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With its beautiful beaches, epic waves, lush rainforests, and stunning volcanic landscapes, Hawaii is a magical place to visit anytime. But when the sun goes down and the island breeze blows in, Hawaii transforms into a wonderland of nightlife, entertainment, and culture not to be missed.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Enjoy Hawaiian luau shows with tasty food, sway to mesmerizing hula dances, gaze at glittering skies during stargazing tours, party the night away at lively beach bonfires, bars and clubs, embark on bioluminescent kayak tours to see glowing waters, and much more after dark in this island paradise.

In this extensive guide to evening entertainment, culture and adventure in Hawaii, you’ll discover 15 amazing things to do from snorkeling with manta rays at night to world class shopping, dining and entertainment.

Watch a Traditional Luau Show

One of the most popular evening activities for visitors in Hawaii is attending a luau, a traditional Hawaiian feast and celebration. Luaus feature expansive buffet spreads with native Hawaiian dishes like kalua pork, poke, lomi salmon, haupia (coconut pudding), and mai tais, along with traditional Polynesian entertainment like hula dancing and fire knife dancing.

Most major resorts in Hawaii offer luau packages for their guests that include transportation, admission, and the buffet. The larger commercial luaus, like the Old Lahaina Luau on Maui and Paradise Cove on Oahu, can accommodate hundreds of attendees in an open-air setting.

These luaus give you a sampler of Hawaiian food and entertainment, but some travelers feel they can be a bit touristy.

For a more authentic luau experience, seek out smaller venues where the focus is more on honoring Hawaiian culture and traditions. These family-run luaus often cap attendance at 100-200 to maintain intimacy.

On Oahu, Chief’s Luau and the Ha: Breath of Life Luau at Sea Life Park offer excellent local entertainment and cuisine in a Polynesian village setting. On Maui, Old Lahaina Luau and Feast at Lele both get top reviews for food, entertainment and overall atmosphere.

Key Features of a Luau

Here are some of the signature features you can experience at a Hawaiian luau:

  • Imu ceremony – The cooking of the kalua pig in an underground oven or imu is a time-honored Hawaiian tradition. At many luaus, you can watch staff open up the imu and remove the smoky, tender pork right before the feast.
  • Buffet spread – Luau buffets offer a wide variety of traditional Hawaiian fare like lomi lomi salmon, poke bowls, chicken long rice, squash, sweet potatoes, and poi in addition to the kalua pig.
  • Hula dancing – Graceful hula dances usually open and close the Polynesian entertainment. Solo artists and groups in colorful costumes perform ancient and modern hula styles to chants and traditional instruments.
  • Fire knife dance – A thrilling fire knife dance often serves as the climax of the show. Dancers twirl and toss lit knives to showcase incredible skill and bravery.

You’ll also commonly see performances of other Polynesian dance styles like the Maori haka, Samoan slap dance, and Tahitian tamure. Audience participation dances like a hukilau (fishing net pulling) song get everyone involved.

Choosing a Luau

To decide which luau is right for you, consider factors like price, size, atmosphere, and location. Smaller luaus generally offer a more intimate, family-style vibe while larger shows provide more dynamic entertainment. Buffet quality and creativity varies as well.

Plan on spending $100-150/adult for the premium luaus. For a big trip highlight, splurge on VIP options to get the best seats plus extras like welcome drinks, lei greetings, and photo ops.

As one of Hawaii’s most iconic and popular activities, attending a luau allows you to connect with the islands’ rich culture and savor authentic Hawaiian flavors. From the moment you receive a shell lei greeting to the final stirring notes of Hawai’i Aloha, you’ll be immersed in the aloha spirit!

Marvel at Glittering Skies on a Stargazing Tour

One of the most magical experiences in Hawaii is gazing up at the dazzling night sky. Thanks to minimal light pollution and elevation gains, the islands offer some of the best stargazing in the world. Joining a guided astronomy tour allows you to fully appreciate the glittering canvas overhead with help from the experts.

Oahu’s eastern shores offer the darkest skies, though Haleakala Crater on Maui and Mauna Kea on the Big Island reign supreme for astronomy. Numerous companies offer small-group tours to these epic spots, where mind-blowing views of the Milky Way, planets, and even galaxies await.

