Is any trip to paradise complete without a sunset cocktail in hand? Didn’t this so, which is why I think it’s fitting to roundup the absolute best bars in Honolulu, Hawaii.
I visit Honolulu once a year and over the course of my travels I’ve discovered a handful of great Honolulu bars. From those that specialize in top-notch cocktails to whisky-forward jaunts and even the birthplace of the mai tai!
Longtime readers of this website know that I’m not one for small talk, so let’s get to the good stuff. Here’s my personal list of the best bars in Honolulu, hope you enjoy!
Best Bars in Honolulu, Hawaii
Dating back to 1992, some consider Duke’s a tourist trap but — honestly — who the hell cares? You’re on vacation and Duke’s is one of the best bars in Waikiki!
The setting is perfect and the drinks are good (and even better, strong). And who can resist the charming outdoor patio while watching the sunset over Waikiki Beach?
Ordering a colorful tropical drink is non-negotiable at Dukes. There’s a reason this Waikiki bar has amassed a reputation for being one of the best bars in Honolulu.
The only challenge with Duke’s is the notoriously long lines. Getting into the bar is easier than getting into the restaurant, but still — expect to wait a few minutes for a table to open up. This place is full of boozy tourists, but chances are good you’ll fit right in and have a grand time.
Bar Leather Apron
My husband is an avid Scotch and whisky connoisseur. So much so that we spent five days on Scotland’s most famous island for smoky scotch. Needless to say, he was ecstatic when he learned about Bar Leather Apron, one of the best whisky bars in Honolulu.
Opened in 2015, Bar Leather Apron is the passion project of Justin Bar and Tom Park (not related). The two friends sought to create one of the best bars in Honolulu by merging their passions for international travels and great drinks.
Every detail and element of this bar is thoughtfully considered to create a cozy experience for everyone that walks through the door. Offering finely crafted cocktails in an intimate setting, the well curated whiskey menu is where they really shine.
My husband’s favorite drink ended up being the Leather Soul. A rich combination of peaty scotch (his favorite) and single-barrel bourbon enhanced by bitters, sweet vermouth, lemon, seas salt and tobacco — this has to be one of the most creative cocktails in Honolulu.
You may enjoy reading: All 9 Epic Whisky Distilleries on Islay (Ranked)
Mai Tai Bar at Royal Hawaiian
Much like Duke’s, Mai Tai is located along a dreamy stretch of Waikiki Beach. The proximity to the ocean is reason alone to rank Mai Tai as one of the best bars in Honolulu, but this bar’s claim to fame lays elsewhere. This is the first cocktail bar in Honolulu to serve the island’s signature drink, the Mai Tai!
The story goes that the original Mai Tai cocktail was created in 1944 by Trader Vic. The drink was brought to Hawaii in 1953 and was first served at the Royal Hawaiian hotel. The recipe has been copied many times since, but where better to try this beloved island classic than the place it was first served on the island?
We consider this one of the best bars in Honolulu because of the great vibes and history. The hotel is incredible to tour and it’s located in the heart of the action. Plus, the live music is a nice touch.
Fun Fact: When the Mai Tai was introduced to Hawaii in 1953 it became an instant sensation. So much so that the cocktail became known as the “top tourist tantalizer” in 1959.
Arnold’s Beach Bar
If you’re a fan of casual boozy dive bars in Honolulu, you need not look further than Arnold’s. A tried and true staple, this spot has been serving eager vacationers since 1992.
While you can probably get better cocktails elsewhere on the island, it’s the vibe at Arnold’s that draws folks in. Giving off authentic old-school tiki bar vibes, Arnold’s Beach Bar is all about reliving the glory days of the past (when you could drink 2 drinks without worrying about a hangover).
The bartenders are very personable and friendly, giving this Honolulu bar a very casual vibe and live music is playing most days of the week. Overall this is one of the best bars in Waikiki for those that simply want to have a good time and get lost in the moment.
The Beach Bar at Moana Surf Rider
We stumbled across the Beach Bar at Moana Surf Rider by accident. Intrigued by the hotel’s beautiful decor, we decided to explore the lobby. We didn’t realize the lobby led straight to one of the best beachfront bars in Waikiki. Luckily for us, a table was clearing just as we arrived so we decided to snatch it.
Apparently we’re the only people on earth that didn’t know about this popular Honolulu bar. Every table was full when we arrived and the turnover never lasted longer than a minute. Seems like everyone’s eager to drink cocktails beach-side in Honolulu and it’s hard to blame them.
I ordered the xX drink while my husband opted for the xx. We both enjoyed our drinks enough to order seconds. The setting was so picturesque — the people watching opportunities are endless! This ended up being one of my favorite bars in Waikiki even though it’s touristy. It’s just hard to imagine a better place to spend a slow vacation evening, you know?
Pint & Jigger
Pint and Jigger is often dubbed as one of the first real cocktail bars in Honolulu. Helmed by whiskey connoisseur, Dave Newman, his cocktails have been recognized on the national stage for this innovation and creativity.
