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Mai Tai's in Waikiki???
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Jun 17, 2002
Posts: 7709
Posted: 2012-10-22 1:42 pm   Permalink

Super wonderful photos. We haven't been there in 7 years and need to go. Wendy

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Rum Balls
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Joined: Oct 04, 2004
Posts: 901
From: Da Big Island
Posted: 2012-10-23 05:57 am   Permalink

Thank you for documenting your exhaustive research!

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 18, 2010
Posts: 8288
From: Las Vegas
Posted: 2012-10-24 6:48 pm   Permalink

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2720
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2012-10-28 7:06 pm   Permalink


On 2012-06-08 19:12, Careless Navigator wrote:
We are just about to head back to Waikiki for our fifth visit. Boy have l pondered the Waikiki Mai Tai quest over the years and l have to agree with most of what has been previously written here. Maybe l could add my summary.
First of all l have this theory that there is an extra ingredient in a Mai Tai that can make it good or bad and that is location. The most average Mai Tai can taste better than it is in a great bar or for that matter watching the sun go down on Waikiki Beach. Everyone is right, it's not easy to find a great Mai Tai in Waikiki but you will have some of your most memorable Mai Tai drinking experiences there. I hate busy vacation destinations but l love Waikiki...go figure.
So here goes my top ten.
1. The Chart House Guy Tai... good value, taste, location, great bar staff and old world charm. l believe it's the only independently run Chart House and it is owned by legendary surfer Joey Cabell.
2. House Without a Key. Not cheap but great taste and location. If you are into the romance of days past, have a Mai Tai under the Banyan tree listening to the Hawaiian band as the sun goes down.
3. La Mariana. Technically not Waikiki but all great Mai Tai crawls start there in the afternoon. Ok drinks but boy oh boy, for everyone who's into Poly Pop this is a spiritual home.
4.The Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian. Since they had the make-over a couple of years back they have added several Mai Tai's to the menu (Why? l really don't know). Pricey, but great career bar staff and the history of the place are hard to beat.
5. Dukes, noisy and busy with a mid-priced solid tourist Mai Tai. It's a party in that joint all the time.
6. Wailana Coffee House Cocktail Bar. I don't think this has been mentioned here before. This is a great find if you are short of cash. It is on the side of the entrance to the Wailana Coffee House and opens at midday. It's a local hang out. The Mai Tai is sweet but ok. Best part is they are $3.50 all day and most of the ingredients have Tader Vic on the label. Also great bamboo interior.
7. Top of Waikiki revolving restaurant. This place changes all the time (no pun intended)but their Mai Tai was created by a Barman who worked at Don's in Las Vegas. Can be inconsistent but make the effort to go up there, fantastic view from the bar.
8. Jimmy Buffett's At The Beachcomber. Yes l know this is a controversial choice considering Jimmy's the enemy BUT they have a Mai Tai called something like "Vic's Original". It's not cheep but if you hit the place at happy hour it's affordable. Enough said.
9. Princess Kaiulani. The bar by the pool has an almost typical bar by the pool Mai Tai. It tastes a little different to others along the strip and the barman told me thet it is based on a Don's Mai Tai. Tastes like it's got grapefruit in it to me, But What do l know.
10. Its a toss up between the Moana Surfrider and Tiki's. The Surfriders Mai Tai should be better because of it's history ( it's older than the Royal Hawaiian) but you can sit around the bar and pretend you are watching Wembley Edwards doing "Hawaii Calls". Tiki's is not my favorite place. The Bar staff always seem to have something better to do than serve you. Prices are Ok and most of the time they have mugs.
There you go, l hope it wasn't too rambling.
Also you should check out The Hideaway Bar (great dive bar) Nashville Waikiki (coz it's such a feakin' stupid idea) and the Mai Tai Bar above Ala Moana Centre (decent Mai Tai when you need a break from shopping and they have cool t shirts)

Look no further than this post when it comes to Mai Tais in Waikiki. This is the most accurate and comprehensive listing I've seen.

Careless Navigator, you nailed it. Good job !!

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Grand Member (5 years)  

Joined: May 09, 2012
Posts: 1860
From: San Diego
Posted: 2013-02-25 6:40 pm   Permalink

Yes, on my second Mai Tai adventure in Waikiki, I agree that House Without a Key has the best Mai Tai in town!

House Without a Key Mai Tai
We got there at 9:10 pm and they close at 9:30. They were very accommodating and let us sit and chill as long as we wanted. We didn't want them to have to stay late so we just drank the one and left. They offered to make us another, which was very nice of them. The setting was also very nice. As we were walking out of the restaurant we noticed a dress code sign. I don't think we fit it, but they treated us kindly regardless.

