Where To Find Great Live Music In Honolulu, Hawaii

Catrina Pang

From bright blue skies to beautiful ocean waves and majestic green mountains, Honolulu has little competition when it comes to serene getaways. Whether you’re a local or a visitor in the beautiful capital of Hawaii, it can be difficult to separate the tourist traps from the quality venues. Culture Trip has compiled a list of the best places to go in Honolulu for amazing live music, from distinctive Hawaiian local talent to popular national and international bands.

1. Hard Rock Cafe Honolulu

Hard Rock Cafe Honolulu

Situated in the heart of Waikiki, the Hard Rock Cafe Honolulu is conveniently located within walking distance of many major resorts, a variety shops, the Hawaii Convention Center, and the iconic Waikiki beach. Visitors fall in love with the ever changing music memorabilia collection that often features items from music legends such as Elvis, The Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix, as well as local favorites like Jake Shimabukuro and Jack Johnson. As they follow the sweeping artistic guitar wave up to the open air second floor area, they are treated to veranda seating, a striking ocean-blue wave bar, and an extensive made-from-scratch menu that caters to the entire family with fresh seafood, a variety of crisp refreshing salads, tasty char-broiled burgers, and delicious desserts. Thirst-quenching specialty drinks and thick frosty shakes complete the meal that is made much more memorable with the amazing live rock music often playing on the stage off to the side. Though it is a chain, many consider Hard Rock Cafe Honolulu to be the best location to go to, thanks to its exceptional food, service, decor, and local talent.
Hard Rock Cafe Honolulu, 280 Beachwalk, Waikiki, HI, USA, +1 808 955 7383

© Tatsuhiko Miyagawa/Flickr© Tatsuhiko Miyagawa/Flickr

2. House Without A Key

House Without A Key

Immortalized in a 1925 Charlie Chan novel, House Without A Key is the internationally acclaimed Halekulani Hotel’s popular indoor/outdoor gathering spot for informal breakfast, lunch, cocktails, appetizers, and entertainment with a fresh option for evening dining in Waikiki. Considered one of the best restaurants in Waikiki, House Without A Key is known for its signature mai tai, a classic that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. Visitors can drink in memorable sunsets at the romantic restaurant while listening to distinctive live Hawaiian music paired with the graceful dancing of five former Miss Hawaii winners, Kanoe Miller, Debbie Nakanelua, Lauren Matsumoto, Skyler Kamaka, and Radasha Ho’ohuli. Visitors must arrive early if they want to get a seat close to the stage on the terrace, but everyone can enjoy the cool breeze and gorgeous views of the ocean and Diamond Head, while listening to the gentle waves slapping against the sea wall along with live bands playing Hawaiian music of older times.
House Without A Key, 2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI, USA, +1 808 923 2311

© Daniel Ramirez/Flickr© Daniel Ramirez/Flickr

3. Imua Lounge

Imua Lounge

A local bar in the heart of Honolulu, Imua Lounge was established in 2009 by the Kamehameha Schools graduate class of 1981 to keep the alumni strong and create another home for local people. Their mission is to satisfy their customers in every way, with good cocktails, good food, and good service. The bartenders are known for being friendly, fun, and for pouring strong drinks, and everyone raves about the amazing food, including the fried rice, the pulehu steak, and the famous pork chops cooked with shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, and a cream sauce. They offer entertainment from Tuesday to Sunday, with great live bands playing Hawaiian music that encourage everyone to get up and dance, as well as fun karaoke competitions. The decor is dark, with with blue, green, and neons scattered throughout, in addition to Kamehameha items adorning the bar, and the environment is very casual and divey. Though it is mostly frequented by locals and Kamehameha alumni, both staff and regulars are extremely welcoming to all who enter.
Imua Lounge, 815 Keeaumoku St, Honolulu, HI, USA, +1 808 951 6555

© Alan Light/Flickr© Alan Light/Flickr

4. Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand

Bar, Beer, Wine, Snacks, Fast Food, American

Hula’s Bar and Lei Stand, Honolulu
© mandleicious/Flickr
Recognized worldwide as a fixture on the Waikiki scene, Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand is known more importantly as a cultural icon and a welcome refuge for Hawaii’s gay community. Jack Law, owner of the bar as well as president and founder of the Honolulu Gay & Lesbian Cultural Foundation, created the place with the vision of somewhere reminiscent of the Waikiki that was for everybody, where both gays and non-gays could have a great time. Over the years, celebrities like Elton John, Adam Lambert, Claire Boothe Luce, Dorothy Lamour, and Dolly Parton have all come through, and the bar usually has a good mix of both tourists and regulars despite being in the center of the tourist hub that is Waikiki. People know it as a great place to hang out, make new friends, and enjoy spectacular views of the ocean and Diamond Head. They’ve got Open Mic on Mondays, during which all performers receive a free beverage, and great live music on other weekday nights, playing acoustic island and old school songs.

5. Hawaii Theatre Center

Cinema, Theater, Theatre

Hawaii Theatre
© Joel Bradshaw / WikiCommons
Proclaimed as the ‘Pride of the Pacific,’ the beautiful Hawaii Theatre Center has been entertaining Hawaii’s audiences for over 90 years with everything from vaudevilles and plays to silent films, musicals, ballets, and concerts. Its popularity has only grown over the years, and today it continues to charm eager show-goers and curious audiences alike, all of whom want to take a step back in time and experience the best of both worlds in the beautifully restored multi-purpose arts center. Visitors have enjoyed performances including Stomp, the Narcissus Queen pageant, local shows, and The Goodwill Mission Tour from Taiwan with two performances of the Taiwanese opera, just to name a few. The gorgeous marquee in front of the theater, the balconies, the mosaic artwork on the ceilings, the wooden stage surrounded by gold paint and leafing, and the embroidered cushioned velvet seats, along with a recently updated sound system, provide the perfect environment for enjoying Hawaiian music, hula concerts, comedy shows, acrobatics and more. Patrons love the history that the quaint little building embodies, making it an iconic spot in the heart of downtown Honolulu.

6. The Republik

Nightclub, Wine, Beer, Snacks

With past performers including Childish Gambino, Prie, Bleachers, Tigers from Niger, Yellowcard, Mayday Parade, and All Time Low, it’s no wonder that The Republik is considered by many to be the best concert venue in the area. It admits people of all ages, though those younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult. The venue is small and intimate, perfect for fans who want to get up close to their favorite bands. It has an open floor rectangular layout with three open bars allowing for easy access when it gets crowded, in addition to a popular adjoining lounge called The Safehouse, which serves great food and drinks. Patrons also like that the place is always clean and classy, and the staff are always friendly. One of the few venues on Oahu that features mainland and international artists, The Republik is the go to spot of many locals and visitors looking for a great concert with a popular band. It is located next to Ala Moana mall, so many people choose to park there when coming to the shows because the valet service at the venue tends to fill up quickly.

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