Hawaii adds its island charm to a gay anniversary, writes Ricardo Simich.
This year gay capitals around the world have been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, widely considered to be the moment that sparked the gay liberation movement, uniting the modern global fight for LGBTQ rights.
Pride parades have already taken place in New York, Los Angeles, London, Manchester, Paris, Sydney and more, but the fun isn't over — in October, Honolulu Pride in Hawaii will add its tropical flavour and friendly hospitality to the 50th celebrations.
The parade itself takes place on Saturday, October 19, starting at Magic Island, part of the Ala Moana Beach Park. Over the course of the morning, it will weave its way along the iconic Kalakaua Avenue through the heart of Waikiki, ending at the Festival Celebration at Diamond Head Greens.
It's a vibrant, fun, colourful, inclusive event, with a wonderful atmosphere. The natural, friendly nature of the locals rubs off onto the many international visitors.
Having experienced Honolulu Pride 2018, here are my top tips to enjoying the festival for yourself this year ...
Make it an 8-day sun-filled party
Fly out to Hawaii the weekend before and take your pick of the many destinations available throughout the friendly islands. Get your tan Pride ready, relax and prepare yourself for the weekend to come.
Arrive in Honolulu on the Thursday prior to the Parade...
This will give you a chance to make new friends ahead of the festivities. No matter where you stay in Honolulu, you will pick up on the rainbow vibe, whether it is the classic hotels on the ocean or the boutique hotels a few streets back.
The pink palace of the Pacific, The Royal Hawaiian, is a fitting place to stay. Situated on the beach, it is one of Honolulu's oldest hotels and is filled with old-world charm and glamour. The oceanfront Mai Tai Bar is an ideal setting to enjoy the Waikiki scene, before heading out.
Also on the beach is the Sheraton Waikiki. It's on the luxury end of the price scale — like The Royal Hawaiian — and also offers an oceanfront bar. Both hotels will give you easy access to watch the parade on Kalakaua Avenue.
If you want a hotel that allows you to hop straight into the party vibe, both the Surfjack and the Modern Honolulu will deliver. Both have a poolside scene that is cool day and night, with some of Honolulu's best gay bars close by.
For your first night out ...
Head to Chinatown for an array of great food spots for all budgets, as well as Honolulu's best gay nightclub, Scarlet. The drag shows are world class and you will meet people slowly getting Pride-ready until the early hours of the morning.
Back near Waikiki is Bacchus on Lewers St. Dubbed Honolulu's friendliest neighbourhood gay bar, its small size makes for a friendly atmosphere.
The In Between Bar on Lau'ula Street calls itself the friendliest gay bar in Waikiki, and Wang Chung's Karaoke Bar on Koa Ave in the lobby of The Stay hotel has become world-famous for its gay hospitality.
One place that is an absolute must for anyone in Honolulu for Pride is Hula's Bar and Lei Stand on Kapahulu Ave in the Waikiki Grand Hotel. Located at the Diamond Head end of the beach, it has a view of the mountain as well as those famous golden sands. You want to get to know the bar people here before Pride day, as this is the first place that revellers go to after the Honolulu Pride Parade party at Diamond Head Greens.
It's the perfect place to watch the sun go down on the outside decks. Inside, a four-sided bar is there for chatting, playing pool, people-watching or dancing. Last year their float was a favourite in the parade.
It's Saturday, it's Pride Day — go enjoy and just be you
My first suggestion is to check out the Hawaii LGBT Legacy Foundation website — there are great maps to download, so you can find the best place to watch the Parade ... or why not register to be a part of it yourself? The website also has useful information on the after-party.
The Honolulu Pride Parade starts at 11am, so have a mimosa at any of the international hotel bars at 10am and then find your spot on Kalakaua Avenue and enjoy — it is a most scenic parade with fabulous colour, love and energy.
By 1pm, be ready to party at the Festival Celebration at Diamond Head Greens. The parade heads up the green's zig zag path, with live entertainment waiting at the end.
This year they are expanding the festival onto the lawn facing the Waikiki Shell, with a new area just for kids and families. From there, the after-parties will continue all over Honolulu into the early hours of Sunday.
Your last pride stop on Sunday ...
Your last pride stop on Sunday could be a return to Hula's - they open at 10am for a Pride Recovery Party - or go and get wet at one of the many pool parties at hotels around town. If you've still got the energy, go all out at the Hawaii LGBT Legacy Foundation SPLASH Water Park party at Wet N Wild Water Park in Kapolei.
Air New Zealand flies direct from Auckland to Honolulu. airnz.co.nz