How to drink in Oahu without meeting tourists
July 25, 2008 7:31 AM   Subscribe

HawaiiFi: I'm going to Oahu for a week after just getting dumped by the local Hawaiian girl I was meant to go with. I wouldn't really go somewhere that touristy otherwise, and have no intention of surfing or going to hotel bars. What I would like, however, is an authentic local experience, in some seedy, out-of-the-way bar. Any suggestions?

Got dumped ten days before going out to meet her family. Was supposed to go to the brother's wedding, before and after which she'd have taken me out to her favorite places in town. The plane tickets are non-refundable and non-exchangeable.

So, looking for the experience she might have shown me: I'm not looking for a one-night stand, so "seedy," not "sleezy," please. Actually, any bar that is mostly locals would be best, but it'd probably be best if it was low-key.

Also, I've heard (off her) that Hawaiians like to fight, and they don't like tourists, especially not at the local watering holes. If I drink, I don't want to be constantly worried about fists; I'm already worrying about my liver. Is she correct?
posted by omnigut to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Having live in Oahu for 4 years (I have a doughter that was born there as well) Hawaiians come in only 2 flavors:

Angry or Awesome

Let me try and help you out here. When you land, immediatle head north or west and unless your interested in tourist, keep clear from Waikiki.

NORTH SHORE baby, they got Hostels, they got back woods bars and the locals are (oddly enough) a lot less "hawaiian". The Surfing is Prime in the north West shore (and to get there your going to have to go through some EXTREMELY shady spots but te beach is the best beach you will ever go to in so fun. I would still be there if it were not for my wife.

Look at it like they do...You Flew Here, We Grew Here

If you need some more info let me know...
posted by TeachTheDead at 7:57 AM on July 25, 2008

Are you in Forgetting Sarah Marshall?

I'd write a sequal.

Failing that, I wouldn't write-off hanging out with other interlopers, though I'd stay away from the tourist scene.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:12 AM on July 25, 2008

This just in!: I have friends of my grandmother that I can stay with in Kailua. Any suggestions there?
posted by omnigut at 8:12 AM on July 25, 2008

Whatever happens, make sure to eat dinner at least once at Sunrise and have at least one meal at Rainbow Drive-In.

Sunrise is amazing, amazing food. Rainbow is very good authentic Hawaiian fast food.
posted by charlesv at 8:29 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you're in Kailua, you're not that far away from Honolulu. When I was researching Hawaii I really wanted to try the Hole in the Wall Food Tour by Matthew Gray. We ultimately stayed on Maui and didn't get to try it, but it came highly recommended, visited alot of out-of-the-way, authentic Hawaiin places that folks wouldn't see otherwise, and just sounded like alot of fun.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:09 AM on July 25, 2008

If you're going to be in Kailua, you could stop by The Shack for your drinking experience. It's not the seediest, depending on your interpretation of the word; it's more of a sports bar that serves some decent food. The clientele won't be itching for any fighting, either, but that could be because of the area you'd be in. However, the people who frequent The Shack are local, or local enough that you could have some pretty interesting conversations and insights into the culture.

The Sand Island Rhythm & Blues Club is quite a distance from Kailua, but it definitely is seedy (warning, Angelfire site with many ads). Sometimes the local bike clubs show up, but I don't recall hearing about much troubles. Try to get a ride, or save up enough for a cab; police like to wait outside the area to nab drunk drivers.

I know this next place is not a bar, but if you're up to waking early and waiting a long time, Boots & Kimo is a terrific pancake place, also in Kailua. Lines form before the restaurant opens at 0630/0700, but the macadamia nut syrup is awesome. Get there early and bring cash, because they don't accept credit cards or check.

In regards to the question of fighting, there is a sort of perverse "us against them" mentality amongst part of the local population. I've discovered that in most cases, it rears its ugly head when a local feels that a tourist or transplant is disrespecting them in some way. The exact nature of this perceived disrespect varies, which makes it difficult to tell you what you should or should not do/say in order to avoid confrontation.

At least, in specific terms. Generally, if you walk around with the attitude of "Well, this is how we do it back in the States!" you will probably ruffle a few feathers (especially with comments like 'The States'). I think it's like you have to leave your own beliefs and values behind at the airport, be humble, and maybe even apologetic when it comes to dealing with a local who might be looking to "false crack" you in the head.

I've met locals who are genuinely open and engaging to tourists, eager to know about the little quirks and nuances of the brothers and sisters living on the continent. Good times to be had by all, for certain. I've also met locals who swaggered around trying to be thugs, wanting any excuse to emulate MMA or gangsta styles. I'm sure you'd be able to recognize the differences and act accordingly, and hopefully with a little luck you'll walk away unscathed.

