The Honolulu LGBTQ community truly embodies the aloha spirit — one of love, friendship, and acceptance. In fact, same-sex and bisexual relationships have been present and widely accepted in Hawaiian culture dating back to ancient times. The term aikāne defines such relationships in the Hawaiian language, and māhū refers to a “third gender” alongside male and female.
Today, Hawaii is known for its welcoming culture and is home to many LGBTQ-friendly establishments, events, and festivals, including October’s PRIDE festival, which brings an impressive parade and parties all weekend long. Your trip to Oahu will be hotter than the Waikiki sun with this comprehensive guide to the best places to experience Honolulu’s unique queer culture, from bars to restaurants, nightlife to daytime, and adventures and places to stay.
Restaurants, bars, and nightlife
Known as the “gathering place for explorers,” this friendly gay bar is a welcoming destination for everyone. The long windows open to a gentle Waikiki breeze and stellar view of the Pacific for an oceanfront dining experience. In the evening, live music, a large dance floor, and drink specials keep the aloha spirit flowing. Be sure to check the site for upcoming events. including weekly catamaran cruises.
Where: 134 Kapahulu Ave.
Scarlet is the quintessential hub of Honolulu’s LGBTQ community and the epitome of the welcoming culture of the islands. Locals say there is truly never a bad night at Scarlet. With shows every Friday and Saturday night, renowned queens and kings take the stage for the Fresh Fish Drag Revue and beats that keep clubgoers dancing until the wee hours of the morning.
Where: 80 S. Pauahi St.
Conveniently located right next door to Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand, Lulu’s is an LGBTQ-friendly restaurant and bar featuring basic American fare with an island twist. Order the Aloha Burger with pineapple, teriyaki sauce, and grilled onions or opt for the Adulting Mac n’ Cheese with bacon crumbles for a true indulgence — you won’t be disappointed. The restaurant turns into a nightclub on Monday night for industry night, and locals from all around the island congregate for dancing and drink specials until 2:00 AM.
Where: 2586 Kalakaua Ave.
Wang Chung’s is a close-knit Waikiki gay bar tucked into the back of the Stay Hotel lobby. This lively hideaway’s menu is full of creative cocktails, pizzas, and comforting bites, and its famous Sunday drag brunches guarantee a good time. And for those who wish to show off their vocal abilities, the mic is always passed around for daily karaoke.
Where: 2424 Koa Ave.
For an intimate bar experience, pull up one of a dozen or so seats at In Between. Referred to as the “friendliest gay bar in Waikiki,” this no-frills hideaway bar features happy hour until 8:00 PM. Bartender Sabrina’s rotating selection of dessert shots are delicious and include creations such as apple butterbeer and orange creamsicle.
Where: 2155 Lauula St.
Cowboy boots are more than welcome at Blazing Saddles, Hawaii’s only LGBTQ western dance club. Blazing Saddles prides itself on being a non-profit organization committed to providing a safe, fun, and friendly environment where all are welcome. There’s no cover charge, but donations are gratefully accepted. Each night is filled with live music, refreshments, and dancing. Go early for free dance lessons starting at 6:30 PM.
Where: 404 Kapahulu Ave.
This casual, natural-wood-adorned gay bar hosts myriad community events, including monthly catamaran cruises, trivia, live music, and other entertainment in a setting where respect and inclusion are championed. Don’t miss nightly drink specials such as $4 Margarita Mondays, Wednesday “Airport Double” $3 doubles, and Flirty Friday’s two-for-one happy hour from 5:00 to 8:00 PM.
Where: 408 Lewers St.
Beaches and outdoor adventures
Hawaii is known for its beaches and surrounding mountains, and no vacation to the islands would be complete without thorough relaxation on the sand or a muddy hike or two. While not all of the beaches, hikes, and adventures listed here are specific to the LGBTQ community, these landmarks are safe spaces for all featuring some of the best views and traditional Hawaii vacation experiences Oahu has to offer.
Hike Koko Head Crater Trail
The infamous Koko Head Crater, otherwise known as nature’s StairMaster, is an unmissable hike just south of Waikiki. This trail leads straight up retired tracks with rewarding panoramic views of the coastline and mountains from the top. It is recommended to begin hiking later in the day — after the noontime heat — and be sure to take time at the top to enjoy an unforgettable sunset.
Kaimana Beach, known as Kaimanas to the locals, is the go-to beach on the edge of Waikiki next to the Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel. The reef blocks the big waves, creating a calm pool for swimming and wading. There is a lifeguard on duty and showers to rinse off sand before heading to the bar for a cold one.
Where: 2863 Kalakaua Ave.
One of the most unique and secluded beaches on Oahu, Polo Beach is known as a friendly, welcoming, and popular nude beach perfect for those looking for the no-tan-lines life. It is located off of Farrington Highway across from Dillingham Lodge, next to the Polo Club in Mokuleia. Head down the access path and to the far right for the nudist area. There are no services or amenities in the area, so be sure to pack plenty of water, snacks, and SPF.
