Cocktails & Spirits

The Hukilau Returns to Fort Lauderdale's Mai-Kai in June

The 16th-annual Hukilau returns to Fort Lauderdale June 7 to 11.
The 16th-annual Hukilau returns to Fort Lauderdale June 7 to 11. Photo courtesy of Mai-Kai
Do you know how to hula? Want to learn to play the ukulele? Or drink tiki cocktails from some of the world's foremost tiki mixologists?

You can do it all at this year's 2017 Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, considered one of the world's largest and most authentic celebrations of tiki culture, cocktails, art, and music. The event returns to the Mai-Kai June 7 through 11, and this year the party promises longer hours, more events, and cocktails from eight pop-up bars sponsored by some of the nation's most famous tiki establishments, says event owner and coordinator Richard Oneslager.

The 16th-annual Hukilau will take place at several iconic locations in Fort Lauderdale. The event has grown over the years into a five-day fest drawing thousands of tikiphiles from around the globe. Hukilau is the name of the traditional Hawaiian festival held in fishing villages across the island chain. Back in the day, fishermen would cast large nets into the ocean, trapping schools of fish for the villagers to pull ashore. The feast that followed was a celebration of the spirit of family and community, also called 'ohana.
click to enlarge This year's Hukilau events include cocktail classes and hula lessons. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE HUKILAU
This year's Hukilau events include cocktail classes and hula lessons.
Photo courtesy of the Hukilau
Today the Fort Lauderdale-based Hukilau represents a metaphorical net cast over the world, bringing together fans of Polynesian pop (another word for extreme tiki culture love). The festival will offer a unique lineup of live music, symposiums, and special guests.

The event is largely based at the Mai-Kai, the city's historic Polynesian restaurant, which has served as the fest's home base for more than a decade and recently earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. The sprawling tropical oasis includes a water-lined outdoor garden, six dining rooms, live Polynesian dinner shows, and a cocktail lounge that serves nearly 50 classic tiki drinks made with secret recipes that date back to the early days of tropical mixology.

Best known for its colorful displays of tiki "exotica," including retro artwork, surfer music, rum-filled cocktails, and Polynesian dance shows, the Hukilau will also host its popular Tiki Treasures Bazaar, where guests can find artwork, authentic carvings, mugs, aloha wear, vintage collectibles, and vinyl records from all over the world, along with special tasting booths from spirits sponsors.

Like last year, many of the 2017 events will take place at Pier 66, as well as the B Ocean Resort's Wreck Bar, and the main symposiums will be held at the Mai-Kai. A Wednesday preparty, Sunday finale, and Saturday main event will also take place at the Mai-Kai.
Photo courtesy of the Hukilau
Three- and four-day passes, ranging from $159 to $379, come with everything attendees need to enjoy the event to its fullest. The price includes a festival swag bag; admission to two exclusive parties; access to the Friday Rum Island Pool Party (a new version of last year's Tiki Road Trip Pool Party, serving complimentary tiki cocktails from some of the nation's most respected tiki mixologists); Rum Shack tastings; Saturday-night entry to the Mai-Kai for dinner and a show; and passholder prices for symposiums, ticketed tastings, cocktail labs, and craft classes.

Don't miss the High Tide Party at 8 p.m. Friday, June 9. The event combines exotica and surf music from burlesque performers and five bands, along with tiki cocktails from all of the bars that signed up to participate in the Hukilau. The $99 pass includes one sample cocktail from each of the bars.

There's also the MeduSirena show, starring Marina the fire-eating mermaid and her pod of Aquaticats — otherwise known as the Wreck Bar's mermaid swim show — who will perform Wednesday and Thursday, June 7 and 8, at the oceanfront bar.

Hukilau 2017
June 7 through 11 at various locations in Fort Lauderdale. For tickets and a schedule of events, visit
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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna