Tiki Field Report #8 The Mai Kai Fort Lauderdale, FL 9/13/16

Ray and Dave at The Mai Kai
Ray and Dave at The Mai Kai

You don’t know what humidity is until you go to Florida.

I just touched down in Fort Lauderdale and it’s so humid here that my glasses fog up as soon as I go outside. I flew in from Seattle on a six-hour flight and I’m here to do two things: visit the legendary Mai Kai and reconnect with my friend Dave who I haven’t seen since the early ’90s. Back in the day, we were heavily into skateboarding and punk rock. Time passed. I grew up to be a guy who blogs about Tiki bars and Dave became a professional photographer (Gittleman Studios). I made an offer to Dave: if he could take some pictures of the Mai Kai for me, I would pay for his drinks. It was a deal!

We left Dave’s home in Fort Myers and made the two-hour drive to Fort Lauderdale. We arrived at the Mai Kai around 5:00 in the afternoon. I could not believe how massive this place was…

Mai Kai during the day

It’s really hard to tell just how big the main building is because it’s covered in tropical vegetation!

The Mai Kai
The Mai Kai

After taking in the sights outside the Mai Kai, it was time to venture in. This is what you see…

The Mai Kai

Blackness. It’s really dark inside the Mai Kai and it takes some time for your eyes to adjust. But when they do, it feels like you’re waking up on a pirate ship. That pirate ship would be the Molokai Bar…

Molokai Bar at The Mai Kai
Molokai Bar at The Mai Kai

Molokai Bar at The Mai Kai

It honestly feels like being inside the hull of an old pirate ship. I’ve only been inside the Mai Kai for five minutes and already the real world seems so far away…

The Mai Kai

The Molokai was packed, but Dave scouted two seats at the bar. The next step: decide what we were going to drink. It took a couple minutes. The drink menu is huge! No, literally, it is physically big. I wanted to buy one, but it was too big to fit in my bag!

Mai Kai menu
Mai Kai menu

Dave loves zombies. In fact, he has done work with the Walking Dead! His choice was obvious: a Zombie…

Dave drinking a Zombie at The Mai Kai
Dave drinking a Zombie at The Mai Kai

I wanted the Rum Barrel, just because the mug looked cool…

Rum Barrell at The Mai Kai
Rum Barrell at The Mai Kai

Hooking us up with our drinks was Lisa Thibodeau…

Ray with Leslie Thibodeau at The Mai Kai
Ray with Leslie Thibodeau at The Mai Kai

She has worked at the Mai Kai for eleven years. She had some crazy stories to tell, but she made us promise not to repeat them. Don’t worry Lisa, I won’t say a word!

After we finished our drinks, we headed over to the gift shop…

Going into The Mai Kai Trading Post
Going into The Mai Kai Trading Post
The gift shop at The Mai Kai
The gift shop at The Mai Kai

I can’t say a gift shop had ever impressed me before, but this place was incredible!

The gift shop at The Mai Kai

The gift shop at The Mai Kai
The gift shop at The Mai Kai

Standing behind the counter was Lisa Ferreri. She moved down to Florida from New York. She misses the pizza and bagels, but doesn’t miss the snow!

We stepped outside and found ourselves in the Mai Kai Gardens. We just followed the path…

Tropical Garden at The Mai Kai

There is much too take in…

Tropical Garden at The Mai Kai

Tropical Garden at The Mai Kai

From the moment you walk inside the Mai Kai, you are cut off from the outside world. Even outside in the Mai Kai Gardens, the sounds of waterfalls drown out the traffic on Rt. 1.

Mai Kai waterfall
Mai Kai waterfall

Before we knew it, the show was about to begin.

Polynesian Islander Revue at The Mai Kai
Polynesian Islander Revue at The Mai Kai

I made reservations months in advance for the Polynesian Islander Revue and I’m glad I did. The seats at the Mai Kai filled up very quickly…

The Mai Kai

The crowd watching the show at The Mai Kai
The crowd watching the show at The Mai Kai

We were shown to our seats and our drink orders were made. This time Dave went with a Jet Fuel. This is the Mai Kai’s version of a Jet Pilot…

Dave with his Jet Pilot at The Mai Kai
Dave with his Jet Pilot at The Mai Kai

Every year a large Tiki event happens at the Mai Kai. It’s called the Hukilau. Tons of people show up from everywhere to live the Tiki lifestyle by drinking Tiki drinks, dancing to great music, and drinking more Tiki drinks. The Mai Kai came up with a drink in honor of Hukilau. It’s called the Hukilau and you guessed it: it’s very strong. That’s what I went with…

Ray drinking a Hukilau at The Mai Kai
Ray drinking a Hukilau at The Mai Kai

Sitting at the same table as us was a girl celebrating her ninth birthday. Her name was Rory and Serenity (Rory’s Mom) had good taste. Going to the Mai Kai for your birthday: how cool is that?

Rory celebrating her 9th birthday at The Mai Kai
Rory celebrating her 9th birthday at The Mai Kai

The show began…

Polynesian Islander Revue at The Mai Kai

For about the next two hours, the crowd was entertained with music…

Polynesian Islander Revue at The Mai Kai

Dancing…

Polynesian Islander Revue at The Mai Kai

And fire…

Polynesian Islander Revue at The Mai Kai

I was well into my Hukilau, feeling the effects of my drink, and the enjoying the show when one of the dancers came off the stage and started wandering through the audience. This beautiful woman made her way over to my table and finally to me. She extended her hand and whispered, “Follow me…”

Ray hula dancing on The Mai Kai stage
Ray hula dancing on The Mai Kai stage

She led me up to the stage and said, “Just do what I do.” The music started and her hips started swaying to the rhythm…

Ray hula dancing on The Mai Kai stage
Ray hula dancing on The Mai Kai stage

I tried to mimic her movements the best I could, but I couldn’t keep up! She had style and grace. I had a couple Tiki drinks in me! I did my best to shake my hips and before I knew it, my dancing debut was over. Everyone clapped and the dancer gave me a rainbow lei…

Ray at The Mai Kai
Ray at The Mai Kai

The show was over and night has fallen. Dave and I went back out to the Mai Kai Gardens…

Mai Kai Tropical Garden at night

The Mai Kai Gardens at night is just breathtaking and cool…

Mai Kai Tropical Garden at night
Mai Kai Tropical Garden at night

Tiki torches light the pathway…

Mai Kai Tropical Garden at night

We even ran into the birthday girl!

Rory, The Birthday Girl!
Rory, The Birthday Girl!

It’s relaxing and all you can hear is the sound of the crackling Tiki torches and the waterfalls…

The Mai Kai Gardens at night
The Mai Kai Gardens at night

I’m in my own little Tiki happy place. Then someone from behind me yelled, “Nice dancing tonight!” Ha! Okay, back to reality. I suppose it’s time to leave. Dave and I were at the Mai Kai for almost five hours. It felt like five minutes.

The Mai Kai

I would like to thank Dave Gittleman for his amazing photographs used for this post.

Dave Gittleman: The Photographer
Dave Gittleman: The Photographer

Here is Dave’s website.

And Facebook Page.

Here is my official write up on the Mai Kai.

Here is a photo collection of the Polynesian Islander Revue take by Dave Gittleman of Gittleman Studios.

This is the Mai Kai’s website.

And Facebook page.

3 thoughts on “Tiki Field Report #8 The Mai Kai Fort Lauderdale, FL 9/13/16

    • Ray Wyland Post authorReply

      Ha! Thank you Angelica. It was a good thing a had a couple Tiki drinks in me or I would have gotten stagefrieght! ;-D

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