With few exceptions, the Big Island tucks in early, all the better to rise at daybreak, when the weather is cool and the roads (and waves) are open. But live Hawaiian music is everywhere, and it’s easy to catch free, engaging hula shows, too, at several open-air resort malls (see Shopping).
When the sun goes down, the scene heats up. Among the hot spots: Gertrude’s Jazz Bar, 75-5699 Alii Dr., pairs tapas with live jazz, Hawaiian swing, Latin dance and more, 6 to 9pm Tuesday to Saturday and 4 to 7pm Sunday (https://gertrudesjazzbar.com; 808/327-5299). On the Rocks, next to Huggo’s restaurant (p. ###) at 75-5824 Kahakai Rd. (www.huggosontherocks.com; 808/329-1493), has Hawaiian music and hula nightly, from 6 to 10pm (until 11pm Fri–Sat). Inside Huggo’s, the stylish, oceanview hBar (www.huggos.com/hbar) offers the area’s best artisanal cocktails; it’s open till midnight Friday and Saturday, with live music 7:30 to 10:30pm.
Farther afield, Rays on the Bay, at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa, lures locals and visitors to Keauhou with fire pits, a great happy hour, nightly live music, and free parking. The motto of the lively, gay-friendly MyBar, 74-5606 Luhia St., a block makai of Hwy. 19 (www.mybarkona.com; 808/331-8789), is “We accept everyone as long as you want to have fun.” It has darts, drag nights, and $6 cocktails.
Sharing Stories & Aloha Under the Stars
Twilight at Kalahuipuaa, a monthly Hawaiian-style celebration, takes place on the lawn in front of the oceanside Eva Parker Woods Cottage on the Mauna Lani Resort (www.maunalani.com/about/big-island-hawaii-events; 808/881-7911). On the Saturday closest to the full moon, revered entertainers and local elders gather to “talk story,” play music, and dance hula. The 3-hour show starts at 5:30pm, but the audience starts arriving an hour earlier, with picnic fare and beach mats. Bring yours, and plan to share food as well as the fun. Parking is free, too.
The Kohala Coast
All the resorts have at least one lounge with nightly live music, usually Hawaiian, often with hula. Members of the renowned Lim Family perform at varying times and venues in the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, while award-winning singer Darlene Ahuna typically sings from 5 to 8pm Tuesday to Thursday at the Westin Hapuna Beach Hotel. Enjoy creative cocktails and choice small plates with nightly music and hula at the chic Copper Bar at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. The lively Lava Lava Beach Club offers nightly music and hula on the sands of Waikoloa Beach Resort, where the three-screen Waikoloa Luxury Cinemas includes a restaurant, bar, and leather loveseats (http://hawaiicinemas.com).
For a uniquely Big Island alternative to a luau, try An Evening at Kahua Ranch (www.kahuaranch.com; 808/882-7954), a barbecue with beer and wine, line dancing, rope tricks, live country music, campfire sing-along, and stargazing. The 3-hour event costs $139 for adults and $70 for kids 6 to 12 (younger free) with shuttle to the ranch; drive yourself and it’s $115 and $58, respectively. Festivities start at 6pm Wed in summer, 5:30pm in winter; call to check for additional evenings.
Hilo & the Hamakua Coast
Opened in 1925, the neoclassical Palace Theater, 38 Haili St., Hilo (www.hilopalace.com; 808/934-7010), screens first-run independent movies and hosts concerts, festivals, hula, and theater to pay for its ongoing restoration. Hilo Town Tavern, 168 Keawe St. (808/935-2171), is a Cajun restaurant and dive bar open until 2am daily, with a pool room and live music ranging from hip-hop to Hawaiian. The Grand Naniloa Hotel offers nightly live music 6 to 8pm in either its Hula Lounge lobby bar or poolside restaurant Hula Hulas. Quaint Honokaa boasts the island’s largest theater, the restored 1930 People’s Theatre, 45-3574 Mamane St., seating 525 for first-run movies, concerts, and other events. The town also holds a festival the first Friday of each month, with sidewalk vendors and live music from 5 until 9pm.
Although the revered founder of Uncle Robert’s Awa Club (808/443-6913) passed away in 2015, the bustling Wednesday-night marketplace (5–10pm) continues at Robert Keliihoomalu’s Kalapana compound with live music from 6 to 9pm. Sample the mildly intoxicating ‘awa (the Hawaiian word for kava) at the tiki bar, or come back Friday at 6pm for more live music. In Pahoa, Kaleo’s Bar & Grill offers nightly live music, including jazz and slack key.
Luaus’ new taste of Old Hawaii
You may never have a truly great meal at a luau, but on the Big Island you can have a very good one, with a highly enjoyable—and educational—show to boot. Buffets offer more intriguing, tasty items such as pohole ferns and Molokai sweet potatoes, while shows feature more local history, from the first voyagers to paniolo days, plus spectacular fire knife and Polynesian dance. Try one of these oceanfront affairs:
- Haleo (www.haleoluau.com) at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa is simply the best in Kailua-Kona (Mon and Fri 4:30pm; $95 adults, $45 children 6–12).
- Hawaii Loa (www.gatheringofthekings.com) at the Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, has the best selection of island-style food, including the taro leaf stew that gave lū‘au its name (Sat 5:30pm; $115 adults, $79 children 6–12).
- Legends of Hawaii (www.hiltonwaikoloavillage.com/resort-experiences) at Hilton Waikoloa Village is the most family-friendly, with pillow seating upfront for kids (Tues, Fri, and Sun 5:30pm; $128 adults, $70 children 5–12; free for children 4 and under). Add VIP options for $29 more per person.
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.