Knowledgeable guides provide commentary about the night sky through high-powered telescopes while sharing Hawaiian legends and myths about the stars.

Fall Under the Spell of the Milky Way

As one of the most recognizable sights in the night sky, the Milky Way never fails to impress. Hawaiian mythology says it was created when the goddess Hina sprinkled salt into the sky, forming a glowing belt across the heavens.

On a guided stargazing tour, you’ll clearly see countless stars that comprise this galaxy that contains our solar system. Gazing into its cosmic depths is both humbling and profoundly moving.

Spot Iconic Constellations and Planets

In addition to the Milky Way, Hawaii’s pristine night skies allow for exceptional viewing of familiar star patterns and planets. The altitude at volcanoes like Mauna Kea makes it possible to spot elusive Mercury, gleaming Venus, fiery Mars, ringed Saturn, and even distant Uranus and Neptune.

Winter tours reveal striking Orion while summer offers scope views of rare planets and asteroids. Knowledgeable guides eagerly highlight iconic constellations like Cassiopeia and Sagittarius while recounting the mythical tales behind their naming.

Tours often coincide with meteor showers, allowing you to witness dazzling celestial fireworks. But even on non-peak nights, you’ll surely spot several bright streaks blazing overhead. Hawaiians believed these shooting stars were the soul forms of loved ones checking in, making every sighting special.

Expand Your Understanding of Deep-Space Wonders

Hawaii’s ideal conditions also provide glimpses of faint deep-space objects like star clusters, nebulae, and faraway galaxies. High-powered telescopes on stargazing tours reveal spiral and elliptical galaxies millions of lightyears away, many only visible as fuzzy patches.

But you can distinguish colorful emission and reflection nebulae like the Orion Nebula and the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters. As guides explain the origins and science behind these cosmic wonders, you gain a profound appreciation of the vastness and mysteries of our universe.

Under Hawaii’s glittering night skies, even familiar celestial sights become breathtaking. And you’re likely to see things that most people will never witness, no matter where they travel. If you visit Hawaii, be sure to book a stargazing tour for an experience you will never forget.

Party at a Beach Bonfire, Bar or Club

Hawaii is known for its vibrant nightlife scene, with plenty of options for evening entertainment. From beach bonfires to lively bars and clubs, there are many amazing ways to experience Hawaii after dark.

Relax at a Beach Bonfire

One of the most iconic Hawaii night activities is enjoying a bonfire on the beach. Several popular beaches like Waikiki allow small bonfires that let you roast marshmallows or hot dogs as you take in the peaceful sounds of the waves. It’s a great way to unwind at the end of the day.

Sip Tropical Drinks at a Beachfront Bar

Hawaii has no shortage of beach bars perfect for watching the sunset with a fruity cocktail in hand. Popular options like Duke’s in Waikiki, Huggo’s in Kona, and Kimo’s in Lahaina offer outstanding views and signature drinks like mai tais, lava flows, and Blue Hawaiians.

Dance the Night Away at a Nightclub

The clubbing scene is big in Hawaii’s major tourist destinations. On Oahu, hot spots like Addiction, Mai Tai Bar, and Sky Waikiki have pulsating dance floors and live DJs that keep the party going late. Many venues host theme nights with drink specials and entertainment.

No matter your taste, Hawaii has diverse nightlife options to experience once the sun goes down. From bonfires on the beach to vibrant bars and clubs, you’ll find plenty of ways to enjoy those warm tropical evenings.

Take in an Enthralling Hula Show

One of the best things to do after sunset in Hawaii is watching a magnificent hula performance. Hula is more than just grass skirts and swaying hips – it’s an integral part of Hawaiian history and culture.

Attending a show allows visitors to truly appreciate this iconic dance and learn about its origins and symbolism.

Most hotels and resorts offer hula shows several times per week, often with either dinner or drinks included. These performances highlight talented dancers and musicians honing their lifelong craft. Marvel as the performers use their hands, arms, legs, feet, and facial expressions to convey intricate meaning behind each fluid movement.

Luxuriate in the melodies of Hawaiian music and chanting as you watch scenes from history and nature come alive on stage.

