male aikane sexual companion. Writer and poet Charles Warren Stoddard, the "Boy Poet of San Francisco," a one-time secretary to Mark Twain and friend of Walt Whitman, wrote much about his blissful times in the islands, saying he could act out his "nature" in ways he couldn't "even in California, where men are tolerably bold." Missionaries soon began putting a stop to many of the old ways, but as late as 1854 King Kamehameha III had his own aikane.
The island remains a popular destination for gay travelers and has many welcoming guesthouses, shops, restaurants, and bars. The annual Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival screens at the Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Museum of Arts in mid-June. The Honolulu Pride Festival also takes place in June.
Honolulu International Airport is 20 minutes from the strip of tourist hotels along Waikiki Beach. Taxis cost $35-40 --look for taxi dispatchers in green shirts at the center median outside the terminal baggage area. You can also try the SpeediShuttle, or the even less expensive bus. Bus 19 departs the airport every half hour for Kalihi Kai, then continues to the downtown Honolulu Civic Center, the Ala Moana Shopping Center, and Waikiki.
Hawaiian Airlines is the largest local provider of flights between the islands, or to/from points in North America, Australia and Asia. Mokulele, Hawaii's number one island-hopper, has low-price , connections between all five of the main islands.
If you’re staying at the beach, you probably won't need to rent a car; most destinations are an easy walk, or short taxi ride away. However, to explore more of the island a car is convenient, and easily rented at the airport terminal, or at offices in Waikiki. For getting around the city see the Oahu Public Transportation website: TheBus.
For getting around town by pedal power see the Hawaii Bicycling League website. In Waikiki, street bikes can be rented by the day or week for as little as $20-25/day at Hawaiian Style (3 days or more half-price), including helmet, secure lock, maps, pouch, rack and bungie cord. They also rent mopeds and scooters at $35-110/day.
The Bike Shop offers a full range of bicycle equipment, from $20/day for a street bike, to $40-85/day for top performance mountain gear. The Big Kahuna Motorcycle Tours & Rentals also has bikes, motercycles, mopeds and scooters for rent, in central Waikiki.
On and in the water, Waikiki Ocean Club has boat tours, snorkeling, scuba and helmet diving, plus Aqua Quad and kayak rentals. Most hotels also have information on similar services.
Hawaii Gay Travel and Hawaii Gay Tours can help get you around in Oahu, and between here and nearby Big Island, Kauai, and Maui. Pacific Ocean Holidays can arrange gay-friendly package tours, accommodations, and other details throughout the Islands. Adventures in Hawaii also provides flights, tours and lodgings.
The gayest Oahu beach is Queen's Surf Beach, at the Diamond Head end of Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki. A secluded area at the base of the lighthouse, off Diamond Head Road, is another favorite spot.
The North Shore, at the other side of the island, has some of the world's best surfing beaches and a more laid-back atmosphere, along with a variety of restaurants and cafes scattered along Kamehameha Highway. The Vans Triple Crown, the biggest event in the surfer world, takes place in November and December each year, at Haleiwa, Pipeline (Ehukai Beach Park) and Sunset beaches. Local surfers sometimes make puka shell necklaces while they wait for the big waves, to sell to tourists.
Media and resources
Odyssey is the local gay magazine filled with information about the island’s nightlife. Download a pdf of their current or back issues for easy reading.
Gay Hawaii has links to a surprising number of local groups and activities. For general events listings and reviews see Honolulu Weekly and Honolulu Magazine.
HG&LCF, the Honolulu Gay & Lesbian Cultural Foundation, produces the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, one of the longest-running and well-respected GLBTQ film festivals in the country.
Hawaii Manoh Man, a gay nudist group for men around the world who come to Hawaii (along with those who live here) who enjoy the freedom of nudity, provides a venue to enjoy each other's company and interests while nude.
See the Aloha Bears website for events such as LeiBearDay in early September, Toys in Bearland in December, and more.
For locations and web links to Honolulu businesses listed below, and more, see our map & listings pages.
Stay Hotel (2424 Koa Ave; 808-923-7829), hip, energetic boutique hotel, a block from Waikiki Beach at budget prices; coin laundry, WiFi, iPod dock, balcony rooms on request. Wang Chung's gay cafe/bar on premises.
Waikiki Beachside Hostel (2556 Lemon; 808-923- 9566), affordable beach dorm bed lodgings, Beachside Café, outdoor lounge, internet access, Moped rentals, coin laundry, secure/covered parking, young mixed crowd.
