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Tiki in The South Bay - The ISLANDER Apts and some new discoveries

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Hi All,

Thought this topic might be a good jumping-off point for the sharing of Tiki sites in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, whether bars, restaurants, motels, apts, etc. Doctor Z and I already know of a few but are always on the prowl for more.

I'll start out with the ISLANDER apartments in Gardena. You can see its sign at the bottom of page 218 of the BOT. I stumbled upon this apartment building while searching out an estate sale in Gardena one morning. I was amazed at the pristine, original condition of it. All the waterfalls work and all the tikis are intact and in good shape. The owners must take great pride in their building because it is kept immaculately clean and the gardens are well-tended. Its most impressive feature, in my opinion is an amazing horizontal waterfall that shoots in an arc from a slit high up in the rock wall of the front of the building, into a rock pool. The water then runs under the front walkway and forms a second waterfall on the other side that runs into a lower pool at street level. You can hear the running water for blocks around and it adds a soothing, tropical air to the surrounding neighborhood.

A view from the street, showing the lower waterfall.

Nice use of bamboo to sheath the wooden posts.

The stunning horizontal waterfall that falls from the center of a rock wall.

The Rec-Room at one end of the pool with a nice outdoor patio.

Appropriately named as well.

The Rec-Room (which I've never seen in use), had a nice bar, and there's a great original stone barbecue down by the pool.

The grounds are lush with palms, tree ferns, banana trees and these tall black-and-white birds-of-paradise. If anyone out there is apartment hunting, a sign out front says that there are apartments for rent, and this is a very reasonable neighborhood.

Around the corner, at 15515 Vermont, is the ALOHA. Nicely kept as well. No Tikis in the small courtyard, but some nice signage.

Like I said, I was on my way to an estate-sale when I found THE ISLANDER. I wanted to stop, but wanted to get to the estate-sale more and so found it after a few more blocks of driving. The eighty-six year-old man who was selling the contents of his house had a pristine 1940s Rattan Sofa tucked away in a rumpus room, covered with sewing materials. I asked if it was for sale, and he said yes, but a woman had bought it and several other pieces of furniture earlier that morning. I was crestfallen.
"Listen," he said. "She hasn't paid me yet, and money talks with me. If you've got cash, I'll sell it to you."
I looked through my wallet. "How about ?"
"Have you got on you?" he asked.
"I sure do." I said.
"Sold." He said.
He helped me load the sofa on my truck and I got out of there as fast as I could, before the other woman should return. On my drive out, I stopped at the ISLANDER and explored for a while. It was one of the nicest days of Tiki hunting I've ever had.

In conclusion, as I said before, I'd welcome more info on anyone else's favorite tiki spots in the South Bay. If there's some interest, I can even post some photographs of others myself.


[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy on 2002-08-26 14:03 ]

[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy on 2002-08-26 14:04 ]

[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy on 2002-09-09 15:12 ]

Great pics - I'm always envying you guys on the left coast, not only do you guys have the majority of the tiki bars you also have most of the polynesian apartment buildings - would love to see more...

Also - great score on the couch!



Great Photo essay. Thanks for taking the time to post those apts. Those are really cool. Sabu sorry I didn't get a chance to say Hi at Bens, next time.

Wow! Great pics! They remind me of all the Polynesian apartment complexes in Garden Grove & Santa Ana I saw in the 1970s....
Thanks so much for posting these - I'm surprised any of these are still existing in decent condition!
Thanks again....

Hi again,

Since there seemed to be some interest in seeing more South Bay Tiki sites, I thought I'd post some pictures of other tiki apartments that Doctor Z and I explored last weekend.

We were out garage-saling on Saturday morning as usual, obtaining rare junk to sell on Ebay, when we found ourselves in the neighborhood of the Kona Kai apartments, which both of us have driven by on numerous occasions, but never explored. We decided a full-scale expedition was in order.

The Kona Kai Apts are at 22413 Ocean Ave., just off of Sepulveda Blvd:

(check the links below for larger pictures)

The architecture of the Kona Kai has the feeling of 1970s tiki. There's a nice 5-foot tall fanged tiki mask on the front.

