Tahiti Nui – Hanalei, Kauai, HI


Tahiti Nui Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge in Hanalei has the distinction of being, to my knowledge, the only tiki bar on the North Shore of Kauai. (Although, that’s about to change with the opening of Tiki Iniki in Princeville… Sounds like I need to book another trip!)


Tahiti Nui was opened in 1964 by Louise and Bruce T. Marston, who met in Tahiti while Bruce was serving in the U.S. Air Force. A native of the French Polynesian island Tubuai, “Auntie Louise” could trace her lineage back to Tahitian royalty. Their son, Christian, now owns “da Nui.”


Patrons can choose to sit outside on the shaded lanai or inside where the space is divided between tables and the bar. (Check out those tiki bar stools!) Colorful round lights, reminiscent of fish floats, give off a nice glow and the walls are covered with lauhala matting, tapa cloth and bamboo, plus many photographs of the founding matriarch.


Tahiti Nui has long been a popular local spot, but it has recently gained lots of tourist attention when it appeared in the movie “The Descendants” along with other Kauai filming locations like the St. Regis Princeville and Hanalei Bay.


It’s featured in the scene where George Clooney’s character meets up at a bar with one of his cousins (played by Beau Bridges). If you want to follow in his silver fox footsteps, snag a seat at the bar behind the beer taps or head to the corner of the dining room with this black-and-white-photo of Louise above, which is where his character went to join his daughters for lunch.


The restaurant hosts a luau on Wednesday nights ($75 for adults) in a separate building with food, musicians, hula dancers and free Mai Tais for the first hour. The Mai Tai ($7.50) is pretty much the only tiki drink the Tahiti Nui serves — it’s made from their 50-year-old recipe with pineapple juice, rum and a dash of guava, lilikoi and other tropical fruits.


My dining companions hadn’t been expecting much from the food, judging by the humble surroundings. But everyone was pleasantly surprised, particularly by the macadamia nut- and panko-crusted ono with coconut-lime sauce.


Another great dish was the ginger, garlic and cilantro baby back ribs. The meat was tender and fell off the bone, and the thick sauce had a little kick to it.


The pizzas listed on the menu are prepared at neighboring Tiki Man Pizza. We were warned that since our orders were going to two different kitchens that our food would not arrive together. The pies were the last to make it to the table, but they were definitely worth the wait — the toppings were fresh and flavorful, and the buttery crust put it over the top. It was difficult to decide which to get, so I was glad to hear they could do half and half. Our server said a popular choice was the #3 Huli Huli Chicken with red onions and cilantro, and it was much better than your average barbecue chicken pizza. I was also crazy about the combination of pineapple and kalua pork on #5 Da Hui.


Traditional Hawaiian music is usually performed during dinner every night starting at 6:30, and then around 9 p.m. the kitchen closes, the lights are turned way down, and local bands take the small stage to play classic rock.


I had wanted to buy one of the Tahiti Nui tank tops ($20) they have tacked up on the wall, but at the time they only had the men’s style black t-shirts (the kind the servers wear). They said they’d be getting more in a day or two, but that hadn’t happened by the end of the week when we left Kauai. Chalk it up to “island time,” I guess.


There are other restaurants on Kauai that play up the tropical setting, like Keoki’s and Duke’s, but Tahiti Nui truly offers the experience of a cozy tiki bar, and with good food and drinks, too. If you have more time in Hanalei, be sure to check out Havaiki Oceanic & Tribal Art.

Tahiti Nui
5-5134 Kuhio Hwy.
Hanalei, Kauai, HI 96714

Related Posts:
Havaiki Oceanic & Tribal Art, Hanalei
Aloha from Hanalei, Ching Young Village Shops, Hanalei
Tiki Carver at the Westin Princeville, Kauai

Tahiti Nui Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Havaiki Oceanic & Tribal Art – Hanalei, HI


In Hawaii, where cheap souvenir tikis can be found everywhere, Havaiki is a diamond in the rough. This Hanalei gallery, named after the legendary homeland of Polynesians, specializes in traditional art from the Oceania region and points beyond.


In 2002, Jim Punter and his wife, Vicki, left their home on the Virgin Islands and for five years sailed around the South Pacific, buying and trading for art directly with villagers. Their goal was to open a gallery on Kauai, which is overseen by Dylan Thomas, a native of South Africa who was first mate on that epic voyage. He’s a delight to talk with (especially with that accent!) and a wealth of information about the collection.


