A Gay Guide to Honolulu

A Gay Guide to Honolulu

Honolulu is where you'll find Hawaii's gay scene

Crystal blue water, luscious volcanic landscapes and pristine white beaches all come to mind when you think of Hawaii and Honolulu is the bustling centre of this mass of natural beauty. Towering glass skyscrapers almost reach the beach in this cosmopolitan and tropical destination. The city is a truly unique location as a result of its beautiful fusion of American West Coast and Pacific influences that can be seen in Honolulu’s rich culture and delicious culinary offerings.

The city is a major location for business and military defence, with a bustling and lively downtown business district. Honolulu gained global historical recognition following the attack on Pearl Harbour naval base that led to the American involvement in World War Two. The sunny climate, untouched beauty and soft sands that characterise Honolulu’s natural environment attract millions of visitors every year, making the city one of the most popular tourist destinations in the USA.

Whilst Honolulu doesn’t have the same expansive gay scenes as cities such as San Fransisco or Palm Springs, it does have a splattering of gay bars, clubs and hotels spread throughout its sun-soaked streets and you’ll be able to find gay entertainment that is suited to all tastes and interests. Waikiki is the city’s main neighbourhood for entertainment and leisure with most of Honolulu’s gay venues also located in this action-packed slice of Hawaii.

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Gay bars and clubs in Honolulu

The bulk of Honololulu’s selection of gay clubs and bars can be found in the Waikiki Beach district and the city’s Downtown. The close proximity of many of these venues means you can easily jump from bar to bar for the ultimate gay nightlife experience.

Bacchus is a popular place for Honolulu’s gay community to meet and warm up before a big night out. The bar is considered to be the best in the city, with a laid-back vibe and welcoming staff. Bacchus is situated slightly away from the main clubbing area of Waikiki but is still centrally located and easily accessible. You’ll love the attractive bartenders as well as the strong cocktails.

If you’re after thumping EDM beats, pop anthems and world-class drag acts, consider paying a visit to Scarlet – Honolulu’s largest gay dance club. The club holds different events each night as well as frequent themed nights and live performances. Scarlet’s lively atmosphere tends to attract the city’s younger gay crowd, who flock in their hundreds on weekend nights.

With vibrant anime decoration, friendly and attentive staff and high-tech karaoke systems, Wang Chung’s is the best place in Honolulu to spend a night belting out pop classics. This intimate but lively karaoke bar is one of the most popular venues in the city and is known for its friendly staff and local gay patrons. The bar also runs a well attended and affordable drag brunch on Sundays, what better way to recover from a Saturday night in Waikiki than some avocado on toast and lip-syncing.

Man hiking in Honolulu

Gay hotels in Honolulu

In a city that is so reliant on travel and tourism, you can expect the staff at hotels and other venues to treat all guests equally, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. With its famous beach, thriving gay nightlife and palm tree-lined streets, most of the best hotel options for gay travelers will be found in the Waikiki area.

Guests at the Moana Surfrider can spend the day exploring bustling Honolulu before flopping down on one of the hotel’s beachside pool loungers. The oceanfront pool at the Moana Surfrider is one of the biggest in Honolulu and offers stunning views of the crystal clear Pacific ocean. With its own private beach, multiple on-site restaurants and spa facility, the Moana Surfrider is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the sun-soaked paradise that is Honolulu.

For a more intimate stay, consider the Vive Hotel Waikiki, a charming and popular boutique venue that offers guests beautiful rooms, closeby to much of the city’s best gay nightlife. From the windows of the Vive Hotel, you’ll be able to catch breathtaking glimpses of Hawaii’s rolling volcanic mountain ranges, the shimmering Pacific Ocean or Honolulu’s bustling downtown.

A flash of neon pink amongst lush greenery, The Royal Hawaii is a historically and culturally significant fixture of the city’s skyline and is extremely popular with gay tourists. This luxury hotel boasts multiple heated outdoor pools, 24-hour fitness centre and an exclusive beach, giving you the ultimate experience of opulence and relaxation in this tropical paradise.

Beaches in Honolulu

Honolulu boasts miles of stretching white sand and a range of beach environments, from untouched, rugged landscapes to the manicured and commercialised havens of Waikiki or Ala Moana.

Removed from the city and known for its challenging hiking trails and unspoiled nature, Diamond Head is home to Honolulu’s unofficial nudist beach, Diamond Head Beach. The beach is popular amongst gay travelers as well as surfers and the unique landscape forms hundreds of tide pools and small lagoons that are just waiting to be discovered.

Ala Moana beach is perhaps the most popular of Waikiki’s coastal offerings and this stretch of warm white sand is lined with shopping malls, luxury apartment buildings and expansive resorts. Whilst serving as a major hub of entertainment and outdoor activities, Ala Moana still offers relaxing quiet in the heart of Honolulu’s tourist area. Queen’s Surf Beach is also located nearby and is a popular beach amongst gay tourists and locals.

Small island near Honolulu

Gay pride in Honolulu

Hawaii is home to a varied range of pride celebrations, with each island interpreting the event through the lens of their own cultures and traditions, and Honolulu’s pride is the biggest of them all. Paradise Pride is the city’s official pride celebration and takes place across Oahu with a focus on Downtown Honolulu.

Spanning an entire weekend and featuring a packed-full schedule of workshops, parades, events and performances, the Paradise Pride is dedicated to fostering an LGBT+ culture of inclusion, diversity and love. There are countless gay parties that take place during the festivities so be sure to check out what’s on before heading to sun-soaked Honolulu.

Gay rights in Honolulu

LGBT+ individuals in Honolulu can enjoy the same legal equality as the rest of the population. Hawaii was one of the first states to legalise same-sex sexual activity when it passed it’s bill in 1973 and has championed LGBT+ rights ever since.

Same-sex marriage was legalised in 2013 and same-sex relationships have been part of traditional Hawaiian culture for centuries. Locals have used the term ‘Aikāne’ for gay and bisexual individuals throughout history and the term reflects the society’s early acceptance of homosexuality. Hawaiian culture even includes a third gender, that is neither male nor female and is referred to as ‘Mahu’. Incidentally, Bette Midler grew up in Hawaii and went on to entertain two generations of gay men.

Published: 29-Jul-2020 by George Pizani   |   Last Updated: 24-May-2022
On: Gay Honolulu

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