Tiki's Grill & Bar
Tiki's still has some good Mai Tai's and I have to give them props as well. It was closing time and I asked for 2 Mai Tais. I said we could just bring them to our room since we were staying at the hotel. He had already started to clean up everything so I said don't worry about it. He told us to stop and he made them for us anyway. It was very nice of him to do and we appreciated it.

La Mariana Mai Tai
I love this place. The drinks are decent but the atmosphere is amazing! Also I like the food a lot! The Reuben sandwich is super. I get one every time I am there. It was a bit busier than the last time we were there, I guess due to the Hawaii 5-0 episode that featured their restaurant.

Sad to say we did not have a good time at Rum Fire. I guess I have to agree with Mo-Eye that you should avoid this place. This was our third visit to this place. Our first time was fun and I tried a bunch of their drinks. They are very expensive and small, but we had fun with the scenery and everything. I did have like 5 or 6 drinks in a couple hours and walked out without a buzz. Last year we tried to go back at 9:30 one night and they said that they were closing and wouldn't serve us. This year at 9:30 we decided to check their website to see how late they were open before we walked the 5 blocks. They were open until 12 midnight. Cool, so we headed over there and got there at 10 pm. The waitress, as we sat down, said that it was last call. I said, "your website said that you are open til midnight?" She said, "this will make the weekend come sooner." And she walked away. This WAS my weekend... I really didn't care too much about her weekend at that point. We got our drinks, my Dragon Fire Cooler tasted like soap and had 3 sips of liquid for $8.50. My wife got the Hawaiian Love Affair that tasted only like 99 bananas and was the same size as mine for $10.50. We watched as the servers were rude to their customers and ignored others. Did I mention that the place was FULL? As we were leaving we heard the hostess say, "I was just surrounded by Chinese people, I should have called security!" I guess their motto is to be rude and charge lots of money for small (not good) drinks. No need for customer service or regular hours, they just need new tourists to rip off every day.

We didn't make it to the Chart House, but we will have to next time. Had a couple at the Royal Hawaiian, but I didn't take a picture. I liked them, but they were not my favorite.

We went to Arnolds quite a few times too. This place reminds us of home. It is not a tiki bar, but it is totally decked out in tiki decorations. It is just a dive bar though, which we like. They do have Mai Tai's, but they are nothing special. But it is one of our favorite places to hang out in Waikiki.

[ This Message was edited by: lunavideogames 2013-02-25 19:02 ]

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Joined: Jan 19, 2013
Posts: 8
From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Posted: 2014-04-05 9:24 pm   Permalink

This thread, along with Chuck and Don's Waikiki Mai Tai reviews at http://www.foundationbar.com/Mai-Tai_reviews.html were helpful to me during my visit to Waikiki last week. I wanted to throw my experience in as well for a quick Mai Tai in Waikiki primer - sorry, no pictures - just the straight goods. I am ranking from best to worst:

1 (BEST) - Royal Hawaiian Hotel - $12 - its pretty tough to beat this view of Diamond Head in the late afternoon and walking through the RH is the perfect appetizer to an excellent Mai Tai. In this case, you get what you pay for.

2 - Moose McGillycuddy's - $4.00 at Happy Hour - I was pretty surprised by this but the Moose delivered the goods. I hit this joint every time I am in Waikiki; there is so much cool stuff to gaze at on the walls. We visited this place on a Tuesday and it happened to be Taco Night; they were excellent and we received a 2 for 1 breakfast coupon with our check. Beauty.

3 - Chuck's Cellar - $4.75 at Happy Hour - like so many have said, this place feels like an old Rat Pack hang-out; somewhere you would expect to see Jack Lord at the salad bar grabbing some warm bread from the oven (nice touch). Cool live music starts at 6 every night. I also tried their Blue Hawaii, it was not great, but I should not have had high expectations for that drink.

4 - Nashville's - $2.50 at Happy Hour - speaking of expectations, I had zero when I walked down into this basement country bar on Kuhio in the middle of the day. The young girl behind the bar was making her first Mai Tai (it must have been her first shift) under the close supervision of her manager, who kept encouraging her to pour more dark rum as the float (I was not going to object). This bar is the farthest thing from tiki but I have to admit I enjoyed this drink - it was certainly the best for value I had during my trip.

5 - Alaska Airlines flight into HNL - free inflight service- I admit I loved this touch after a 7 hour flight. I am ranking only the taste (it was the Trader Vic's Mai Tai), not the gesture as it was well received by all who indulged. As far as ready-to-go mixes go, I think this is as good as it gets; if only I had an airline bottle of dark rum to float on the top I would have been set free. Nice work, AA (Alaska Airlines, not Alcoholics Anonymous).