For an exceptionally powerful experience, time your trip with the esteemed Merrie Monarch Festival, an annual hula competition and showcase taking place around Easter in Hilo. The very best hālau (hula schools) from Hawaii and beyond unveil their latest choreography and costumes during three spectacular nights of solo and group performances.

Witness the overflowing pride, passion, and Polynesian heritage on full display.

Most entertaining lū‘au dinner shows incorporate hula dancing as well. While the food and ambience are delightful, the highlight is often the expressive storytelling through movement. Marvel at the athleticism exhibited during the men’s section as they artfully handle weaponry and implements.

When making lū‘au reservations, inquire as to whether authentic kahiko (ancient) hula or modern hula ‘auana will be featured.

Captivating hula and chant preservations occur regularly at Hawaiian cultural centers and universities, such as the Hawaii Museum of Contemporary Art, Bishop Museum, and University of Hawaii Maui College. Call ahead to ask about upcoming cultural events and hands-on workshops open to visitors.

These gatherings emanate an intimate, back-to-roots character showcasing hula in its purest form.

No stay in the Aloha State is complete without watching Hawaii’s hallmark dance live. Whether witnessing a rehearsal along beachfront walkways or an expertly choreographed spectacle in an open-air amphitheater, observing the hypnotic art of hula connects visitors to Hawaii on a deeper level.

Time spent with these talented performers creates an unforgettable evening under the stars.

Embark on an Exhilarating Bioluminescent Kayak Tour

One of the most magical experiences you can have in Hawaii is embarking on a bioluminescent kayak tour at night. Several companies along the Kona and Kohala Coasts of the Big Island offer these breathtaking excursions that allow you to witness the natural phenomenon of bioluminescence firsthand.

See the Ocean Glow with Fluorescent Plankton

Bioluminescence refers to the ability of certain marine organisms like plankton to produce their own light through a chemical reaction. When stirred or disturbed, they emit a bright blue glow that illuminates the surrounding waters.

Kayaking through these glowing waters is an unforgettable experience that makes you feel like you’re gliding through a magical hidden world.

Choosing the Right Kayak Tour Operator

Several companies like Kayak Akau and Adventures in Paradise offer specialized night kayaking tours to see the bioluminescence. Choosing the right operator is key for having the best experience possible. Consider factors like:

  • Use of high-quality translucent kayaks designed specifically for bioluminescent tours
  • Small group sizes and personalized service from knowledgeable guides
  • Tours launching from calm, protected areas with higher concentrations of bioluminescent plankton

The best companies follow responsible eco-tourism practices to protect this fragile phenomenon while sharing it with others.

Magical Nighttime Paddling Under the Stars

After getting outfitted with all necessary gear and receiving safety instructions, your guide will lead you to launch your kayak into the perfectly calm waters. As soon as your paddle dips below the surface, you’ll see aqua blue specks of light swirling around it.

Every paddle stroke and slight movement of the kayak causes extraordinary glowing patterns all around you. Overhead, the stars and moon provide the perfect natural backdrop.

Average Water Temperature 75-80°F
Average Tour Duration 1.5-2 hours
Best Time to Go Noctiluca blooms occur on 20-22 nights per calendar year, most frequently between April and October

As you silently glide through this magical seascape, your guide will share more about the mysterious world of bioluminescent plankton. You’ll learn what makes them glow and why nights with more glow tend to follow big storms or full moons.

If you’re lucky, you may even witness streaks of light shooting through the water as larger fish swim by!

An Unforgettable Natural Light Show

Kayaking amid the ethereal blue glow of Hawaii’s bioluminescent waters is an experience that exceeds expectations. As you become a part of this dazzling nocturnal world exclusive to only certain tropical seas, you’ll make memories to last a lifetime.

It’s an excursion not-to-be-missed for anyone visiting the Aloha State.


From fiery Hawaiian luau shows to magical bioluminescent kayaking under starlit skies, Hawaii comes alive after dark with amazing cultural entertainment, beach parties, epic stargazing and adventure.

With so many incredible things to do once the sun goes down across the islands, you’ll never run out of memorable evening activities during your Hawaiian vacation.

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