Kauai’s nightlife is more suited to moonlight strolls than late-night partying, but if you’re simply searching for live Hawaiian music, you’re in luck. Virtually every hotel restaurant and lounge offers a slack key guitarist singing traditional and contemporary Hawaiian music on most nights, with many popular restaurants doing the same on the peak nights of Thursday to Saturday. You can occasionally hear other genres, too. Kauai Music Scene (www.kauaimusicscene.com) has a calendar you can search by date, type of music, and venue, among other filters.
Of the resort nightspots, Duke’s Barefoot Bar (www.dukeskauai.com; tel. 808/246-9599), inside the Kauai Marriott Resort, has long drawn a crowd of visitors and locals, especially at pau hana (end of work) on Friday. The downstairs bar features live Hawaiian music Wednesday through Monday from 4 to 6pm, and again Thursday through Saturday from 8:30 to 10:30pm.
The view isn’t as memorable, but the pupu are tastier and the music more varied in the lounge of Hukilau Lanai (www.hukilaukauai.com; tel. 808/822-0600) inside the Kauai Coast Resort, 520 Aleka Loop, Kapaa; top musicians playing Hawaiian, jazz, country, and blues perform Monday through Saturday from 6 to 9pm. Note: At the Grand Hyatt Kauai (www.grandhyattkauai.com; tel. 808/741-1234), the book-lined Stevenson’s Library sadly discontinued its live music (jazz) in 2014, but the resort’s Seaview Terrace offers nightly Hawaiian music from 6 to 9pm, along with gorgeous sunset views.
You’ll meet more locals—and pay a good deal less for your drinks—by leaving the resorts. Here are highlights from around the island:
East Side--A combination sports bar, sushi bar, family restaurant, and nightclub, Rob’s Good Times Grill, in the Rice Shopping Center, 4303 Rice St. (www.kauaisportsbarandgrill.com; tel. 808/246-0311), bustles with live music Monday to Friday, swing dancing Tuesday, salsa dancing Wednesday, and DJs for club dancing Friday and Saturday. Provide your own live music via karaoke Sunday through Thursday. Nawiliwili Tavern (tel. 808/245-1781), close to the Kauai Marriott Resort at 3488 Paena Loop (under the Hotel Kuboyama sign), is more of a dive bar, in a good way: It’s got cheap drinks, two pool tables, and free karaoke. A sophisticated alternative, Mahiko Lounge, 3-2087 Kaumualii Hwy., is the swankily remodeled living room of the Kilohana Plantation mansion (www.kilohanakauai.com; tel. 808/245-5608), offering cocktails made with freshly crushed sugarcane, live music, and terrific happy-hour specials (Mon–Sat 4–6:30pm) with dishes from adjacent Gaylord’s.
North Shore--Tiki Iniki (www.tikiiniki.com; tel. 808/431-4242), tucked behind Ace Hardware in the Princeville Center, is a cheeky tiki bar/restaurant launched by Michele Rundgren (and her more famous rock-musician husband, Todd) in late 2013. Nightly cocktail specials and frequent theme nights have made it a big hit; table reservations are recommended. Tahiti Nui, 5-5134 Kuhio Hwy., Hanalei (www.thenui.com; tel. 808/826-6277), opened in 1963, and is pretty much as it appears in “The Descendants”: a great family-friendly restaurant and lounge with live Hawaiian music nightly. Another local hangout, Hanalei Gourmet, in the Old Hanalei Schoolhouse, 5–5161 Kuhio Hwy. (tel. 808/826-2524), has live music Sunday at 6pm and Wednesday at 8pm.
South Shore--Keoki’s Paradise, in the Poipu Shopping Village (www.keokisparadise.com; tel. 808/742-7534), offers live music Tuesday to Saturday from 5 to 10pm and Sunday to Monday 7 to 9pm , with more dance-oriented music Thursday to Saturday. In the Shops at Kukuiula, Merriman’s Gourmet Pizza and Burgers (www.merrimanshawaii.com; tel. 808/742-8385) presents live music Wednesday and Friday nights, while the downstairs margarita bar, Tortilla Republic (www.tortillarepublic.com; tel. 808/742-8884), is a lively scene.
West Side--Kauai Island Brewery & Grill, 4350 Waialo Rd., Port Allen (www.kauaiislandbrewing.com; tel. 808/335-0006), often hosts late-night live music and DJ “aftah” parties, starting at 10pm, and serves as a sports bar with five huge, high-definition TVs.
The tutu kane (granddaddy) of local art events is Hanapepe Art Night (www.hanapepe.org), every Friday from 6 to 9pm along Hanapepe Road. Food trucks, live music on the street and in stores, and brightly lit shops and galleries create a festive atmosphere. Tip: Drive cautiously when leaving—Hanapepe Road near the eastern Highway 50 turnoff can be very dark.
In 2013, the historic district of Kapaa (www.facebook.com/OldKapaaTown) debuted a similar First Saturday Art Walk, with sidewalk vendors, live entertainment, and extended shopping hours 5 to 9pm the first Saturday of the month. The Kukuiula Art Walk features the same format on the second Saturday of the month, from 6 to 9pm, at the Shops at Kukuiula.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.