It’s not impossible to find live music on the island of Hawai’i, it just might involve a long drive, and knowing where to look. There are many great music spots, but they’re all over the island.
The Big Island (officially named Hawai’i) is 4,028 square miles, almost 63% of the state’s total land mass. The island is bigger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, and it’s so big that you can put all of the other Hawai’ian Islands inside of it. However, that doesn’t mean that all of the terrains are habitable, or populated.
Since the Big Island is currently not a major destination where visitors come to explore a diverse music scene, the following is a Music Lover’s Guide to finding live music throughout the island’s popular towns.
Part one begins on the west of the island. Starting in Kainaliu, we’ll work our way to the Kohala coast.
The Big Island has four medium-sized theaters for live music; Palace (Hilo), People’s Theatre (Honokaa), Kahilu (Waimea), and the Aloha. The historic Aloha Theatre is eight miles south of Kona in the town of Kainaliu. It has 298 seats and the non-profit mainly focuses on community plays, but does offer the occasional music concert.
Huggo’s on the Rocks opened in 1998, and today this popular tourist destination offers music every night from 6 pm to 10 pm. Be sure to catch rock n’ blues guitarist Tomi Isobe every Thursday night. Check out Gertrude’s Jazz Bar. Despite the name, Gertrude’s is not strictly a jazz music bar. The second-story open-air club, just steps from the ocean, offers comedy, blues, open-mic nights, and even Tango lessons.
Musical Instruments/Lessons/Ticket Outlets
The Kona side of the island has a variety musical instrument stores that also offer lessons and double as ticket outlets for many major concerts on the island. Some of the most popular stores are Music Exchange, Soundwave Music, and Kiernan Music Services in Kainaliu.
One of the best places we’ve caught free live local music, and had a great cup of coffee, was at Daylight Mind Coffee Company (75-5770 Ali`i Drive). There’s a paid parking lot below the Waterfront Row shops where DMCC is located in Kona. Unfortunately, DMCC doesn’t list their music events on their website or social media.
Kona Inn Shopping Village
For the past 30 years, Bosco, The Amazing One-Man Band, as he’s known on the Big Island, has entertained audiences of all ages at the seaside Kona Inn Shopping Village (75-5744 Alii Dr,). In between the boutiques, gift shops, art galleries, Bosco entertains Thursday through Saturday from 7 to 10 pm. Playing a smorgasbord of instruments and tunes. He also has music trivia contests, and offers local fruit and avocados for prizes.
The Kohala Coast
Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows is home to the annual Hawai’i Songwriting Festival. HSF is a celebration of the art & craft of songwriting, with an emphasis on collaboration, education, and music for film/TV. Songwriters of all levels from all walks of life come together to connect with each other and music professionals from Hawai’i, the mainland, and beyond. Whether you are a beginning songwriter or an experienced writer with placements and publishing deals, at the Hawai’i Songwriting Festival you will learn a ton, expand your network, and get your creative batteries charged up!
This year the conference will take place on July 19 and concludes on July 21. More info here: http://www.kauaimusicfestival.com
A popular spot for local music and food at the King’s Shops is A-Bay’s Island Grill. Nearby, be sure to stop by the Lava Lava Beach Club which offers live music right on the beach, and even shows who’s playing on a monthly calendar. https://lavalavabeachclub.com/bigisland/
Stay tuned for part two.