While jet lag often puts mainlanders to bed, a few hours before the locals, for those fueled by Red Bull or awake enough to sample the late night offerings of Honolulu and Waikiki, my friend Lance Rae, happens to be a super fabulous curator of all things fun. Hence I asked him for his top picks of where to go after after hours. First of all, he says, don’t go anywhere between 8:30 and 9 p.m., as this is the transition time between guitar performers and DJs and when lines are longest. Also, if you want to avoid dress codes, opt for the hotels, as these spots attract people in an array of attire. Here he shares his top spots in Waikiki and two in Chinatown, where he urges visitors to look beyond the dilapidated facades to the fun to be had behind the funky doors. At the top of the list is the Modern Honolulu, for the variety of entertainment options. Friday and Saturday nights, look for guitarist/singer Jason Laeha, who plays pop classics from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. It’s a relaxed setting where you can actually talk to people. The Addiction, on the other hand, is more of a nightclub for those who want dancing and a clubby vibe.
Tchin Tchin at 39 Hotel Street is the newest hot spot in Chinatown opened by the owners of Lucky Belly and Livestock Tavern, is already attracting crowds. Besides the curated cuisine and wines, its interesting decor, hip vibe and wait staff wearing all shades of olive green have people talking. Ladies beware: the entrance is a long steep staircase, easy to go up, harder to come down in heels. Music here varies by night.
Don’t be fooled by Dragon Upstairs’ dated website; this nightclub is all 2016, although the red walls and vibe harken back to what Rae describes as something you would see in a World War II jazz bar in London. Located just above the infamous Hanks Bar in Chinatown, this is a multilevel venue with the band often found on the higher levels. Opt for Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Early birds pay no cover.
Sky Waikiki, a newish lounge and nightclub on Kalakaua Avenue, has quickly become the place to dance the night away for locals and visitors alike. Rae’s approach is to get dinner at Top of Waikiki (one floor above) around 8 p.m., enjoy the views and then head down to the club, receipt in hand, which gives customers access to the lounge. Or if you’re just arriving from the mainland, catch the sunset on the deck with lounge music.
RumFire at the Sheraton Waikiki is where one of Rae’s favorite performers, Tim Rose, an acoustic guitar player, strums on Tuesday and Friday evenings. Besides the great view of the ocean, there’s no cover.
The Republik, a fairly recent addition near Ala Moana Shopping Center, is a two-fer: a concert hall featuring local musicians and an adjacent lounge and nightclub, StateHouse. If the noise level and body heat become too intense in the concert hall, watch the show from the bar or a comfy chair upstairs at the StateHouse. Uber or take a cab from Waikiki; the parking is challenging.
Finally, don’t miss Bevy in the up-and-coming Kakaako neighborhood. Old meets new here, with original lava walls and benches made of old blue jeans — check the pockets, says Rae, as they often hold mementos left behind or paid forward. It’s a fun place to watch the Honolulu hipsters, and if the music gets too loud, you can take your meal out to the courtyard.