Updated Feb. 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.
NEW: Passes and tickets for The Hukilau: 10 things you need to know
In four months, hundreds of Tikiphiles will swarm the historic Mai-Kai restaurant and beachside B Ocean Resort in Fort Lauderdale for The Hukilau. But first, they need to score tickets and passes for the whirlwind weekend of retro-themed festivities. The event space is more intimate than last year, so it would not be a bad idea to jump on tickets now.
>>>> What you need to know about The Hukilau 2020
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.
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Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale NEW
For a taste of what you can expect during this year’s whirlwind Tiki weekender, take a look back at last year’s festivities with dozens of photos and 10 memorable moments.
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.