Getting the buzz on cafes with free Wi-Fi


POSTED: Friday, February 20, 2009

Want to get connected, but don't want to pay for it?

While surfing at Hawaii's beaches is free, surfing the broadband network, unfortunately, is not. Still, you can wrangle some free Wi-Fi in Honolulu in a number of ways.

Here's the deal. You can get free Wi-Fi at most independently owned cafes across Oahu that provide it as an added service.

So if you're a coffee drinker, the mocha and the Wi-Fi naturally go hand in hand. Some popular spots include Coffee Talk in Kaimuki, Common Groundz in Hawaii Kai and Morning Brew in Kailua.

At Morning Brew, which recently expanded to include a mezzanine, there are extra outlets built along one bank of seats to accommodate Wi-Fi users.

Satura Cakes, which has a shop on Ward and in Waikiki, also offers complimentary Wi-Fi for customers. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf offers one hour free.

You may have to ask for the password - in most cases it is posted next to the cash register.

Starbucks now offers two hours of free Wi-Fi a day via AT&T wireless (where you set up a user name and password). The only catch is you have to have a Starbucks card, and use it at least once a month. This is probably not much of an issue anyway if you're a caffeine junkie who frequents Starbucks regularly.

Though Hawaii has been slow to catch up with the rest of the U.S., there are now two libraries that offer free Wi-Fi. The Kaneohe Public Library recently made it available, while the Salt Lake-Moanalua Public Library has offered free Wi-Fi since last year.

Some restaurants offer free Wi-Fi, among them the Brasserie Du Vin on Bethel Street as well as the E&O Trading Co. at Ward Centre. Enjoy an appetizer and a glass of wine while surfing on your laptop. Try Safeway Kapahulu's food court.

Kokua Wireless, the Honolulu county Wi-Fi project that got launched in Chinatown two years ago, is still up and running. Though spotty at times, you can now catch it in some downtown Honolulu buildings and at the Ala Moana Center food court.

Go to http://www.kokuawireless.org for a map showing where it is up and running.

In the mood for ice cream? Then try getting a scoop at any Haagen-Dazs, which is part of the Kokua Wireless project. Bubbie's at Koko Marina also offers free Wi-Fi, but prefers that you ask first, rather than surf from the parking lot outside. You will need to ask for the password.

Apple stores - at Kahala Mall, Ala Moana and Royal Hawaiian centers - also offer free Wi-Fi, no password required. Go to Apple Demo to hop on.

You can find a free Wi-Fi directory for Hawaii at WiFifreespot.com/ha.html, which offers some neighbor isle spots, though some may be outdated.

While many businesses offer free Wi-Fi as a courtesy, there are still some unwritten rules of etiquette. Be considerate, don't spend hours at a table while buying only one drink, and don't plug your laptop into an extension cord that people could trip over.

Since Wi-Fi is a public wireless connection, never do any banking or online shopping with your credit card.


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