While using the word authentic to describe a Tiki bar might prompt some cultural umpires to cry foul, it’s literally the only word that comes to mind to describe La Mariana, Honolulu’s oldest remaining Tiki bar.
Sipping a Mai Tai here is like slipping back into Honolulu’s golden era, a time when Duke was still schooling the kooks at Waikiki and Elvis was probably passed out in his penthouse suite over at Conrad Hilton’s rainbow tower.
The original La Mariana sailing club was founded in 1957 in a warehouse district on Keehi Lagoon, a mere six miles from Waikiki yet a thousand miles from the nearest tourist map. It was the passion project of Annette and Johnny Campbell, who decided to build the marina and bar after arriving in Hawaii aboard their sailboat and discovering few places to dock a private yacht.
Not only is La Mariana itself perfectly preserved (even the Mai Tai recipe hasn't changed a drop in sixty years) it's also become a sort of makeshift museum of Hawaii's long-lost Tiki landmarks. The pufferfish lights over the bar originally hung at Trader Vic's. The koa wood tables came from don the beachcomber's and the carved Tiki statues lining the walls once stood watch at the legendary Kon Tiki room. All of these vintage tropical heirlooms have a way of suddenly making every other rum-slinging establishment in modern-day Waikiki feel just a bit contrived.
As you might have guessed, La Mariana is best enjoyed at sunset, but approach with caution. Two rum drinks here and you might find yourself seriously considering the for sale sign duct-taped to a downtrodden schooner and dreaming of distant landfalls. But then again, what better paradise could you possibly discover?