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Gay Honolulu

Gay Honolulu

LGBTQ Travel Gay Honolulu, United States


Honolulu is on Oahu, the most populous of the islands in the Hawaiian chain. More than 75 percent of Hawaiians make their home on this verdant isle. The surfing is good at Makapuu and Sandy Beach, along with Waimea, Sunset and Pipeline beaches in the winter. If you prefer, you can snorkel among dolphins and colorful tropical fish in Hanauma Bay.

Hawai'ians surprised Captain Cook's crew in 1779 with their bisexual ways, and King Kamehameha came aboard Cook's ship to travel with his young male aikane sexual companion. Writer and poet Charles Warren Stoddard, the "Boy Poet of San Francisco," a one-time secretary to Mark Twain and friend of Walt Whitman, wrote much about his blissful times in the islands, saying he could act out his "nature" in ways he couldn't "even in California, where men are tolerably bold."  Missionaries soon began putting a stop to many of the old ways, but as late as 1854 King Kamehameha III had his own aikane.

The island remains a popular destination for gay travelers and has many welcoming guesthouses, shops, restaurants, and bars. The annual Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival screens at the Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Museum of Arts in August. The Honolulu Pride Festival takes place in October.


Getting here

Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is a 20-minute drive from the strip of tourist hotels along Waikiki Beach. Taxis cost $40-45 - look for taxi dispatchers in green shirts at the center median outside the terminal baggage area. To pay less try the SpeediShuttle, at $16 to Waikiki, or the even less expensive bus for $2.75. Bus numbers 19 and 20 depart the airport frequently for downtown Honolulu and Waikiki. See route maps and schedules online.

Hawaiian Airlines is the largest local provider of flights between the islands, or to/from points in North America, Australia and Asia. Mokulele, Hawaii's number one island-hopper, has low-price connections between all five of the main islands.


Getting around

If you’re staying at the beach, you probably won't need to rent a car; most destinations are an easy walk, or short taxi ride away. However, to explore more of the island a car is convenient, and easily rented at the airport terminal, or at offices in Waikiki. For getting around the city see the Oahu Public Transportation website: TheBus.

For getting around town by pedal power see the Hawaii Bicycling League website. In Waikiki, street bikes can be rented by the day or week for as little as $20-25/day at Hawaiian Style (3 days or more for $15/day), including helmet, secure lock, maps, pouch, rack and bungie cord. They also rent mopeds and scooters at $40-55/day. 

The Bike Shop offers a full range of bicycle equipment, from $20/day for a street bike, to $40-100/day for top performance mountain gear. The Big Kahuna Motorcycle Tours & Rentals also has bikes, motercycles, mopeds and scooters for rent, in central Waikiki.

Pride Guide Hawaii can help get you around in Oahu, and between here and nearby Big Island, Kauai, and Maui. Adventure in Hawaii and Panda Travel also help to arrange flights, tours and lodgings.



The gayest Oahu beach is Queen's Surf Beach, at the Diamond Head end of Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki. A secluded area at the base of the lighthouse, off Diamond Head Road, is another favorite spot.

The North Shore, at the other side of the island, has some of the world's best surfing beaches and a more laid-back atmosphere, along with a variety of restaurants and cafes scattered along Kamehameha Highway. The Vans Triple Crown, the biggest event in the surfer world, takes place in November each year, at HaleiwaPipeline (Ehukai Beach Park) and Sunset beaches. Local surfers sometimes make puka shell necklaces while they wait for the big waves, to sell to tourists.


Media and resources

The Gay Island Guide features Hawaii LGBT news, feature articles, and events listings and sponsorships, by native Hawaii residents.

Lei is a culture and lifestyle magazine and guide to the local scene.

The Hawaii LGTB Legacy Foundation sponsors Honolulu Pride in October; and the LGBT Center (310 Paoakalani Ave, Ste 206E) with meetings, educational programs, trainings, film screenings, talk story events and more throughout the year. Their Community Calendar lists ongoing local events.

The Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, one of the longest-running and most well-respected LGBTQ film festivals in the country, takes place in August.

HIFF, the Hawaii International Film Festival of November-December, the film festival of record of cinematic works from the Asia-Pacific Rim, includes new films from indigenous cinema artists of the Pacific, bridging East and West. 187 films from 35 countries will screen this 38th edition year.

Hawaii Manoh Man, a gay nudist group for men around the world who come to Hawaii (along with those who live here) who enjoy the freedom of nudity, provides a venue to enjoy each other's company and interests while nude.

See the Aloha Bears website for monthly events such as Bear Arcade and Booze Cruise, and their annual LeiBear Day Weekend.

For general events listings and reviews see Honolulu Magazine, and the local newspaper, the Star Advertiser.

