Updated Jan. 8, 2020
Rooms at the B Ocean Resort on Fort Lauderdale Beach are filling up fast following the late December announcement that The Hukilau would be returning to the former Yankee Clipper property for its 19th annual Tiki weekender in June.
The Hukilau 2020 will be held June 3-7 at the B Ocean Resort and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Featuring live music and retro-themed performances, educational symposiums, vendor marketplace, rum and Tiki cocktail classes, plus more than a dozen top Tiki bars and bartenders from around the world.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Instagram
Reservations must be made via the link on TheHukilau.com and not directly through the hotel to receive a special rate and placement in the event’s room block. Tickets and passes are scheduled to go on sale Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. Eastern time. Look for further announcements on the blog regarding the entertainment lineup.
The Hukilau promises most of the same core features from years past. The five-day party will include the Tiki Treasures Bazaar, informative symposiums, the Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy, guest pop-up bars, pool parties, the Friday night High Tide Party at the hotel, plus the Saturday night main event at The Mai-Kai. While there will be no Tiki Tower Takeover event without the towering Pier Sixty-Six venue, the website hints at a possible beach party.
The Hukilau’s villagers were kept in suspense since the closing of the iconic Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina for renovations immediately following the 2019 event last June. By the time the announcement was made on Dec. 23, pent-up demand at the appeal of the historic beachfront location caused a flurry of bookings.
The Hukilau’s room block is almost completely filled and some dates are unavailable, but more rooms should be coming into the system soon, according to Richard Oneslager, now in his fourth year as the event’s lead organizer as well as owner. When more rooms are added, there will be an official announcement.
This was the first venue change for Oneslager, whose memorable goal was “don’t f*** it up” when he took over ownership of The Hukilau in 2014.
To keep that promise, the search was obviously not taken lightly. The Hukilau’s many fans of vintage Tiki and mid-century history should be pleased with the return to the hotel that hosted The Hukilau four times before (2006, 2007, 2008 and 2013), and in recent years served as the “overflow” locale when Pier Sixty-Six filled up. With a much larger room inventory and refreshed appearance, the B Ocean is poised to host a full house of revelers this year.
In addition to its Hukilau history, the popularity of the B Ocean Resort is tied intrinsically to Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, who has become a retro culture fixture over the past decade after reviving the hotel’s underwater swimshows in the vintage Wreck Bar, with its porthole views of the swimming pool.
The distinctive lobby bar has long been a pop-culture phenomenon in its own right, appearing as a set piece in Hollywood movies from to Where the Boys Are (1960) to Analyze This (1999). Even as the host hotel revolved, The Wreck Bar performances by Marina and her pod of aquaticats remained a key part of The Hukilau schedule non-stop since 2007.
Previous story: The Hukilau offers a deep dive into the history of porthole cocktail lounges and their mysterious mermaids
The hotel traces its roots back to 1956 (five months before The Mai-Kai opened 8 miles to the northwest) as a revolutionary resort designed to look like a steam ship. After dozens of refurbishments, large and small, that same basic exterior design remains along with the nautically themed Wreck Bar.
The concept of a “V”-shaped hotel that looked like an ocean liner was conceived by the Yankee Clipper’s original owner, South Florida hotelier and tourism pioneer Bob Gill, and executed by Miami architect M. Tony Sherman, who around the same time was also designing the original Tropicana resort in Las Vegas.
The $1.5 million Yankee Clipper debuted in July 1956 and was among the first hotels on the beach to remain open year-round and feature air conditioning. Among its many famous guests was another “Yankee Clipper,” baseball great Joe DiMaggio, along with his wife Marilyn Monroe. During the ’50s and ’60s, the hotel was the home of the New York Yankees during spring training.
The Yankee Clipper originally featured fine dining in the 300-seat Polynesian Room along with a stage show that pre-dated The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian Islander Revue. Over the years, both shows often shared performers before the Polynesian Room closed in 1972.
