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Photo of a First Friday acrobatic show by madmarv00.

CHINATOWN ROCKS. A former red-light district that spent most of the last half of the previous century in disrepair, Honolulu’s Chinatown has been on the up and seen extensive regeneration over the past couple years.

The coolest bars in the city are here, so step away from the tourist scene, the Tiki-bars and umbrella cocktails of Waikiki and head into the grittier, sharper, more exciting Chinatown district.

First Friday and Third Friday

Art is a central theme in Chinatown’s regeneration. At most of these bars you’ll find rotating art exhibits on display.
The first Friday of every month is the First Friday Art Walk. Galleries stay open late and the bars get slammed. If that’s not your thing, try the new Slow Art Fridays on the third Friday of the month. Slow Art Friday gives viewers time and space for greater appreciation of the art on display—something that has been getting neglected in the rowdy, alcohol fueled First Fridays.


A few blocks back from Hotel (see below) in a short alleyway, Mercury is a small, divey space where you’ll often see local burlesque act Cherry Blossom Cabaret perform.

1154 Fort Street Mall, (808) 537-3080

Bar 35

Winner of local newspaper supplement Metromix’s Best Bar 2010, Bar 35 is a fancy-looking red bar that has lots of comfortable couches and around 200 different types of beers from around the world. Monday night at Bar 35 is Happy Hour all night. Whichever night you visit, be sure to try Chef Valentini’s handmade, thin-crust pizzas, which have unusual, gourmet toppings like sweet chilli and tzatziki .

35 North Hotel Street, (808) 537-3535

Thirtynine Hotel

Photo (and Feature Photo) of Thirtynine Hotel by the author.

Thirtynine Hotel has a great, large lanai (patio) and soon after it opens at 4:00 P.M., fills up with local workers enjoying a pau hana (after work) cocktail.

Thursday night is Prohibition, a speakeasy themed night with Jazz music, classic movies and delicious cocktails. In true Prohibition-era speakeasy style, you will need to know the password to get in: here’s a hint, become Prohibition’s Facebook Fan and they’ll email it to you weekly.

39 North Hotel Street, (808) 599-2552

Next Door

You’ve got to love the simplicity of thought that went into naming Chinatown’s bars; Bar 35 is at number thirty five; Thirtynine Hotel is at 39 Hotel Street and Next Door is indeed next door (to Thirtynine Hotel). The space has a warehouse feel with a large open floor, red brick walls and mystery door in the middle of one wall – a relic from when the building was split-level.

This is one of the best venues in the city to catch live music; you’ll often find local bands like The Jump Offs, GRLFRNDS and Clones of the Queen playing here. Friday night is electro/breaks night Blow Up and they also throw lots of fun, inventive parties.

43 Hotel Street, (808) 548-6398


It’s easy to forget that Manifest actually opens at 7:00 A.M. and is a pretty chill coffee spot during the day. Nights at Manifest are the flip side: parties, live bands and arts shows all take their turn at this bar that only opened in August 2009 and has already been given a shout out by the New York Times.

32 North Hotel Street, (808) 523-7575


Another good place to see local bands and visiting acts. From the outside, Loft, which is above a bakery and looks a little dingy. Once you get up the creaky staircase, you’ll find an inviting interior with giant red lanterns and a few comfy sofas.

115 Hotel Street, (808) 521-8008

Soho Mixed Media Bar

A few blocks back from the main-drag of Hotel Street, Soho Mixed Media Bar was the winner of Metromix’s Best Nightclub 2010, Soho’s best night might be the 80’s themed Acid Wash on Wednesdays.

80 Pauahi Street

***Explore the world party scene with 101 PLACES TO GET F*CKED UP BEFORE YOU DIE. Part travel guide, part drunken social commentary, 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die may have some of the most hilarious scenes and straight-up observations of youth culture of any book you’ve ever read.***

Nightlife Guides


About The Author

Karen Dion

Karen Dion grew up in Scotland and variously called Tokyo, London, Sydney, Reykjavik, Valparaiso and Prague home before settling (for now) in Hawaii. She has written for Honolulu Weekly and and blogs at

  • Joseph K Pa’ahana

    Great Article. Quick note. The artist featured in the SoHo section is not pictured and her name is Nicole Naone. Thanks. Aloha!

    • Kate Sedgwick

      I don’t think I saw that where I sourced the photo either. It’s funny. I thought the guy in the photo was the artist! Thanks for your comment.

  • Nicole Naone

    Thanks Jo :) Another quick note, on the mural in Soho that I created: As I have not been compensated for the mural, and it has been painted over (even though both of those things are in breach of contract), I would appreciate your not using a photo of my no longer existing mural as a representation of Soho. You thinking the guy in the photo was the artist is not funny. It’s rude, it’s unprofessional and more importantly not an accurate depiction of the venue. Why don’t you instead use a picture of their bathrooms that don’t work, their underage drinking, the unfinished painted walls, or of the homeless “owner” who lives in the actual bar. If you are going to put incorrect words on the internet, please do so without a photograph of one of my paintings. Thanks.

    • Kate Sedgwick

      I can appreciate your point of view, but I think you’ll have to take it to the Flickr photographer.

      I have been on the receiving end of having my work ripped off and my designs stolen. That’s not what this photograph is representing. The photo is in the public domain. And if you need to be insulting with me, I assure you, it doesn’t make me any more sympathetic to your cause. I’m a busy person. See? I might not have a chance to replace this photo for a long, long time.


  • Nicole Naone

    “What do you do when you publish something that’s incorrect? Correct it.” -Kate Sedgwick, July 2.

  • You’re an Idiot.

    Honestly? Getting butt-hurt at a little mistake is “unprofessional” and beyond that, immature. How old are you anyway Nicole Naone? Your comment, though trying to appear “professional” yourself, really only gives way to the obvious pseudo-intelligence that you have. You honestly could’ve stopped at “I would appreciate you not using that photo.” THAT, is professional.

    Getting your panties in a bunch and doing the whole “that’s not funny” business, is unprofessional. It was an innocent mistake and an innocent comment -nothing to get offended over. Grow the hell up. This is how you be professional: Make your point known. Then state what you would like to be done to fix it. Don’t state how retardedly insulted you feel especially without good reason. You may not have openly written it, but obviously you’re insulted because you said Kate’s comment was “rude.” By what standard is a mistake rude? What’s rude is you thinking you’re some kind of privileged celebrity model. That’s EXACTLY the type of tone that comes off in your comments. It seems to me that you shouldn’t be preaching when you yourself are the one being rude.

    I get that it’s an inaccurate photo especially cause the mural isn’t there anymore, but it seems you’re taking out your being sour at the cover-up issue on Kate. Next time, don’t show the world how much of a contradictory, hypocritical idiot you are. Want an example of a professional reply that ALSO states your feelings?

    “Hello Kate. I’m a bit insulted at you thinking the man was the artist but I would like to ask that you replace the picture 1. because the description is wrong and 2. because the mural is not there anymore, making it an inaccurate current description. I would appreciate if you could. Thank you for your time.”

    Also, your last comment makes you look like even more of a bitch. Honestly, perhaps she would have had no problem correcting it expediently if you hadn’t come at her like some whiny, low-tolerance adolescent.

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