The 15 Best Dive Bars in Honolulu
Sometimes, you want a cocktail meticulously created by an expert mixologist; sometimes, an ice-cold craft brew with a funny name you’ve never heard of. Then, there are days when you just want to disappear into a dark, dimly lit bar for many hours, curl your hands around a cheap drink, and not worry about getting gum on your brand new pair of expensive raw denim pants. Because you didn’t wear them. Because you’re at a dive bar. Under these circumstances, turn to the best of the divey best:
Although their bar sign clearly reads “Vietnamese Restaurant,” those in need of traditional bar bites will still find nachos, burgers, and chicken wings on the menu in addition to Vietnamese pork chops and pho. Here, you can throw darts, shoot pool, or challenge your friend to an arcade game, while tossing back daily drink specials and slurping up a big bowls of noodle soup... Pro tip: UFC matches are always aired at this low-key sports bar, and you can reserve a booth for your group for a minimal cover charge.
Tucked in an alley between a 7-Eleven, a Vietnamese restaurant, and a laundromat, this watering hole pours drinks from 6am to 2am. With a jukebox, darts, a pool table, cheap arcade games, cheap drinks and a questionably clean restroom, this Waikiki institution is the epitome of all things dive bar -- which is what keeps locals and the occasional stray tourists wandering in during all odd hours of the day. Stop by during power hour, where you can swallow $2 well drinks and domestic beers from 6-7pm. Bring your singles, because this bargain-priced bar is cash only.
With a somewhat fancy food menu and lively atmosphere, this casual sports bar toes the line of a traditional dive. Located near the Convention Center, former Slammers general manager Chris Tai’s four-year old bar is a popular spot for locals. Busy during happy hour, you can slide into a patched-up vinyl booth and catch up on your favorite sports team over a mountain of kim chee fried rice or tater tot nachos and discounted drink specials. Parking can be difficult; try your luck with street parking or spring for $5 valet or the pay-to-park stalls next door. Reservations are also accepted.
Open in 1998, owner Hank Taufaasau opened the Nuuanu tavern to showcase and sell his artwork but added a bar to pay the rent. His Polynesian portraits and sketches adorn the walls and are punctuated with live entertainment, cheap drinks (make sure you try Dave Loando’s famous pineapple upside down cake shot), and friendly bartenders. The space is small, so be prepared to bump a few elbows, but once you find a seat, kick back and enjoy the playlist of classic rock and ‘80s throwbacks.
Named for the auspicious Chinese lucky number, this neighborhood watering hole has been around so long even the owners aren’t exactly sure what year they opened their doors. Located along the busy S Beretania street next to Midas, rush hour commuters can park in the auto repair shop stalls after 5pm, and wait out traffic by filling their bellies with homemade crispy gau gee, Fat Fat Special Chicken and generous happy hour pours. After a long day, this hole in the wall is a nice respite for fulfilling your Chinese food craving and/or singing your troubles away with $1 karaoke.
This tiny watering hole holds just a few booths, cocktail tables, and bar stools. The dark, intimate space lends to a warm and friendly atmosphere, with great local bands, open mic performers, and comics hitting the stage. Come for their daily 6-8pm happy hour, and have a post-pau hana $5 Jameson or $2 hot dog with your live entertainment.
If you’re looking for a bar where you can yell at the TV during early morning 7am football games on Sundays, this affordable dive lets you do so without waking your neighbors. Although this watering hole is a Raiders bar, you don’t have to bleed black and silver to enjoy gathering with friends and supplementing your breakfast beer(s) with their Sunday morning buffet.
Amidst the burgeoning Downtown scene, where trendy restaurants and gastropubs are slowly replacing old dives and diners, the oldest bar on the island is mostly unchanged despite their new neighbors. With economy-priced beer and shot deals and First Friday specials, this tiki-inspired tavern offers some of the cheapest drinks in the area. Although the bar is as old as your grandpa (81 years old), their wallet-friendly libations will surely keep your spirit young.
Tucked amidst a bevy of restaurants along Waialae Avenue, this is a no-frills bar with a few pool tables, dartboards, and an up-to-date jukebox. Open for 25 years, this neighborhood pub draws a mix of younger kids and regulars who have likely been patrons since the bar’s inception. With a moderate yet reasonably priced beer selection of domestics and imports, here, you can freely drink PBR without feeling like you’re succumbing to a life of hipsterdom.
After a day of sunning yourself amidst the crowds at Waikiki Beach, you deserve something more than aloe vera to cool off that sunburn and the sting of paying for that $18 beach towel at the hotel gift shop. Downstairs in a low-rise condominium hotel, that “something” at this tucked-away watering hole comes in the form of $2 Rolling Rock during Monday’s Power Hour, $1 chicken tacos on Taco Tuesdays, $5-and-under specials during Whisky Wednesdays or $4 Fireball Fridays.
The self-proclaimed 'last tiki bar in Waikiki' has everything you want in a dive bar: cheap drinks, cheap food, kitschy décor… plus, everything you never knew you wanted: free popcorn popped in bacon grease, Hebrew National hot dogs boiled in beer, AND a topless hula girl mannequin, who’s always ready for her Instagram close-up, especially after one too many Mai Tai or Tiki Teas. But the best part? Drinks specials start as soon as their doors open at 9:00am.
With its rattan chairs, glass balls ornaments, and carved tiki glassware, the palm-tree lined, harbor-side pub is exactly where you’d picture Gilligan and the gang throwing back a couple of Mai Tais after a long day of crime-solving on a deserted tropical island. Except it’s surrounded by warehouses in the middle of an industrial district. This historic tiki bar has been around since before Hawaii's statehood (beat it by four years), survived two tsunami scares, and is the last remaining original tiki bar on the island. Order the notoriously super-strong Zombie Mai Tai, and relax under the glow of twinkling Christmas lights and 1950s tiki décor. Get buzzed just like grandma (probably) used to.
This college bar delivers all that you would expect from a place named 'Rock Bottom' (the R and B, duh): cheap drinks all night long, pool tables, dartboards, live bands, free Wi-Fi, sticky floors, questionable bathrooms, and the occasional beer pong tournament. Meaning, if you have any 'bros,' you should bring them here.
Some days call for a giant half-watermelon filled with soju. And when that day comes, this Korean karaoke bar is the place to fulfill your alcoholic fruit dreams. It’s especially worth stopping by during happy hour, where you can fill your belly with mandoo, kimchi pancakes, and discounted soju. Karaoke songs are $1 each, which means you can serenade your friends and strangers while tackling the vast soju list. Plus: shots named Fuzzy Duck and Duck Fart.
Formerly known as Anna Banana’s, this university-area watering hole has been around since Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. Recently, the Irish pub updated the house speakers, upgraded the AC, expanded the bar and seating capacity, and renovated the bathrooms, but kept the same divey feel with live music in the upstairs showroom and a laid-back bar downstairs, filled with darts, a pool table, and a jukebox. Sip daily drink specials or $4 Irish Whisky of the Month without breaking into your student loans funds.
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Summer Nakaishi is a freelance writer for Thrillist, who would probably enjoy consuming a Duck Fart someday.