Not all guitar enthusiasts bring their instrument along when on vacation, but most of us are always on the lookout for good deals on gear, wherever we are. And if we do bring a six-string with us on holiday, it’s good to know where to pick up some strings, picks, or get a quick repair done.

Three small guitar stores that are only minutes from the heart of Waikiki are locally-owned, offer great deals, and have friendly and knowledgeable staffs that are happy to talk shop or fix you up with what you need. Hawaii has no big-box music stores like Guitar Center, so the gear you’ll find at these purveyors is generally not the kind you buy out of a catalog, or from a smug hipster behind a nametag and an ironic mustache.

  1. Good Guys Music on Kapahulu Avenue, about a ten-minute walk from Waikiki Beach, is a boutique type of shop, tiny and packed with all manner of vintage guitars and amplifiers. At about 900 square feet, Good Guys resembles something of a rabbit warren, with narrow aisles leading through stacks of amplifiers that look fashionably retro. The guitar selection is also aesthetically pleasing, with vintage Fender guitars lining one wall. I recently bought a new amplifier for little more than a song at Good Guys, and I’ve never been happier with a piece of gear.
  2. Island Guitars at Ward Warehouse, just a couple of blocks from Ala Moana Center, is slightly larger, and offers mainstream gear like Mesa Boogie amplifiers and Martin & Co. acoustic guitars. The entire staff at Island Guitars is quiet but friendly and well versed in all things guitar. The turnaround time for repairs is fairly quick, and the work is always top notch. If you happen to be a professional musician, mention it and it may get you an industry discount.
  3. About ten blocks mauka (toward the mountains) of the Ala Wai Canal on McCully Street is Dan’s Guitars, another small, boutique shop that caters to working musicians. Dan’s offers a selection of smaller amplifiers perfect for club and pub gigs: powerful, but compact and light. Dan’s Guitar’s repair shop is reliable and reasonably priced, which means that it is usually busy. They might not be able to get to your instrument right away, but you can be sure that the work will be solid and long-lasting. Dan’s also offers guitar, bass, and ukulele lessons.

For most working musicians, going to the guitar store is always a bittersweet experience because few of us can afford all of the gear we want. But test-driving that vintage Stratocaster or cranking up that Marshall stack is always liberating, if only during store hours.


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