Live Music in Kona

Our favorite spots for live music, dancing, and karaoke in Kona, Hawaii

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In Kona we sleep to the sounds of surf, but there’s more to listen to than the ocean on any given night. Here are a few of our favorite venues for live music and dancing in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. From classy jazz joints to open mics and karaoke, Kona has some good stuff to offer music lovers. Hey, we may be a cute little beach town, but we do know how to party, OK?


Gertrude’s Jazz Bar

75-5699 Ali’i Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

Overlooking the pier with a beautiful sunset view, Gertrude’s Jazz Bar is a favorite among locals and visitors who enjoy good music, food, and drink. Their website has a full calendar of special and nightly events. Wednesday is open mic night and Thursday’s Latin Jazz night is fun for dancing. They have a full bar and serve dinner, with some good stuff on the menu like New York Steak served with sweet potato fries, Grandma’s meatballs, tasty bruschetta and more. They have a creative cocktail menu featuring craft cocktails like the Kona Nightingale, made with Tito’s Vodka, Cock ‘n Bull Ginger Beer and fresh squeezed orange and lime. Gertrudes has the look and feel of a city jazz club, which makes it one of a kind in Kona. Follow them on Facebook.

BONUS SIDE NOTE - A great general resource for finding information on live music and special events is the Kona Town Today and Tonight Facebook Group, which has over 5 K members.


Sunset Terrace

78-6842 Ali’i Dr, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

This tucked away poolside bar located in the Kona Coast Resort in Keauhou is has some good live music. They usually have something going down Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. They are a bit informal and don’t have a website, but their Facebook page is updated regularly. Music generally gets started around sunset time, hence the name. They are big on local brews, offering beers and ciders from Kona Brewing Co, Maui Brewing Co, Big Island Brewhaus, and Ola Brew. They also serve up some interesting tropical cocktails like Dr. Frankenstein’s Vacation, made with coconut rum, pineapple, coconut mint, and passion fruit -  basically the deliciously fruity love child of a mojito and a piña colada.


Huggos on the Rocks

75-5824 Kahakai Road Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

Located right on the water with tables and chairs in the sand, this quirky little bar and restaurant - complete with a thatched roof - offers nightly live music and hula. It’s a good place to catch Hawaiian style music while sipping a classic tiki cocktail. Don’t forget your Aloha shirt! Rock bands and other musical styles play here too, just check the entertainment schedule on their website. They have a daily happy hour from 3 - 5 pm and serve lunch and dinner with a mixture of local style and American food. Try the Kalua Pork Nachos. Follow them on Facebook for updates and events.


Lavernes Sports Bar

75-5819 Ali’i Dr Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

Your friendly neighborhood sports bar, Lavernes is a go-to spot for visiting bands. DJs crank out some decent sets for dancing on the weekends, too. Charmingly tacky decor, pool tables, big TVs and beefy security guards are all part of the ambiance. It’s popular with locals for a drink after work, to catch a game, or to dance your butt off into the wee hours. They do offer a full menu of standard bar fare, serving breakfast lunch and dinner. Follow them on Facebook for more information on upcoming events, shows, and DJs.

Kona Brew Pub

74-5612 Pawai Place Kailua Kona, HI 96740

Kona’s own brewery hosts bands every week usually over the weekend. You can find this month’s line up on the bottom of their ‘visit us’ page, scroll down and click the link at the bottom for events, it’s a bit hidden. A rotating selection of yummy beers are on tap, brewed right on site and go great with their pizzas. Their outdoor patio has room for a little dancing. They offer ‘stoked hour’ specials on beers and slices Monday - Friday, 3 - 5pm.

Kona My Bar

74-5606 Luhia St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

Located in Kona’s Old Industrial area, Kona My Bar is LGBT friendly and tucked away from touristy Ali’i Drive. This is a great spot for dancing with DJs usually on the weekends. There is karaoke Sunday nights at 8 pm. Follow them on Facebook for upcoming special events like fun themed costume parties and holiday parties. They have a back deck for smoking and pool tables inside too.


If karaoke is your thing check out Sam’s Hideaway, at 75-5729 Ali’i Dr. This is a locals joint with a crowd that skews a bit older. Sam’s has a low key, mellow vibe and feels a bit like a time capsule, in a good way. Regulars with some serious pipes will surprise you. Another spot for karaoke and some good eats - including fresh oysters on the half shell - is Sunflower Bar and Grill at 75-5626 Kuakini Hwy in the King Kam Mall.


Finally, check out Big Island Music Academy. A music school for kids ages 10 and up, they have concerts several times a year at various locations. The students put on an amazing show. Classical music nerds, check out the Chamber Orchestra of Kona and the Kamuela Philharmonic.


Have a favorite spot for live music in Kona we missed? We’d love to hear from you.

Get Buzzed, Kona Style

The Best Coffee Shops in Kailua-Kona, HI

 Do you think about coffee a latte? Latte from Kona Coffee and Tea.

Do you think about coffee a latte? Latte from Kona Coffee and Tea.