For locations and web links to Honolulu businesses listed below, and more, see our map & listings pages.


Stay Hotel (2424 Koa Ave; 808-923-7829),  hip, energetic boutique hotel, a block from Waikiki Beach at budget prices; coin laundry, WiFi, iPod dock, balcony rooms on request. Wang Chung's gay cafe/bar on premises.

Waikiki Beachside Hostel (2556 Lemon; 808-923- 9566), affordable beach dorm bed lodgings, Beachside Café, outdoor lounge, internet access, Moped rentals, coin laundry, secure/covered parking, young mixed crowd.

Waikiki Grand Hotel (134 Kapahulu Ave; 808- 923-1814), 180 LGBT-friendly rooms on ten floors overlooking the beach at Waikiki, reasonable rates, pool and sundeck, kitchenettes, WiFi throughout. Hula's, the most popular gay bar in town, on the second floor.

For another two dozen hotel suggestions, see our map and listings/hotels pages.


Bars & clubs
Most Honolulu gay nightlife is located around world-famous Waikiki. To this cultural crossroads come all types of people, from US service members to European tourists to visitors from other Pacific islands and Japan.

Bacchus (408 Lewers St), gay bar/lounge, comfy chairs, good drinks prices; 2nd Sunday of each month Waikiki catamaran sailings, popular with bears. SteamRoom Saturdays with hot go-go boys.

Blazing Saddles, Tuesdays 6:30-9pm at Ala Wai Golf Course Clubhouse Ballroom (404 Kapahulu Ave), line dancing, two-step, waltzes, and swing, monthly theme events, food and refreshments.

Chiko's Tavern (930 McCully St), gay/ mixed locals' neighborhood lounge, Hawaii'an music, karaoke, drag queen bingo, piano cabaret sing-alongs; sandwiches/sliders, pizza, steak and sides.

District (1349 Kapiolani Blvd) offers late night weekend dancing and cocktails, more upscale and older 23+ crowd. Formerly gay clubs Bar Seven and Venus.

Hula's Bar & Lei Stand (134 Kapahulu Ave), popular after-beach patio, open from 10am, evening dance club and video cruise bar, DJs and live music, billiards, sunset views, and Thursday-Saturday go-go boys, weekend Bloody Mary and omelet bar.

In Between (2155 Lauula St) small neighborhood karaoke bar, mixed crowd, casual atmosphere.

Scarlet Honolulu (80 S Pauahi St), Chicago Boystown club expansion, Thursday through Saturday nightclub/ Tiki Lounge, talent and variety shows on the Pineapple Stage, dancing, CW nights.

Tapas Restaurant & Lanai Bar (407 Seaside Ave, 2nd Floor), cool patio, gay-popular restaurant and lounge, good Sunday brunch + T-Dance, music, special parties, Aloha Bears nights, karaoke, movies.

Wang Chung's (2424 Koa Ave), friendly, fresh and exotic karaoke neighborhood bar with Japanese food and drinks. New location ("a bigger Wang") at Stay Hotel.

District (1349 Kapiolani Blvd) offers late night weekend dancing and cocktails, more upscale and older 23+ crowd. Formerly gay clubs Bar Seven and Venus.

CLOSED: Fusion (2260 Kuhio), drag, strippers, dancing; Keo's (2028 Kuhio), Thai restaurant; Keoni (2375 Kuhio Ave), Thai-Am restaurant; LoJax (2256 Kuhio Ave), gay sports/video bar; Max's Gym (438 Hobron Lane), 24-hour men's steam/sauna.


Fresh fruit, pineapple, papaya, mango, guava, and coconut are a staple here, and these flavors are to be found in every type of dish. Local fish, such as mahimahi and a pink snapper, are too good to pass up. A luau, or outdoor celebration feast, is the best place to sample such traditional Hawaiian foods as baked breadfruit. See our map & listings pages.



The Art of Douglas Simonson (808-737-6275) is created here in Hawaii by a local artist who celebrates the beauty of young male Pacific Islanders in paintings, sketches and photographs. See his gallery website in our links.

Suzie's Secrets (94-210 Leokane St, Waipahu), 24 hour adult video arcade, DVD sales and rentals, novelties, toys, lubes, leather.

Velvet Video (2155 Lauula St), sex shop DVDs, lube, toys, private viewing booths.

The old International Market Place open-air souvenir stands closed in late 2013 after 56 years, replaced with a new high-end retail, dining and entertainment complex along Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues. The new International Market Place boasts 80 stores, along with Waikīkī’s largest collection of restaurants in an open-air Grand Lānain, and the 150+ year-old Banyan tree from the old market.

Beyond Oahu

See our Maui pages for information about Hawaii's second largest, and perhaps most beautiful island.

