HONOLULU | There’s a nostalgic side to Hawaii’s bar scene, one that’s becoming ever harder to find as the years go by. What I’m referring to are Tiki bars, which arguably reached peak popularity in the jet-setting 1960s. Sure, there are lots of sub-par Tiki Bars in Waikiki that’ll happily take your tourist dollars. But an authentic (paradoxically Tiki bars, a Californian phenomenon, are anything but “authentic”) experience isn’t so easy to come by.
For a modern Tiki Bar that gets the blend of old and new just right, there’s the excellent Skull And Crown Trading Co in Chinatown. If you want old school, however, you have head towards the airport and visit La Mariana Sailing Club. Brooklyn-born Annette La Mariana Nahinu, and her Kiwi husband, Johnny, opened the bar in 1955. It moved up the road to its current location in 1975 and was run by Annette until she passed away in 2011.
Walk inside, and it certainly feels like you’ve been transported to another era. A colourful space, definitely divey, with a lot going on. In many ways as well as being it’s own OG bar, it’s also a homage to the great, long gone Tiki Bars of the past. You’ll find décor and paraphernalia from the likes of South Seas, Trader Vic’s, Sheraton’s Kon Tiki, Hawaiian Hut, and Don The Beachcomber dotted across the venue.
For drinks, it’s Tiki classics like Mai Tais and Zombies, and more. All served, of course, in their proper glasses and mugs. For food, it’s a serviceable selection of bar food like ahi spring rolls, calamari with chips, and nachos.
Are there better drinks and food in bars elsewhere in town, for sure. But you come here for the whole package. Where else will you find a place that’s an authentic version of an inherently inauthentic concept, a place that attracts locals and tourists alike, and had a fan in Anthony Bourdain, all while bringing a smile to your face, and a sense that all is right with the world. La Mariana Sailing Club revels in its kitschness, and I’m totally down for it.
La Mariana Sailing Club
50 Sand Island Access Road
Telephone: 808 841 2173
Tue – Sat: 11:00am to 8:00pm