In Kona, coffee is king. Introduced back when mule-drawn carts and horses were still the primary mode of transport in the 19th century, Kona families have farmed and made a living from coffee for over 200 years on the slopes of Hualalai volcano. Relatively new on the scene is the coffee shop. Here are a few of our favorite coffee shops in Kona, Hawaii to catch a buzz, talk story, and sample some of that infamous Kona coffee. Plus, which spots have the best small kine eats and free wifi. Are you jonesing yet?

Kona Coffee and Tea

74-5588 Palani Road Kailua-Kona, Hawaii  96740

This farm to cup coffee shop is truly a Kona community hub. They grow, mill and roast their own coffee on their farm above town on the slopes of Hualalai volcano. They offer a superb cup of Kona coffee, tea, and also serve locally brewed beer, wine, and Kombucha. A small selection of breakfast items and snacks are available. Free wifi, cute dogs, and a myriad of cool workshops and events like “make your own macramé plant hanger” or “paint and sip” nights make them a popular spot all day long. Grab a pound of their beautifully packaged whole bean coffee to take home with you. Hours are 6 am - 6:30 pm daily.

Tea-licious

75-159 Lunapule Rd, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

This place is a cute little spot off the beaten path. The owner and her staff are very friendly and always seem to be pulling some fresh, hot fluffy pastry out of the oven. Get your order “for here” and eat and sip from mad hatter style tea china. Their food menu is excellent and unconventional, serving freshly baked baguette sandwiches, German style breakfast, and a daily selection of house-made pastries for your sweet tooth. Their assortment of teas, as well as clever iced drinks is extensive, and the coffee is good too. Note: they do not have wifi. Their cozy, communal vibe is more geared towards good conversation or curling up with a book. Hours are 6 am -4 pm, closed Sundays.

Green Flash Coffee

75-6000 Ali'i Drive

Named for Kona’s elusive ‘green flash’ that the can be glimpsed at sunset, this little coffee shop is a favorite among locals. Their coffee comes from Buddha’s Cup Coffee - the highest elevation coffee farm in Kona. If you’re in the mood for something different, try their iced dirty chai latte - it’s amazing! They also cook up a delicious offering of hearty ‘on-the-go’ breakfast bagels, grilled paninis, plus a decadent croque monsieur sandwich. Yummy local fruit smoothies like the ‘Long Paddle’ with banana, blueberries, peanut butter, hemp protein, and milk and the ‘Green Flash’ with papaya, pineapple, mango, mint, spinach, and apple juice are refreshing and creative. They do have free wifi available but only for 30 minutes, and you must sign in as a guest. Hours are 6:30 am - 2 pm on Ali’i Drive.

Coffee Lounge

Hualalai Center 75-170 Hualalai Rd. Kailua Kona, Hi 96740

If you like your coffee with a crispy, delicious waffle…topped with whip cream…for only $5, then this is your spot! This place has a great little menu that’s a hipster’s delight with pretty, tasty things like avocado toast, yogurt parfait with berries, açaí  bowls, and a hearty reuben sandwich. They serve Kona coffee and a full espresso bar. This is a great place to come and get work done on your computer. They have free wifi, several outlets to plug in, and plenty of table space. Cafe hours are Monday - Friday : 7 am-4 pm Saturdays  7 am-1 pm. Closed Sundays.

Kayas

79-7300 Mamalahoa Hwy, Kealakekua, HI 96750

Kona’s ‘mauka’ coffee shop with a sweet local farmer hippy vibe. This place kind of feels like your living room, with big cozy couches and a laid back, family friendly atmosphere. Yummy coffee and some pretty delicious gluten-free organic eats, including house-made to-die-for quiche. Kayas makes a perfect pit stop if you are road tripping south to Kealakekua Bay or Two-Step for snorkeling. Check out their eclectic selection of locally made crafts and interesting arty-things that make great souvenirs. They do offer free wifi. Cafe hours are 6 am - 6 pm.

Are you buzzing yet? If not, you better get out there and get caffeinated! One of the little known facts about Kona coffee is that it’s generally milder and contains slightly less caffeine than other varieties - so we’re giving you permission to indulge in that second, or third cup. Enjoy.

Best Places to Eat in Kona, Hawaii on a Budget

Grind Like a Local at These Ono Yet Affordable Eateries

 Sushi - best eaten by the sea. Hayashi’s ‘Ninja Star Roll’.

Sushi - best eaten by the sea. Hayashi’s ‘Ninja Star Roll’.

Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food.
— Anthony Bourdain

One of our favorite parts of traveling is the food. Forget about the snazzy tourist traps with overpriced, mediocre renditions of your hometown fare. It’s time to duck into that side alley and eat where the locals eat. Delicious, cheap, and worth the lunchtime line. Here’s our guide to the best places to eat in Kona on a budget, and get a belly-full of Hawaii’s eclectic local food culture.

