Hookah Lounge in Honolulu

Sampling the hookah outside on the lanai.

Photo: Mike Keany

“There’s a hookah bar in Hawaii?” is often the first question I get when I say that I was at a hookah bar the other night.  Honolulu used to have a few hookah bars before the smoking ban.  Then, once that went into effect, restaurants and bars stopped offering that service, or in some cases, completely folded. 

Not so in the case of the Red Congolese, which opened in June 2008. It uses the exception to the law that tobacco shops are exempt from the smoking ban.  So, don’t expect any food or alcohol being served here, but according to co-owner, Yesus Atcheson, you’re more than welcome to bring your own.  It is this kind of open attitude and superior customer service that is most memorable about my visit to this happening hookah hangout.

The Red Congolese is a small two-story building on Ena Road in Waikiki.  It offers a stylish tobacco shop—with a private cigar lounge—on the first floor and, a hookah lounge on its second floor.  Operations seem to consist of just one person, Atcheson, so you may see a sign on the door to call his cell phone to get inside.  But, don’t be discouraged by this.  I’m pretty sure we called him three to four times in one night trying to find our way there and he never grew impatient.

Looking out over the empty lot and the projection screen.

Photo: Mike Keany



Once you walk through the tobacco shop and up the back stairs, you are given a choice of “inside or outside?”  Outside is the upstairs lanai overlooking an empty lot, but also gives you access to view the “movie night” film being projected onto a large white wall of the building next door.  The night I visited, it was Zoolander followed by Jumper. On the lanai, there are large chairs, couches and a lounge chair with thick, comfortable cushions and many more pillows to throw around.  This was actually a fun and relaxing way to watch a movie.

Inside is a room that could probably fit about 20 people—filled with rugs, pillows and ornate curtains.  As comfortable and appealing as the inside room looks, sitting outside seems to be the preferred spot.

Once seated, Atcheson brings you a hookah for your group to share—each with your own hose—and a menu of flavors to choose from. The cost to smoke shisha is $15 for the first person, and $5 per person thereafter, per two hours—just enough time to watch a full movie.

The Red Congolese
Ena Road, Waikiki
(808) 636-6216
7:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Call ahead, if you’d like to reserve seats and for on-site parking.