Inside, there is only one tiki, but it is a beaut! It sits inside the locked pool area and is carved out of a very large chunk of lava rock - part of a double planter. Check out the cool hang-ten toes on this baby:

(click here for a larger photo)

The Kona Kai was nice, but a greater discovery awaited us just one block away. Around the corner, at 3845 226th Street lurks the Eli Kai. If Doctor Z hadn't visited these apartments years ago, we would have never known how to find it. They aren't listed in any of the phonebooks, (including the online ones). The facade is largely hidden by trees that have grown up over the years. Here's a picture:

And some links to larger pictures, including a view of the large, stone wall-pockets on the facade that in this apartment's glory days, probably held large monstera plants and were lit at night:

Doctor Z didn't recall any tikis from his last visit, but this was before he was ever interested in tiki culture, so imagine our surprise when the first thing to greet us was this large 7-8 foot Marquesan tiki pillar, holding up the roof in the entryway.

(click below for a large image):

Through the entryway and into the sunlit courtyard and we are presented with rank upon rank of these gorgeous, carved wooden roof-poles.

(a larger photo of the ranks):

There are two tiki faces carved on each post. There are eleven poles in all and no two tiki faces are alike. A lot of time and creativity went into carving these. Here is a composite photo I put together showing all eleven poles. Below it is a link to a large detailed photo. It may take a while to load based on your connection, but it is worth it:


The records for this building show that it was built in 1965. Do any of you tiki archeologists out there recognize the carver of these tikis, based on this date?

Walking back to the Kona Kai, then a little further around the corner to Sepulveda Blvd, you find an Irish Pub called "Killian's". Recent construction has cleared the lot next door, and now visible on the backside of Killian's is the following signage:

This was intriguing. Was this once a tiki bar?
Luckily the current owner of Killian's remembers back to the days in the 1960s when The Stowaway was a popular watering hole. It was a nautical-themed bar. No tikis, but lots of hanging nets, glass floats, bamboo and other artifacts. She showed me where a large stone fireplace once sat, right where the big-screen TV now shows football games on Sundays. The bar has gone through 2 or 3 incarnations since the original Stowaway was closed in the 1970s, but she knows the original owners and is going to try to get me photos of the Stowaway's original interior. If she's successful, I'll post them here for your perusal.


[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy on 2002-09-09 15:05 ]


Wow - these are really great! Thanks for all your time & effort putting these up!

thejab posted on Mon, Sep 9, 2002 7:11 PM

Amazing! Makes me want to move back to Southern Cal. Anyone have a job for me in Information Technology / Network Administration? Roughly how much are apartments in the South Bay (fairly near to the beach)? Here (in Oakland) I pay about $800 for a 1 bedroom in a pretty crappy neighborhood, and that's real cheap around here!

Fantastic photos! You just don't get buildings like that around these parts!!!

The composite photo is now my wallpaper, by the way. Cheers!

Trader Woody

Hey, great topic and even greater photos!
Allowing us east coast and central people to see these things through your eyes is a great gift and much appreciated.

Wonder what the waiting lists are to get in these places.


Freaking Fantastic pictures!!!
I know the subject has come up before, but I really wish we had some organized and consistent method of documenting tiki sites and keeping the info. in a central place.

...Yeah! A "Central" place...
a Tiki - Central!

Yeah, imagine archeologists of the future comparing this site to a midden...

I’m glad everyone likes the photos. I enjoy sharing them as much as I enjoy finding these places. I just wish I could convey the excitement I feel when I enter an old Polynesian apartment building, fully expecting it to be remodelled in "1980s Santa Fe", and then discover these original tikis, still quietly guarding the hibiscus and guava trees, just as they did forty years ago.

**To Stingray – ** I doubt you’d find a waiting-list on any of these places, at least not for the reasons you think. The Kona Kai was the only one that had a NO VACANCY sign out front, and that’s because it’s relatively near the beach, has a great swimming pool, and a modern, glass-enclosed weight-lifting room. The beautiful young people around the pool were definitely more interested in their bodies and their tans than in tikis. The musclebound guy who unlocked the pool-area for me was friendly, but seemed perplexed that I wanted to photograph the tiki. To him, it’s just an old relic that doesn’t fit in with his modern lifestyle and that he never really notices. I used to be this way myself.

Not everyone is so unimpressed. Just tell them a little about what tiki culture was like and why it’s important to you to record it now and that they are living in a cultural shrine of sorts, then suddenly they get a little more interested. They’ll show you all the hidden tikis in the building and if they’re older, they’ll begin telling you stories of other old tiki places they remember – often supplying you with good leads to track down later.

