10 Essential Hotspots For The Perfect Gay O'ahu Getaway
By Out.com Editors
10 Essential Hotspots For The Perfect Gay O'ahu Getaway
Being known as the “rainbow state” already affords quite a bit of gay street cred to Hawaii but within its island paradise, only one of its islands can truly take the title of the Gayest Place in Hawaii. A few miles away from the “Big Island” of Hawaiʻi, the island of O’ahu packs a big queer punch that has made it an essential travel destination for international LGBTQ travelers.
From the thriving metropolitan center of Honolulu to the breezy outskirts, the island has earned its title as “The Gathering Place.” We touched down on the island in October during their annual LGBTQ Pride celebration to take in the sights, sounds, and aloha spirit of the most tropical pride celebration in America.
Click through to see our top ten tips for making the most of O’ahu’s vibrant locales so you can start planning your perfect gay getaway in the heart of the Rainbow State.
Check in to the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club for the boutique experience.
Before you can pour yourself a drink and hit the sandy shores, it’s essential to find the perfect spot to rest your head every night and, honey, O’ahu isn’t short on options. There are the premium cabanas at Four Seasons Oahu and the vintage luxury of the Kahala Hotel & Resort, but for a Hawaiian escape with a dose of Palm Springs vibes, the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club is the best bet.
The boutique Waikiki hotel is an experience in every sense of the word. Through a collaboration with Honolulu’s brightest visionaries, the creatives behind Surfjack restored the interior to create a cozy host of rooms and teamed up with famed local chef Ed Kenney to create Mahina & Sun’s, a farm-to-table eatery best enjoyed at sunset with a strong cocktail and live music or an after-dark film screened on the hotel’s wall.
Swim with the dazzling dolphins in Dolphin Quest Oahu at The Kahala Hotel & Resort.
Launched and operated exclusively by veterinarians, Dolphin Quest has become one of Hawaii’s hidden gems for getting to know one of the sea’s most dazzling and gay-friendly animals. On O’ahu, the best place to let your dolphin swim dreams come true is at the Kahala Hotel & Resort’s Dolphin lagoon. Wade into the enclosure to meet the team of dolphins for a swim and some nose-to-nose interactions and leave knowing that the proceeds from Dolphin Quest go towards providing the financial and in-kind support of conservation efforts and university level scientific studies that dolphins around the world need.
Plan your Dolphin Quest adventure and find out more about the organization here.
Grab a cold brew, buy a book, and explore the Kaimuki District.
Every great city has a hidden hotspot for the creative souls in need of a cold brew and a bookstore and Honolulu is no different. A hop away from downtown, the Kaimuki District has become the cultural hotspot of the city and, judging by the gallons of cold brew per square mile, it's essentially the Williamsburg of the Hawaiian city.
Find out all the info you need to acquaint yourself with Honolulu’s eclectic neighborhood here.
Devour a secret snow cone at Waiola Shave Ice.
This local shaved ice chain has been serving up mountainous concoctions ever since the Koide family opened their first location in 1940 and, decades later, it’s this mom-and-pop grocery store on 2135 Waiola Street that remains the best bet for a snowcone.
Among the thousands of flavor combinations that include the usual fruit-filled varieties and more extravagant options like margarita and Coca Cola, we’d suggest a coconut and green tea split with a core of vanilla ice cream.
Check out all the flavor option and learn more about their rich history here.
Discover Hawaii’s feminist spirit at the ‘Iolani Palace.
Slip into the snug shoe covers and step into one of Hawaii’s most treasured cultural sites. Built in 1882 by King Kalakaua and registered as an official National Historic Landmark since 1962, the Iolani Palace served as the home of the island’s final few monarchs before the island nation became America’s fiftieth state in 1959.
