At first thought, Hawaii summons thoughts of Mai Tai’s, tan lines and pigs roasting over fire (or some other kind of bizarre, barbaric excitement) – rarely does one think of the dark dive bars hailed for the best beer since sliced bread. This is probably because, at surface level, Hawaii is no place for pub crawls, certainly not in comparison with the easily apparent booze magnificence of cities like New York or Chicago. But, for its relatively untainted, non-western way of life, and rigorously trained, oceanic athletes (who are most likely too busy killing sharks with their bare hands to drink beer), Hawaii does have a few secret beer stops that just may blow your mind. If you’re fortunate enough to fund three separate plane tickets or brave enough to bear a boat ride, you’ll be able to hit up the beer stop highlights of Hawaii’s three most popular islands. If you can only afford one trip at a time, at least drink lots of beer in a sitting.
Oahu – Hawaii’s tourist monolith
The biggest thing boasted about Hawaii is Waikiki. It’s where all young, local women run to waitress in five star hotels or enter beauty pageants (my mother, in her youth, did both these things there). The trick to navigating Waikiki is avoiding massive tourist potholes, which are glitzy, insincere restaurant traps ready to leave you penniless. Best option? Yard House. Located on the main strip at the Waikiki Beach Walk, Yard House has classic Hawaiin music and 130 taps of draft beer. The only facility to yet serve Maui Brewing Co.’s beer on tap, Yard House also has a “gluten sensitive menu” available for the allergic folks, eco-friendly beer cans and a casually swank environment – the perfect place for a post-swimming, post-shopping beer sup.
Just up the coast, in the busy industrial district of Iwilei is the home-style, strangely kitchy looking Sam Choy’s. Know for it’s variety of fresh crab, lobster, shellfish, steaks, ribs and chicken, this joint also specializes in Big Aloha Beer brewed freshly on the premises. Try to plan ahead and hit up one of their Monthly Brewer’s dinners to snag some facts on pairing food and booze, as well as a tour of the microbrewery.
Slightly inland is the college-bar-of-all-college-bars, Varsity Grill. While the term “college bar” may have put a bitter taste in your mouth, that taste will soon be replaced by one of sixty or so draft beers on the menu. With a wall-to-wall bar and tap set up, this college bar boasts an extremely low tourist population and is a go-for-black out broke scenario. Only, you won’t literally be broke, because their specials ($10 Blue Moon pitchers, $3.50 bottled beer) are pretty, well, special, as are their sassy and/or sexy bartenders.
Last stop in Honolulu, is Bar 35, found in the up-and-coming Downtown-Chinatown area (think Williamsburg, New York while the hipsters kicked out residential Jewish families). Serving infamous, handmade, thin-crusted pizzas, Bar 35’s offers brews from Thailand, Tahiti, Singapore, Philipines, New Zealand, Mexico, Japan, Jamaica, Italy, Ireland, Holland, Germany, France, England, Denmark, Czech Republic, China, Canada, Belgium, Australia and good ole America. Oh, and by the way – Happy Hour all night long.
Maui – Hawaii’s gorgeous middle sibling
Voted the best bar on Maui in 2009, Kahului Ale House is heaven for those who’d like to die and arrive in a place where sports and beer exist in constant excess. With two high definition jump screen TV’s and 27 standard, a game room consisting of 28 video games, pool and darts, the Ale House’s self-proclaimed motto is “Eat, Drink, Party, Play!” Noted for carrying Deschutes Brewery Green Lakes organic beer and Maui Brewing Co. on tap, the Kahului Ale House also serves gluten-free Redbridge beer, organic wine and some of the most incredible Taro burgers in town. Located away from the touristy Western side, this bar is ideal for post-hike, post-scenic drive chill out (or pretty much any time at all).
The only Irish Restaurant you’ll find in Maui is Mulligans On The Blue, and considering we know how the Irish are with their drinking, we can consider this is a great thing. Located directly on the Wailea Blue Golf Course, across the Kea Lani Hotel, this pub offers some of the most incredible views seen from restaurant windows and also offers prearranged box lunches and coolers for those interested in stopping to tee off. While their 16 ounce pints specialize mostly in, you guessed it, Irish brews, they also serve Kona-brewed Longboard Lager and Maui-famous Big Swell IPA. Get wasted, go golfing. No one can tell you that isn’t a vacation.
Kauai – Prettiest, Richest Kid at School
Praised as one of the most beautiful and prosperous of Hawaii’s islands, Kauai knows how to show even the most fickle travelers a good time. At the Princeville Hotel, whose lounge restores meaning to such a name, sunset views accompany five various restaurant bars to choose from. Known simply as “Living Room,” very little detail about the specifics of their brews can be found on the world wide web. Not to fear, however, as each person who returns speaks of a dazzlingly intoxicated evening, having experienced pub crawling at a ridiculously exotic hotel. Their drink and food menus are handcrafted by chefs so obscure and sought-after, even their names intimidate (i.e. Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten).
For a polar opposite from the prestigious hotel scene, take a trip down to Kauai’s infamous Nawiliwili Tavern, a cozy neighborhood hang out, garnered by booze enthusiasts for many generations. Noted by pubcrawler.com as one of the most worthwhile mentions of the island, Nawiliwili’s Tavern offers live music, karaoke, video games, darts, TV’s and a general feeling of good-get-drunkenness (Tavern’s Motto: “Getting silly at Nawiliwili).
Last, but legendarily not lead, Duke’s Canoe Club , also located near the stunning Nawiliwili Port, shows off waterfalls, koi ponds and Hawaiin history to boot. It’s most exciting feature is, just steps from the beach, Duke’s Barefoot Bar with a solid selection of your standard favorites. Barefoot. Bar. What else could one ask of Hawaii?