Perhaps because Hawaii is one of the world's great melting pots, where people of many races and beliefs live in relative harmony with each other and nature, Hawaii is amazingly open and welcome to gay and lesbian visitors.
While gay and lesbian travelers will likely encounter few difficulties in visiting the islands and will find many places and areas where they can meet other and socialize, it is important to recognize that a large number of Hawaii's people have Asian roots where cultures may be less accepting of alternative lifestyles.
By far the best resource available for gay and lesbian travelers to Hawaii is the Rainbow Handbook Hawai'i by Matthew Link. The book is indeed "The Islands' Ultimate Gay Guide" with 226 pages filled with valuable information and tips for gay and lesbian visitors. The book's initial chapters include basic essential information as well as a brief history of homosexuality in the culture and history of Hawaii and Hawaii's Polynesian ancestors.
These chapters are followed by chapters devoted to each of the Hawaiian Islands chock full of specific tips on places to stay and eat as well as the places where gays and lesbians can enjoy themselves.
While you'll find specific places on each of the islands that are openly welcome to gay and lesbian visitors, there are very few places in paradise that are not open and inclusive. Tourism is the number one industry in Hawaii and almost all places are intent on spreading the Aloha spirit to all visitors.
As Matthew Link pointed out in an excellent Q&A Section on his former website, "Hawaii's gay scene is not as cultivated as its politics would lead you to believe. Just because same-sex marriage almost became legal here, a lot of people think Hawaii's gay world is huge and refined."
"Hawaii's gay community is interesting because it doesn't run like the anonymous gay Mainland cities. Visitors are awfully disappointed if they expect a Homo Mecca like Key West or Palm Springs. I learned that in Hawaii emphasis is placed on the 'ohana, or family, aspects of the gay community. The queer communities are very grassroots. Especially on the outer islands, I found potlucks and beach gatherings and eco activities to be the norm. Hawaii's gay scene is more about camaraderie versus numbers."
Despite the defeat of efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Hawaii, the government of Hawaii is anything but anti-gay. The Reciprocal Beneficiaries Law (Act 383) of 1997 allows any two single adults - including same-sex partners, blood relatives or just friends - to have access to less than 60 spousal rights on the state level.
The hub of gay and lesbian activity in Hawaii continues to be Waikiki on the island of Oahu. For many years the gay center of Waikiki was along a stretch of Kuhio Avenue between Kalaimoko Street and Lewers Street. Hula's Bar and Lei Stand was located here for many years before moving to its new location at 134 Kapahulu Avenue in the second story of the Waikiki Grand Hotel.
While many businesses along Kuhio Avenue have closed in recent years, you'll still find several gay/lesbian bars and clubs.
The two beaches on Oahu which are most often considered gay/lesbian beaches are located nearby, the Queen's Surf Beach on the eastern end of Waikiki near the recently renovated Natatorium War Memorial and Diamond Head Beach at the foot of Oahu's most famous landmark.
Each of the Hawaiian Islands has many things to offer gay and lesbian visitors. Maui has the second largest gay and lesbian community particularly in the Kihei area. Maui also has a popular nude beach, although public nudity is officially outlawed in Hawaii. On Maui you will find numerous gay and lesbian friendly bed and breakfasts as well as many services offering commitment ceremonies.
We have gathered lots of links to useful information for gay and lesbian travelers to Hawaii. Please be sure to check out our Hawaii Gay and Lesbian Travel Guide.