I guess you should just be careful, use common sense, and the odds will be good that you'll be safe and enjoy yourself on Oahu.
posted by CancerMan at 11:20 AM on July 25, 2008

if you can spare the $, I recommend flying over to the big island. Hilo and Kona are both pretty awesome. There is a bus that runs between the two.

The price wasn't too bad when I did it (in 2004); bought tickets at the counter with no reservation during the week. it was somewhere around $80 each way. It looks like the prices haven't gone up that much.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 11:48 AM on July 25, 2008

It amazes me that in the 21st century -- on a site like MeFi -- that this sort of casual racism against native Hawaiians is just sort of accepted. "Hawaiians only come in two flavors." Fascinating. Anyway -- don't let people put you off -- the west (leeward) coast (where there are lots of "scary" Hawaiians and Chamorros) is definitely to be explored and not "EXTREMELY shady" at all; horror stories about getting harassed by the "angry" locals are much exaggerated. People are people, hey? There are just as many dickhole tourists as there are dickhole Hawaiians (probably more).

If you're looking for a great easy-reading book about Hawaii and its history, I heartily recommend this one. It's written kind of like a high school history text with lots of sidebars and interesting "asides" (did you know that Hawaii was very nearly a British colony?) -- good for an "ADHD reader" like myself. It's definitely worth understanding some of the history of this place before you come to visit. The book (or hopefully any Hawaiian history book) really helps contextualize things and sheds light on why there are so many people of Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, and even Caribbean ancestry here. (What is a "local" anyway?) It will also fill you in on what whitey did that sort pissed off native Hawaiians. Our islands are kind of a crazy place . . . Oh, and I echo what CancerMan mentioned: in conversation with folks here, it's "the Mainland" not "the States" or "America"; you're in the United States of America! :-)

Anyway, Kailua is really great -- just realize that it tends to rain a bit more there than other parts of Oahu. In general there are a hell of a lot fewer tourists in Kailua so you should have an easier time avoiding them than you would in Waikiki. Mmmm drinking. The Shack is worth dropping in. Creekside might be worth checking out, too. The best dive bars -- I really have to say -- are in town. Ocean Sports Restaurant, any place with karaoke and pupus, etc. It's worth checking out Side Street Inn and La Mariana but dammit if Anthony Bourdain's visit didn't popularize the places.

For eats in Kailua, it's not a dive but a great place to eat is the Kalapawai Cafe (same owners as the Kalapawai Market down by Kailua Beach). The food is really excellent: FYI lunch is casual and cafeteria style, dinner is white table cloths and waiter service. Boots and Kimo is good too but the wait...oh the wait!

For stuff to do nearby Kailua you'll find the Byodo-In temple in Kaneohe which is a must-see, Lanikai is a great place to waste a few hours on the beach. One fun thing to do would be to rent a kayak (there are a couple places to do that right by Kailua Beach) and paddle over to the Mokulua Islands. It's a very easy paddle and really, really fun. If you get into the kayaking at all (I'm a paddling nerd) it's worth checking out the Kaneohe sand bar (if it's not rammed with people...) and do some snorkeling.

Good luck and have a blast! Drop me a note (email in profile) if you'd like to grab a beer.
posted by lazywhinerkid at 12:51 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

A few notes for Kailua: Agnes' Portuguese Bakeshop has delicious breakfast pastries. Buzz's Steak House in Kailua is okay, right off the beach with tourists but not too many. I was there by myself and it was nice and I could look out the window onto the beach while I ate/drank. It's great that you can stay with someone. I'd recommend renting a car if you're not planning on it. It will give you the flexibility to go where you want. I really enjoyed the Byodo-In temple, too, and found it to be a relaxing place to visit.
posted by belau at 4:55 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

My regular was Anna Banana's on Beretania, or Smith's Union Bar on Hotel Street.
posted by nathaole at 7:19 PM on July 25, 2008

lazywhinerkid-- remember that "Hawaiians" mean both native Hawaiians and people who live in Hawaii.
posted by jsmith77 at 7:29 AM on July 26, 2008

Like hell it does, razdrez.

Hawaiian resident != Hawaiian.

You can be born here, live here, marry here, raise your kids here, retire here, grow old here, and die here, but if you don't have native Hawaiian blood running in your veins, you are not Hawaiian. That's it, that's all, no more, no less.
posted by sun-el at 7:40 PM on July 26, 2008

All about context, sun-el. I've lived in Hawaii most my life, my family still lives there, etc. But I'm on "the mainland" now. To you, Hawaiian != Hawaii residents. But to a lot of people on the "mainland", it does, in the same sense as a Californian or a New Yorker. That's why people use "native Hawaiian", to make the distinction.

"He's Local" in Hawaii = "He's Hawaiian" elsewhere.

It's different if, in Hawaii, you refer to yourself as Hawaiian, though, and that's because Hawaii is pretty racist.
posted by jsmith77 at 9:25 AM on July 27, 2008

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