Lihue Airport Tempts Travelers with Tiki T-Shirts

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I encountered so many tiki-related things on our trip to Kauai last summer, but I didn’t expect it to continue with the airport. We had awhile to wait before boarding our flight back to LA, so I browsed the Island Marketplace store.

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Along with the inevitable stacks of chocolate covered macadamia nuts, they also had a few interesting souvenirs, like rooster cookie cutters in honor of the wild chickens that roam the island. Of course, what really caught my eye were the shirts with tikis — and there were surprisingly quite a few.

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My favorite of the styles was probably this one with its stylized tiki, volcano, ferns and flowers in earth tones.

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And on the other hand there was this ugly, clownish tiki-style mask on a shirt with a fake advertisement for Freaky Tiki Dark Lager “erupting with pleasure” and “no sacrifice in taste.” Yeesh.

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Next to a bunch of tiki figurines, I spotted this girly shirt with pink, purple and turquoise Ku tikis. Not really my style though, I must say.

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Anyway, Kauai was completely captivating and I can see why many people call it their favorite of the Hawaiian Islands. Plus, Kauai is about to get even more tiki with April’s opening of Tiki Iniki in Princeville, a new bar with the interior done by Bamboo Ben.

Related Posts:
Tahiti Nui Tiki Bar – Hanalei, HI
Havaiki Oceanic & Tribal Art – Hanalei, HI
Koloa Rum Company Tasting Room – Lihue, HI

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Koloa Rum Company Tasting Room & Gift Shop – Lihue, HI

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On Kauai there are tons of things you can do on vacation, like riding in a doorless helicopter (highly recommended!), ATVing, hiking, kayaking… and free rum tasting!

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In 2009, Koloa Rum Company began bottling their rum and they opened a tasting room and gift shop in Lihue at Kilohana Plantation, a tourist destination that’s home to a railway with vintage trains that tour the farm, Luau Kalamaku, Gaylord’s restaurant and a bunch of boutiques housed in the circa-1936 mansion built by Gaylord Parke Wilcox on his sugar plantation.

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As soon as you arrive you should go inside the gift shop (located in its own plantation-style building) and ask the cashier about signing up for the rum tastings. They are held every half hour but there are a limited number of spots for each one and they can fill up quickly.

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However, the gift shop has plenty of stuff to occupy your time with browsing. It’s decorated with tiki mugs, small fishing floats and colorful local art — all for sale, of course. It’s clear they are masters of merchandising here, putting their company logo on mini bottle magnets, coffee mugs, shot glasses, flasks, hats, visors and severals styles of t-shirts. Koloa also sells a bunch of products that are made with their rums, like soaps, sea salts and buttered rum coffee, plus sister company Kukui’s tropical fruit jams and jellies. A lot of these goodies can also be found in their online store.

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In addition to a few tiki t-shirts, they’ve also designed clothing and shot glasses (with recipes imprinted on them) to correspond to signature cocktails they’ve created, like the “Kukui Mai Tai” with a flaming tiki head, western-themed “Rum Slinger” and “The Rumpress” with a crown and pink and purple to appeal to the ladies.

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At first glance I had thought this was just a regular pirate-y shirt, but then I noticed the intricate details in the design, like the tikis for teeth, mermaids for the nose, and surfers riding waves for the eyes.

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Next to the gift shop is the tasting room, a separate, light-filled space with a long teak bar (where you can spot a small green tiki) and a display with pictures of the distillery in Kalaheo, which used to be an old warehouse that had been damaged by Hurricane Iniki.

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Two shot glasses were doled out to each person at the tasting — one with a bit of their Mai Tai mix. After sipping a little of the white, gold and dark rums from the other glass, we were told to pour the rest into the one with the mix to make a sort of mini Mai Tai. We also tried their spiced rum, which was my favorite of the four.

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The white and dark rums each run about $30, so the Mai Tai Special would seem to get you the mix for free. Obviously it’s no traditional Mai Tai — their recipe calls for orange or pineapple juice — but I could see possibly stopping by here from the airport (it’s just a couple miles away) and picking this up to make easy cocktails at the condo. (Apparently the nearby Costco has good deals on their rum, too.) If you wanted to be even more lazy on your vacation, they also sell a ready-to-drink Hawaiian Mai Tai ($29.95) made with their gold rum.

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At the tasting they also brought out bites of rum cake with macadamia nuts in a (successful) ploy to get folks to buy it ($7.50 for small, $25.50 for large). We opted for the $18.95 combo of a small cake plus the rum fudge sauce, which costs a whopping $15.50 on its own.

