If last week’s post about Hawaiian music inspired you, check out the sampling of music venues detailed below. Maybe I’ll see you there!
O‘AHU MUSIC VENUES
As expected, O‘ahu offers the most options, from larger events at big venues such as the Waikiki Shell’s outdoor amphitheatre or the gorgeously restored historic Hawai‘i Theatre, to free outdoor concert series such as Waikiki Beach Walk’s Na Mele No Na Pua Sunday Music Showcase, which has already featured many of Hawai‘i’s award-winning musicians, and Royal Hawaiian Center’s weekly performances.
But what many consider the new home of Hawaiian music is undoubtedly Waikiki’s Kani Ka Pila Grille. Every night a different top entertainer takes the poolside stage at superbly located Outrigger Reef on the Beach, whether Grammy Award-winning slack key guitarist Cyril Pahinui, the four-part male harmonies of Kaukahi, or local record producer Mountain Apple Company’s newest artist. Every so often, a new voice temporarily enters the lineup, pulled from Hawai‘i’s rich pool of musicians.
The other top spot is Chai’s Island Bistro in downtown Honolulu’s Aloha Tower Marketplace. This indoor-outdoor restaurant provides locals and visitors a chance to savor Asian-Pacific cuisine while listening to often famous musicians like the Makaha Sons of Ni‘ihau, with whom IZ once played, the Brothers Cazimero or even ‘ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro.
Otherwise, Waikiki is the best bet. On the weekends, Duke’s offers dinner and cocktails to the sound of artists like Maunalua or Henry Kapono, while the classic group Olomana plays outdoors at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Tapa Bar. On Wednesdays, Lo Jax Waikiki spotlights one of Harry B. Soria’s favorites, Hoku Zuttermeister; on Thursdays, Moana Terrace Bar & Grill (Waikiki Beach Marriot Hotel & Spa) welcomes The Keawe Ohana & Friends, and on Sundays shows off George Kuo’s slack key, Martin Pahinui’s wide-ranging vocals and former Royal Hawaiian Band conductor Aaron Mahi on bass.
KAUA‘I MUSIC VENUES
Often sleepy in the evenings, there are still plenty of places to hear Hawaiian music on the Garden Isle, mainly at restaurants and resorts such as Po‘ipu’s Sheraton and Grand Hyatt. Over in Waimea, check the lineup at the old Waimea Theatre, or pop into the historic Waimea Plantation Cottages for Hawaiian music in the Grove Café Wednesday through Saturday evenings.
On the east side, Lihue’s Shutters Lounge is a good nightly spot, and Hawaiian music takes the stage Thursday through Saturday nights at Duke’s Kaua‘i. In Kapa‘a, the Hukilau Lanai (Kauai Coast Resort) presents Hawaiian music most weeknights, and Wednesday is the night for new island hotspot, The Eastside Restaurant.
More options await in Princeville on the north shore. Pop into the St. Regis Hotel Bar to see local artists nightly, or CJ’s Steak and Seafood Restaurant for Hawaiian sounds on the weekends. On the first floor of the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas clubhouse, Nanea Restaurant and Bar, overlooks the ocean and features Hawaiian music Wednesday evenings.
MAUI MUSIC VENUES
The first place to discover Hawaiian music on Maui is the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. Though major artists like Elton John play here, the diverse MACC Presents series showcases Hawaiian artists, including longtime favorites Cecilio & Kapono, Na Leo Pilimehana and Keali‘i Reichel. At Lahaina’s Maui Theatre, Beamer recommends the music and dance production ‘Ulalena, the name of an ancient twilight wind, and its musical exploration of Hawaiian mythology.
On the west side, the Napili Kai Hotel is the place to be for Wednesday evenings with Hawaiian music legends, hosted by George Kahumoku, Jr., who brings on stage formidable slack-key artists such as Dennis Kamakahi and Ledward Kaapana. At pool- and oceanside ‘Umalu, there’s live music in early evenings, and at Pailolo Bar and Grill (Westin Ka‘anapali Beach Resort), contemporary Hawaiian music Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
You can also sink your toes into the Ka‘anapali sand at Hula Grill’s Barefoot Bar while listening to Hawaiian music and watching accompanying hula, or over in Wailea, enjoy sell-out Wednesday dinner shows with versatile musician and storyteller Willie K. at Mulligans On the Blue.
HAWAI‘I ISLAND MUSIC VENUES
On the Big Island, Kona’s Huggo’s Restaurant and Huggo’s on the Rocks are good spots for Hawaiian sounds matched by relaxing oceanfront views. Local favorite Warren Kaneao plays at sunset, and backs up the Hot Lava 808 female soul trio as they play in the sand on weekends. In nearby Kainaliu, up-and-comer Maka Gallinger plays original music Wednesdays at hole-in-the-wall Ma’s Nit Nats and Kava Stop (808-322-2228); look for her ‘ukulele’s Big Island-shaped sound hole.
Up the coast in Waikoloa, singer and slack-key guitarist John Keawe plays original compositions at the Kings’ Shops Waikoloa. He also plays at Bamboo Restaurant and Gallery in the small northern town Hawi, where Nino Ka‘ai, said to have a voice like Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole, plays Sundays at Luke’s Place and Tiki Lounge.
Over in Hilo on the east side, indulge in sushi at Restaurant Nihon Wednesday nights while young Hawaiian musician Lito Arkangel plays alongside the picturesque backdrop of expansive Hilo Bay. He also plays at Blue Dragon in Kawaihae.