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The Best of Honolulu’s Live Music

Between the soothing sounds of the ukulele and the hypnotic harmonies of slack-key guitar, Hawaii is renowned for its musical heritage. Venues across Honolulu keep that legacy alive today, whether by supporting the performance of traditional music or promoting more recent innovations like “Jawaiian,” a Pacific spin on reggae.

While this fertile musical soil has produced international acts like Bruno Mars, Jack Johnson, Bette Midler, Don Ho, and The Shins’ James Mercer, the islands also boast an incredible local music scene. We’ve got your shortlist of top-tier venues where you can encounter the best of Hawaii’s live music, whatever your taste.

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Mai Tai’s

You might not expect a mall restaurant to top our list, but there’s no better place to soak in traditional Hawaiian music than Mai Tai’s, centrally located in Honolulu’s Ala Moana Center. The venue offers expansive indoor and outdoor seating and nightly live bands with no cover charge. Sip on one of their endless varieties of mai tai, or snag a local craft beer from breweries like Waikiki, Kona, Aloha, and Maui while you’re serenaded by island music

Mai Tai’s food menu emphasizes pu pu platters: smorgasbords of small bites that come from the Hawaiian word for shellfish and have been an island staple since the 1930s. For the best deal, drop by between 4pm and 7pm for their daily happy hour to receive 40% off your order.


Just across the street from the Ala Moana Center awaits a nightlife experience that couldn’t be more different from Mai Tai’s. District is a massive, 3,400 square-foot club with three full bars, live DJs, and frequent headliner acts. In the past, the club has drawn the likes of the Chainsmokers, Steve Aoki, and Nelly, and you never know who is going to show up next.

District frequently offers special events like a weekly salsa lesson every Thursday. After you’ve worked up an appetite from dancing, sidle up to the bar to order a pizza or bar snacks. Make sure you change clothes before rolling in off the beach, though. District enforces a strict dress code that bans shorts, hats, and flip flops.

Proof Social Club

More of an indie-head? Head over to Chinatown’s Proof Social Club, located in the historic Blaisdell Hotel in what may be the first location in all of Hawaii to hold a liquor license. Proof hosts nightly live music with a DIY bent, ranging from punk to indie folk and more. Their bartenders are masters of their trade, whipping up craft cocktails using homemade tinctures and syrups.

Pop by on Mondays for “The Bar Exam,” Proof’s weekly trivia night. Or check their event calendar to find out when their next live band karaoke is. Proof offers a daily happy hour from 4pm to 7pm and an all-day happy hour on Mondays.

Lewers Lounge

When you’re in the mood for a sophisticated night out, Lewers Lounge is the place to be. This indoor-outdoor jazz club in the Halekulani Hotel offers entertainment from 5:30pm to 8pm and from 8:30pm to midnight on Tuesdays through Saturdays. Nibble on farm-to-table pu pu platters while you tap your foot along with the classiest jazz that the islands have to offer.

Like District, Lewers Lounge holds their patrons to a dress code. That means collared shirts, slacks, and closed-toed shoes for guys, and “elegant resort” clothes for women. We’ll leave it up to you to figure out what that means.

Written by Chris, a local expert guide for Waikiki Crawling. A historian on the lam from the world of academia, Chris enjoys gardening, hiking, and playing at open mic nights after one too many beers. Want to learn more about Honolulu’s hidden history? Join us on an Aloha Pub Crawl!

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