Not Just Food at Foodland…Tikis Too!

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While we were staying at the Westin on Kauai, the Foodland in Princeville was our go-to grocery store. Well, it’s really the only game in town, but they get big bonus points for all the different kinds of delicious poke they serve at the deli counter.

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Foodland also stocks products made from Hawaiian companies, including some that feature tikis in their designs, like Hawaiian Eateries Kon-Tiki salsas.

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Meanwhile, the label for Da Kine Hawaiian BBQ Sauce had sort of a tiki-pineapple hybrid. It reminded me of the pineapple jack ‘o lanterns tiki folks carve at Halloween.

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In the souvenir section I stumbled upon this tiny army of probably imported tiki figurines, keychains, bottle openers, frames and mugs. Nothing too notable about them, I was just a bit surprised to see so many.

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Then I turned around and saw these stickers from family-owned, Kauai-based company Tiki Toes. This stylized Ku is just one of their neat tiki designs — you can see several more on their web site.

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And how could you go to Hawaii without buying some chocolate covered macadamia nuts? Might as well pick the Hawaiian Host box with the big tiki on it.

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While not truly tiki, I also liked the Hawaiian-style Hello Kitty stuff they had, this cute coin purse most of all. Aloha, everybody, and Happy Friday!

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A Walk Around the Ruins of the Coco Palms – Kauai

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An abandoned hotel wouldn’t normally be high on my sightseeing list, but the Coco Palms on Kauai was a notable exception. (Sidenote: I do actually find ghost town-type places kind of fascinating, like China’s haunting Wonderland amusement park or the now-demolished Nevada Landing, a riverboat hotel adrift in the desert near Vegas.)

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Behind that chainlink fence and ominous No Trespassing sign is what was once Kauai’s premier resort that played host to Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, who helped make it famous in a little film called “Blue Hawaii” in 1961.

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Through the overgrown trees I could see the lagoon from the romantic scene at the end of the movie where Elvis serenades his wahine with the “Hawaiian Wedding Song” as they float on a double-hulled canoe. (The web site ElvisInHawaii.com has some screen caps of that scene.) But the land’s importance goes back way before “The King” to Kauai’s actual kings — this was their ancestral homeland and the site of burial grounds and other sacred spots.

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So what happened to the Coco Palms? Twenty years ago, Hurricane Iniki hit the island, the hotel suffered damages and it’s been closed ever since. It’s easy to spot as you’re driving along Kuhio Highway in Wailua, north of the airport. Even in its decaying state, there are parts of it that are still captivating. It’s also kind of spooky to see lamps still in in the windows of some of the hotel rooms.

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Plans to build a new resort on the property seem to have fallen through, but Pacific Business News reports that the site has been sold to new investors. It seems inevitable that the original buildings will eventually be torn down, so I’m glad I got to see some of what’s left.

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I only checked out the outside area, but it is possible to get a closer look. Bob and Jerri Jasper, original founders of Hawaii Movie Tours, offer tours of the Coco Palms Monday through Friday at 1:45 p.m. for $20 per person. For more information, call 8-8-346-2048 or visit cocopalmstours.com. And apparently Coco Palms’ longtime entertainer Larry Rivera even coordinates “Blue Hawaii” themed weddings among the ruins.

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Tahiti Nui – Hanalei, Kauai, HI

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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!)

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
808-826-6277

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