Aeroacoustic problems are often multi-scale and a zonal refinement technique is thus desirable to reduce computational effort while preserving low dissipation and low dispersion errors from the numerical scheme. For that purpose, the multi-size-mesh multi-time-step algorithm of Tam and Kurbatskii [AIAA Journal, 2000, 38(8), p. 1331–1339] allows changes by a factor of two between adjacent blocks, accompanied by a doubling in the time step. This local time stepping avoids wasting calculation time, which would result from imposing a unique time step dictated by the smallest grid size for explicit time marching. In the present study, the multi-size-mesh multi-time-step method is extended to general curvilinear grids by using a suitable coordinate transformation and by performing the necessary interpolations directly in the physical space due to multidimensional interpolations combining order constraints and optimization in the wave number space. A particular attention is paid to the properties of the Adams–Bashforth schemes used for time marching. The optimization of the coefficients by minimizing an error in the wave number space rather than satisfying a formal order is shown to be inefficient for Adams–Bashforth schemes. The accuracy of the extended multi-size-mesh multi-time-step algorithm is first demonstrated for acoustic propagation on a sinusoidal grid and for a computation of laminar trailing edge noise. In the latter test-case, the mesh doubling is close to the airfoil and the vortical structures are crossing the doubling interface without affecting the quality of the radiated field. The applicability of the algorithm in three dimensions is eventually demonstrated by computing tonal noise from a moderate Reynolds number flow over an airfoil. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.