Gay Vacations in Oahu (Honolulu), Hawaii

Panoramic of Waikiki's waterfront in Oahu, Hawaii
Waikiki's waterfront on Oahu, Hawaii (Gus Vanderelst/Photographer's Choice/Getty)

Oahu (Honolulu) Highlights

  • Don't rent a car. There are few places in Waikiki to park one. If you want to explore the island, The Bus (locally called "da bus") circumnavigates Oahu for just $2.
  • Slow down. Restaurant service, drivers, even people’s speech patterns are unhurried in Honolulu. If you act like you're in a rush, it will not bode well with the locals.
  • Don’t pack heavily. Honolulu rarely gets chilly, and the dress code is always casual, so leave most suits, long-sleeve shirts, socks, and even long pants at home.

With one foot in Asia and the other in North America, Honolulu is the most foreign place you'll visit without having to use a passport. Hawaii’s Asian, Pacific, European, and American influences blend effortlessly in the city, which feels languid and animated at the same time. With near-perfect, year-round warm weather, it’s been a gay travel favorite for generations, and for good reason. Waikiki, one of the most famous beaches in the world and a great place to learn how to surf, snakes along the coastline before ending dramatically at the iconic, extinct Diamond Head volcano. Everyone has time to smile and say aloha, even if Honolulu is a lot more urban and crowded with skyscrapers than you’d guess. There’s a historic downtown area (which includes a picturesque Chinatown) that is quickly becoming a hipster area with new lounges, clubs and art galleries. This is also where you’ll find the castle-like Iolani Palace, the only official state residence of royalty in the United States, where Hawaii’s last two monarchs lived in the 1800s. Be sure to check out the more than 35,000 Asian, Western, and Pacific artworks at the nearby Honolulu Academy of Art. You can also tour the stunning Diamond Head estate of tobacco heiress Doris Duke, filled with one of the world’s finest collections of Islamic art, which she personally collected. And don’t forget the rest of the island of Oahu is a nature-lover’s paradise, with hikes to waterfalls, empty beaches to bask on, kayaking, scuba, and even skydiving.

The district of Waikiki is where almost every visitor stays, and it's also where you'll find most of the gay and lesbian activity. For the gay traveler, Honolulu’s LGBT scene may seem a bit closeted and small compared to other U.S. cities its size, but it makes up for it in friendliness and openness. (And Honolulu has nearly all the gay nightlife in the whole state of Hawaii, so get your fix here if you’re heading to the other islands.) The most famous gay bar in the Pacific, Hula’s, gazes over lush Kapiolani Park, which borders the easternmost (and gayest) section of Waikiki appropriately called Queen’s Surf. Transvestites are an accepted part of the Polynesian culture, and there’s a popular cross-dressing beauty contest, The Universal Show Queen, that happens in Waikiki. There also are frequent LGBT sporting events—this being a city that loves its outdoors. In May, there’s the well-attended Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, and in June a pride celebration lights up the streets of Waikiki, ending with music and dancing in Kapiolani Park.

Published: 16 Jul 2008 | Last Updated: 9 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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