For many of those of us who work in the bar industry, finding a good dive bar is a pivotal part of the vacation experience. Sure, we may whinge about the tedium of pandering to sussers, but when left to our own devices on holiday, we seek out a proper watering hole populated by regulars in the hope of becoming one, if only for a visit. I offer here a handful of dive bars on Oahu. Any and all are worthy of an afternoon, an evening, or a full-on night out.
- Anna O’Brien’s is located just outside of Waikiki in the University District. Open since 1969, Anna’s has always been its own sort of subculture. It is home to motorcycle enthusiasts, rugby clubs, musicians, intellectuals, and all manner of blue collar soldiers. And actual soldiers. The all-day happy hour offers three-dollar drinks. Upstairs features live music most nights with a modest cover charge, if any. It might be blues. It might be punk rock. It might be an indie film festival. Or standup comedy. The bar staff is warm and friendly, because they know you. They’ve seen it all. Drink of choice: any one of a dozen draft beers. Or whiskey.
- The Hideaway is located on the outskirts of Waikiki-proper. Its regulars are located outside of society-proper. It opens at 6:00am, which means that the people you’ll find there are the kind of people that start drinking at 6:00am. Or continue drinking. It’s a favorite among Waikiki bar industry workers who don’t clock out until the sun chases them to The Hideaway’s doorstep. It’s smallish, but there’s room for a pool table upstairs and down. There’s also a small patio area, but you’ll want to sit at the bar. Drink of choice: whatever you’ve been killing yourself with for all these years. Or whiskey.
1913 Dudoit Ln, Honolulu, HI 96815 (808) 949-9885
- Arnold’s Beach Bar is smack in the middle of Waikiki, steps away from swanky retailers and miles from that kind of ambience. It’s tiny, and it is safe to assume that everyone in there knows everyone else. Each day features a different musical act, usually a solo act or duo. Arnold’s also serves Hebrew National hotdogs, chili dogs, tasty pulled-pork sliders, and chips and salsa. That’s it. Drink of choice: whatever matches your flip-flops. Or whiskey.
- 8 Fat Fat 8 isn’t in Waikiki. It isn’t Downtown. And it isn’t to be missed if you want to see how locals unwind. Located nondescriptly on Beretania Street in a residential/commercial district, 8 Fat Fat 8 is quietly famous for its menu, which features a meaty selection of beef, pork, and chicken items. And a 14-ounce ribeye steak for $16. There are dart boards and a pool table, but the biggest attraction is the karaoke machine. Drink of choice: Coors Light and Heineken. Or whiskey.
- Kemoo Pub isn’t anywhere near Waikiki. Located in Wahiawa across the street from the Schofield Barracks U.S. Army base, Kemoo is a good spot to break up the drive from town to the North Shore. Many are the tales of vacationers stopping for a bite and a brew, only to forgo their plans for a day on the North Shore for swapping stories with bikers and soldiers and hot pretzels and cheese. The Lanai Bar downstairs looks out over Lake Wilson. Surrounded by whispering pine trees, it feels like a mountain retreat. It is. Drink of choice: Budweiser. And whiskey.
Smile, tip well, and you’re sure to be a regular at any of these Oahu dive bars. If only for a visit.