On Big Island, Hawaii, The Mask-querade Bar (75-5660 Kopiko St/ C5, Kailua-Kona) and My Bar (74-5606 Luhia St, Kailua-Kona), are the local gay nightspots.

Gay-owned/ friendly lodgings on Big Island include: Bananarama (Pahoa); Casa Kona (Kailua Kona); Craters Edge (Volcano Village); Hale a Kimo Kali (Pahoa); Hale 'Ohai (Pahoa); Hale Ohia Cottages (Volcano Village); Hamakua Hideaway Cliff House (Kukuihaele); Hamakua House (Pepeekeo); Hawaii Lalala (Pahoa); Hilo Bay (Hilo); Honu Kai B&B (Kailua Kona); Horizon Guest House (Captain Cook); Isle of You (Pahoa); Jungle Farmhouse (Pahoa); Ka'awa Loa Plantation (Kealakekua); Kalaekilohana Inn (Na`alehu); Kane Plantation (Honaunau); Kimos' Ohanas (Pahoa); Mermaid Dreams B&B (Kealakekua/ Kona); Volcano Men's Retreat (Mountain View); and Volcano Mist Cottage (Volcano Village).

No Ka Oi Adventures (26 Luanaiki Pl, Kihei; 808 256-2803), is a gay-owned tour operator offering "nature-based excursions for the alternative traveler."

Kalani/ Kalanimua (12-6860 Kalapana/ Kapoho Rd, Pāhoa; 808-936-1683), a non-profit educational retreat center in the coastal jungles of Puna District on Big Island, is a gay-friendly hub for permaculture gardening, education programs, community workshops, special events, wellness services, lodgings, daily yoga, art and dance classes.

- Staff 2020

Gay Honolulu

 Kamehameha I was the first king of a unified Hawaii from 1795 to 1819 AD.

Hawaii's Secrets

By Matthew Link

When my boyfriend and I landed on the rural Hawaiian island of Molokai, we stopped in our tracks at the open-air car rental counter. There, in all her glory, stood a tall, smiling transvestite. Tastefully adorned in a bright tropical muumuu, she dangled our car keys from her rather large hand.

She wasn't the last crossdresser we would encounter on this molasses-slow island with not a single traffic light. They served us breakfast, and we bumped into them at flower stands. We even discovered that Auntie Moana, who taught hula to the kids and had won many awards, was the best-known crossdresser on the island. She. Her real name, believe it or not, was Butch.

As I spent time writing and researching the first gay guidebook to Hawaii, I put together the pieces and realized that Molokai was one of the last bastions of the ancient Polynesian practice of the "mahu." A sort of third sex, mahu were brought up as girls in families that had only sons, or they were simply boys who felt more comfortable living with the womenfolk and taking on their attributes.
Today in Hawaii, crossdressers are often treated with more respect than masculine gay guys -- a strange twist on our mainlander thinking. To understand it all, it's necessary to peel back the layers of the eyebrow-raising homo history of the Aloha State.

A 'shocking inversion'
Hawaii is one of the most geographically isolated places in the world, so it's no wonder that a distinctive culture flourished here, largely untouched by outside influences. When the first Europeans arrived on Captain Cook's ships in 1779, the crews' journals detailed a bizarre society that was confusingly bisexual to their Western eyes.
Cook's men wrote aghast accounts of intimate relationships among the island's ali`i (royal classes). "A shocking inversion of the laws of nature, they bestow all those affections upon them that were intended for the other sex," one sailor gasped.

Cook recorded that the kings of Maui, Kauai and the Big Island all had their own male aikane, lesser royals who had homosexual relationships with higher royals. Their sexual friendships with higher ali`i increased their mana, or spiritual power.
Aikane relationships didn't seem to be regulated by any kind of "top or bottom" order, regardless of age or ranking. Although aikane were usually young male sexual companions to the ali`i, they often had their own wives and children and were not seen as less masculine in any way. There were also female aikane (the word occurs often in the Pele goddess legends), but since women were subjugated in many aspects of society, the caste of royal aikane was male-dominated.
One interesting journal entry recounts how Chief Kalanikoa of Kauai asked if a certain young and handsome European sailor aboard Cook's ships would be willing to become his personal aikane. He even offered six valuable hogs to seal the deal. (It's not recorded whether the sailor agreed to it or not.)

Although heterosexual historians don't like to mention it, the journals also recorded that the great leader of the Hawaiian Islands, the celebrated King Kamehameha (1758-1819), brought along one young aikane while traveling aboard Cook's ship. (According to tradition, some children were raised specifically to become aikane to the chief.)
But the king also had two wives and numerous courtesans. Whether King Kamehameha was bisexual, or merely carrying on the aikane tradition, is unknown. But the aikane tradition didn't end with King Kamehameha. History records that his grandson, King Kamehameha III (1815-1854), had his own aikane, too.
Ironically, you'll hear the word aikane thrown around the island nowadays as simply meaning "good friends." This is despite the fact that the literal translation is ai (to have sex with) and kane (man). Another unflinching term for homosexual partners, not in use anymore, was upi laho, which translates to something like testicle pressing, or literally "scrotum squirting."