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I liked that they had sample bottles (50 ml for $4.95) that were a bit more wallet-friendly (and carry-on friendly), that way I could bring a few home to see how they go with the cocktails I like to make. At least in Southern California, Koloa Rum isn’t too hard to find.

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If your state has less enlightened liquor laws, you can try protecting a bottle in your luggage with one of their rum skins ($2.95). However, it might be more convenient to order onlineMel & Rose apparently ships to all states, while Hi-Time Wine Cellars has good shipping rates for California and Arizona.

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Koloa Rum Company is open every day for tastings starting at 10 a.m. Closing hours vary depending on the day (usually around 3 p.m.) but on Tuesdays and Fridays they stay open later for all the people going to Luau Kalamaku, with the last tasting at 7:30 p.m. and the gift shop open until 9 p.m.

Koloa Rum Company Tasting Room & Gift Shop
Kilohana Plantation
3-2087 Kaumualii Hwy.
Lihue, HI 96766
808-246-8900

Related Posts:
Tahiti Nui Tiki Bar – Hanalei, HI
Havaiki Oceanic & Tribal Art – Hanalei, HI
Keoki’s Paradise – Koloa, HI

Keoki’s Paradise – Koloa, Hi (Kauai)

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While other restaurants in Kauai capitalize on ocean views, Keoki’s Paradise compensates for its shopping village location by making the grounds look like a tropical oasis, starting with the entrance’s tiki torches, rock waterfall, and benches for relaxing while you wait for your table.

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I’d suggest making reservations as this is a popular spot in Poipu, which is on the South Shore of the island where a lot of Kauai’s resorts can be found. (Meanwhile, the North Shore, with “The Descendants” tiki bar Tahiti Nui and the impressive shop Havaiki Oceanic & Tribal Art, is about an hour and change drive.)

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On the right is the Bamboo Bar, which offers a separate, somewhat limited menu but with additional cheaper offerings like sandwiches and fish and chips. There’s also live music and happy hour every day from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. with $5 appetizers, $6 tropical cocktails, and $4 draft beers including options from Kona Brewing Company and Hawai’i Nui Brewing.

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The restaurant has a lovely open-air setting with multiple levels of seating under soaring pavilion ceilings. The best seats in the house are the four-person booths under the thatched huts on the middle level or on the lower lanai where you can look out on the gardens and lagoon.

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Another option if you’d like to save a few bucks — and don’t mind early bird hours — is the Chef’s Sunset Menu (three courses for $20.95) served in the dining room everyday from 4:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

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There are several “Island Traditions” tropical drinks designed to be made quickly for the masses. Their version of the Mai Tai ($8.50) consisted of orange, guava, passionfruit, gold rum, and a dark rum float — slight bonus points for serving it in a happy/sad tiki face glass. (If you want to go all out there’s the Poipu Pina presented in a “locally grown” pineapple.)

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White dinner rolls and pineapple carrot cinnamon muffins are delivered to the table. And since entrées are served with salad (Caesar, spinach with bacon dressing or Kauai greens with lilikoi vinaigrette) we didn’t find much need to order any appetizers.

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If you opt for seafood, you have a few choices of fish (mahi mahi, ono, ahi and opah) prepared in one of four styles: “Keoki’s Style” baked in a garlic, lemon and sweet basil glaze; herb grilled with mango cilantro salsa; Parmesan and herb crusted, sauteed with panko and served with lemon caper beurre blanc (above); and “Firecracker” baked in a spicy Southwestern glaze with black bean avocado relish. Our server had recommended the latter two for our opah ($29.95) and we weren’t disappointed with either.

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The carnivores in our group ordered the Koloa ribs with plum barbecue sauce ($24.95) and the teriyaki top sirloin marinated in shoyu and ginger, served with sour cream and chive mashed potatoes ($24.95).

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Keoki’s Paradise is part of the TS Restaurants group, which also owns Kimo’s and Leilani’s on Maui, and Duke’s in California and Hawaii, so you’ll find their signature Hula Pie on the menu. I decided to drink my dessert instead by getting the Frozen Mai Tai ($8.50). Made with passionfruit, vanilla ice cream, gold rum and a dark rum float, it was good though it strays even further from what Trader Vic intended. Why even call it a Mai Tai at this point?

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Is Keoki’s a tiki bar? No, not really. (There’s bamboo and thatch but no tikis aside from the glassware.) Is it a tourist trap? Yeah, but sometimes that’s part of the fun of going on vacation.

Keoki’s Paradise
Poipu Shopping Village
2360 Kiahuna Plantation Dr.
Koloa, HI 96756
808-742-7534

Related Posts:
Tahiti Nui Tiki Bar, Hanalei
Tiki Carver at the Westin, Princeville
The Ruins of Coco Palms from “Blue Hawaii”

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