Top 10 waterfront hangouts in Oahu
By Emma Castle
The first thing that pops into most people’s heads when they think about Oahu is the beach – miles of sand, warm water and surfers on long boards.
The cool thing about this island is that the locals feel the same way. Life revolves around the water. Whether it’s stand-up paddle boarding, outrigger canoeing or swimming, Hawaiians love the beach and have plenty of laidback Oahu accommodation options and cruisy hangouts to offer visitors that make the most of the waterfront.
Want to get into the local groove? Check out these top ten places for waterfront fun:
1. Duke’s Barefoot Bar
The waitresses at Duke’s are cheeky, the drinks are strong and the vibe is 100 per cent party. Duke’s is the best place to shake off your jetlag and get into the holiday swing. Tuck into an epic Duke’s cheeseburger, knock back a beer and find your (bare) feet in this legendary Hawaiian hot spot.
2. Mai Tai Bar at The Royal Hawaiian
Home of the Scratch Mai Tai – as in a Mai Tai made from scratch – this bar is an ultra-romantic spot to watch the sun set over Waikiki. ‘The Pink Palace’ aka The Royal Hawaiian has hosted everyone from old school Hollywood movie stars like Marilyn Monroe, right through to aviatrix Amelia Earhart, so no matter which seat you take at the bar, you will be sharing historical space with some of America’s greats.
3. Aha’Aina luau at The Royal Hawaiian
While not technically a ‘hangout’, the Aha’Aina luau is an absolute ‘must-see’ activity for first-timers to Hawaii. Chef Colin Hazama serves up local classics such as ahi poke, kalua pork and poi using quality local ingredients like samphire, seaweed and fresh tuna. The best part is it’s a buffet, so it’s a great opportunity to try a huge range of Hawaiian delicacies with a view out over the water, looking towards Diamond Head.
4. RumFire at Sheraton Waikiki
This sophisticated bar is an ideal place for sundowners with a side of live music and Hawaiian fusion cuisine. If you’ve eaten your fill of burgers and fries, the menu at RumFire will come as a welcome excursion into a more modern dining realm where Korean, Japanese, Chinese and native Hawaiian ingredients are at the forefront.
5. The Beach Bar at the Moana Surfrider
Magic happens underneath the graceful boughs of the Banyan tree that dominates the Beach Bar courtyard at the Moana Surfrider. If native Hawaiian folklore is to be believed, these trees harbour spirits and, in the case of Hawaii’s oldest beachfront bar, the spirits are friendly. The twinkly fairylights that sparkle up the evening and the gracious service make this a very easy place to spend an hour (or five).
6. Haleiwa Joe’s
Want to get out of Waikiki and explore the North Shore? Head up to Haleiwa Joe’s, an all-day diner that is casual enough for a laidback lunch and upmarket enough for a genuine culinary experience surrounded by the surfing celebrities who call Haleiwa home. They also do a popular Sunday brunch – an American institution – so prepare yourself for the enlivening effects of breakfast mimosas and Bloody Marys.
7. Pa’akai at Turtle Bay Resort
Pa’akai, meaning sea salt in the native Hawaiian tongue, is all about ‘sea-to-table’ cuisine. Serving up fresh local fish, foraged seaweeds and sea asparagus, as well as Hawaii’s famous tri-coloured volcanic sea salt, this restaurant is perfect for a special night out to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays or simply raise a glass to having a great holiday.
8. The Kahala
The Kahala was, at one time, the most expensive hotel in the world. While it no longer holds that title, it can still boast the fact that every sitting President of the United States has stayed there at some stage since it opened back in 1964. Regardless of whether you’re staying on-site – although it’s recommended as The Kahala is out of town near Diamond Head – this resort has a range of waterfront dining venues, from the sandy-floored
Seaside Grill, to High Tea in The Verandah, to all-day dining at the Plumeria Beach House, to nosh out at.
9. La Mariana Sailing Club
This is about as old school Hawaiiana as it gets on Oahu. Founded in 1957 by Annette and Johnny Campbell, La Mariana is as much a tiki museum as it is a functioning restaurant and bar. Located on a Ke’ehi Boat Harbor, it is only a slight detour off the main route that takes you out to Pearl Harbor so it’s well worth the diversion if you’re headed that way. La Mariana is the kind of place where you can imagine yourself shoulder-to-shoulder with an aloha-shirted Elvis.
10. Kona Brewing Company
This fun waterfront brewery is the home of the ubiquitous Longboard Lager, the preferred local beer of the masses. Located conveniently close to Haunama Bay Nature Reserve, it’s a top spot to finish off a day spent snorkeling on the bay’s bio-diverse reef. Set on the docks of Koko Marina, Kona Brewing Company’s open-air restaurant also serves fresh pizza, perfect to satiate your hunger after a big day in the water.