The 18th annual Tiki weekender known as The Hukilau will not invade Fort Lauderdale until June, but local Tikiphiles will get an early taste of the rum-fueled festivities this weekend when two special events kick off the 2019 countdown at The Mai-Kai.
Both events will take place in The Molokai lounge at The Mai-Kai, the historic Polynesian restaurant that opened in 1956 and continues to enthrall Tikiphiles from around the world. Both events are free, but there’s a limited capacity of around 150 for each event, so be sure to get there early. Here are the details:
Saturday, March 2: “100 Days to The Hukilau” featuring live performances by the instrumental surf band The Surfrajettes from Toronto, Canada. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. and the band performs at 7 p.m. Free general admission, ages 21 and older only.
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See below: Video, photos of The Surfrajettes at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau 2017
Sunday, March 3: Retro Rekindled community gathering featuring early happy hour, giveaways and meet-and-mingle with The Hukilau organizers. Richard Oneslager, The Hukilau’s owner and organizer, will speak and answer questions. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. The event is free but reservations are encouraged.
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The Mai-Kai is at 3599 N. Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale, on the west side between Commercial and Oakland Park boulevards. Call (954) 563-3272 for more information or to make dinner reservations. Valet and paid self-parking.
Guests at both events can enjoy the regular daily happy hour in The Molokai until 7 p.m., when most signature cocktails are half-priced. There are also nightly specials that feature two drinks at 50 percent off all evening: K.O. Cooler and Tahitian Breeze on Saturday; and the Zombie and Piña Colada on Sunday.
The Molokai also features a full appetizer menu (half-priced during happy hour) that includes Tiki bar classics (Pupu Platter, Crab Rangoon, et al.) along with sushi, salads and modern tapas (sliders, fish tacos, etc.). The expansive restaurant also has a beautiful outdoor Tiki garden that can be explored, along with plenty of exotic and elaborately themed dining rooms if you’d like to stay for dinner.
You can also make reservations in the main showroom to see The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian Islander Revue, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii. The restaurant was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. Just as historic are the bar’s tropical drinks, which have achieved cult status among Tiki, rum and cocktail devotees.
Related: The Atomic Grog’s Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide
The Hukilau is one of the world’s biggest and longest running Polynesian Pop and Tiki cocktail events. Established in 2002 in Atlanta, it moved to Fort Lauderdale and The Mai-Kai in 2003 with live music, symposiums, classes and an ever-expanding schedule of events over a five day weekend. The Hukilau 2019 will take place June 5-9, headquartered at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina near Fort Lauderdale Beach.
Sunday’s Retro Rekindled gathering is designed to give attendees and potential villagers a chance to learn more about the bands, bars, room parties, and all the other facets of the event, such as the signature Tiki Tower Takeover. In 2019, The Hukilau is spotlighting female mixologists in the festive tower cocktail party, plus special presentations on “Women of The Mai-Kai” and “Women Who Tiki.”
Oneslager took an ownership role in The Hukilau in 2015. He has been the driving force since 2017, when co-creator and longtime organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White stepped down. Rather than make wholesale changes, Oneslager has kept The Hukilau true to White’s vision while enhancing and adding features such as the Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy. Villagers can learn from the pros as bartenders and mixology experts from around the country teach intimate classes on the finer points of the craft.
Oneslager took a leap of faith across the pond in October 2018, taking The Hukilau and The Mai-Kai to London as part of the annual UK RumFest. Oneslager has said he expects another Hukilau London in 2019. The Hukilau also teamed up with the rum fest’s founder, global rum ambassador Ian Burrell, to sponsor the Tiki bartending competition at last month’s inaugural Miami Rum Congress.
* Recap and photos: VIPs, connoisseurs of fine spirits flock to first Miami Rum Congress