6 - Princess Kauilani - $10 at poolside - I was not staying here but grabbed one to escape the heat during some shopping. I have to admit I totally disagree with Don and Chuck on this one; while they favoured the lemonade taste of this drink, I found it offensive. It tasted nothing like a Mai Tai - it more closely resembled a Lynchburg Lemonade out of the can. No fun. At all. I admit this could have been the worst on this list, any maybe it should be, given its price.

7 - (WORST) Jimmy Buffett's at Beachcomber - $5 at Happy Hour - I admit I liked the set up of this place, and maybe I was just frustrated at the slow service since I snuck away for a solitary 20 minutes from my family in the hopes of a quick one. But while the first taste was OK, by the time it hit the back of my tongue, my body was sending a signal to my brain begging me to stop abusing it with this chemical-tasting solution. I'm not trying to be a hater of the pre-mix (certainly Nashville's used a pre-mix, and even the barmaid at Chuck's Cellar admitted that they pre-mix some of the ingredients, including the orgeat) but this tasted a bit like standard kitchen cleaner. Maybe a bit worse.

From what I recall, all of the above were served with pineapple/cherry and an umbrella, except of course for Nashville's and AA. I received no mint or flower with any drink.

While I did make it to House Without a Key at Halekulani, I went with a seasonal tropical Mojito (it was very good). I also went with the Tropical Itch at Duke's (mainly because it was served with a backscratcher, it did not disappoint.) Sadly, I did not make it to La Mariana.

Of course it's a total burn that International Market Place is no longer there; at least Duke's Lane still rocks. I loved Waikiki; I had given up on it the last time I was there about 12 years ago and was pleasantly surprised this go-around. I feel like there is still a market for those who enjoy old-school Hawaiiana; just about every dinner we ate was top notch, with great Happy Hour specials.

On another unrelated note - Oahu has a cool TB channel caled MeTV which serves up only vintage programming. Every day at noon it broadcasts Jack Lord era H-50, which was the perfect lunch entertainment prior to hitting the bars and beach (OK, the bars).

[ This Message was edited by: robbie_silver 2014-04-05 21:25 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 03, 2011
Posts: 1325
From: NJ
Posted: 2014-04-19 6:01 pm   Permalink

Robbie -


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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 15, 2012
Posts: 517
From: Orange County, CA
Posted: 2015-02-11 3:18 pm   Permalink

House Without a Key at the Halekulani still got it. Had four mai tai's there this past weekend/week and they were among the best tasting of the various ones sampled in Waikiki. Pricey? Yes. Would I have four more? Yes!

At $14 each with no happy hour special, it was easily the most expensive drink I bought the entire 5 days I was there (except for one in a hollowed out pineapple somewhere else), but excellence doesn't usually come cheap.

Nicely balanced, nicely garnished (sorry you can't see the sugar cane swizzle it comes with), attentive service, and a heck of a good view for sunset. Get there early before the crowds and enjoy a couple!


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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 18, 2010
Posts: 8288
From: Las Vegas
Posted: 2016-08-27 4:43 pm   Permalink

July 2016
All in the name of research

Worst sound ever, slurp of an empty tiki mug through my straw!!!

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Tonga Trader
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Joined: Jan 23, 2006
Posts: 125
From: Chicago
Posted: 2016-08-27 9:38 pm   Permalink

Thank you for your diligent documentation. It looks like Royal Hawaiian switched up their offerings since we were there last year. We loved it when we first went 12 or so years ago. Haven't been that happy with the rehab and the last couple menus.


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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 18, 2010
Posts: 8288
From: Las Vegas
Posted: 2016-08-28 3:18 pm   Permalink

The new foam-topped Mai-Tais Rock...

Started making the foam myself
It's awesome....

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 15, 2012
Posts: 517
From: Orange County, CA
Posted: 2016-08-29 08:04 am   Permalink

hang10, love it. One of my favorite kinds of "research"! What was your assessment of them, or at least the top few (and the bottom?)



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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 18, 2010
Posts: 8288
From: Las Vegas
Posted: 2016-08-29 8:23 pm   Permalink

The two new foam topped versions from the Royal Hawaiian were my favorite

House without a use to be great
But my last 2 trips to Oahu
No so good

Ilikai Guava Tai
Good for a change of pace

Charthouse Guy Tai good

Sarentos good

La Mariana ok (but who cares) it's my favorite Tiki bar

Da rest 1/5

[ This Message was edited by: hang10tiki 2016-08-29 20:31 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 20, 2006
Posts: 1009
Posted: 2018-08-26 8:15 pm   Permalink

Sadly, the end is near for the Wailana Coffee house & bar.


HONOLULU (KHON2) - After 48 years, Wailana Coffee House will close its doors on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018.