Some visitors compare browsing in the store to like being in a museum. I especially like the little room decorated like a hut with a bamboo and thatch entrance.


A wide array of items are for sale, including carved tikis of various sizes, war clubs, shields, masks, paddles, walking sticks and tapa cloth, plus handcrafted jewelry. They also have an online store and a Facebook page where they post photos of the latest acquisitions.


Dylan continues to make trips to the South Pacific to stock up on artifacts, but a growing part of the gallery’s wares come from local artists in Hawaii. In fact I’m quite sure that these tikis were made by the carver I saw over at the Westin Princeville.


A lot of work and care has been put into curating the selection, which is something to account for when looking at the prices. There are some budget buys among the big-ticket items, though.


If you find the island weather too humid and your shorts too constricting, you can purchase your own koteka, hand-woven from natural fibers by the Asmat people in Papua New Guinea. Just tie one of these “penis gourds” around your waist and you’re ready to go…or you could just display it in your house.


One of my favorite pieces was this modern reproduction of a Dayak Kliau (shield) from East Kalimantan, Borneo. The description says it would have been used against blowpipe attacks and the “curvilinear designs convey fierceness and preservation of vital energies.”


Havaiki Oceanic & Tribal Art is located among the stores in the Hanalei Center, conveniently just down the street from the Tahiti Nui tiki bar. The shop is not immediately visible from the highway — it’s in a cottage-like building behind Bubba’s Burgers. You should see a couple tikis mounted on tall poles signaling you’re headed in the right direction.


Havaiki Oceanic & Tribal Art
5-5161 Kuhio Hwy. (Hanalei Center)
Hanalei, Kauai, HI 96714

Related Posts:
Aloha from Hanalei, Ching Young Village Shops, Hanalei
Tiki Carver at the Westin Princeville, Kauai
Tahiti Nui Tiki Bar, Hanalei

Giveaway – Win a 1961 Hawaiian Islanders XL T-shirt!

Hello, loyal Tiki Chick readers! It is the famed(?) Mr. Baseball here. I’m excited to be guest blogging for the lovely Tiki Chick. Why would she turn over a blog to someone who doesn’t even know the ingredients of a simple Mai Tai — there’s rum in there, right? Simple: I have a gift for you! No, it’s not a limited edition Tiki Farm mug or even a Bamboo Ben shelf (look at me, talkin’ the talk!). You see, I enjoy classic baseball history — and not just because my team hasn’t won anything since 1908. I wear old-school stirrups when I play ball and wear vintage logos and designs when out in public. Catch me at the next tiki event that my lady drags — uh, I mean “brings” me to and you’ll probably see me checking box scores on my phone while wearing my 1914 Cubs hat.

Long story short, I ordered a 1961 Hawaiian Islanders t-shirt to go along with my collection.


It’s not only an awesome logo for a forgotten minor league affiliate, but also somewhat tiki related! (The Tiki Chick says it’s Hawaiiana.) Unfortunately for me, I ordered the wrong size. It’s an XL, which due to my oddly small framed, yet 6’2 body, t-shirt Large and XL sizes sometimes run too big or too small. This one runs big. After a shipping/returns mixup, they told me to keep the shirt. Freakin’ sweet! I then offered it to The Tiki Chick as a prize for one of her readers.

So here’s the contest: Come up with a clever name for a new Hawaiian baseball team.

Or, if creativity isn’t your thing, tell The Tiki Chick that you are big and tall and that you would like the XL Hawaiian Islanders shirt. If you’re lucky, I’ll even throw in a baseball card of me, Mr. Baseball, in action! It captures what I do best: Struggling through a Cubs fantasy camp while trying to relive my glorious athletic youth with a bad shoulder and poor eating habits. Collect all…one!

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment and we will choose the winner randomly after Tuesday, September 4. (Readers that submit Hawaiian baseball team names will be assigned an extra entry in the giveaway for incentive.)

Good Luck and Mahalo!

NOTE: If you love baseball too, check out other vintage shirts, uniforms and various other throwbacks at http://www.ebbets.com. Those people are amazing at what they do, and they have a ton of cool stuff.