Tiki Time

February 1, 2013 | By Chris Fleck

Exotic cocktails and quirky decor make these unique watering holes worth a visit.

Possibly one the most appropriate words to describe the tiki bar atmosphere—whether in its infancy after WWII or here and now in 2012—is carefree. These bars were created and designed as that off-the-beach, palm-thatched roof oasis where the drinks pour fluidly and mix perfectly with a tropical breeze rising off the shore break.

Lately it seems tiki bars are becoming a fading breed, but not to fret, the Tiki culture still has its following. Although slim, tiki locations in Waikiki are represented in style.

Arnold’s Beach Bar & Grill (339 Saratoga Road, 808-924-6887) is just a short jaunt from Fort DeRussy Beach Park. An open-air dive bar decked with authentic tiki decor, Arnold’s delivers all that a tiki bar can and should offer.

“We get a big mix of people from young, old, hipsters and surfers. Our hot dogs always taste good when you’ve had too much and the popcorn makes you drink more,” says Arnold’s bartender Kim Maxwell.

“Sometimes I feel like we’re the last real tiki bar.”

Aside from their $2 mugs of beer served all day and their signature Mai Tai, Arnold’s offers from-scratch Bloody Marys that are apparently not to be missed. A once rough-around-the-edges watering hole, Arnold’s has since renovated its appearance and crowd tremendously. They are open daily from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. and livin’ up each afternoon with live music from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Wailana Cocktail Lounge (1860 Ala Moana Blvd., 808-955-1764), attached conveniently to their coffee house has more of a secluded atmosphere, but does not lack in its appreciation of old Hawaiiana as carved Tiki statues and surfboards line the walls. The dim lighting and comfortable seating makes it easy to stretch your legs, get comfortable and enjoy a drink or pupu (appetizer)dish.

“People come here specifically for our Mai Tai, I’ve had customers say ours outdoes any at some of the high-end places,” says bartender Curt Sako.

If munchies are on your mind, Wailana has a hearty pupu menu, which includes Chicken Wings ($4.95), Teriyaki Sticks (two for $4.50) and New York Steak served pupu-style ($8.25). Why not impress or embarrass yourself at Wailana as they offer karaoke nightly.

For more of a bustling ambiance inspired by the genuine article, Tiki’s Grill & Bar (2570 Kalakaua Ave., 808-923-8454) on the second floor of the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel is a colorful depiction of the authentic tiki bar. Overlooking Waikiki Beach and the Pacific Ocean beyond, it’s hard to beat a sunset view or instant south shore surf report from Tiki’s Grill & Bar. A full menu is available for lunch and dinner and they have a boatload of signature drinks for you to meander through.

“Our 1944 Mai Tai is a huge success,” says Tiki Grill & Bar manager Sammi Sovde.

This tropical staple drink is a mixture of light rum, dark rum, orange curacao with fresh juice topped with a passion fruit foam, which may have Mai Tai creators Trader Vic and Don the Beach-comber beaming with approval. Additionally, Tiki’s has live music nightly starting at 5 p.m.