The Hukilau 2014 — amazing! — 55 photos

Hukilau-collage2Oh my word. I had no idea. The Hukilau. The most amazing event I have ever attended. It was so much fun. Kate and I arrived back home on Monday — and we are still processing — so today an easyish-peasy-ish we-can’t-even-begin-to-capture-it-really photo essay: Scenes from The Hukilau 2014.

pam kueber hukilau

Kate and I at The Mai Kai at the big Saturday night show. Christie – shown glowing on the stage — gave us special 2014 Hukilau tiki mugs for our participation. Yes: That’s a cannibal tiki!

To begin — Kate and I share our photo diary of The Hukilau in general. Tomorrow, our photos from The Mai Kai.

christie white

Tiki Kiliki, we love you! Thanks for inviting us to The Hukilau!

About The Hukilau

The Hukilau began 13 years ago, when a dedicated community of tikiphiles on the East Coast decided to create their own annual gathering to celebrate tiki culture. It was not very easy to participate in tiki activities on the West Coast. So these tiki fans — led by Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White — launched their own event in Atlanta. The Hukilau was an instant success. But not far from Atlanta — in Fort Lauderdale — there was an even better place to meet, they quickly agreed: The Mai Kai Restaurant — a phenomenal time capsule example of postwar tiki architecture built in 1956 — a veritable Temple o’ the Tiki — still was operating. So, the Hukilau moved to Fort Lauderdale and has thrived there ever since, with the Mai Kai as the epicenter of activities.


My first drink at the Mai Kai: The Zombie, nom nom. My favorite was The Shark Bite, though!


In return for our participation in the tiki bar design panel, The Hukilau provided Retro Renovation with some compensation and sponsorship benefits. Our initial announcement and an ad that went in our sidebar were “part of the deal” — but THIS story and future stories are “not”. This coverage is done because of Tiki Madness Love — no financial relationship.

Kate and I participated in this year’s Hukilau for the first time. We led the panel Create Your Own Suburban Savage Paradise, which included leading tiki design experts Jamie Wilson and Anjy Cameron aka Cheeky Tiki… Bamboo Ben… Danny Gallardo aka Tiki Diablo… and Dave Wolfe aka Basement Kahuna.

the hukilau

Kate and Jim with reader Nicole in matching prints. Nicole also was a vendor at The Hukilau marketplace via her shop Rocket City Retro in Cocoa Beach. Pam bought two tiki masks from her.

We participated in all the other events, too… we learned all about tiki history… we met top tiki historians… we taste-tested well-crafted tiki cocktails derived from original Don the Beachcomber recipes… we examined and acquired tiki artifacts (ahem, we shopped)…

the hukilau 2014

Villager Vikki Vaden of TheOpShoppe basks in the glory of a tiki at The Mai Kai during the Hukilau.

… we wore vintage dresses and flowers in our hair… we wandered around the Mai Kai over and over again… and, we met lots of readers and many other wonderful people. There were mermaids, burlesque and bands playing exotica revival tunes, too. This is a fantastic community!

witco clock

Nicole’s husband with a Witco clock that was not for sale. Hmph.

My favorite parts of The Hukilau were the Mai Kai… and the people… and oh my: The clothes.

hukilau villagers

Villagers including Gina Santucci, King Kukulele and Paul Roe in carefully plundered ceremonial garb.

Experienced villagers had costume changes at least twice a day. I was told that they shopped all year in preparation. And it showed.

A key take away: It is super difficult to be unhappy when you are wearing a bright flower-covered dress — and a flower in your hair. The men: Dressed just as loudly, just as proudly, as the women.

It will take some time to recover from this.

Photos from The Hukilau:

Tip to use slide show: Click on thumbnail… it will enlarge… use the arrows below each photo to move forward or back… you may start or stop at any photo.


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  1. John aka AtomicHipster says

    Hi Pam,

    I love the Mai Kai. I vacation in Ft. Lauderdale most winters and always try to get to the Mai Kai at least once while there. It’s truly a magical place. Did they still have the water running over the windows in the bar area so you felt like you were on a ship during a storm?


  2. Jay says

    What happens at Huilau stays at Hukilau! Looks like Pam and Kate’s alter egos had a great time. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Geronimom says

    YES! I’ve been anxiously awaiting your return and the accompanying commentary/photos so that I could at least experience this amazing event vicariously! Looks like a truly awesome time with awesome, vintage-loving, like-minded people. Maybe someday I, too, will get to attend such a fun event – perhaps a “Retro Renovation” convention will be on a future radar? Maybe at that new vintage themed hotel in Orlando you wrote of here awhile back? Or in Vegas – I think Vegas just might be able to handle this crazy Retro Renovation crowd! ;-). Thanks for sharing all the great pics from the Hukilau!

