Annette Nahinu at La Mariana, photo by Gregory Yamamoto for the Honolulu Advertiser
Annette Nahinu, owner of Honolulu’s La Mariana Sailing Club, is looking to sell. La Mariana is a longtime institution, the last of the true old-style tiki bars still in operation on the island. Nahinu is turning 92 later this month, and wants to ensure La Mariana will continue after she’s gone; she has no heirs, and needs to make plans now before it’s too late. She plans to donate some of the proceeds from the sale to the University of Connecticut, her alma mater; she says it was the only university willing to admit her. One of her special terms: she wants to continue to live in the apartment home above La Mariana until she dies.
One of the regulars quoted in a Honolulu Advertiser article says:
It’s the last authentic taste of Hawai’i… It’s the absolute, true feel of old Hawai’i.
This is interesting, since La Mariana, like the many other restaurants, hotels and nightclubs that sprung up in Hawaii during the heavy tourist years of the 1950s and 1960s, wasn’t authentic Hawaiian — it was manufactured to deliver on visitors’ idealized expectations of Hawaii. These expectations were partially set by tourists’ visits to Polynesian restaurants back home — which in turn had their basis in the minds of Hollywood-type decorators and designers, probably more than any actual knowledge of the then-exotic islands. The restaurants and bars of Honolulu did, however, develop their own local character that set them apart from their mainland forebears, thanks especially to the wonderful musical performances there, and the unique social world of the people who lived and worked there. La Mariana likely does deliver a feel of old Hawaii, if your definition of “old Hawaii” is the middle of the last century.
La Mariana was opened by Annette Nahinu more than 50 years ago, and it has become a sort of resting place of Waikiki’s storied Polynesian Pop past; tikis there came from the Sheraton’s Kon-Tiki, lamps came from the Trader Vic’s, and tables and chairs came out of the Don the Beachcomber. It’s all a bit worse for the wear, but thank goodness it’s still somewhere to be admired and enjoyed. With luck, someone who respects the history represented at La Mariana will purchase it and ensure its continued longevity.