Tag Archives: beaches

The Hukilau

If you are researching cocktail culture in the ’50s and ’60s (as one is want to do) it’s hard not to stumble upon the music of Les Baxter. His exotic orchestrations were synonymous with post World War II escapism and the formation of “Tiki” bars such as Don the Beachcomber. Tiki bars flourished throughout the United States in the ’60s, but by the time we had the opportunity to see a real tiki bar, most businesses had collapsed or had been watered down into bad Polynesian restaurants.

Today, a true tiki bar is a rare find. A bad Chinese restaurant does not make for a tiki bar. True tiki bars are pure works of fiction. They were designed by Hollywood set designers as idyllic retreats for affluent business men. Mystery and adventure are the alluring qualities of a tiki bar. Food and drink are only used to add interactive experiences in a richly intriguing environment.

The fact that there are social groups dedicated to carrying on tiki culture is… well, we didn’t know what.

Back in June The Hukilau afforded us a long weekend in Ft. Lauderdale. Worst case, we spend a few days drinking Planter’s Punch and swimming in the ocean. It turned out to be much more.

The Hukilau centers around music: Surf Punk, Popular Exotica, Rockabilly, Hawaiian, Latin Jazz. Don’t ask why these things go together. Just accept that they are the genres of a heavily tattooed group of people who like fruity drinks and dressing as if it were 1962. Add in burlesque and mermaid shows and you’ve got yourselves some real entertainment.

We are still not sure what to make of it. Many people attending are in the business of tiki. They either run bars, or they dream of running a bar. The rest compose a diverse group. Attendees came from all over. Most from the US, but several from Europe and Canada. Most had been to a tiki “meet up” before, but it was never made clear to us how they got started. Likewise, we confused people by telling them we were novices.

The event centers around one of the oldest living tiki bars, the Mai-Kai. Just being in the building was a treat. It is layered with 60 years of embellishment. Lit just bright enough for you to find the straw in your Zombie, it is the epitome of mysterious tiki goodness.

While in Ft. Lauderdale we, of course, did swim in the ocean. We also visited the soon-to-be-displaced International Swimming Hall of Fame (who knew?), took a cruise of the inland water ways, and took in several tiki-related presentations.

Overall, this was a pretty impressive affair. There were seven bands including one from Japan and one from Belgium, some of the tiki-decor discussion  panelists were from the UK, and there were several dozen vendors selling everything from shoes to dried puffer fish lamps. But will we do it again? Hard to say, but it is worth going if you have the chance.

Your time is valuable! Choose seeing The Hukilau in 2 minutes or in 4 minutes:

And because The Left Arm of Buddha were so good, here are five more videos:

Hawaiian Vacation: Maui

Our first hotel on Maui was the Hotel Wailea in the recently developed town of Wailea. Redundant statements aside, Wailea is home to the largest resorts on the island. The Hotel Wailea being the notable exception. It sits on a hill high above the ocean and the other hotels, providing shuttle service to the water and just enough tiki torches to provide atmosphere without competing with the big resorts.

Wailea was our home base for sea kayaking and shopping for tiki in Lahaina. The shopping was more fruitful than the kayaking in that we came home with an authentic koa wood tiki, but kayaked forever only to see whales that we could have seen from shore. We also took a drive to Haleakala National Park to view the extinct volcano from above the cloud line. Truly spectacular.

It’s worth noting that Maui has much better beaches than on Hawaii. The Big Island suffers from all-to-recent volcanic activity and does not benefit from Maui’s life experience in being pummeled by the waves long enough to soften its sand into a soft bed. We took advantage of Hotel Wailea’s allotment of chairs and umbrellas near the big resorts, but later opted for roughing it on towels to enjoy the scenic state park beaches.

It was at Makena State Park that we were asked by a group of locals to take their picture in a moment of reverse tourism. They were enjoying a beach picnic held monthly to celebrate their common roots: They were transplants from Massachusetts.

We also stayed at the Inn at Mama’s Fish House, just outside the hippie-centric town of Paia. The Inn provides very nice bungalows next to the ocean and right next door to one of the best restaurants on the island. Paia is the last point of civilization before starting down the Road to Hana, an all day trip driving through rainforest, past waterfalls, and over one lane bridges. The Road to Hana is also a plentiful source for banana bread (with roadside signs every couple of miles) and medicinal marijuana.

Maui had some fantastic places to eat including Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, the only restaurant or tiki bar on the island that had an authentic Polynesian feel – which is to say that it met our tourist expectations for a restaurant in Hawaii. Plus, you have to love the name.

On to part 4 >>