Aloha with an ABV: The Local’s Guide to Honolulu Bars

honolulu bars feature

The islands that make up Hawaii are, collectively, a magical place.

There’s sun, sand, and girls in hula skirts. It is, literally, paradise. Depending on which island you’re on, you’ll find everything from volcanoes to World War II memorials to coconuts cut open with a machete and filled with boozy goodness.

For the purposes of this article, of course, we’re going to be focusing on that last one in that list and specifically in Hawaii’s capital city, Honolulu. So, in order to get the skinny on where to go when gallivanting about The Big Pineapple, we sat down with Joshua Hancock, Co-Owner of Proof Public House. Check out his choices for the best Honolulu bars (and some touristy kitsch) below.

Proof Public House

proof public house

Once a bar in one of Honolulu’s first Hotels (The Blaisdell Hotel), Proof Public House still pays tribute the old time Hawaii spirit, with its architecture and original floor still in place and photographs on the walls, reminding its patrons of the kingdom that once ruled. Inside, as you sip a cocktail made from traditional Hawaiian moonshine, you can gaze upon the images of Queen Liliouokalani, Princess Kaiulani, and King David Kalakaua, along with images of the staged hula girls once used to entice early travelers to the tropical paradise that was Hawaii. Proof emulates its cocktails with a nod to the classics while combining innovative new ideas and integrating Hawaiian-sourced ingredients. This is not a tiki bar, there are no plastic leis, this is a contemporary representation of a Hawaiian pub with no frills but with thick character.

(Note: the featured photo is Proof’s cocktail No Shrubs, which is made with Alipus San Luis Mezcal, Pineapple-Jalapeno Shrub & Rosemary Infused Tequila.)

Downbeat Diner and Lounge

downbeat diner and lounge

This is one of my bars as well, but had to throw it in, too. From touring punk bands to established soul and reggae acts, this place is the best bet for authentic music made in Hawaii. There are cheap drinks and a late night greasy spoon diner connected to it that serves every dish with a vegan alternative. The kind of spot you might expect in Seattle or Portland but with its own unique Hawaii authenticity. Craft beers to $2 cans to rustic cocktails, the drink menu has options for everyone.”

La Mariana Sailing Club

la mariana sailing club

“This is a legit tiki bar established in 1957. It has all the classic elements—the blowfish lamp, the fishbowl mai tai—and sits on the harbor with a view of the ocean and amazing sunsets. It’s getting a little run down, but to me this only adds to the color of the place and its essential and historic existence in Honolulu. Location is way off the beaten track in what is a now an industrial area. Though it technically is a club house, it literally is a lot like a club house you would build with buddies in the woods with handmade additions to the architecture and decor. Also, you can’t forget there is a blind piano player every happy hour who jams out some classics.”

Lewers Lounge

lewer's lounge honolulu

“An elegant Waikiki hotel lobby bar with a jazz singer and an ivory piano. Its’ is a step into the past with classic cocktails like Sazeracs, French 75s, Negronis, and Manhattans.  In order to go, you need to play dress up: dresses or gowns for ladies and collared shirts and coats are required for the men.”

Related: The Manual’s Hawaii Travel Guide

Bevy

bevy hawaii

“A hip little bar with an award-winning mixologist behind the curtain. Bevy resides in the new blossoming Kaka’ako area and provides an opportunity for patrons to enjoy some of our states most innovative cocktails. Also a hub for hip indie DJ’s and pop-up shops.”

Duke’s Waikiki

duke's waikiki

“This is the modern Waikiki bar/club where tourists and locals go to drink overpriced foo-foo drinks at a hotel on the beach while listening to a live contemporary Hawaiian band as the sun sets over Waikiki. It is not considered cool by hipsters or drink connoisseurs, but it is a spot to check out to balance out all the unique places that are a truer testament to what the melting pop of contemporary Hawaii bar culture has to offer. This is the plastic Hawaii constructed for the mainstream audience—what Hawaii sells to the rest of the world: a sunset on the beach with tiki torches, ukuleles dancing in your ears, and slushies with vodka and a pineapple wedge for $15.”

Rumfire

rumfire honolulu

“The same as above, but this place tries to reinvent itself as a night club after 10PM.”