Hitting liquid
Obviously, old Hawaii was a world where blunt sexual openness was the norm. Polynesians revered the procreative ability of sex. They performed mele ma`i, or songs in honor of genitals, at important events, like the birth of a great chief. One mele, called "You Are Erect," is performed as a reclining dance (a hula l 'helo), in which the suggested motions provide vital meaning:

Indeed, you are erect, you place it, hit liquid
You are erect, you place it, hit liquid!
Tentacle, tentacle, tentacle, tentacle, tentacle, tentacle!
The thing is mean, the big thing!
Thrust out, thrust out, thrust out!
Kaualiliko`i, liliko`i, hit liquid!
Return up!
Go down below!
Return up!
Down below!

Genitals were often given names as a matter of course: King Kalakaua's penis had the impressive title of halala (literally translated as "to bend low"), and Queen Lili`uokalani's vagina was called `anapau (which means "frisky").

Gorging on bananas
An interesting illustration of just how gay Hawaii was, right up till the 19th century, is the case of writer and poet Charles Warren Stoddard. A one-time secretary to Mark Twain and friend of poet Walt Whitman, the "Boy Poet of San Francisco," as he was known, took off to Hawaii in 1864. At the tender age of 21, he found all the adventure he could have wished for. Corresponding with his friend Mr Whitman, he explained that in the islands he could act out his "nature" in a way he couldn't "even in California, where men are tolerably bold."
Stoddard fell in love not only with Hawaii's beauty and culture, but with a bevy of "coffee-colored" teenaged boys. His descriptions of rapturous evenings spent with island youths (with the blessing of their families) fill his stories with blatant homoeroticism, like this passage from a story about a boy on Molokai in 1869:

Again and again, he would come with a delicious
banana to the bed where I was lying and insist upon
my gorging myself.... He would mesmerize me into
a most refreshing sleep with a prolonged and
pleasing manipulation.

At the time, homosexual escapades were not considered a topic worth discussing, and many critics on the mainland brushed Stoddard's work off as colorful and even silly. Stoddard made a number of trips to Hawaii and Tahiti, each time falling in love with "untrammeled youths." His tropical affairs were passionate and earnest, but typically ill-fated. Stoddard's accounts always seem to end in an agonizing departure, unable to fulfill this "impossible love." His personal accounts shed a revealing light on homosexuality in the Hawaii of the 1800s.

'The People's Republic'
Although Hawaii is seen as one of the most left-leaning states in the US (earning it the nickname "The People's Republic of Hawaii"), the current political reality for gays in the islands is complex. Strong Mormon and Catholic influences have brought more homophobia than the islands ever knew in their past.

Hawaii became the focal point of international gay politics in the early '90s when it looked as though it would become the first state to legalize same-sex marriages. Since Hawaii was the first state to legalize abortion and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, the state seemed like a shoo-in for gay marriage, and in 1993, the Hawaii State Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay couples applying for marriage licenses.

The irony is that Hawaii has a fairly politically indifferent gay community, rural and traditionalist voters, and an island culture that discourages forwardness and boat-rocking. Add to this the national backlash against same-sex marriage, both in the local media and in other states' legislatures, and it's no surprise that when a referendum on same-sex marriage was presented to Hawaii's voters in 1998, it was soundly defeated.
Years later, thanks to Hawaii's initial spark, a handful of other states have now allowed same-sex marriage. It will be interesting to see if Hawaii in the 21st century can remember the strong roots of her tolerant and sexually forward past, or if she will remain lost in the clouds of modern ignorance and homophobia.

This article was witten in 2010. Same-sex marriage in Hawaii has been legal since December 2, 2013. The Hawaii State Legislature held a special session beginning October 28, 2013, and passed the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act legalizing same-sex marriage. Governor Neil Abercrombie signed the legislation on November 13, and same-sex couples began marrying on December 2. Hawaii also allows both same-sex and opposite-sex couples to formalize their relationships legally in the form of civil unions and reciprocal beneficiary relationships. Civil unions provide the same rights, benefits, and obligations of marriage at the state level, while reciprocal beneficiary relationships provide a more limited set of rights.


Author Profile: Matthew Link

Matthew Link has written for numerous magazines and has appeared on many television and radio shows. His documentaries have aired on PBS stations and in international film festivals.

- Matthew Link - March 2010