The focus at this Honolulu bar is quality over quantity. The attention to detail is easy to notice, these are easily some of the best cocktails in Honolulu! Much better quality than most of the bars on Waikiki.
If you’re not sure what to order (or are feeling adventurous) make sure to ask the kind staff for recommendations. The service is top-notch, I’m sure they’ll help you find something you’ll love.
As for food, I’m told the Scottish egg is worth ordering. I haven’t tried it firsthand, but plan to give it a go during my next visit. Stay tuned.
Skull & Crown Trading Co
If you’re visiting Oahu with the hopes of finding the best tiki bars in Honolulu, look no further than Skull & Crown Trading Co. This beloved Honolulu bar boasts an impressive menu of craft cocktails that mostly center around island-inspired libations.
My husband and I each ordered two drinks during our visit (we had a glorious extended date night) and the star of the show was the Kōloa Colada. Made with local Kōloa Kauaʻi Spice Rum, Kōloa Kauaʻi Coconut Rum, Pineapple, Lime, Coconut — this thing checked all the boxes.
But honestly, not a single drink was sub-par. Everything exceeded exceptions, especially the food. Indeed, the food is yet another reason this is one of the best cocktails bars in Honolulu. Some of the best meals we had on the island, don’t hesitate ordering whatever catches your eye!
An artsy industrial-chic locale serving European-inspired cocktails alongside a generous happy hour menu, this popular Honolulu bar is hard to beat. Serving toothsome handcrafted cocktails using homemade ingredients, this gem can’t be overlooked on any list of the best bars in Honolulu.
As for happy hour, don’t miss $1 off oysters every Tuesday through Saturday from 4-7pm. Taco Tuesday takes place from 5-9pm on, you guessed it, Tuesdays.
My beverage of choice is a toss up between the Lavender Mule (vodka, lavender, lime, house ginger, sage) and Oaxaca Old Fashioned (mezcal, reposado, agave, angostura, flamed orange + optional habanero).
Hideout at the Laylow
A hidden gem tucked away from the busy streets of Honolulu, the Hideout at the Laylow hotel is aptly named. This mid-century modern rooftop bar in Waikiki serves great cocktails and food out of a super cute boutique hotel.
Drinking handcrafted cocktails al fresco while the sounds of the city mull quietly around. It doesn’t get better than this, which is why it’s considered one of the best bars in Waikiki.
In terms of drinks, I suggest ordering the Laylow “Hawaiian Style” Mai Tai (with Kula silver & dark rum, dry curacao, lime, Orgeat, pineapple and lilikoi). Although the One Night in Manila (lime leaf infused Pau Maui vodka, coconut, Orgeat, yuzu, orange and Llime) is quite nice too.
There’s also a great happy hour running daily from 5-9:30pm, check out the menu here.
Hana Koa Brewing
If you find it strange to see a brewery pop up on this list of the best bars in Honolulu, bear with me. Hana Koa is not only the best brewery on Oahu (seriously, we tried & ranked them all here), but they also make some great cocktails.
Serving some of the best brews and cocktails in Honolulu out an a converted Coca-Cola syrup factory, Hana Koa is not to be trifled with. The chic and airy industrial space welcomes locals and tourists alike with a warm hospitality and ice-cold drink.
It’s worth mentioning the food at this popular brewery and Honolulu cocktail bar. Dishing out some of the best pub fare on the island, don’t sleep on the burgers and onion rings.
Located in the heart of Chinatown’s art district, no list of best rooftop bars in Honolulu is complete without Tchin Tchin. Comfortable ambiance, unmatched hospitality, cozy leather couches and ample fresh air, this bar will make you feel like a million bucks.
The well-curated menu is full of creative cocktails that span the gamut. I’m partial to the Hemingway Daiquiri (Silver Rum, Maraschino Liqueur, Fresh Lime, Grapefruit) while my husband leans towards the Take of Two Cities (Mezcal, Triple Sec, Fresh Lime, Grapefruit, Tajin).
Regardless of if you prefer tried-and-tried classics (who doesn’t love a well-made Old Fashioned!), or creative libations, it won’t take long to see why Tchin Tchin is considered one of the best bars in Honolulu.
If you’re not into cocktails, fret not. Tchin Tchin offers an extensive wine list for those that prefer service by the bottle or glass. Beers and ciders are also on offer if that’s more your speed.
Honolulu Best Bars (Post Overview)
In sum, here’s a quick roundup of the best bars in Honolulu.
- Duke’s Waikiki Bar
- Bar Leather Apron
- Mai Tai Bar at Royal Hawaiian
- Arnold’s Beach Bar
- Manifest Pint & Jigger
- Skull & Crown Trading Co
- Tchin Tchin
- Hideout at the Laylow
- Hana Koa Brewing
Map of the best bars in Honolulu + best bars in Waikiki
What do you think?