The giant Starwood chain bought a controlling interest of both the Yankee Clipper and nearby Yankee Trader from the Gill family in 2005, investing millions in renovations that closed the hotel in 2009 and resulted in a name change to the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel along with upscale decor.
It changed hands again in 2014 when it was sold to the Carlyle Group, an affiliate of South Florida-based InSite Group, along with an institutional joint venture partner. B Hotels and Resorts – which also runs properties in New Orleans, Orlando and the Florida Keys – became operating partner.
The nearly 500-room hotel stayed open during the multi-year refurbishment, which added “B Signature Elements,” including spa treatments. Renovations complete, it officially launched as B Ocean Resort in early 2017.
The current website touts “spacious, beach-chic rooms, superior services, and amenities.” But it also prominently features The Wreck Bar, the mermaid show and references to the hotel’s history and celebrity guests. The resort also still includes a private stretch of the famous beach used in the filming of Where the Boys Are, four restaurants and three bars, plus more than 10,000 square feet of indoor and 30,000 square feet of outdoor event space.
* B Ocean Resort on social media: Instagram | Facebook
The Hukilau: History of host hotels
2020 – B Ocean Resort (aka Yankee Clipper)
2019 – Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina
2018 – Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina
2017 – Hyatt Regency Pier 66
2016 – Hyatt Regency Pier 66
2015 – Hyatt Regency Pier 66
2014 – Bahia Mar Beach Resort
2013 – Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel (Yankee Clipper)
2012 – Best Western Oceanside Inn, Bahia Cabana Beach Resort
2011 – Bahia Mar, Bahia Cabana
2010 – Bahia Mar, Bahia Cabana
2009 – Bahia Cabana
2008 – Yankee Clipper, Bahia Cabana
2007 – Yankee Clipper, Bahia Cabana
2006 – Yankee Clipper
2005 – Bahia Mar
2004 – Bahia Mar, Bahia Cabana
2003 – Holiday Inn
2002 – Hilton
For more history, check out our blog post (with video) from 2016 on The Hukilau’s first 14 years. Can you believe we’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary in 2021?
The wait is over! The Hukilau 2020 dates and host hotel to be revealed
Like patient kiddos who’ve been waiting all year to be rewarded at Christmas, fans and followers of The Hukilau will receive an early holiday treat when the event’s 2020 dates and host hotel are unveiled this week. The official announcement could come as early as Monday, but we’ve been able to confirm the dates of the five-day Tiki weekender in Fort Lauderdale as Wednesday, June 3, through Sunday, June 7.
Along with the confirmation of a new hotel to replace the landmark Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina, which is undergoing a years-long renovation and reimagining, The Hukilau will immediately make room bookings available. The new hotel will offer many more rooms for The Hukilau’s guests, or “villagers” as they’re known.
With the event growing each year, the only “must have” when searching for a new hotel was more guest rooms, said The Hukilau’s owner and organizer, Richard Oneslager. “It’s our villagers that bring the aloha – turning a house into a home – or a hotel into a Polynesian paradise. We wanted to find a home with room for all of our ohana.”
While rooms can be secured this week, event tickets will not be available until early 2020, Oneslager said. However, due to villager demand and the need for many to make travel plans well in advance, he said he wanted to make room bookings the first thing to go live.
“The overall experience and schedule should be just as our villagers have loved in the past,” Oneslager said. “The Tiki Treasures Bazaar, symposiums, cocktail classes, pool parties, and The Mai-Kai. There will be just a few little twists to mix things up.”
Look for the hotel announcement on The Hukilau’s official Facebook page as early as 5 p.m. Monday. Those who subscribed to the email list will also receive word that way. Staff, sponsors and others have been alerted that the announcement is coming, but the exact location of the hotel has not been revealed.
All of the previous host hotels have been located in the area of Fort Lauderdale’s 17th Street Causeway near the beach, where the iconic Pier Sixty-Six towers above the skyline. The Hukilau spent the past five years there, a longer stretch than any hotel in the event’s 18-year history.
