Hawaiian Mai Tai Contest Winners and Recap

My Official Mai Tai Number is 34 Mai Tais consumed in the State of Hawaii on my 11 day trip.

We had three correct guesses in the Mai Tai Contest (I should have considered a tiebreaker). Congrats to the winners: @we.shall.tiki, @farbrorfuzz, and @wishiwastraveling84. I’ll be sending out a prize package with coasters, cocktail napkins, and stickers (bummed nobody seems to be giving out swizzle sticks or matchbooks anymore).

You can see the chart with the plot of all the guesses. Thanks again to everyone for playing along.

Top 5:

  1. Maunakea Mai Tai at Skull & Crown Trading Co.
  2. Casa de Christa Mai Tai
  3. Trader Vic’s Mai Tai at Mamahune’s
  4. Deck
  5. Dagger Mai Tai at Skull & Crown

Best Island Style Mai Tai: Tipsy Tiki
Best Bar: Skull & Crown
Best Restaurant: Duke’s Kauai
Best Beach Bar: Mai Tai Bar at Royal Hawaiian
Best Hotel Bar: Mamahune’s
Best Value: Arnold’s $10 Mai Tai
Best Vintage Location: Mai Tai Bar at Royal Hawaiian
Best New (to me) Location: Tiki Iniki

Stats:

Oahu: 19, Kauai: 14, Hawaiian air space: 1
23 different venues, some who served more than one type of Mai Tai, and others where I consumed more than one
1944 Style: 13, Island Style: 15, Original Riffs: 2, RTD: 4

Complete List

1. Aulani (Island style)
2. Monkeypod Mai Tai (Island style)
3. Splash Bar at Sheraton Princess Kaiulani (Island style)
4. Tipsy Tiki (Island style)
5. Tiki’s Grill and Bar (1944 style)
6. Deck (1944 style)
7. Mai Tai’s (1944 style)
8. Dagger Mai Tai at Skull & Crown (Original riff)
9. Maunakea Mai Tai at Skull & Crown (1944 style)
10. Vic’s ’44 at Mai Tai Bar (1944 style)
11. Casa Crista (1944 style)
12. ‘Awa’Awa Mai Tai at Skull & Crown (Original riff)
13. Halekulani (1944 style)
14. Halekulani (1944 style)
15. Trader Vic’s Bottled (RTD)
16. Koloa Bottled (RTD)
17. Arnold’s Beach Bar (Island style)
18. Arnold’s Beach Bar (Island style)
19. Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai (Island style)
20. Hawaiian Airlines / On the Rocks (RTD)
21. Bamboocha Mai Tai at Lava Lava Beach Club (Island style)
22. Hilton Garden (Island style)nn Welcome Mai Tai at Mamahune’s (Island style)
23. Trader Vic’s Mai Tai at Mamahune’s (1944 style)
24. Koloa Tasting Room (RTD)
25. Welcome Mai Tai at Mamahune’s (Island style)
26. Vic’s Top Shelf at Tiki (Island style)nikii (1944 style)
27. Vic’s Top Shelf with Denizen and heavy Orgeat at Tiki (Island style)niki (1944 style)
28. Tahiti Nui (Island style)
29. Welcome Mai Tai at Mamahune’s (Island style)
30. Trader Vic’s Mai Tai at Mamahune’s (1944 style)
31. Kalapika Mai Tai at Duke’s Kauai (Island style)
32. Classic Mai Tai at Oasis at the Beach (1944 style)
33. Welcome Mai Tai at Mamahune’s (Island style)
34. Stinger Ray’s Tiki Bar & Lounge (Island style)

 

Mamahune’s Welcome Mai Tais

Our hotel provided coupons for two free Mai Tais (or a soft drink) at Mamahune’s Tiki Bar each day during our stay, so of course we made sure to put them to good use. The Welcome Mai Tai is an island version, different than the excellent Trader Vic’s Mai Tai that’s on their cocktail menu. Which is totally okay by me and it wasn’t bad at all.

