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My tiki-centric trip to Central Florida

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My husband and I were in central FLA for four days at the end of Sept. Here is a report on tiki sightings in Orlando and Cocoa Beach.
Orlando: Tiki Golf, International Drive. The course is infested with tikis and there are a few on the little clubhouse. There is almost a tiki at every hole on the course, and inside the huge 4 story volcano that is in the middle, there is a fiberglass moai. He lights up when you step into the cave to play the hole. Wow! The volcano erupts every 20 minutes. It spews out HUGE flames and alot of smoke. You can feel the heat from the eruption no matter where you stand. It was insane! If you get a hole in one on the 19th hole (as I did!) the volcano erupts in celebration, but this eruption is far less in magnitude than the regular eruptions. Just a little smoke and a belching noise. The gift shop sells tiki mugs, tiki keychains and a few other island style items at reasonable prices. There is also a sign with the tiki carver's name and phone, I think his name was Tom Farmer. I could be wrong though.
Disney's Polynesian Resort: The resort has tikis all over the place! The place is very nice and pretty, lots of bamboo, beautiful gardens. It was hard to find once we drove into the vast and sprawling Disney complex however. Anyhow,the second floor restaurant called Ohana is stuffed to the gills with enormous tikis of all kinds. It was amazing. The little cocktail lounge at the side of the restaurant has tiki beer tap handles. There are a few tikis in the second floor lobby as well. It is very expensive to stay there (rooms start at about $300), but its free to stop by and check out the tikis. The gift shop sells tiki mugs and Tiki Farm coasters and there are also T shirts. I bought 2 mugs and a perfume called Wicked Wahine. The sales clerk asked me what the mugs were, "what are these, do you drink out of these like a glass?" she said. It didnt sound like they were selling too many. Wicked Wahine is a best seller, according to the clerk.
The resort also has a Polynesian dinner show, called the Aloha Dinner Show. This is held outdoors behind the hotel in a grotto. It is pretty poorly organized when you first arrive but once we got a table the service improved. You sit in an open air pavilion that is festooned with tikis and bamboo, and they serve tons of food, including coconut bread, pineapple, salad, chicken, rice, and ribs. The food was excellent. The cocktails were not too good and a major rip off, even though they come with one of those glow cube ice cubes. I had a Pele's Punch which had zero alcohol in it. Not that I expected to get ripped at Disney, but there was no kick whatsoever. My husband said "we just put $10 in Michael Eisner's pocket with these drinks." No mai tais are offered there.
The show is in 3 parts, on an outdoor stage. Two acts are about Leilani, a woman who goes to the mainland and forgets her island roots. There is modern pop music and dancing. The third act is where everyone refreshes Leilani's memory about the traditions and dances of the islands. This was the good part! There was a fire dance and several hula numbers. We were served dessert right before the last act. The waiters come out of the kitchen in line, carrying trays with small smoking volcanoes on them. The volcanos are of the Peter Brady science project variety. Surrounding each volcano is a little cake shaped like a volcano, with chocolate sauce running down the side, Inside was vanilla mouse. Yummy! All in all I would recommend the dinner show.
The Big Bamboo, Kissimmee, FL. This is not exactly a tiki bar but its still pretty cool inside, if you arent too squeamish and can handle a bit of dirt. Well, alot of dirt. Lots of bamboo, a puffer fish, netting, nautical lamps. The only tiki is a mug behind the bar. They are very friendly and welcoming at the Boo. They have a website, http://www.bigbamboolounge.com. This was my second trip to the Boo and I had their signature coctail, called a Big Bamboo. Do not ask for a mai tai, they will not make you one. You get a Big Bamboo, which is served in a mason jar with a coaster consisting of a piece of toilet paper. One of these drinks will have you reeling, they are really tasty and strong. If I had a second one I would have been doing the hula on the bar. There is a sign behind the bar that provides answers to frequently asked questions, and it says the land the Boo is on is worth alot of money so the place is going to close eventually but they dont know when. I sent postcards from the Boo to my friends, as they had so much more cachet than typical cards with a gator on them.
Cocoa Beach, FL. The Wakulla Suites Motel on Route A1A. This place is GREAT! They are doing a polynesian renovation which isnt finished yet. The outside of the building has bamboo design painted on it and the roofline is extended in that Polynesian fashion. The rooms are huge but are normal in decor. The focal point of the place is the large courtyard garden, which is full of gogeous tropical trees and plants, tended by a full time gardener. There is a thatched hut in the garden, and I found one tiki peaking out from behind some plants. There are two tikis near the pool. They make up the Kahuna Fountain. You twist a fish-shaped knob on the smaller tiki's head, and the large tiki shoots water out of its mouth so you can rinse off after swimming. These tikis are made of fiberglass. Very unique!

