Finding Waikiki’s best Mai Tai—Part 5: Cuckoo Coconuts

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This article is a direct continuation of part three of our Mai Tai series. Check out the whole series here.

Still buzzing from my experience at Arnold’s, I swaggered into Cuckoo Coconuts, another tiki bar cleverly tucked away, as if operating in the open might get them shut down.

This one was hidden behind Waikiki Shopping Plaza, where the HA office is located.

The bar was fairly sparse for a Friday night, especially since Arnold’s at around the same time seemed much more busy, but I later learned that I had arrived right after the live band had packed up, about two hours before closing time.

The bar

I thought Arnold’s was appropriately tiki-themed, but Cuckoo Coconuts turned the kitsch up to 11.

I mean, just take a look at their website.

It’s hilariously, incorrigibly, unrepentantly bad: random fonts; gratuitous gradients; bright, clashing colors; silly cartoon coconuts—

It’s the most charming website I’ve ever seen, and it perfectly represents the bar.

When I walked in, the first thing I noticed was the lights—neon signs and strings of christmas lights adorn the area, illuminating tiki decorations and wicker chairs.

It’s an open-air bar, but I didn’t even realize that since the area is covered with umbrellas.

When I sat down and was handed a menu, I found that they offer a fairly wide selection of beer, wine, tiki cocktails, well drinks, and food.

Not just bar food, either: you can get burgers, salads, shrimp, and even Hawaiian and local dishes—I didn’t at all expect to be able to order a traditional Hawaiian luau plate in a bar, even in Waikiki.

This place doesn’t have a happy hour, by the way, nor did I see or hear about any specials on drinks or food.

It makes up for it, though, by having reasonable prices 24/7.

Draft beers and well drinks are $5 a pop, which is, in my opinion, pretty amazing for a Waikiki establishment.

The cocktails are still reasonable, ranging from $9to $11, but if you want your pina colada served in a pineapple, you’d better be ready to shell out $16.

I knew what I was getting, though, so I ordered what I came for.

The Mai Tai

The first thing I noticed about the Mai Tai served to me at Cuckoo Coconuts was that it was a slightly different color than I was expecting.

Rather than the stereotypical yellow contrasting with the dark rum float, the Mai Tai was pretty much just different shades of brown.

According to the menu, they use their own blend of fruit juices, which was apparent from the first sip.

Rather than the taste of pineapple juice, my first taste of Cuckoo Coconuts’ Mai Tai (taken with the signature straw-pull method) was that of passion fruit.

In hindsight, it’s possible that I could be overselling this and the bartender just served me a glass of rum with a bit of POG added in.

Regardless, the Mai Tai was delicious.

The experience

There’s a strange magnetism about tiki bars that I have difficulty putting into words.

The laid-back, island atmosphere is definitely to my taste, but there’s something more than that: it’s the over-the-top silliness of the tiki aesthetic, where everyone knows the tikis and palm leaves are 100% fake but they’re just so mellow that it doesn’t matter.

It wasn’t long after I had begun on my Mai Tai that the gentleman sitting next to me at the bar decided to strike up a conversation.

He was here on a business trip, but decided to extend his visit another week. His return flight was tomorrow morning and he decided to enjoy his last night.

He was also kind enough to share his basket of coconut shrimp with me, which was greatly appreciated since I was beginning to wonder if I had the wherewithal to get through my Mai Tai.

(Of course I did; I am a professional.)

Soon, I could see the bottom of my plastic cup and felt the same mix of relief and sorrow that one always does when reaching the bottom of a drink.

I had no complaints, though: the night was winding down and I decided not to order another drink.

If there’s anything that the lack of color indicated, it’s that the Mai Tai I was served was mostly rum.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the bartender offered me another Mai Tai:

“The gentleman over there has bought another round for everyone at the bar.”

I think I like tiki bars.

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