I saw them batching these: two large cans of Pineapple Juice, one bottle of Trader Vic’s Orgeat, one bottle of Sweet & Sour, one bottle of Triple Sec. Pour over ice in a small cup and float with Whaler’s Dark Rum. They say to tip your bartender generously, and one of our free Mai Tais was served in a very large cup by a bartender who recognized us from previous visits.

Mamahune’s is an interesting location. It is definitely attached to the Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay, but does have some signage off the front parking lot and from the county beach parking slightly down the hill from the property. So it can be it’s own destination as well. It is also just steps down from the hotel’s main pool, so serves as a defacto pool bar. The hotel’s lobby restaurant is only open for breakfast and that venue’s bar is not operational the rest of the day, perhaps due to COVID. There is a Ahi Uila Fireshow that includes a buffet on Tuesday nights.

The other cocktails we had at Mamahune’s were pretty good, as was the food. Not really enclosed, and with a large lawn for tables and chairs, Mamahune’s is much more than a typical outdoor “tiki bar.” The covered section of the venue does have some well-done decor by Bamboo Ben, which looks really great a night. There are also bar seats on both sides, and we did see some groups using this as a hangout place. Music is played on some nights, which is a nice component as well. Sadly, the little volcano does not seem to erupt anymore.

Oasis on the Beach’s Classic Mai Tai

This beachfront restaurant was recommended so we snagged a reservation at the tail end of happy hour and carried it over into dinner service. Connected to the Waipouli Beach Resort in Kapa’a, Oasis by the Beach has a farm-to-table edict and a focus on local ingredients.

The Classic Mai Tai features three rums, lime, lilikoi, and house made almond and macadamia nut orgeat. Served with the dark rum as a float (pretty…) our waiter smartly suggested giving it a quick stir. This was an okay Mai Tai, just felt a little thin to me. It played well with my pork wontons with ginger-soy dipping sauce.

Much better were our fresh fish dinner options. I had a seared Ahi on top of Okinawan sweet potato puree that was simply amazing and totally worth the $42. Our service here was excellent, with our waiter suggesting that the fish is recommended to be served with a light sear (“medium rare”) but could be served as we wished. I went with medium well (if you judge me, I don’t care). The waiter also recommended some beer options and overall was extremely welcoming.

Kalapaki Mai Tai at Duke’s Kauai

We had four meals at Duke’s or their sister property Hula Grill on our trip, so it seemed like I should have a Mai Tai at one of them. The Kalapaki Mai Tai features Spiced, Coconut, and Dark rums from local favorites Koloa, along with passion and pineapple juices. This is actually a pretty refreshing riff, with the coconut bringing a hint of flavor rather than dominating. And the passionfruit played well with the coconut and spice elements.

We enjoy our meals at Duke’s, with famed waterfront views and friendly service. We also love Duke’s famous Hula Pie. Duke’s Kauai location at Nawiliwili Bay at the Royal Sonesta/Marriott Resort is quite lovely, and their two-story layout is enhanced by an amazing water feature that runs through the middle of the restaurant. We had two early lunches here on our way to various travels and it was such a great spot for a meal.

Duke’s Hula Pie

Tiki Iniki – Best Tiki Bar on Kauai

Located in upscale Princeville, Tiki Iniki presents the most cohesive tiki bar experience on Kauai. While purists will bemoan the windows and the patio, there are large portions of the restaurant that are quite dark and in the bar where we sat the windows were small and underneath the roofline.

The poke and chicken plates we ordered for lunch were quite good, and the service from host and waiter Todd was exemplary. Tiki Iniki is owned by rock musician Todd Rundgren and his wife Michele, and there’s a great painting of the rocker that puts all other tiki bar owners to shame.

