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For the most part, Europe was only lightly touched by the hand of Tiki, usually in the form of Trader Vic's outposts and restaurants and bars inspired by the exploits of Thor Heyerdahl & the Kon Tiki expedition. The exception was Spain, where a wide variety of Tiki bars were established, often with their own mugs and unique décor.
The reason for the embracing of Tiki in Spain was the sudden explosion of inexpensive tourism to the country, particularly it's coastal regions during the 60's & 70's. As high-rise concrete hotels were built with little regulation along the Spanish coast, the influx of tourists needed places to eat & drink, so vast numbers of bars & restaurants were built during this period. Of course, each bar needed to set themselves out as being a little different. By adopting a Tiki, Hawaiian or Tropical theme, a bar could attract tourists from a variety of countries, which wasn't often the case with the many strictly English, German, Swedish, or Spanish bars frequently being built. So, these bars proliferate within Spain, and often have their own look & feel, quite separate from the ones in the US.
And that's why Spain is the Tiki Capital of Europe.
(Or at least that's my theory)
NB - The next Tiki News will be doing an article all about Spain!!!
Madrid - The Spanish capital is bar heaven, and would be worth a visit even if there wasn't a Tiki bar in one of it's most popular squares. The Mauna Loa Hawaiian Bar is recognisable by it's straw-hut exterior, and long line outside at the weekends (Great to see such a popular Tiki Bar). You descend some steps into a darkened cave-like room, filled with little alcoves, and are directed to a seat by one of the excellent waiters. We only had one drink there, but what a drink it was! We went for the one which came in a giant Volcano, which was ideal for two. Unfortunately, we'd already sampled a decent number of bars, and had been bought countless drinks by a variety of friendly Madridians, so we left after just the one.
Barcelona - Barcelona is well-served for good Tiki Bars, having three good ones. As I've not been there yet myself, I steer you towards an excellent website put out by the good folks at www.alohawaii.ch . Please check out www.city-in-space.com
Barcelona also has it's own theme park called Port Aventura. The Polynesian part of the aqua park features Tiki poles, as well as a full Polynesian show....perhaps the only one in Europe!
A bar called simply 'Moai' was the first Tiki Bar in Benidorm I visited. It's situatedat the foot of the Old Town, right next to the beach. It's definitely 'Tiki Moderne', with smooth, curved white walls, Moai shaped columns, and trendy-looking bar staff. I suspect it previously had a different theme, as the columns looked suspiciously like knee-joints, and there seemed to be a few dragons dotted about the place. The bar itself had a very impressive 3 foot stone Moai on it, complete with red stone topknots while a bigger (10ft) Moai was jutting out of the wall dividing the male and female toilets. The big Moai sadly needed a bit of a re-paint, as it had much of it's nose paint rubbed off. They also had at least 3 of those Moai Pisco bottles behind the bar, one of them with a light beneath it, which was pretty damn cool-looking. Finally, the straws were served in great-looking 4-Tiki faced bowls, which were pretty nifty. So, a few bit's and pieces of Tiki culture, but at the end of the day, more of a trendy modern bar than a true Tiki Bar.
The second is called the 'Mai Tai', and probably was built in the late 60's/early 70's. Once again, this was near the beachfront, though this time along the beach to the right of the old town (facing out to sea). Spanish bars are often built to a similar style, and the theme tacked on at the end, and this seemed little different. I was a bit disappointed by the cane (not bamboo) chairs, and hastily painted palm trees on the walls, but was intrigued by the cement & rock volcano in the corner. Next to the volcano was a fishtank, set into the wall, containing a collection of weird Spanish Tiki mugs which time had forgotten. I sat by the volcano and enjoyed their Mai Tai Sangria (odd but pleasant combo), while checking out the great mugs. The proprietress noticed my interest, and set off a mechanical bird, a mechanical bat, let a live dove onto the floor, then set the volcano smoking! A Tiki bar in spirit, if not decor!
Altea on the coast along from Benidorm has a bar open evenings only called the 'Rapa Nui'. Sadly, I didn't get a chance to visit, but have seen photos of it's interior. This has Moai-shaped columns, pictures of Moais on the wall, but otherwise looks like a fairly typical Spanish Bar. Anyone ever been there?
Mauna Beach Bar in Bilbao
My lovely wife and I spent a fantastic weekend in
Bilbao (northern Spain). The weekend included drinks at
(presumably) Bilbao’s only tiki bar and one unexpected tiki
spotting. Spotting an unexpected tiki first thing as we stepped out of our pension to explore the city was most
fortuitous! The approximately three feet tall deep green
fibre-glass fellow stood guard over a crowded tattoo and
piercing establishment in Bilbao’s Casco Viejo. It
appeared to be a sort of stylised Moai with Maori details
along its sides.
A leisurely and meandering
walk about Bilbao eventually led us to our only true
destination for our first night in town: Moana Beach, a
“cafeteria/pub/restaurante de los mares/del sur.”
