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Tarpon Springs, FL Tiki

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This weekend I had a chance to visit the sponge docks at Tarpon Springs on the west coast of Florida. Tarpon Springs is mostly a Greek community, but our pals at Best Western have kept a little tropical presence a few miles down the road from the docks called The Best Western Tahitian Resort:

I was disappointed in the Miami Vice colors, but at least they didn't try to hide all vestiges of tiki. In fact, there are five large painted wood gods located all over the grounds. The tikis have their own lighting, so they look really great at night.

Hiding in the trees to the left of the above photo, and facing the driveway is a large "God of War"

A little pathway around the building leads you to the giant Easter Island God:

You can follow that path around to the courtyard area, where the trail leads you to this well hidden tiki:

Backtrack on the path to go around to the lounge and you will find this tiki, identified as the "God of Rain:"

Unfortunately, the lounge must have been redesigned, as there are no tikis to be found. Next to the lounge was a small diner, open only for breakfast and only to hotel patrons (the breakfast was free), but alas no tiki inside. The furniture was all rattan though so at least it had a tropical flavor.

Back to the courtyard is the best part of the hotel -- a vey cool pool shaped like an "infinity" symbol. The pool and pool area were very well kept. Along side of the pool was this cool fountain:

The fountain looked great in person and was lit nicely at night.

The only photo I have of the pool is from the postcard and I don't have my scanner hooked up right now.

Next to the hotel was an "Age-Restricted 55+ Community" called "Tahitian Isles" which had similar roof style as the BW Tahitian Resort but otherwise had no element of tiki within.

That's all the tiki I found in Tarpon Springs, but I really didn't spend too much time looking -- there may be more great stuff waiting to be uncovered.

The sponge docks have several great Greek restaurants and tons of shops that sell the same touristy stuff. Lots of fishnetting, glass floats of various sizes, small puffer fish (no lamps) and other nautical themed stuff to help fill out your tiki bar, and of course, millions of sponges.

Are sponges tiki?


Eye-popping fun!

[ Edited by: TheMuggler on 2003-04-01 08:55 ]

[ Edited by: TheMuggler on 2003-04-01 08:58 ]

Rain posted on Tue, Apr 1, 2003 9:09 AM

look at the size of that easter island guy's hips! maybe he's pregnant...


Great post and very cool pictures!
I used to live in Tampa and would go to Tarpon from time to time, remember the Kapok Tree Inn? I never saw that Best Western. Also at some of the funky little junk/souvenir shops you could get some good beachcomber stuff to hang from the ceiling of your tiki bar- glass floats, etc. I got the biggest Puffer Fish we have (he's HUGE) in Tarpon Springs.


I live in Tampa Bay (Dunedin, specifically) and back when the world (and I) was young, my family would on occasion have Sunday dinner at the Kapok Tree. It's now a Sam Ash music mega store.

The next time any other Central Florida tiki-types are over this way, puh-leez gimme a holler.


[ Edited by: tweedtone on 2003-04-01 14:39 ]

I live within walking distance of that place. It is technically, in Holiday and not Tarpon Springs.

Yes, you are right -- it is in Holiday, but it serves the Tarpon Springs tourism, so that's why I lumped it together. No offense meant to your fine city!

I vaguely remember going to the kapok Tree Inn when I was little. I couldn't find any info on the web about it.. another lost Florida attraction.

I also wonder what is up with those hips on the Easter Island God. Also, it seems to me that the "Rain God" should really be the "God of Fertility," as his "head" looks a bit... ummm... well, you know.


Mambo posted on Tue, Apr 1, 2003 8:08 PM

Thanks Muggler for that info.
Next time I'm in that area will stop by.

This weekend I'm staying at a place in the keys called "the islander". Will see if it lives up to the name.

Yea Mon!