Co-owner Kenton Tom tells KHON2 that the decision wasn't easy.

"After 48 years, the family has decided to close the restaurant because it faces very extensive renovations to be made to be competitive," Tom said.

He says the new renovations would cost about $1 million.

He explains that the family still owns the land, and "has decided to look at other options for the property."

The 24-hour Waikiki diner employs about 100 people.

"It's a very sad, sad moment." Tom said. "We've had employees that have worked 30-plus years for us and they've helped make the restaurant so successful."

As for their reaction?

"Complete silence—that was their reaction. Very sad, we're sad for them too but they're working through it," Tom added.

Addy Rechirei has been working at Wailana for 12 years.

"(I was) shocked, sad—I'm still shocked," she said.

"Twelve years, they're my family," she said as she began to tear up.

A Wailana regular was sad to hear the news.

"I saw it on Instagram that it was closing, I was really hoping it was fake news but it was real, and it's really sad. It's such a shame that it's closing," Tommy Garibaldi said.

The popular restaurant has been a favorite for tourists too.

"I had a phone call from California and a customer called and said he couldn't believe it and asked if we could stay open longer for him since he's coming back at end of the year," Tom said.

The history of Wailana Coffee House dates back to the late 1940s.

Kenton explains that his father first opened a concession stand at Honolulu Zoo in 1947.

He then bought the land where Wailana Coffee House sits today.

"He (my dad) bought this area about 1951, everyone thought he was crazy," Tom said laughing.

"There was no Hilton Hawaiian Village, no Ala Moana Boulevard, just a coral road. But he bought the land and he built the drive-in, Kapiolani Drive-Inn, he had car hop service—it was very popular at that time. Then in the late 60s, he got together with Bruce Stark and they developed Wailana Condominium and this restaurant."

Kenton Tom says when his father passed away 15 years ago, he and his siblings—Malcom and Joanna, became the owners.

The diner also featured a bar and karaoke at night. Regulars say they loved coming in for all-you-can-eat pancakes at 2 a.m.

Rechirei and Tom say they will miss all their regulars, "they're a part of our family, a part of us," they said.

Once the news broke of the closure, Tom said he didn't know how much of an impact the diner had on people over the last five decades.

"We've had lots of phone calls allday, I was very, very surprised. I didn't think people would notice that much."

The co-owner says they will be offering a kamaaina discount during its last week.



Wailana Coffee House, the iconic 24-hour family diner in Waikiki, will close at the end of next month.

An on-duty manager confirmed the news but declined to cite a reason pending an official statement from the restaurant’s owners.

Wailana Coffee House, which employs about 100 people, is owned and operated by founder Francis Tom’s three children Kenton Tom, Malcolm Tom and Joanna Leong.

The restaurant started as a concession at the Honolulu Zoo in 1947. In 1949, Francis Tom and wife Mary re-established it as Kapiolani Drive Inn at the corner of Ala Moana Boulevard and Ena Road. Known simply as KDI, the 24-hour restaurant had a dining counter, carhop service and enough parking for 100 cars. Its large sign featuring a hula dancer and an ukulele player was one of the most recognizable sights in Waikiki.

When business began flagging, Francis Tom rebranded the business again as a family diner, based on his observation of similar businesses popular on the mainland. Wailana Coffee House, and the adjoining 24-story Wailana at Waikiki condominium complex, opened in 1969.

In the decades since, the restaurant has proven an enduring favorite of locals and visitors alike for its out-of-time charm and low-frills mix of standard diner fare and local favorites like oxtail soup, kalbi and beef stew. Its eggs Benedict has been much celebrated, as has its humble meatloaf.

Often the clientele was determined by the time of day, with tourist families arriving early for breakfast, local regulars coming for dinner and staying for an evening of karaoke in the bar, and bleary-eyed club hoppers (and the occasional time-zone refugee) staggering in for a quick bite in the pre-dawn hours.

In its heyday, the coffee house served as a late-night stop for Don Ho and other big-name Waikiki entertainers.

And just as the old Kapiolani Drive Inn served as a location in an episode of the original “Hawaii Five-0,” Wailana Coffee House has appeared twice in the CBS reboot: first in the 2012 “Hawaii Five-0” episode “I Helu Pu” and again in 2016 for the episode “Malama ka Poe,” in which lead character Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) rhapsodizes about “the best pancakes on the island, hands down.”

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 18, 2010
Posts: 8288
From: Las Vegas
Posted: 2018-09-02 7:46 pm   Permalink

Was always fun to stop in for a quick drink when the bar would open
Not to mention the am macadamia nut pancakes

[ This Message was edited by: hang10tiki 2018-09-02 20:00 ]

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