Overall Moana Beach
was a decent tiki bar – I wouldn’t recommend
venturing to Bilbao solely to check it out, but that being
said, I would HIGHLY recommend a trip to Bilbao to
anyone interested in great art and distinct culture. And
when in Bilbao, Moana Beach is about as good as any of
a zillion fantastic bars (though the tapas at Moana
Beach paled in comparison to some of the other bars we
Most impressive about Moana Beach was its massive
(twelve to fifteen feet tall) fibreglass tiki, which
greeted customers just inside the front entrance of the
establishment. Moana Beach’s additional use of fibreglass to
create a ‘descent into a mysterious cavern’ effect
impressed me too, especially with the green spotlights
accenting the ferns (both faux and live), the other
foliage, and the few other tikis. A low volume recording
of ‘jungle noises’ playing in this foyer added a
nice finishing touch to this 'manufactured
The bar itself was made to look like a giant tree
with huge branches running along the ceiling and with
roots running along the floor. Rattan and bamboo were
adequately incorporated as railing, tables, chairs and
barstools. The drinks were good (I had the Moana Speciale
and my wife had the Sueno de Coco) and served in
heavy coconut-shaped ceramic mugs. These coconut mugs
were Moana Beach's the only themed mugs.
music was reggae (of course) with UB40’s “Little
Baggardim” playing for most of the time we were there. The
music wasn’t ideal in my opinion, but was to be
expected, was played at a decent volume and seemed
appropriate enough for the easy-going patrons of mixed age
and social status (young dating couples, small
families, after-work drinkers, university
Another cool aspect to the bar was it’s ‘twinkling star
ceiling’. What I supposed were little fibre-optic lights
were placed randomly throughout the deep blue painted
ceiling. The intensity of the lights varied in gradually
and subtly, making for a neat ‘starry night’
The back of the restaurant housed a banquet room
where hula dinner shows were performed on weekend
nights. We left before the dinner show – deciding to go
for local Basque cuisine while only in the area for
two nights – but were sorely tempted to stay by the
huge volcano on the stage, which was shown erupting on
a few posters around the restaurant.
unfortunate was Moana Beach’s unnecessary and eye-irritating
neon elements, such as the straws for our drinks and
some signage. Though the use of neon wasn’t
ubiquitous, it was, nevertheless incongruous with the rest of
Moana Beach’s mostly dark and ‘mysterious’
Also incongruous were the few Gauguin framed prints in
the bar area. Although, I appreciate his paintings, I
found the mix of kitsch and fine art undermined the
Moana Beach’s theme of goofy fun appropriate for both
hard drinkers and families with young children alike.
Ola y aloha! Tiki Emi and I just got back from southern Spain (Andalucia to be exact) where, in addition to all sorts of incredible adventures of a thoroughly Spanish nature, we had a few fascinating tiki moments too! Here’s the scoop, kids:
Our trip started out in Sevilla where we walked by a place called “Uka” that I think might be a tiki bar. Unfortunately Uka was closed with a garage door pulled over the storefront restricting us from peeking inside. However, the signage was made of some sort of straw matting with bamboo trim. Oh well…
From Sevilla we headed to the province of Malaga from whence we set out one evening to search for tiki in the Soulless Costa del Sol condo-hell that is Marbella.
First stop was Trader Vic’s Marbella (Urbanizacion La Alcazaba, Ctra de Cadiz). Trader Vic’s Marbella was cool – not as cool & swank as the London Trader Vic’s but certainly in that category. The coolest thing about Trader Vic’s Marbella was its setting. Trader Vic’s Marbella is set beside the pool in a massive resort complex. Looking out the window I could see real palm trees, moonlight shining and stars twinkling, a lighted pool & dimly lit paths leading to the beach.
There was seating available outside around the pool, but it was a chilly night so we sat inside.
Trader Vic’s Marbella had big tikis inside along with the par usual floaters, outrigger canoe etc. hanging from the ceiling. Of particular interest was the well over eight feet tall moai standing guard over the entrance to the servicios.
The clientele were mostly wealthy British families with young kids on holiday with too much money and too few ideas about how to spend it. These folks seem to abound in Marbella and the Costa del Sol in general.
Here’s the Trader Vic’s Marbella website:
Click on “Visita Guiada” for a slide show of the restaurant.
Roughly one kilometre from Trader Vic’s Marbella is Tai Pan at the Hotel Puente Romano (Ctra de Cadiz). We stopped here on the way back from Trader Vic’s on a lead from a website suggesting that visitors to the area, “try a cocktail at their Polynesian bar before dinner and you are sure to enjoy your evening!” Swanky cool bar, but Polynesian it ain’t. However, they did have Zombies and Mai Tais and the like and served some drinks in coconut shaped mugs. The Tai Pan had a red lacquer and black look going for it, Bentleys and other snob cars parked out front, yummy smelling food (though we had opted to eat Spanish cuisine while in Spain), and what appeared to be a gay gigolo and his johns (yes that’s meant to be plural). The drink I had was good but entirely too expensive.
After an evening exploring Marbella, Tiki Emi and I headed back to a more authentic and less cookie-cutterly developed Spain, which eventually led us to the small town of Palma del Rio, roughly equidistant from Cordoba and Sevilla. It was here on our last night of the trip that we happened upon a most excellent tiki bar – Waikiki!
So what if the few masks in the establishment were mass produced Indonesian “crafts”, the lovely pink and green neon sign announcing “Waikiki” to the world along with the hand painted sign of the different mugs awaiting inside (Emi took a photo but it hasn’t been developed yet) make this place top notch in my book!
At the bar sat a few older local men having sodas and beers. A couple in their early twenties came in after Emi and I. And then of course, there was the bartender. This guy was THE best (!!!) and I presume the sole proprietor of the Waikiki.
I ordered the house drink, the Waikiki, and then the show began! The bartender didn’t touch a single element of the drink, but, for example, used tongs to cut and place a slice of fruit on the rim of the glass. And he didn’t just shake the drink in the cocktail shaker, but sort of lovingly rolled it in the air for well over a minute and then strained the liquid from the ice in the cocktail shaker and added fresh ice! But wait! Before pouring the drink into my glass he poured himself a test shot to make sure it was up to his standards! What a classy touch!
The drink was of course delicious and served with a huge swizzle stick shaped like the profile of a sexy chica running her fingers through her hair along with a big paper flower cocktail drink thing.
Upon leaving this maestro de cocktails smiled at me and said “tres euros” to which I responded “perfecto”!