Waikiki Grand Hotel (134 Kapahulu Ave; 808- 923-1814), 180 LGBT-friendly rooms on ten floors overlooking the beach at Waikiki, reasonable rates, pool and sundeck, kitchenettes, WiFi throughout. Hula's, the most popular gay bar in town, on the second floor.
The Cabana at Waikiki (2551 Cartwright), a famous gay hotel of many years, sold off their suites as condo units in 2012.
For another two dozen hotel suggestions, see our map and listings/hotels pages.
Bars & clubs
Most Honolulu gay nightlife is located around world-famous Waikiki. To this cultural crossroads come all types of people, from US service members to European tourists to visitors from other Pacific islands and Japan.
Bacchus (408 Lewers St), gay bar/lounge, comfy chairs, good drinks prices; 2nd Sunday of each month Waikiki catamaran sailings, popular with bears. SteamRoom Saturdays with hot go-go boys.
Blazing Saddles, Tuesdays 6:30-9:15pm at Ala Wai Golf Course Clubhouse Ballroom (404 Kapahulu Ave), line dancing, two-step, waltzes, and swing; food; refreshments, tobacco and alcohol free.
Fusion (2260 Kuhio) gender-bending revues, Saturday strippers, Friday and Saturday with dancing until 4am.
Hula's Bar & Lei Stand (134 Kapahulu Ave), popular after-beach patio, open from 10am, evening dance club and video cruise bar, DJs and live music, billiards, sunset views, and Thursday-Saturday go-go boys, weekend Bloody Mary and omelet bar.
In Between (2155 Lauula St) small neighborhood karaoke bar, mixed crowd, casual atmosphere.
LoJax (2256 Kuhio Ave), gay sports bar, nine big video monitors, hip hop vibe, chest & buns contests, sandwiches and finger food. Sunday Breakfast & Football 6-11am. At old Angles space.
Phoenix at Rum Fire (2255 Kalakaua Ave), 6-10pm every last Sunday gay dance party at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel beachfront restaurant and nightclub.
Tapas (407 Seaside Ave, 2nd Floor), cool patio, gay-popular restaurant and lounge, good Sunday brunch, music, special parties, Aloha Bears nights.
Wang Chung's (2424 Koa Ave), friendly, fresh and exotic karaoke neighborhood bar with Japanese food and drinks. New location ("a bigger Wang") at Stay Hotel.
Fresh fruit, pineapple, papaya, mango, guava, and coconut are a staple here, and these flavors are to be found in every type of dish. Local fish, such as mahimahi and a pink snapper, are too good to pass up. A luau, or outdoor celebration feast, is the best place to sample such traditional Hawaiian foods as baked breadfruit.
Below are the most popular in the gay community. See bars above: Tapas for Sunday brunch, LoJax for finger foods and sandwiches, and Wang Chung's for Japanese food. See more restaurants, with links, at our map & listings pages.
Keo's (2028 Kuhio), celebrated Thai restaurant, nightly specials; meat, seafood, vegetarian, open daily.
Keoni's (2375 Kuhio Ave), Waikiki Thai and American restaurant open 7am-11pm for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; Island catch of the day seafood..
La Cucaracha (2446 Koa Avenue), delicious home-style, authentic Mexican food, music; tacos, burritos, fajitas, Acapulco seafood plates.
Max's Gym (438 Hobron Lane, PH1), 24-hour men's 18+ recreational space on 4th floor, with steam room, sauna, videos, playrooms, sling, and garden patio.
The Art of Douglas Simonson (808-737-6275) is created here in Hawaii by a local artist who celebrates the beauty of young male Pacific Islanders in paintings, sketches and photographs. See his gallery website in our links.
Over Easy Down Under (2299 Kuhio Ave), zt Wave Hotel main lobby, best brand active wear, swimwear, underwear, and beach accessories.
Suzie's Secrets (1370 Kapiolani Blvd), 24 hour adult video arcade, DVD sales and rentals, novelties, toys, lubes, leather.
Velvet Video (2155 Lauula St), sex shop DVDs, lube, toys, private viewing booths.
The old International Market Place open-air souvenir stands closed in late 2013 after 56 years, to be replaced with a new high-end retail, dining and entertainment complex being built along Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues. The name International Market Place and the 150+ year-old Indian Banyan tree are to be preserved.
See our Maui pages for information about Hawaii's second largest, and perhaps most beautiful island.
On Big Island, Hawaii, The Mask-querade Bar (75-5660 Kopiko St, Ste. C5, Kailua-Kona) is the gay nightspot.
Also see our Guide Magazine March 2010 article, Hawaii's Secrets by Matthew Link.