Finding Waikiki’s best Mai Tai – Part 4: Duke’s Waikiki

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Those coming to Hawaii on a long flight may want to stop at Duke’s Waikiki to decompress.

Named after one of Hawaii’s patron saints, Duke Kahanamoku—multiple Olympic gold medalist, hero and the original progenitor of surfing’s modern popularity—Duke’s Waikiki draws on nostalgia for the golden age of Waikiki.

(via 123RF)
A popular statue in honor of Duke Kahanamoku, namesake of Duke’s Waikiki. (via 123RF)

At Duke’s, you can let out a breath and take it in… you’re here now. From the rear lanai you can look out over an easterly view; the gently splashing waves of Waikiki Beach creating space between you and Diamond Head.

If there’s any downside to Duke’s, it’s just that it’s too darn popular. You won’t find a slow night of the week when you can slip in without a reservation. On most days it’s pretty much wall-to-wall, and you’ll need to wait to get a table.

©VELTRA
Duke’s Waikiki… wildly popular, and with good reason. ©VELTRA

That is of course, unless you’re just there for a drink.

There’s a great little secret about Duke’s that we discovered during our recent visit; while the bar and bar-side table seating may fill up quickly, there are waiting tables out back on the rear lanai.

These tables are usually set up along the back wall and are intended for guests waiting for seating to open up. Nevertheless, if you don’t mind standing, the servers are happy enough to keep you supplied with cold drinks.

©VELTRA
No need to wait, just head for the standing tables out back! ©VELTRA

In addition to an impressive cocktail menu, Duke’s also stocks some interesting local beers, like the Lahaina Town Brown by Maui Brewing Company featured above.

As for Duke’s signature Mai Tai, it reaches the higher end of the price range at $12 per glass, but justifies the cost with fresh ingredients and unique flavors.

Each tiki head comes adorned with a wedge of fresh-cut pineapple. You’ll never be served a skewer of pre-canned and eerily incandescent fruit.

A special blend of juice, most notably guava, gives Duke’s Mai Tai its unmistakable floral finish. Maybe thanks to the guava, all the bite of the rum is blended out in a wash of great flavors.

©VELTRA
Don’t miss a classic cocktail in Waikiki. ©VELTRA

If I had to describe Duke’s Mai Tai in a word, it would be “fresh”. Working your way through the glass, you get a weird mix of feelings: simultaneously energized and refreshed, while also unwound and relaxed.

But who knows, maybe Jason spiked my drink…

 

Know any other great places you think are worth checking out? Don’t forget to share in the comments below! If you’re just joining us, check out our other Mai Tai posts.

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