For the most calm and relaxing beach bar in town, the colonial stylings of the Beach Bar at the Westin are your best bet. Situated on prime Waikiki beachfront property under a banyan tree, the bartenders and cocktail blends are top-notch, using only the freshest ingredients. You haven’t had a mai tai until you’ve had one with super fresh-squeezed Hawaiian pineapple juice. And at happy hour, the drinks are pretty reasonable, so make it a point to get there right before sunset for double the pleasure.
Get back to the source (allegedly!) of Hawaii’s most famous drink at the Mai Tai Bar, located in the “Pink Palace”, the Royal Hawaiian. The Westin and Royal Hawaiian were the two original hotels on Waikiki beach, so you’re really enjoying classic Waikiki in places like this. Dress at the Mai Tai Bar (like the Beach Bar) is a couple of steps above casual, as is the atmosphere – this means avoiding some of the chaos of the Waikiki beach scene while still enjoying its scenery. The tradeoff, though, is the drink prices.
A more casual bar with a similar view is Duke’s, situated in the Outrigger hotel. Also located along Waikiki beach, it can get a bit crowded here during happy hour so come early to stake out a spot. You’ll be rewarded with cheap beers and drinks and a prime viewing spot to watch the locals head out for some evening surfing. And if you stay until after sunset, the tiki torches get lit.
If cheap is the main thing you’re looking for, there are a couple of dive bars off the main tourist drag that will fit the bill for you and for locals who don’t feel like paying tourist prices. Arnold’s Beach Bar is one – although there’s no beach in sight, there is a pool (enter at your own risk!), seriously cheap and seriously strong cocktails, and hit-or-miss live music.
Or for the most diverse drink and food menu, the RumFire bar at the Sheraton (also on Waikiki beach) is a fun place to try. The typical Hawaiian drinks and dishes are on the menu, but so are many more with various international influences. Regular and late-night separate happy hour menus mean there are good deals too be had at various hours of the evening, and unique Hawaiian cuisine-influenced bar food. And the view, as usual on the beach at Waikiki, is spectacular.
[photo courtesy of Sarah Ackerman]