That same complex that houses the hotel and retired living area used to also have a large tiki-style restaurant (the retirement area was on each side of the restaurant and the hotel was just to the east of the restaurant and retirement living area, if memory serves). The last time I saw it was maybe two years ago and at that time the restaurant was gutted and for sale! The interior was totally empty except for a mounted marlin (fish)! However, the exterior had really cool human-sized abstract (almost 50s biomorphic style) tikis carved of lava that were set into the exterior walls. There was also plenty of Polynesian-style wood trim (tiki totems, etc.). I often thought of calling the real estate broker to see if they would sell or allow the salvage of the tiki stuff from the restaurant, but I was too preoccupied with my dissertation to deal with that. Since you didn't mention the restaurant, I assume that they demolished it.

[email protected]

Also, Tarpon Springs is an interesting town that's worth visiting on its own. The shops have an excellant selection of evil eyes!
Also the Sponge Fishing museum is worth a visit. It's filled with old, sketchy diaramas. Some of the displays look like they were installed 50 years ago and never touched by human hands again. However, rats have touched the figures--they've eaten some of them, in fact! One of the mannequins had a divers suit that was pock marked with rat-sized holes and there were piles of dust and feces on the floor, directly below the holes. Then there's the fascinating free movie called 'modern sponge fishing' or something like that. Except the divers are wearing giant metal and glass helmets and rely on air from a compressor on the row boats above...yeah, really modern!

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I had a feeling there was some tiki mana in Tarpon springs- I once spent half a day driving there, but got stuck in such traffic i had to turn back to keep an appt.. bummer i missed this joint

however, last weekend I found a sweet tiki-spot that i don't think has been documented yet in Ft. Laud (not the maikai) I'm going to be back down there in a few weeks and will take some pix

[ Edited by: fatuhiva on 2003-04-01 22:27 ]

The age-restricted condos are actually called "Tahitian Gardens" not Tahitian Isles as I first wrote.

Tarpon Springs is definitely worth a visit, if only to wander around the docks and look at all the old-school Florida tourist trinkets the shops are selling. I didn't make it into the Sponge Museum, so I'll have to check it out next time.

The downtown area is also worth a visit. I found a toy store that had a few old records in the back, including a sealed copy of something called "Savage! Tihati's South Seas Spectacular" which looks like a promo album from a Waikiki resort. I'll try and get a picture of it up, as it is a great cover.

Unfortunately, traderfranks, the restaurant you speak of is gone. There are a couple of strip malls nearby with the word "Tahitian" in them, but nothing even remotely tiki about them (or even polynesian, for that matter). I'm sure the whole area was a little outpost of exotica at one time.

Here is a shot of the pool I found online:


I have that "Savage" album! It's actually pretty good, and the cover is worth framing.

I actually live in New Port Richey. The reason that I mentioned that the place is actually in Holiday was just to make it easier to find for others.

Tarpon Springs has always appealed to me, and I have often thought of moving over in there. It has a nice "feel" to it.

I also have that "Savage" album. I bought it and many other Polynesian albums at a local junk shop. I bought them all for the covers, but the records themselves seem to be in pretty good shape. I do not have a turntable, though.

Mambo posted on Wed, Apr 2, 2003 8:23 PM


Where / what is this sweet tiki spot you mentioned in Lauderdale??


iiiiin time my friend, in time

i love tarpon....is Sponge-a-rama still there?

I remember as a kid they used to brodcast over the town this announcment about the spongediving shows at sponge-a-rama that was sooo funny...advertizing air-conditioning!!!

Are sponges tiki? i think the answer is "YES!" Look at SpongeBob.


Well Best Western no longer runs the Tahitian Resort and it has sure seen better days. The old pictures that were linked here are gone so I will post mine. Worth a look see but, not much Tiki left or much care taken of the Tiki's that are there. I wouldn't recommend staying there unless you need to be right in that area as the accommodations did not merit even 1 star.

I was told that this particular area was pretty Tikified back in the "day". There may be a new Tiki Bar near here very soon as I bumped into a fellow Tiki freak and she is going to open one very soon.


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