Field Notes: Looking for Love? Here’s Your Chance to Meet Your Match—Fast!

Field Notes explores Honolulu’s vast and varied scenes and subcultures. This month: HISpeedating.
Speed dating
Photos: Brandon Smith


What it is 

In the era of Tinder and, HISpeedating is a way for singles to meet their potentials in person. Matchmaker of eight years Nancy Do says it can also help you avoid the disappointment of talking to someone online for a while only to discover there’s no spark when you finally meet. “When you meet and sit down with someone, you already know within the first two minutes if you’re attracted to them,” Do says. “At least you don’t have to go years thinking this person is the one and then, when you meet them, you’re just not interested at all. Meeting and having face-to-face conversation is important.”


How it works

Skeptics and romantics alike, between the ages of 20 and 30, get a chance to meet their soul mate (or, at least, their next first date) on the third Thursday of every month out on the patio at Bar 35 in downtown Honolulu. Registration is simple—you go to, fill out a short form that asks what you’re looking for in a relationship and spend $30 for a drink, some pizza and, oh, yeah, the opportunity to meet 10 possible matches for seven minutes each (versus potentially spending $100 on drinks at a bar and only chatting up your Uber driver at the end of the night).

  Speed dating couple


Check-in begins at 7:40 p.m. and the event officially begins at 8, with casual mingling before the actual speed dating starts. And then the fun begins. The speed-daters get seven minutes to make a lasting first impression. Each of the 10 men and women are given a “connection card” at check-in to keep track of their dates and whether they would like to see them again. If both parties hit it off, Do will email them after the event to exchange their contact information. From then, their romantic fate is in their hands.


What to expect

Single rose

The first thing you need to know about speed dating, according to Do, is that it’s not what you see on TV. “People are like, what is that? Is that from Hitch and The 40-Year-Old Virgin? In those movies, it’s kind of lame—it made people look kind of weird. People tell me they’ve never expected this. All the bouncers at Bar 35 are like ‘OMG, these people are single? Everyone is nice looking.’”


While movies and TV shows can make speed dating seem awkward, staged and almost clinical, the atmosphere at Bar 35, thanks to Do’s eye for romance, is private and intimate: dim lighting, candles and roses on every table and music loud enough that it encourages the couples to lean in.


Who attends

“I would say younger business professionals with a 9-to-5 job who don’t get to meet anyone outside of their job,” says Do. “A lot of the people who come are really shy, and this is perfect for them because it helps them converse. And you feel for them because they really are a nice person, but people won’t give them a chance.”


The success rate

“I know for sure one couple that’s engaged and two or three that are dating. I know more than half of them go on their second date,” says Do.


Matchmaker’s Tips

  • Don’t be shy—just have fun. 

  • Make sure to register early—spots typically sell out to the first 20 people who sign up about a month in advance, with people waiting on standby. 

  • Although there’s no dress code, dress like you’re going on your first date and you want to make a good first impression. 

  • Come without having any expectations. Just enjoy the event because things happen when you least expect them to.

  • Don’t judge right away. At speed dating, you have to give everyone a chance.


The Daters

Speed dater Sasha

Sasha Santiago, 31

mortuary specialist, Kailua, repeat attendee

“I’ve tried Plenty of Fish, OKCupid,, Christian Mingle, meeting through friends, meeting through family, and I thought this would be better—actually conversing. I definitely prefer meeting in person.”


  Speed dater Ethan

Ethan Harris, 26

defense contractor, Waikīkī, second time

“I use the normal dating apps, like your Tinders and your Bumbles. I like real-life stuff because it’s more fun. It’s more spontaneous.”




  Speed dater Branden

Branden Herring, 25

Pearl City, first time

“I’m a bouncer in the industry, as well, so I never really get time to go out and do anything besides work.”






Interested? Visit to learn more and to sign up for the next meetup.