Mai Tiki Studios and showroom: I actually ventured into the central Florida nerve center of tiki! The Mai Tiki! The workshop is full of tikis in progress, all shapes and sizes. A nice woman gave us a tour and answered all our questions. She said it takes between 1/2 an hour to several days to carve a tiki. They are currently working on a special order of 2 large tikis that are painted all different colors. The woman told me they have been carving tikis for 30 years.She said they are aware of Tiki Central but they do not have time to vist the site as they would like to. The showroom is very nice, they sell tikis of all shapes and sizes, starting at $75, and they will ship them wherever you want. They also have a fiberglass moai with one of those fake flaming cauldron-bowl things behind it. The woman turned it on for us and with the flames flickering it looked awesome! She said they designed the original but some other guy makes them, inc. the one at the Tiki Golf place. They also sell mugs and paintings there. Outside of the gallery we saw a large tiki with palm root hair being loaded onto a trailer.
Coconuts Restaurant: this is in downtown Cocoa beach and its right on the beach. There are several tikis outside and a few on the walls inside, and there is a large on inside. We sat at a booth where the table was shaped like a surfboard. They serve bar food and have a limited tropical drink menu. No mugs.
Unnamed Bar across the street: Right across the street there is a bar with a few tikis on the outer wall.
Cocoa Beach Pier and Tiki Bar: There is a forgotten tiki at the entrance to the pier. He was hidden behind a trash can, which my husband moved out of the way. At the end of the pier, out over the ocean, there was a little hut with tikis surrounding it, but it was closed. Perhaps during the summer season you can get a drink there.
Fawlty Towers Motel and Tiki Bar, Cocoa Beach. This place was a huge let down, a real drag! Do not go here! The hotel has a Gilligan's Island style hut in its courtyard, made of thatch and bamboo. The hut itself is impressive. The bar opens at 6pm, so we returned later that evening around 11pm. Inside there are a few small one-dimensional tiki masks on a pole and they are also above the ceiling fans. There are African masks also and an Indonesian mask. Lots of beer posters and stuff, with half naked women and sports stuff, no real ambiance for the tiki afficianado. They do not serve liquor, only Coors Light and Bud Light, and the place was populated by four smelly broken down drunks. A sign said "Strawberry Daquiris" so I ordered one, and the clueless bartender asked me what that was! Then she confessed they only had beer. We ordered 2 beers and sat in the corner. The drunks at the bar were weeping in their beers and it was a VERY UNPLEASANT, GROSS atmosphere. Not welcoming at all. It was as if we found tiki skid row. We didnt even finish our drinks, we just wanted OUT! It was really horrible in there. I do not recommend going there. If you must, pop in during the day and look through the door of the hut. (And of you have been to the Big Bamboo, you can imagine the hell that this place was in comparison.)
One last note, my husband called my trip "TikiGoddess' fantasy camp" because it was all tiki all the time!

The Tiki Gods Frown On Those Who Hurl Insults

[ Edited by: TikiGoddess on 2003-10-08 15:45 ]


I enjoyed the Tiki golf as well! Love the erupting volcano. When in Orlando, you kind of have to suspend your "inner tiki purist" and take what you can get...i.e., the "Mai Tiki" japanese restaurant on International Drive- from the outside, you think you've found a real tiki oasis, AND the interior is pretty well decked out, but NONE OF THE STAFF are in on it! I spent about $20 on a custom made volcano bowl by ordering correct rums/juices/etc., instead of their usual house swill, but I would'nt want to make a habit of that. And, of course I was the only dork in the place wearing an aloha shirt, including the staff.