Among the rich historical facts you’ll learn about on the guided tour, one of the most timely is the legacy of feminist icon Queen Lili‘uokalanii. During her short-lived reign before being ousted in a coup by American sugar planters, she became known as a devoted scholar and an extraordinary musician and songwriter. In her will, she established the Lili‘uokalani Trust to provide shelter and resources for orphan children of Hawaiian blood and other destitute children that continues to raise millions of dollars decades after her death.
Book your trip to the historic ‘Iolani Palace here and read up on the history of Hawaii’s most spectacular royal heritage site.
Soak in the island’s Asian-inspired art at the Honolulu Museum of Art.
Any good trip to a culturally-rich city features a walk through the silent halls of an art museum. In Honolulu, the museum of choice for both modern and historic artifacts unique to the island are the two Honolulu Museum of Art locations. Founded in 1927, the sprawling museum has amassed a collection of more than 50,000 works spanning 5,000 years over two distinct sites: the primary structure in the heart of Honolulu and the historic Spalding House location tucked into the hills above the city.
If all of that isn’t enough to scratch your artistic itch, they also offer guided tours of the magnificent Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design that American heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke created to house her massive array of art and artifacts from North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.
Find out what current exhibitions and historic galleries are housed under the museum's roof here.
Harness your songbird spirit at Bacchus Waikiki’s “Musical Monday."
There is no shortage of big dancefloors, pop hits, and glitzy, show-stopping performances in Honolulu (and we’ll get to that in the next slide), but sometimes all you need to start your week in paradise is a dive bar with wood-paneled walls stuffed full of gays singing show tunes from Mamma Mia, Hairspray, and more. Luckily, Honolulu delivers that with a tropical flair at the local Bacchus Waikiki bar every Monday.
Find out more info about the beloved bar here and then plan a stop in for a drink or five during your big gay getaway.
Meet O’ahu’s drag royalty at Scarlet Honolulu.
If you need a bit more sashay in your step, there is only one club ready to handle your fiercest dance routine to Lady Gaga’s greatest hits. Tucked into the city’s grimy and glamorous Chinatown neighborhood is Scarlet, the largest nightclub on O’ahu. Alongside wall murals too risque to show your grandparents, a massive dance floor complete with cages made for go-go dancers or your drunken 3AM alter-ego and a long runway stage fro drag shows make it an essential hotbed of gay nightlife.
Check the schedule for more information on Scarlet’s weekly drag shows featuring top-tier local talent, national queens, and some of the most luxurious alumni from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Hit the water for Hawaii Nautical's Kewalo Harbor Sunset Cocktails and Pupus Sail.
One of the most stunning aspects of Honolulu is the skyline and what better way to experience the island city’s glittering strip of skyscrapers than at sea with a drink in hand? If that image sounds glamorous, Hawaii Nautical may be the best bet to set sail with. The nightly excursion features a bar full of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, platters of food to snack on as the sun goes down, and a photo-op ready deck with a netted floor so you can feel like your floating above the waves as the gorgeous seamen guide you south toward Diamond Head and back to harbor.
Find out more about the Hawaii Nautical sunset cruise and book your trip here.
Stop for a sip of Hawaiian Agricole Rum on a tour of the Ko Hana Rum Distillery.
Before you pack your bags and say your goodbyes to O’ahu, plan for one final stop on the way to Honolulu International Airport. Situated conveniently between the tarmac and Honolulu’s downtown streets is the Ko Hana Rum Distillery. At this point in your trip, you’ll probably have heard seven different iterations of the same basic fact: O’ahu is a hotspot for fantastic rum. The best place to tap into that and learn the history of the island’s distillery roots is during a Ko Hana distillery tour.
Going through the grounds, you’ll learn all you need to know about the sweet, earthy rum that’s far different from the molasses-made rum you’ve blacked out on before. At Ko Hana, farmers grow 34 different types of heirloom sugarcane plants and distill it into a single-origin rum with very distinct flavors.
Click here to find out more about the history of the distillery and plan your trip to try a few flavors (or all of them if you’re planning to miss your flight).