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Singles Dating in Honolulu

We step into the often thrilling, sometimes taxing world of dating in Honolulu. Here are tales from the frontlines of the singles world—whether you’re 26 or 88, straight or gay, looking for love, or just looking—in Honolulu now.


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photo: thinkstock

You Like Go Beach?

Some dates are so casual, you can’t even tell you’re on one.

Sarah Kahanu*, 26, defines Honolulu’s singles scene as fun, but casual. “It’s more like, ‘Let’s go to the beach and maybe we’ll eat something after.’ Or, ‘Let’s go hang out,’” she explains, sometimes leaving you wondering whether it’s actually a date. “And, nowadays, people don’t even call. People just text you or even e-mail, which seems so weak.”


Kahanu, a UH student, isn’t necessarily looking for love, and says she feels she can’t find the type of guy she’s looking for in Hawaii. “There’s always the local guy who speaks pidgin, but pidgin is unattractive because it makes you sound uneducated. I want someone who is educated and well put together and has their own source of income so I’m not footing the bill.” In the meantime, she goes out with her friends to bars such as Pearl, RumFire and Rumours (yes, that Rumours).


She’s not about to fill out an OK Cupid or Match profile, though. “I’m really scared to do online dating, because I don’t know if I would already know them, or they’re related to me, either a cousin or second cousin,” says Kahanu. “I just wouldn’t want to do that [living] here.”


Elvira Garber, 30, feels differently. “You would think that living on an island you would see nothing but the same people, but, because it’s a place where people come and go so much, I feel like there’s a lot to choose from,” she says. “But, I’m hesitant to even get involved with anyone because it feels like everyone’s here just temporarily.”


A business student at the University of Phoenix, Garber married young, has a young son and daughter and has been divorced for three years. She’s originally from Santa Cruz, Calif., where she says the men have “Peter Pan syndrome,” meaning they never want to grow up. She is currently looking, but doesn’t want to date other single parents.


“I don’t go to the playgrounds on weekends, because that’s where all the single dads are. You get attacked,” she says with a laugh, adding that she avoids the Aikahi playground in Kailua for that reason. “It’s hard enough to introduce another adult to your children, but to introduce an adult and a kid—it seems more challenging. Relationships are already hard and messy.”


While she doesn’t like getting hit on while she’s playing with her children, Garber says she does find that “people are really friendly here compared to other places.” Because of that, she has no problem approaching a guy who catches her eye. Once at the beach she saw a cute guy trying to a snap a photo of himself and his friend. “There was opportunity to talk, so I took it,” she says, smiling.


photo: thinkstock

Forty-Two and Still Saving Himself

John Ling* is a unique Honolulu single. At 42 years old he is a virgin, and chooses to remain one for religious reasons. “If God wanted me to be with someone, then he would present that opportunity,” he says. Ling works in the entertainment industry, and hopes to find someone who is both Christian, and within his line of work, mainly because he works 19-hour days. But, given his requirements, he hasn’t yet found anyone.


Church is obviously a great way to meet fellow Christians, but, says Ling, he’s found it to be more beneficial for younger believers. “[Churches] have youth groups for teenagers,” says Ling, adding that they have groups for those in college, too. “But, once you pass that, it’s mostly prayer meetings and bible studies,” which he says he does not have time for; he says his best bet is in the workplace. 


Ling’s first—and only—relationship blossomed with a woman he met in a Hollywood office at the Warner Bros. studio more than 14 years ago. They both began attending bible study together on the lot. However, business took them to different places and it didn’t work out.


Ling hopes to meet another virgin, but understands most Christians his age will have had sexual experiences. “I definitely feel like I’m missing something for sure. But, I think the main thing is that I live a life that’s pleasing to God.”


Dating in Honolulu: Then and Now

What was honolulu’s dating scene like in the 1930s? Not much different from 2012, says Craig Ono, who is 97. When he was 20, he says he would go with friends to bars in town and around Waikiki. He would often take his dates to the beach. The casual dating style he saw then, still persists today for singles in their 20s, he says.


Frances Yee, 88, remembers the same. “I did a lot of picnicking and potluck and swimming in the water. I met my husband at Hanauma Bay. We were at the beach and he singled me out,” she says. “And, in the olden days after the war, they had these mattresses that you would swoosh in the water and put air in it. And, it becomes a big, single-bed mattress, like a big balloon, that you then surf on.”


But it wasn’t all surf and sun. Yee remembers the nightclubs she’d frequent in the 1940s, such as the Queen’s Surf. “It was a dinner-dance and it would be outside under the stars with a live band ... You would go there with a guy, but he’s not going to dance all the dances with you,” she explains. “He’ll dance the first, middle and last dance with you. So, in between, these fellows will ask you to sign up with them [using cards]. The men asked the women. The women did not ask the men.”


Race was a big deal in 1947. “I’m Japanese and my husband was Chinese. In the Chinese culture, there are a lot of different ethnic groups and his parents wanted to make sure that he was marrying a hakau woman. It’s a very small group of Chinese,” says Yee, adding, that, in the end, it all worked out. 


The ’70s brought more clubs—discos—to Honolulu, some of which remain today. “There were discos like The Point After at the Hyatt. And there was a tiki bar in the International Marketplace and the other place was Rumours. Those are the places we’d go to,” says Betty Tanaka, 62, remembering her favorite nightlife haunts.




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