Oahu has several key spots for Hawaiian music. The Brothers Cazimero remain one of Hawaii’s most gifted duos (Robert on bass, Roland on 12-string guitar), appearing at Chef Chai (www.chefchai.com; tel. 808/585-0011) for a monthly full moon dinner show. If you’re here in early December, the Brothers Caz do a Christmas show at the Hawaii Theatre (www.hawaiitheatre.com) that is not to be missed. Locals dress up in their leis and best aloha shirts, and you can feel the holidays in the air.
House Without a Key is one of my favorite places to listen to Hawaiian music, both for the quality and the ambience. The Hilton Hawaiian Village (tel. 808/949-4321) has live music nightly at the Tapa Bar and at the Tropics Bar and Grill. Plus, every Friday night is Rockin’ Hawaiian Rainbow revue (a tribute to Duke Kahanamoku) at 7pm with fireworks starting at 7:45 ($20). Its Waikiki Starlight Luau features Hawaiian entertainment with dinner 5 nights a week (Sun–Thurs) for $99 to $125.
Kana ka pila means to make music, so it makes sense then that the Kana Ka Pila Grille (tel. 808/924-4994) at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach has one of the city’s best Hawaiian-music lineups, including slack key guitarists Cyril Pahinui (son of famed guitarist Gabby Pahinui).
Live Blues, R&B, Jazz & Pop
The blues are alive and well in Hawaii, with quality acts (both local and from the Mainland) drawing enthusiastic crowds. The best-loved Oahu venue, Anna Bannana’s, is now Anna O’Brian’s, 2440 S. Beretania St., between University Avenue and Isenberg Street (tel. 808/946-5190), still rocking after 30 years in the business, with reggae, blues, and rock—plus video games and darts. New owners seem to have done some upgrades but have kept the important stuff the same; look for blues on Sunday.
Tops in taste and ambience is the perennially alluring Lewers Lounge, in the Halekulani, 2199 Kalia Rd. (www.halekulani.com; tel. 808/923-2311). Recent renovations (including comfy intimate seating around the pillars) make this a great spot for contemporary jazz nightly from 8:30pm to midnight.
Outside Waikiki, the Veranda, at the Kahala Hotel & Resort, 5000 Kahala Ave. (www.kahalaresort.com; tel. 808/739-8888), is a popular spot for the over-40 crowd, with nightly jazz music and a dance floor.
Check www.honolulujazzscene.com for daily listings.
Showroom Acts & Revues
Showroom acts that have maintained a following include "The Magic of Polynesia"(www.magicofpolynesia.com; tel. 808/971-4321), a show with illusionist John Hirokana nightly at 6:30pm (dinner show $99–$149 adults, $67–$78 children 4–11; show only $55 adults, $35 children 4–11). This was also the home of Hawaiian entertainer Don Ho, who passed away in 2007.
"Te Moana Nui," formerly “Creation—A Polynesian Journey at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani,” is now at the Pacific Beach Hotel. Produced by Tihati, the state’s largest entertainment company, the show is a theatrical journey of fire dancing, special effects, illusions, hula, and dances from Hawaii and the South Pacific. Shows are Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday (dinner show starts at $115 adults, $82 children 5–12; cocktail show $68 adults).
The Performing Arts
“Aloha shirt to Armani” is how I describe the night scene in Honolulu—mostly casual, but with ample opportunity to part with your flip-flops and dress up.
Audiences have grooved to the beat of off-Broadway percussion hit "Stomp" and have enjoyed the talent of "Tap Dogs," Momix, the Jim Nabors Christmas show, the Hawaii International Jazz Festival, the American Repertory Dance Company, barbershop quartets, and John Ka’imikaua’s halau—all at the Hawaii Theatre, 1130 Bethel St., downtown (www.hawaiitheatre.com; tel. 808/528-0506). The theater is still basking in its renaissance as a leading multipurpose center for the performing arts following a 4-year, $22-million renovation. The neoclassical Beaux Arts landmark features a 1922 dome, 1,400 plush seats, a hydraulically elevated organ, breathtaking murals, and gilt galore.
Other smaller theaters on Oahu are the Manoa Valley Theatre, 2833 E. Manoa Rd. (www.manoavalleytheatre.com; tel. 808/988-6131), Honolulu’s equivalent of Off Broadway, with well-known shows performing; Diamond Head Theatre, 520 Makapuu Ave. (www.diamondheadtheatre.com; tel. 808/733-0274), hosting a variety of performances from musicals to comedies to classical dramas; Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St. (www.kumukahua.org; tel. 808/536-4222), producing plays dealing with the island experience, often written by residents; and Leeward Community College Theatre, 96-045 Ala Ike St. (www.LCCtheatre.hawaii.edu; tel. 808/455-0385), featuring an eclectic slate of productions, from visiting performing companies to local students’ work.
A new symphony orchestra has formed on the island: the Hawaii Symphony (www.hawaiisymphonyorchestra.org; tel. 808/593-2468). Meanwhile, the highly successful Hawaii Opera Theatre (www.hawaiiopera.org; tel. 808/596-7372 or 800/836-7372), celebrating more than 50 seasons (past hits have included "La Bohème," "Carmen," and "Aïda"), still draws fans to the Neal Blaisdell Concert Hall (www.blaisdellcenter.com; tel. 808/591-2211), as do Hawaii’s ballet companies, including Hawaii Ballet Theatre (http://hawaiiballettheatre.org) and Ballet Hawaii (www.ballethawaii.org). Contemporary performances by Iona (www.iona360.com), a strikingly creative group whose dance evolved out of Butoh (a contemporary dance form that originated in Japan), are worth tracking down if you love the avant-garde.
On the last Friday of every month (except Nov–Dec), the place to be after the sun goes down is ARTafterDARK, a pau hana (after-work) mixer in the Honolulu Academy of Arts, 900 S. Beretania St. (www.artafterdark.org; tel. 808/532-8700), that brings residents and visitors together around a theme combining art with food, music, and dancing. In addition to the exhibits in the gallery, ARTafterDARK features visual and live performances. Previous themes have ranged from “Plant Rice”—with rice and sake tastings, rice dishes, Asian beers, live Asian fusion music, and a tour of the "Art of Rice" exhibit—to “[‘]80s Night,” “Turkish Delights,” “Cool Nights, Hot Jazz and Blues,” and “Havana Heat.” The entrance fee is $10. The party gets going around 6 and lasts till 9pm. The crowd ranges from 20s to 50s, and the dress is everything from jeans and T-shirts to designer cocktail-party attire.
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.