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I have been thirsting for drinks at one of the iconic bars in Waikiki ever since I heard about Skybar, an al-fresco venue scheduled to open in Spring 2014. Under construction 19 stories above Oahu's visitor mecca, the new bar promises to make a name for itself as one of the most distinctive lounges in the destination.
But while I wait to see if the high-flying Skybar lives up to its billing, let’s stop in at a few of the quintessential watering holes in Waikiki. Over the decades these tropical bars have faithfully crafted cocktails, created memories and built a dedicated following.
Barefoot BarPart of Duke’s Waikiki restaurant at Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, this sand-in-your-toes spot flanks Waikiki Beach, providing the perfect people-watching perch and great views of Diamond Head and the coast. For 20 years, its come-as-you-are approach has invited bikinis to take their place next to muumuus and aloha shirts. Enjoy live local music while sipping thirst-quenching concoctions like the Dig Me Daiquiri, Lava Flow and Mango-Rita. Order a Tropical Itch and you get to take home the back scratcher.www.dukeswaikiki.com
Beach BarNudging up to a prime strand of Waikiki sand, this oceanfront hub has deep roots, as does the historic banyan tree watching over it. Open since the early 1950s, the Beach Bar makes its home at the 1901 Moana Surfrider- A Westin Resort and Spa. Between the timeless setting and decadent drinks like the Moana Coconut — Kahlua, light rum, coconut cream and pineapple juice — it’s easy to lose track of the hours spent here. Live island tunes add an ambience of aloha.www.moana-surfrider.com
House Without a KeyA stylish gathering place since the 1930s, this postcard-perfect setting oozes casual elegance with its handsome kiawe tree and view of Diamond Head across the sea. The mood is further enhanced by a Hawaiian music trio and various hula dancers, most notably the entrancing Kanoe Miller. Try the Halekulani Sunset — light rum with triple sec, grenadine, guava nectar and sweet and sour — and feel yourself transported away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki’s main drag, just two blocks away.www.halekulani.com
Mai Tai BarOffering front-row views of Waikiki Beach, this 1953 landmark at The Royal Hawaiian pays homage to that most famous of tropical drinks, which somehow tastes better here than anywhere else. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the original Mai Tai cocktail traces its origins to this classic 1927 pink hotel. Clink your glasses with their pretty umbrellas and hum along to live local entertainment while watching the end-of-day surfers ride waves in front of a classic Diamond Head silhouette.www.royal-hawaiian.com
Tropics Bar and GrillYou might recognize this Hilton Hawaiian Village hangout from its guest appearances on the television show Hawaii Five-0. Open since 1987, the seaside bistro has a steadfast following for its nightly entertainment including island favorites Henry Kapono and Nohelani Cypriano. There’s no better seat in the house for the hotel’s free fireworks shows on Tuesdays and Fridays. A Hilton Hawaiian Village bartender invented the first Blue Hawaii cocktail, reason enough to call this one of the truly iconic bars in Waikiki.www.hiltonhawaiianvillage.com
Among the most iconic bars in Waikiki is the Barefoot Bar at Duke's Waikiki in Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach. // © 2013 Duke's Waikiki
Beach Bar at Moana Surfrider // © 2013 Starwood Hotels and Resorts Waikiki
House Without a Key at Halekulani // © 2013 Halekulani
Mai Tai Bar at Royal Hawaiian // © 2013 Starwood Hotels and Resorts Waikiki
Tropics Bar and Grill at Hilton Hawaiian Village // © Hilton Hawaiian Village