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Going Out on O‘ahu: The Charms of Honolulu's Chinatown

Posted in: Editor's Blog, Food & Drink, Shopping, The Arts, Things to Do


By Richard Melendez, Digital Editor

“Going out” means different things to different people. Varying factors include age, location, and whether or not there are children in the picture, among other things. In Hawai‘i, going out can mean club hopping in Waikīkī or just cruising with “the guys” in someone’s carport with some poke and a cooler full of beer. Going out can mean dinner with your significant other, night fishing with family, sushi for one at your favorite hole in the wall, Friday night fireworks off of Magic Island, or hitting up your favorite food truck.

Last weekend, going out meant being coaxed into going to a live show for a performer that I’d never heard of, for a show that didn’t start until midnight, with a crowd that really isn’t my crowd. The saving grace was that this was all taking place in Chinatown, so if I had to escape, there were a ton of other places I could duck into, including several restaurants and bars (and my perennial favorite, Downbeat Diner & Lounge). If I had to pick one neighborhood that hits all my sweet spots, Chinatown is it.

Chinatown market
Colorful spread at a Chinatown market

Honolulu’s Chinatown is active day or night with something for almost every interest and palate. By day, Chinatown’s markets and cultural attractions are a worthy stop for tourists and locals alike. There are countless places to get Asian food, as youʻd imagine, but the adjacent arts district enhances the experience with a number of restaurants, cafes and lounges that hit a wide spectrum of tastes. There are also several art galleries, boutiques, the multi-purpose studio space The ARTS at Marks, and performance venues like Nextdoor and the Historic Hawai‘i Theatre, The entire neighborhood has an overall vibe that’s low key and unpretentious with, dare I say, a bit of grime that adds to its overall charm. After dark, Chinatown transforms into a scenesters paradise with an active nightlife that’s as removed from the bustling markets of the day time as it is from the glitzy vibe of Waikīkī.

Chinatown First Friday
Chinatown during First Friday celebrations

Fortunately, we ended up having a fun time at the show and I didn’t feel the need to sneak away. It was comforting to know that I had a number of back-up options just steps away, though.

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