1. Hayashi’s “You Make the Roll” Sushi

75-5725 Alii Dr Ste D101 Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

Welcome to sushi, Hawaiian style. Massive rolls packed full of the good stuff, including locally caught fish like Ahi tuna, fresh papaya and avocado, and creative renditions like teriyaki chicken with cream cheese. Their rolls are impressively filling, with eight pieces and start at $6.45 and $5.25 for vegetarian and vegan options. Try their Ninja Star Roll, made with Ahi tuna, avocado and tempura shrimp. Hayashi’s is insanely popular with locals. The best strategy is to put in your order, then go grab a coffee or walk around Ali’i drive while you wait - which can be as long as 45 mins some days. They have a small outdoor seating area. Hours are 11 am - 6 pm Monday through Friday, 11 am - 3:45 pm Saturdays, closed Sundays and holidays.

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2. Broke da Mouth Grindz

74-5565 Luhia St Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

“Broke da Mouth”, a local figure of speech for being incredibly delicious is aptly named. This spot, known for Filipino and Hawaiian style ‘plate lunch’ fare was featured on the TV show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives in 2018. Try their pork adobo fries - a side that eats like a meal - crispy french fries, topped with slow-cooked to-die-for pork adobo, creamy aioli sauce and green onions. Other favorites are their kalbi ribs and sweet and savory garlic furikake fried chicken. Sides start at $5.50, and combo plates at $11.99. This is the kind of food you need a nap after eating. Counter service with dine-in seating available, or take out. Hours are Monday - Saturday 11 am - 3:30 pm and 5 pm - 8:30 pm.

3. Island Naturals Market and Deli

74-5487 Kaiwi Street, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

A Mecca meeting place for health nuts, hippies, and everyone in between. While grocery shopping here is expensive, the hot bar and salad bar can make a quick, cheap eat if you’re savvy when it comes to food by weight - about $8 per pound. We like to load up on lighter salad items, then pick a few choice morsels from the heavier hot bar like veggie lasagna, bbq chicken, or seitan beef and vegetable stir-fry. The menu changes daily. A local secret - the hot bar goes on sale for 50% off at 6:30 pm Monday - Saturday and at 5:30 pm Sundays. Hours are Monday - Saturday 7:30 am - 8 pm, Sundays 9 am - 7 pm.

4. El Maguey  

74-5563 Kaiwi St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

An authentic, reasonably priced Mexican spot with big portions, free chips and salsa, and a good selection of bottled beers for under $4. Beware dainty-mouthed diners, the salsa is spicy! Large combination plates served with rice and beans range from $9.50 to $13, and their ala carte menu has tacos for $2.50, and enchiladas and tamales for $3. In case you need some, they also sell their house made chorizo by the pound. Sit down table service or take out is available. Hours are 11 am - 3:30 pm and 5 - 8 pm Monday - Thursday and 11 am - 3:30 pm and 5 - 9 pm Fridays - Saturday.

5. Big Island Grill

75-5702 Kuakini Hwy Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96740-1717

This is a great place for breakfast. They serve lunch and dinner also, but in our book, breakfast here is king - for good prices, giant portions, and hot, bottomless cups of coffee. If you’re up for a challenge, try their super loco moco - a Hawaiian staple of elephantine size. Also delicious is their griddle combo - a fluffy Belgian waffle or pancakes, two eggs, and choice of breakfast meat. Try the Portuguese sausage, another local specialty. Plates start at $8.95. This spot is popular with families on weekends, but the wait is usually never longer than 15 minutes. Just make sure you get there before the breakfast menu cut-off at 10:45 am! Table service, with take out available by phone. Hours are 7 am to 9 pm.

6. Harbor House

74-425 Kealakehe Pkwy #4 Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

Overlooking Kona’s Honokohau Harbor, this place is an institution for locals and visitors in the know. Famous for their ice-cold schooners of beer, they also serve up simple, filling lunch and dinner fare that’s perfect after a long day on the water. Burgers, fish and chips, fresh fish sandwiches, crispy french fries, salads and homemade chili - everything on the menu is good! Main plates start at $8.95 and pupus at $4.25. Join a motley crew of sailors, tourists in wetsuits and flippers, and locals for a lively pau hana happy hour 3 - 6 pm for $2.95 18 ounce schooners of Coors Light, Bud Light, and Budweiser. Schooners of local Kona brews are $5.25 all day. Bar and restaurant table service or take out is available. Hours are 11 am - 7 pm Monday - Saturday and 11 am - 6 pm on Sundays. They are strict about closing time, so be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before closing to get seated for food service.

Additional nighttime grub spots worth mentioning include Ocean’s Sports Bar off Ali’i Drive in the Coconut Grove Marketplace. Stop by for their Taco Tuesday and Thursdays 4 - 10 pm for $2.50 tacos, TV, pool and loud music. Right around the corner is Get Sum Pizza, where you can get a decent-sized slice of pizza with choose your own toppings for about $4. Hours are 3pm - 10pm, and till 2am on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Well, friends, are you stoked for your next meal in Kona? We are excited for you. Remember, if you’re really down to your last dime, you can always fall back on Hawaii’s ultimate budget snack - the gas station musubi. If Anthony Bourdain was here, he’d most definitely try one.  


Have a favorite place to eat on a budget in Kona? We want to hear about it!