Cocktails were … okay. Based on recommendations I ordered the Vic’s Top Shelf Mai Tai with Martinique and Jamaican Rum. I found it to be quite tart, though it did improve a little after some dilution. I ordered a second just with the Denizen rum and “heavy orgeat” and it was better but still leaning on the tart side (they use Fee Brother’s Orgeat). Mrs. Mai Tai’s Iniki cocktail with citrus, rums, syrups, and Prosecco was better.

There’s a fairly large rum selection here, and decor from Bamboo Ben that impresses. There are some new Tiki Farm mugs that include Tiki Iniki branding and we took one to go, along with a little shot glass and a t-shirt. The restaurant has a bunch of little spaces for tables that include peacock chairs, and well-appointed artwork.

Tahiti Nui

Mrs Mai Tai and I drove up to the north shore of Kauai (see posts under @kevincrossman), and we stopped on the way back in Hanalei for some shopping and a visit to Tahiti Nui. They open at 3:00 for Happy Hour and we arrived about 15 mins early, and there was a growing crowd waiting. Luckily, when they open you can sit immediately if you’re at the bar.

Happy Hour Mai Tais are only $10 and this Island style Mai Tai was pretty good.

Tahiti Nui seems like a fun locals bar that became famous and is overrun by tourists (like us…) yet still conveys many of its original charms. Service was prompt and friendly even amidst the chaos of opening.

Trader Vic’s Mai Tai at Mamahune’s

Mamahune’s is located out back behind the Hilton Garden Inn we’re staying at on Kaui’i. It is an outdoor tiki bar with a good number of covered seats and some tables beyond on the lawn.



The Trader Vic’s Mai Tai is an excellent 1944 made with Appleton 8 and Smith and Cross Jamaican rum. It’s really great (apart from the cubed rather than crushed ice). Served in a cup that can be taken over to the pool or to your room.

There are some nice decorative elements here including a nod to Bob and Leroy from Oceanic Arts. Looks like Tiki Tony’s handiwork and I know Bamboo Ben did most of the heavy lifting putting it in place. Very nice.

Bamboocha Mai Tai at Lava Lava Beach Club

This was a recommendation from @clairekoenig who had it a Lava Lava’s Big Island location. Definitely a much better Mai Tai than their standard Huggo’s Mai Tai and also served in this cool bamboo cup that you can take home. Includes Koloa Light and Dark rums, plus 151 rum and fruit juices. Pretty damn good.

Lava Lava is right on the shore, connected to the Kauai Shores hotel which seems nice.

We had a great time.

Skull and Crown Trading Co.

During our two nights were were convinced that Skull & Crown is one of the best tiki bars on planet Earth. We already discussed the amazing Mai Tais, but the craft cocktail experience at Skull and Crown is top notch.

Mrs. Mai Tai loved the Koloa Colada, a Pina Colada riff with Spiced Rum, Coconut Rum, Pineapple, Lemon, and Coconut Cream. Topped with a flower and Toasted Shaved Coconut. This was excellent both times we visited and is a wonderful example of the care the S&C team put into the cocktails. Toasting the Coconut shavings really added another aspect to the cocktail.

I also tried the Trader Noa’s Old Fashioned, a great Hawaiian Agricole cocktail. So very flavorful.

Koloa Colada and Trader Noa’s Old Fashioned

We must salute S&C’s dynamic duo, Trader Noa Laporga and Angelina Khan. We felt so welcomed to see these special people for the first time in months. Noa play host and welcomed us and introduced us to some fellow tikiphiles. Noa shared some historical cocktail recipes he uncovered, and we liked seeing Noa behind the bar as well. And Angelina made sure that the service was prompt and totally set us up for a relaxing experiencing. Mahalo.

Trader Noa

Food is available at S&C, and we enjoyed our food. We’d have preferred forks be issued rather than just chopsticks, but that was our only gripe. During our second night we celebrated Skull & Crown’s third anniversary with some live music from Don Tiki’s Kit Ebersbach (Perry Coma) along with local favorite Starr Kalahiki on vocals. Simply fantastic.

Skull & Crown is a jewel.