Nothing sets the scene like live music. With the right soundtrack, a simple al fresco meal can transform into a core memory of Hawaii. You can get a sense of the local culture with a guitar-strummed melody (and the ‘chee hoo’ applause that follows). Even the plane ride to the Islands is made better with our in-flight radio station, which, by the way, you can listen to anytime on Spotify. So, next time you’re looking for mele (song) to enrich your experience, check out these favorite places for local music in Hawaii.
Seek out shows around Oahu’s Waikiki
If the signature cocktails don’t beckon a visit, the live music sure will — SWELL Restaurant and Pool Bar boasts a strong entertainment lineup on its outdoor deck at Alohilani Resort. Musicians like Kamuela Kahoano will serenade through sunset with Hawaiian classics and personal hits. Come early to snag a seat or cabana and enjoy the restaurant’s Earn to Cup menu featuring locally sourced ingredients like Maui goat cheese and Molokai venison. Also on Kalakaua Ave., Blue Note Hawaii hosts nightly performances inside the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. The intimate venue emphasizes jazz but also features other genres with top local artists like Jake Shimabukuro, plus visiting headliners and even comedy shows. Just down the road, try to catch a show at Waikiki Shell, a historic outdoor amphitheater fittingly shaped like a shell, where local legends like Jack Johnson and Kolohe Kai are known to draw crowds. Bring a blanket for the lawn seating, plus your appetite for the food vendors lining the walkways.
Restaurants strike a chord on West Maui
You might spread out on the spacious lanai of Alaloa Lounge at Ritz Carlton Kapalua, but we recommend coming inside to get closer to the music. Five nights a week, the West Maui lounge hosts live entertainment with no cover charge. Conveniently, the event calendar syncs up nicely with the venue’s prized sushi station. Or maybe you’d like your breakfast with a soundtrack, and Lahaina’s Down the Hatch delivers with tasty bites and live music every morning. Not much compares to a seared ahi benedict with a mimosa carafe and good tunes. Meanwhile, rock fans flock to Fleetwood’s on Front St., owned by the legendary Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, whose resident musicians very much earned their spots. Not only is entertainment first rate but so is the view from the rooftop bar overlooking the ocean. Inside, Fleetwood’s memorabilia leave many slack-jawed, from rare photographs of the band and artwork by other classic rockers to a pristinely restored vintage car.
Eat your heart out around Kauai’s Coconut Coast
The beachfront views of The Crooked Surf at Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort will already make you swoon. Add the melodies of classic Hawaiian songs and you just might fall in love with this place. Enjoy live music most nights at the Kapaa resort. If ranch-style cuisine is another way to your heart, stop by nearby Paniolo BBQ for juicy tri-tip steak and local music acts five days a week. (There are also special dishes for our vegetarian friends.) Also in Kapaa, Hukilau Lanai is a gastronome destination as much as it’s known for live shows. The candied ahi will change your life, while the resident slack-key guitarists will stir your soul. Plus, the kitchen proudly focuses on Kauai-grown ingredients and green practices, even donating their used vegetable oil to be recycled into biofuel.
End the day with music on Hawaii Island’s west side
A star attraction of Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, Billfish Poolside Bar & Grill is steps away from the property’s ocean cove and hosts live Hawaiian music at sunset. Try to time your first sip of their li hing mui margarita with the sky changing colors. Mauna Kea Resort’s oceanfront Hau Tree restaurant is also a strong contender for best sunset shows, with live music held Friday through Sunday. Plus, the Kohala Coast resort hosts the Big Island Jazz & Blues Festival every June. When evening comes, make your way to Gertrude’s Jazz Bar, where the Island’s talented musicians come to play jazz, blues, Latin, rock and reggae. The award-winning venue hosts two shows nightly and keeps hungry patrons happy with their wide array of specialty cocktails and crepes. You can satisfy your taste buds and music tastes at the same time.