The southern shores of Oahu are mainly famed for their white-tinged beaches and turquoise seas, their cruisy longboard surf waves and their elegant hotel resorts on the Pacific. But there are also plenty of things to do in Waikiki at night, just as this guide reveals…
Yep, everything from pyrotechnic fireworks displays to soy-scented noodle kitchens awaits the after-dark crowd in this corner of the Aloha State. Plus, there are romantic viewpoints, intriguing neighborhoods, and even traditional Luau dances to get stuck into.
Remember that some of the events listed here – specifically the food festivals and fireworks shows – don’t take place every single night. They happen once monthly or weekly. Other things to do in Waikiki at night are always available, such as the Polynesian dance shows and jazz bars. Let’s get started…
Fireworks on Waikiki Beach
The fireworks displays on Waikiki Beach are nothing short of legendary, having graced the southern skyline of Oahu island for something like 10 years straight. Every first-time visitor to the Aloha capital simply must drop in to see what all the fuss is about.
They take place once per week on Friday nights, starting at 7.45pm. The launch spot is the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, but you can see them lighting up the sky from up and down the sands, all the way to Ala Moana and Kuhio Beach and even beyond.
In all, the pyrotechnics last something like 10-15 minutes. Grab yourself a cold one in one of the local bars and watch from the comfort of a table if you like. Or, get the romance a-flowing by taking to the sands with your own blanket and picnic of post-dinner snacks.
The Waikiki Food Hall Co.
If it’s getting late and you’ve yet to have a bite to eat after your hunger-making surf sessions and snorkels down Waikiki Beach, be sure to head over to the Waikiki Food Hall Co. It’s a hip spot that’s a relatively new addition to the resort’s gastronomic line up, offering a whole range of different sorts of dishes.
It makes its home in the famous Royal Hawaiian Center entertainment complex, a sort of strip mall with bonuses. There are eight stalls in all, each selling varying cuisines from both the Aloha State and the rest of the globe.
For evening coffees and artisan teas, you could drop into the Surfer’s Café. There’s the Honolulu Burger Co. for those hunting stacked buns and patties of Pu’u Wa’awa’a Ranch meats grown on these very islands. Or there’s the Tap Bar, a classic Americana beer hall with everything from thick stouts to zingy IPAs.
Visit Honolulu Chinatown
The designated Chinatown Historic District of Honolulu is one of the oldest Chinatowns in the whole of the United States. It’s wedged between River Street and the Arts District in the very heart of the Aloha capital, some 10 minutes’ driving or half an hour on public transport from Kahanamoku Beach in the middle of Waikiki itself.
We’d say that the very best time to drop by is when it gets dark. Then, you’ll see the steaming dim sum houses, the sizzling noodle kitchens, and the five-spice-scented cookhouses touting Peking duck and wok-blasted rice dishes. As you can imagine, there are some fantastic places to eat, from the acclaimed Cuu Long ll Vietnamese to the fantastic Olay’s Thai Lao Cuisine.
N King Street and N Hotel Street make up the two main drags in the Honolulu Chinatown. They’re packed with cafes and eateries, but also quirky tattoo parlors and grocery stores selling oriental wares and ingredients.
Eat the Street Festival
Calling all foodies, the Eat the Street is the premier street-food get-together in the whole of Hawaii. It started life in a carpark in Honolulu back in 2011, when just a handful of creative cooks gathered to sell their homemade dishes. Today, it can boast a whole medley of various food trucks and ad hoc kitchens, with menus that showcase flavors from all four corners.
There are choco-covered Spanish churros. You’ve got garlic-infused shrimps. There are peanut-flavored pad Thai noodles, along with Aloha’s own surf-turf and pineapple dishes, plus a veritable medley of artisan pizzas and baked goods.
The Eat the Street Festival takes place on the Kaka’ako Waterfront of Ala Moana Boulevard on the last Friday of every month. It begins at 4pm and ends at 9pm. There are usually over 40 vendors to pick from. You won’t leave hungry.
The Paradise Cove Luau
No trip to Hawaii could possibly be complete without a traditional Luau. These are the ultimate evening cultural event on the islands, showcasing the rich heritage of the Aloha people through dance, song, and dining.
There are a number on offer to visitors to the Waikiki and Honolulu area. However, the most acclaimed is probably the Paradise Cove Luau. It’s got 4.5/5 ratings on Google alone, and is hosted at the Ko Olina Resort some 30 minutes from the middle of Waikiki. Don’t worry – you can get guided packages that include pick-up and drop-off at your accommodation to make transfers there and back a cinch.
The evening’s schedule at the Paradise Cove Luautypically includes a welcome Mai Tai cocktail, displays of age-old Polynesian dancing, and a whole buffet dinner of continental and Pacific region foods.
Honolulu Zoo at night
Honolulu Zoo is one of the main draws of the Waikiki resort strip come the day. Thousands of people flock by each year to see the long-necked giraffes, the African tortoises, the snapping crocodiles, the Asian elephants, iguanas, cheetahs – we could go on and on.
But the fun here doesn’t end when the sun disappears. Honolulu Zoo also offers a special Twilight Tours for animal lovers who want to see what the critters and creatures get up to after dark. It’s a unique experience that involves two hours of walking around the enclosures, learning all about the strange lives of the nocturnal beasts within.
Tour times are matched with sunsets, which means they begin around 4.30pm in the wintertime and after 5.30pm in the summertime. All visitors should bring comfy shoes and bug spray, along with plenty of water – did we mention there was two hours of walking?
Jazz bars and partying
There’s been a bopping music scene on the Waikiki strip ever since Elvis came through in the 60s and 70s. Today, the area is perhaps the single liveliest party district in the whole of the Aloha State. It’s got rumbling rock bars, sprawling craft beer halls, moody jazz joints – you name it.
Begin on the south side of town at the Surf Bar Waikiki. This legendary drinkery is a cocktail lounge special with vintage 50s vibes. Up from there, The Beach Bar – appropriately named – is housed in the famous Moana Surfrider resort, offering mixed drinks with views of the rolling waves. We also love the gritty Honolulu Tavern, a more down-to-earth pub space with frothy beers and a welcomingly rowdy crowd.
For music, be sure to check out the Lewers Lounge. That’s as chic as they come; the sort of spot for sipping a Sazerac to light sax tunes. Perhaps a touch more famous is the Blue Note Hawaii, an offshoot of the iconic spot of the same name over in New York City.
Things to do in Waikiki at night – a conclusion
Don’t go thinking that all the fun finishes in Waikiki when the sun dips low and the surfers go home. It most certainly does not! This town is a fizzing strip of a place that has its own beating restaurant quarter and nightlife sectors. You can hit the venues to listen to emotive jazz a la NYC or clink beers with locals in the casual pubs. There’s also a weekly fireworks show that’s simply not to be missed, along with cultural Luau productions in nearby resort hotels. You shouldn’t get bored!
Is there lots to do in Waikiki after dark?
There are loads of things to do in Waikiki at night. In fact, we’d say that the town is the liveliest of all the towns in the whole of Hawaii. It’s packed with famous nightlife venues and jazz bars, has resorts that host cultural shows and fireworks displays, and is close to the beating heart of Honolulu city to boot.
How long should I stay in Waikiki?
That’s really up to you. Some people come here to stay whole months. The resort does have everything you need, from chic hotels to world-class dining. That said, there’s the whole of Oahu to explore beyond, plus plenty of other Hawaiian islands besides, so two or three nights would suit if you are planning to get out to those during your Aloha adventure.