The Islander apartments in Gardena are occupied by a wonderfully diverse mix of Black, Latino, and Asian tenants. They definitely have no inkling of how historically important their amazingly-preserved tiki playground is to people like me. Luckily the owners seem to. The tenants appreciate this building because it is clean and beautiful and secure for their children in a neighborhood that is a little poorer and rundown and "less-desireable" because it’s not so close to the ocean. I lived in this neighborhood myself when I first moved out of my parents house and it has a lot to offer. Its core is a wonderful Japanese-Town with temples, all-night sake bars, and tatami-rooms in almost every restaurant. I considered it a great place to live, even though I was definitely in the minority-White portion of the population.

**To Jab – ** I’ll see if I can get some rates to you next time I drop by these buildings, and I’ll ask from now on at any new ones I explore. I remember the sign saying that the Eli Kai was composed completely of single-bedroom apartments, but I think the other two had larger apartments.

**To Kailuageoff – ** I’m with you. I’d love a database of these sites, so that any Tiki-Centralite could select a list of places to see when visiting a new city. I work for a large online real-estate information company, so I can often search our databases and find pertinent information on these buildings, such as the date they were built and the current owner’s mailing address. I’m accumulating files on each of the buildings in my area, but don’t have the time to devote to putting together an internet database. At least not now. I may be quitting my office job soon to devote myself full-time (more or less) to the Ebay business. When that happens, and I’m not working two jobs anymore, I should have more free time and may try to organize such a "Centralized" database.


[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy on 2002-09-10 13:34 ]

A searchable data base with pictures would be great. If you get around to actually attempting such a thing, send me an e-mail on it. My darling wife is a dba and could help out. Also, Sven and others more learned about urban archeology could advise what elements need to be captured on each site. I'm thinking National Registry of Historic Tiki Places.


To make things even more complicated, a database by state, such as the roadsideattractions.com page, would be helpful for planning road trips to visit all these places! I tried making a tiki map of North America myself but I soon realized it was too big a job for me!


Now I'm kicking myself for not switching over to a static-ip ISP more quickly. We've been talking about it, but we haven't done anything about it. Anyway, I've got a computer here I've been planning to set up as a web server running PostgreSQL or MySQL. I make web-based db apps for a living; if I just had the tools set up, I'd be able to tackle it. Disappointed! Maybe I'll start sketching out a schema while I talk Mr. Humuhumu into switching to Speakeasy.

a database by state, such as the roadsideattractions.com page, would be helpful for planning road trips to visit all these places!

Exactly right, Tikifish. I know JT is trying to gat a book published on tiki roadtrips, but a database would be useful for hardcore tiki hunting. And, identifying the locations and preserving information about stuff that is no longer there, but used to be.

Lately I’m amazed at how many Tiki Apartments I’ve been finding that aren’t listed in any of the local phonebooks. It gives me hope that there might still be some more unappreciated gems out there, waiting to be found accidentally or by word-of-mouth. This last weekend was another great example. I went exploring in North Torrance, based on a vague memory I had of seeing a tiki-named apartment complex somewhere on Artesia Blvd. several years ago.

It didn’t take me long to find it. The apartments are called the "Tiki Aloha" and are at 3505 Artesia Blvd. The nearest cross-street is Yukon. Fairly low-key as far as the Polynesian architecture goes - the façade has two small A-frame arches with woven matting against the walls inside the arches. The entrance columns have bamboo-and-rope sheathing, similar to the ones at the Islander at the start of this thread. I didn’t have much hope to find tikis inside but had to check to be sure.

click below for larger photos:

Unfortunately, getting inside the Tiki Aloha was going to be tougher than getting into Fort Knox. There was a security door at the front and it was locked. The walls surrounding the whole complex were high, with chainlink added to make them higher, and rolls of razor-wire topping off the chainlink. Every metal gate was topped with iron spikes. Peering through the mesh of the front security gate, I could see the garden courtyard within and suddenly felt like Harold Carter peering for the first time into the sealed tomb of King Tut and exclaiming "Wonderful things!" Everywhere I looked I could catch glimpses of primal faces peering at me from totems and from among the greenery. There were Tikis here! I had to get inside and take some pictures.

This was a small apartment building though, with not much traffic in and out. I waited a while then decided to dial the manager from the front phone. I got through and told him I was a visitor who was interested in looking at the apartments. He told me gruffly that there were no vacancies. I explained a bit about why I was interested in Tiki architecture here in Los Angeles and would it be all right if I took a few pictures of the tikis inside. I’d even let him hold my wallet while I was looking if that made him feel any better. He said, "Sorry. We don’t allow strangers of any kind." And hung up.