“Pier Sixty-Six was wonderful, and will be missed,” Oneslager said. “But a new home offers new opportunities. Creating new experiences in 2020 for our villagers has been energizing.”
Oneslanger has told staff that the event’s schedule will remain relatively the same, starting with Wednesday night’s pre-party at The Mai-Kai. The historic Polynesian restaurant has been the event’s anchor since it moved from Atlanta in 2003 in its second year. The hotel will host the bazaar, a huge vendor marketplace, on Thursday through Saturday along with many cocktail classes and educational symposiums, a tradition that was pioneered by The Hukilau in its early years.
Class and symposium presenters, along with an exciting new lineup of performing bands, are expected to be announced in early 2020 before event tickets go on sale. Last year’s bands and VIPs included Tikiyaki Orchestra, Tikiyaki 5-0, Surfer Joe, The Volcanics, The Hula Girls, The Intoxicators, Gold Dust Lounge, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, The Swingin’ Palms, Slowey and the Boats, King Kukulele, Brother Cleve, and Ian “Rum Ambassador” Burrell.
The past several years have also seen a dramatic increase in the number of participating bars and bartenders from around the world. The 2019 event featured 25 top Tiki bars and bartenders, from the Tonga Hut in Los Angeles, to Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago, to Trailer Happiness in London. Oneslager has made efforts to keep this same level of participation at the new venue, space and logistics permitting.
The new hotel will also host the annual Friday night High Tide party, with many of the top bands and bars participating en masse. And pool parties will return on Friday through Sunday afternoon, again featuring a wide range of live music and cocktails. On Saturday night, villagers will gather at The Mai-Kai for more bands and the traditional dinner and show featuring the Polynesian Islander Revue, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii. The Hukilau also traditionally concludes with a Sunday finale at the 63-year-old Tiki temple.
Also expect another tradition to continue: Marina Duran-Anderson and her squad of “mermaids” will perform exclusive swimshows for The Hukilau at The Wreck Bar in the B Ocean Resort. For more than a dozen years, Marina has revived and revitalized the porthole lounge swimshow concept with an ever-changing series of performances that now even include a male burlesque show.
The B Ocean is one of several hotels on the south end of State Road A1A on Fort Lauderdale Beach that formerly served as The Hukilau’s host hotel. Originally known as the Yankee Clipper, the vintage structure was built to appear like an ocean liner jutting out of the beach. It hosted The Hukilau four times, 2006-2008 and 2013.
The face of this famous tourist strip has undergone changes, with hotels either modernizing like the B Ocean or being completely demolished like the beloved Bahia Cabana. While The Hukilau long outgrew the small and divey Cabana, villagers still share fond memories of the seven events held there (2004, 2007-12). Another nearby hotel, the Bahia Mar, hosted in 2004-2005, 2009, 2011 and 2014.
The move to the distinctive Pier Sixty-Six in 2015 started a five-year run of stability and memorable events, from the Tiki Tower Takeover cocktail parties in the 17th-floor revolving rooftop lounge, to the many bands and symposiums, to the growth of the Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy and the many visiting bars and bartenders.
But in September 2017, Hurricane Irma damaged many of the rooms in the main tower building, leading to a serious drop in inventory. At this point, the hotel’s sale and massive renovations were already in the works, and the impending closing was known in advance. But The Hukilau 2019 was still a bittersweet bash with the venue’s future as a host hotel still up in the air. It closed the day after The Hukilau in June.
We now await the 2020 announcement. “We can’t wait to share the news,” Oneslager said. “We have taken a lot of time to make the best choice for our villagers. We’re counting down the days ’til June.”
The Hukilau 2019 coverage
* Photos and video from social media
* Final preview, live event updates
* The Atomic Grog presents new class and symposium
* Tiki Tower Takeover preview, photos and complete history
* Last party at Pier Sixty-Six? Events sell fast as new cocktail classes added
The Hukilau past coverage
* 2018 recap: Photos and video from social media | More 2018 coverage
* 2017 daily recaps, news, photos and video | More 2017 coverage
* More recaps: 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011