A visit to La Mariana Tiki Bar and Restaurant, nestled on the shores of Keehi Lagoon right by the La Mariana Sailing Club, is like taking a step back in time to 1950’s Hawaii.
La Mariana is the last original Tiki bar on Oahu, and it is a lush hideaway with a unique setting and radiant ambience. An oasis in the middle of Honolulu’s industrial area, it is located en route to Sand Island from the Honolulu Airport. La Mariana is a fabulous location for a cocktail, to enjoy the ‘golden hour’ of sunset, and to sit and watch the many sailboats docked right beside the restaurant. Since it is quite close to the airport, it is THE place to stop in for some drinks and pupus (appetizers) before or after a flight. It is right under the flight path, so be prepared to pause conversations especially when the military planes fly over!
The most unique feature of the place is the Bali Ha’i-style decor, complete with many South Pacific island motifs and sculptures. The restaurant and bar are decorated with glass balls and fishing nets hanging colorfully from the walls and ceilings, huge shell-covered lamps and rattan chairs with wooden tables. Founded in 1957 by Annette and Johnny Campbell, La Mariana serves as a historic reminder of old Hawaii and is a living museum of Hawaiiana. Apparently, as other famous tiki-themed restaurants on the island closed one after the other, Annette collected a lot of the memorabilia and brought it to La Mariana to create something totally unique. There are old carved tikis and koa wood tables. Annette’s vision for the place was that it might transport guests to a long time ago when most of Hawaii was still pineapple fields, and that folks might experience the slow, unhurried pace of that era.
At La Mariana, island-style dining in a relaxed setting is the focus. There is an extensive cocktail menu, and they serve the famous mai tais as their specialty. The place is primarily a bar and folks come here to drink in the view and the atmosphere as well as to be refreshed with a cool drink on a hot Hawaii day. The menu incorporates mostly seafood items, with some fish locally sourced. The pupus (appetizers) are fairly decent but by no means is the food exceptional. Island-style often means very simplistic, nothing fancy. We ordered the Kailua Pork Nachos as an appetizer and they were pretty good. The main meal, however was a little disappointing – the Mahi Mahi was overcooked and the sauces a little too salty. Overall it was fairly decent, however we would recommend going there only for drinks and pupus and having your main meal in another of Honolulu’s fabulous restaurants.
Despite the mediocre menu, the atmosphere is awesome, very local and quite the authentic Hawaii experience. Minus the glitz of Waikiki’s high-priced restaurants, La Mariana offers a place of respite, away from the busy city. There is live music each night of the week, featuring two local blind musicians who alternate and sometimes play together. According to locals they have pretty much become part of the furniture, as La Mariana is never without music.
Restaurant Hours: Open Daily. Lunch: 11 am – 3 pm. Pupus & Drinks: 3pm – 5pm Dinner: 5pm – 9pm Phone: +1 808 848 2800. Closed on 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve Dinner and New Years Lunch