Where: Farrington Highway, Mokuleia
Places to stay
Hawaii is no longer known for just resort-studded beaches. In Waikiki, smaller boutique hotels now dot the famous coastline. Bright and minimalist interiors are peaceful while hotel bars and pools allow guests to join the vibrant Honolulu social scene at each of these carefully curated chain and independent hotels.
Featuring the iconic “Wish You Were Here” pool, the Surfjack Boutique Hotel and Swim Club is a favorite hotel for both visitors and stay-cationers alike. Even if you don’t happen to have a room, come lounge at the weekend pool parties, gay-friendly and welcoming to all.
Where: 412 Lewers St.
Mid-century modern meets Hawaiian charm at The Laylow, Autograph Collection, a welcoming and LGBTQ-friendly hotel in the heart of Waikiki. Here all guests receive a gift basket chock-full of local kine snacks and a pair of Laylow’s signature “slippas” upon arrival, a true sign of Hawaiian hospitality. Before heading out on the town, sip flower-adorned craft cocktails at the bar, a place to see and be seen in Waikiki.
Where: 2299 Kuhio Ave.
Nearly every room of the ‘Alohilani Hotel offers ocean and Diamond Head Views from private lanais. And if you are visiting in October, the fifth-floor pool deck hosts the annual Lei Magazine Pride Pool Party, during which you can join hundreds from the Honolulu LGBTQ community for festivities. Outside of this event, The hotels Swell Pool and Bar has a great cocktail list, saltwater infinity pool, and cabanas for a chill but luxurious lounging experience. And weekly Sunday pool parties are open and welcome to all.
Where: 2490 Kalakaua Ave.
The General Manager and many of the front line staff are LGBTQ members at this ultimate gay hotel, a proud partner of many LGBTQ organizations in Honolulu. For gay travelers, being located walking distance from many of the most popular LGBTQ bars and restaurants means no boredom will ensue. Rooms come complete with kitchenettes for a home-away-from-home feel.
Where: 445 Seaside Ave.
A partner of the International LGBTQ Travel Association since 2010, Hilton hotels are known to be welcoming to LGBTQ travelers. This hotel is famous for its panoramic views and quintessential Hawaiian hospitality, warmly greeting travelers of all kinds. Located just one block from the beach and steps from many iconic gay bars in Waikiki, the hotel serves as the perfect launchpad for any big gay vacation. For those who enjoy a late-night snack after a night out, the classic all-day and all-night diner M.A.C 24/7 is all-too conveniently located off of the lobby.
Where: 2500 Kuhio Ave.
Home of Gay Island Guide’s monthly Super Slyde Pool Party, the fun never stops at Hyatt Centric. Floor-to-ceiling windows in each room offer views of iconic Waikiki Beach amongst contemporary decor. The lounge pool features private cabanas and a tapas-style eatery for small bites between play. And this LGBTQ-friendly hotel is a proud partner of Honolulu PRIDE Festival.
Where: 349 Seaside Ave.
Events and festivals
Organized by a dedicated group of young volunteers, this welcoming, must-attend event falls on the last Friday of each month. Live music, art, craft cocktails, and small plates are inspired by a monthly theme, and each courtyard features a unique experience led by a local band or artist.
When: Last Friday of each month
Every second Sunday of the month, the Aloha Bears host a 1.5-hour-long open bar booze cruise along Waikiki. The cruise is open and welcome to all. The ticket includes lunch and a few more cocktails afterward at Bacchus. Tickets are available for purchase in advance online, and sailors meet at Bacchus before walking over to the boat together.
When: Second Sunday of the month
Hula’s World Famous LGBTQ catamaran ride cruises along the waters of Waikiki every Saturday at 2:00 PM. Mai tais and beer are available for purchase onboard. It is recommended that tickets be purchased a couple of weeks in advance and can be obtained online for $25. The group meets outside of Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand.
When: Every Saturday
Known as “The Best Pool Party in Hawaii,” the monthly Gay Island Guide SuperSlyde Pool Party at the Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach brings together everyone from all aspects of the community for sun and fun. Top DJs, special guests, and local entertainers keep the party going well into the night.
This LGBTQ-friendly pick-up-style football tournament brings together seasoned players and newbies alike for a weekend of fun, football, and shenanigans. The festivities begin with an opening party on Thursday, February 13, and end with the Recovery Beach Barbecue in Waikiki on Monday, February 17.
While most cities celebrate PRIDE Month in June, Hawaii opts for October — one of the best months of the year to visit Hawaii when the rush of the summer is over, and the holiday excitement has not yet arrived. This one week in October culminates with a Pride Parade down Waikiki’s Kalakaua Avenue where hundreds of floats from Pride supporters, companies, and organizations let their freak flags fly. The parade ends at the Waikiki Shell for Pride Fest with live music, dancing, vendors, food, and beverages to continue the celebration. PRIDE 2019 was the largest of the festival’s 28-year history with over 30,000 spectators and over 30 cultural, social, and educational events hosted by LGBTQ Legacy Foundation sponsors, partners, and the community.