    • Kate says

      Oh my goodness yes — everyone we met was so friendly, welcoming and fun to talk to. It was like having hundreds of “instant friends.” The Hukilau tiki community ROCKS!

    • gsciencechick says

      I just stayed at Universal’s Cabana Bay resort, and I didn’t really see dedicated space for a convention/conference. There was a small group that booked the bar area one night for a private party.

  4. Laurie Louise says

    Thanks for the travelogue! A couple of months after being drawn into this retro time-travel journey, I told my husband that we were now part of a subculture. I had no idea!

  5. Robin, NV says

    Several years ago, I found a bunch of 1960s high end formal dresses at the Salvation Army. They were all exactly my size!! I bought four of them including a Hawaiian full length dress. It was cream colored with a brown Tiki cape attached at the color. It was SO fabulous. Alas, I no longer have it. I’m still kicking myself for not keeping it.

  6. says

    The spirit of Aloha is what Hukilau is all about. It was lovely to meet you Pam and we had such a great time, shame it’s over but next year it will be bigger and better.
    Hope to see you before then.

    • says

      Paul – Cliff and I were overwhelmed with how friendly and cool everyone was – not an attitude in the bunch. A total Aloha spirit that we did our best to carry on as well. Love being a part of something so positive and fun!

  7. Gina Santucci says

    So YOU are the person who bought the framed masks!! Well, we scored one of the carved war clubs, so I suppose it’s alright. 😉 It was such a pleasure meeting you!

  8. says

    It was a positive THRILL and HIGHLIGHT of our entire visit to the Hukilau to meet Pam and Kate in real life!

    (Just realized that when I typed the above that Mod Betty’s 2 sisters in real life are Pam and Kate!! Too wonderfully random!)

    You gals were swell to chat with, and so glad we all got to experience this Hukilau together. Mahalo Ohana!

    • Kate says

      It was fantastic to meet you too Mod Betty! That’s too funny that your real life sisters are also Pam and Kate. 🙂

  9. John Tremain says

    Aloha, Pam! So wonderful meeting you at the Hukilau. Your talk has inspired me and the wheels are turning for creating a drinking space in our basement. Low ceilings, little light, lots of problems to turn into features. Thinking ship’s hold…nautical focus. Secret retreat in the bowels of our A&C bungalow. You are, awesome.

    • pam kueber says

      Awe… It was So Great to meet you, John!!!!! Be sure to take lots of before-during-and-after photos, and we’ll post it on the blog!

  10. G says

    The well dressed villager in blue by the large Tiki is none other than fabulous mid-century inspired artist Vikki Vaden!!

  11. Andi says

    FUN!! Just so much fun—and I know you are right about not being able to be unhappy in wild colorful dresses and hair-flowers! Oh my….fabulous, all of it!

  12. tammyCA says

    It looks so fun…glad you guys were able to make it down there and share the pics…that’s a great one with the giant tiki.
    I’ve never been anywhere tropical (except once in a Don the Beachcomber restaurant in the ’70s..very cool..I wanted to live in it)…now, I’m craving a big colorful tropical-y drink. 🙂

  13. tammyCA says

    well I don’t know see my first post.
    Anyway, sure looks like a fun time…and, now I’m craving a colorful tropical drink..and I rarely drink. Which reminds me…every time I watch the old movie, “The Blue Gardenia” where Ann Baxter drinks (rather gets plastered, which leads to trouble) some Polynesian Pearl Divers at the swanky, tropical-y Blue Gardenia I want a cool tropical drink. 🙂

  14. Mary Elizabeth says

    OK, I have two bits of advice. Kate, next year know that you can’t keep drinking tiki cocktails while you wait for dinner. Pretty soon you won’t be able to raise any of your eyebrows–or your head off the table. Second, Pam, keep the false eyelashes if they are comfortable. They really are cool. But don’t let them fall into your drink.

    This was a very wonderful celebration and inspiring. Thanks for sharing. Some time should we share recipes for at-home hukelaus and luaus?

    • pam kueber says

      Also, I realize that the reason we don’t have more photos of the interior of The Mai-Kai is that upon entering, we always made a bee line for the Molokai Bar. After one Zombie, you forget you’re supposed to be taking lots of photos. Next time: Work first, celebrate after. But then, we also had on our assignment list: Taste-test cocktails. So many tiki drinks. So little time.

  15. Myeva says

    Pam and Kate you both looked stunning at the Hukilau-! Wish we could have been there. Great event- now I know that someone will want to buy the gorgeous vintage tiki fabric I have been keeping forever… I’ll see how much I’ve got and then send a photo if anyone’s interested in making an outfit for next year… I can’t remember if you have a marketplace on this site?

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