At the end of the pier, out over the ocean, there was a little hut with tikis surrounding it, but it was closed. Perhaps during the summer season you can get a drink there.

Yep, they sure do sell a lot of beer! Go for the fishing which is good, but don't expect a "real" tropical drink unless you bring it with you.

Sounds like you had an outstanding journey, but I respectfully must insist that no tiki trip to Central Florida is complete without visiting the Hawaiian Inn in Daytona Beach and enjoying Teauila's Hawaiian luau and dinner show.
If anyone is coming here and wants to experience tiki the way it was 30 years ago, you absolutely NEED to go there. The story of the Hawaian Inn and the fine people who do the luau buffet and show is yet to be written, but needs to be. For example, who on this board can tell me the names of the people who ran Orchids Hawaii and OMC? And what other tiki joint sold so many custom imprinted mugs that we practically stumble over them at thrift stores and flea markets? And what other tiki spot has about as much Witco on the premises as Hala Kahiki?
While in Daytona you may also want to visit Julian's Restaurant in Ormond Beach, the Mai-Tai Bar on the Daytona Beach boardwalk, and I suggest a room at the Best Western Aku-Tiki in Daytona if you want to spend the night in clean, quiet surroundings.
I'm not posting this to dog anyone about missing these spots, but if I had to save only two tiki places in the state of Florida it would be the Mai-Kai and the Hawaiian Inn. Nothing else in this state comes close, except maybe the Tahitian Gardens in Tarpon Springs, and they don't serve tiki drinks or have Hawaiian entertainment.
All of these places are in "Tiki Road Trip", by the way. Go while you still can.

[ Edited by: Kailuageoff on 2003-10-07 11:35 ]


Thanks for the detailed review TG. I always like hearing about places that are still around like the Big Bamboo. When I was in Orlando with mrsmiley we couldn't find it.

Is the futuristic house still in Kissimmee or did they finally tear it down?

I liked Ohana for the most part but the only thing I didn't like was they lined up all their big tikis in a row which looks somewhat silly. The drinks were actually better than I expected.

Andrew posted on Tue, Oct 7, 2003 1:54 PM

Thanks for the cool review. I'll have to check out some of those places in a future trip.

pablus posted on Tue, Oct 7, 2003 3:45 PM

Thanks for the descriptive tome.

I see my course unfolding more clearly here. Hmmmm - a trip through Orlando to Daytona - down through Cocoa and into Ft. Lauderdale.

"O Amber, dahhhling, load the car with my favorite shirts, 2 bottles of orgeat and the Bruddah IZ cd's... we're taking a little road trip."

On 2003-10-07 12:21, thejab wrote:

Is the futuristic house still in Kissimmee or did they finally tear it down?

I am not sure, because we went to the Big Bamboo at night and I couldnt see too much at the sides of the road as we were whizzing by. Last time I was there, however, I got some pics of the house. Very cool!

Tiki Goddess... how funny you mention all this... I just returned from that area this evening, I've been in Melbourne visiting a friend and surfing since last Wednesday....

Saw the palm stump at the entrance to the pier... walked by it five times and thought maybe it was a tiki but didn't look closer...

When did you go to the tiki bar on the pier? It was open over the weekend, but not until noon I think... I saw it alot from the water while surfing...

Went by Mai tiki on Sunday but they were closed... drove by and drove around the back and saw many logs drying and that tiki you saw with the rootball hair laying in the yard...

Cocoa Beach is full of Mai Tikis... Many large ones in Ron Jon Surf Shop...(a bit touristy in there for me) and other spots around town...

There's another tiki carver in the area... down in Indiatlantic... there are tikis at the Florida Shave Ice stand next to Longbard House on A1A and two rootball tikis that stand at the entrance to Longboard House... there are also some tikis across from the boardwalk...

Saw a tiki hut by the side of the road in Satellite Beach and a sign advertising sales of them...

Saw the hotel you mentioned many times and it looked tiki from the outside but I didn't realize all that was there...

Oh yea... within Ron Jon is a huge foam tiki that is painted like rock... he stands 25 feet plus I think... I have some pictures... I'll post when I get them developed...

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