Yea verily, this was going to be a tough one.

I decided to hang out near the electronic gate leading to the garages in back. Sure enough, about ten minutes later a car drove out and I slipped in before the gate closed, feeling acutely suspicious and criminal. But at least I was inside!

My hopes were dashed though when I found another security door leading from the car-port area to the inner sanctum. It was, of course, locked. The afternoon was getting late and I didn’t have much good light left for photographs, but I opted to sit by the back door and wait. Twenty minutes later a man came out with a load of clothes for the laundry room. I asked him if he’d let me in and he said "No problem". I was finally inside!

Avoiding the manager’s apartment, because his door was wide open and the sound of television was coming from within, I quietly darted here and there, photographing everything I could. Less than two minutes later I was exiting through the front door. I think my long wait was worth it though, and here are some of the pictures from inside the Tiki Aloha, which I have now named "The Tiki Fortress"

This palm-wood tiki is one of the strangest I’ve ever seen. What looks like fresh-cut wood is actually the tan-colored paint that much of the rest of the apartments are painted with. It’s preserved the tiki very well, though. Here is a link to a larger picture:

The tiki posts and columns are amazingly preserved and seem just as sharp as the day they were carved. Here are some links to larger pictures again, including the composite photo of several of the totems:

This is only a small, garden-apartment with no swimming pool, so the number of tikis is actually pretty good for a building this small, and I didn’t photograph all of the columns either. I’d hesitate to put this building on your itinary of Los Angeles tiki sites though, because of the difficulty of getting inside.


P.S. Bonus.
Here's a photo of Doctor Z standing in front of a cool "Fezcycle" that we found in someone's driveway while garage-saling this Saturday.

Whaddya think, Smogbreather? Should we try to rent this sucker for the Tiki Bash? I think it would make a swell security vehicle.


[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy on 2002-09-16 17:16 ]

I went to Tiki Aloha about three weeks ago, and got the same kind of response from the manager. I was tempted to seek in but it was getting late and left. I'm going to try again soon.

Sabu - Wow! I am very impressed at you risking life & limb to get pix of that apartment complex! Really gutsy of you!
It reminds me of sneaking into the old Marineland site last year to take pix of what was left - when I walked out the back, the Sheriff was patroling the parking lot! I got out of there quick - but my reward were some good pix of abandoned amusement park stuff...

Hey Tangaroa,
I heard from a friend in the area that the old Marineland property was full of homeless people. Apparantly, they live in the abandoned buildings. Do you have pics to post? The place must look eerie....like a ghost town.


I have some pics I could post - but does anyone have any good suggestions on where to host the images? I only have a very tiny website....
I didn't see any homeless people, just a sense of creepy-forboding.... Maybe the ghost of Bubbles the pilot whale....


Marineland of The Pacific used to be one my family's favorite weekend outings during the 1960s and 70s. How I miss that place!

Just this last Thursday I picked up a mint-condition Marineland coloring book from 1955 at an Orange County estate sale for a dollar. Here's a picture and a link to the Ebay auction, which has some more photos. Thought you might appreciate it.



Marineland is currently being used as a location for the Disney film "Hidalgo" about an early 20th century endurance rider.


Thanks Sabu!
I also have some interesting negatives I bought last year of the construction of Marineland in the 50s...
The original buildings had a very stylized feel to them....

On 2002-09-10 13:33, Sabu The Coconut Boy wrote:
I’d love a database of these sites, so that any Tiki-Centralite could select a list of places to see when visiting a new city. I’m accumulating files on each of the buildings in my area, but don’t have the time to devote to putting together an internet database. At least not now.
[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy on 2002-09-10 13:34 ]

Although my web site does this to a degree, it is not searchable. Also, it is not as complete as it could be. However, my upcoming book, Tiki Road Trip, is far more complete than the web site, and does contain just about every Tiki site in the US and abroad that I have been able to find out about. There are almost twice as many places in the book as there are on the web site, in fact. Again, it is not searchable (in the way a database would be...), but you CAN throw it into your luggage and GO!
I would very much like to see what you have accumulated thus far; I am finishing the manuscript this week, and any data about addresses and buliding dates that I am missing wold help immensely.
Email me privately if you can help.

Could the Eli Kai have been named after famed designer of Tiki Bars, Eli Hedley...?

[ Edited by: tikibars 2006-11-30 12:47 ]

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