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Move over margaritas. This Cinco de Mayo, we’re putting the spotlight on the Mai Tai—the tropical concoction that’s oft associated with the picturesque shores of Hawaii. This sunset-hued libation has been around for decades, thanks to the rise in the tiki culture during the 1950s. Though its exact birthplace is debated, it’s safe to say the Mai Tai’s most popular presence is here in Hawaii.

The rum-based cocktail can be made in a myriad of ways, and is often modernized to keep up with today’s craft cocktail standards. But go to the wrong place and you’ll find yourself drinking a sugary, syrupy nightmare.

So to help you wade through the options, we’ve rounded up five of the best Mai Tai’s in Waikiki.

The Mai Tai at Mahina & Sun’s
inside the Surfjack, 412 Lewers St.

Based on the original Trader Vic’s recipe, the Surfjack’s in-house restaurant is serving up a pretty mean Mai Tai, if we do say so ourselves. Sip on this classic cocktail while listening to live music on the lanai, order one with your next meal at Mahina & Sun’s, or mix one up at home to transport yourself to the shores of Waikiki. The Surfjack’s lead bartender, Robert Bidigare, shares the recipe, here:

  • 1 oz Flor de Cana 4 yr
  • 1 oz Smith & Cross Navy Strength Rum
  • 3/4 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz Giffard Orgeat
  • 1/2 oz  Pierre Ferrand Orange Curaçao
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup

Mix. Shake. Fine Strain.

The Signature Mai Tai at House Without a Key
Halekulani Hotel, 2199 Kalia Rd.


There’s something magical about sitting outside watching a hula show at sunset while sipping on a refreshing cocktail, and that’s exactly what can (and should) happen at House Without a Key. Three types of Bacardi—Gold, 151 and Select—are used in the restaurant’s Signature Mai Tai. Rock candy and orgeat syrup, Orange Curaçao and fresh lime juice sweeten the deal. Garnished with a lime wheel, sugar cane stick, mint leaf and Vanda orchid, this beautiful beverage is almost too pretty to drink. Almost.

The Royal Mai Tai at Mai Tai Bar
The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, 2259 Kalakaua Ave. 


The story goes that the original Mai Tai was brought to Hawaii in 1953 by “Trader Vic” Bergeron and first served at The Royal Hawaiian hotel. It’s no wonder, then, that the resort’s oceanfront restaurant, Mai Tai Bar, serves up this signature cocktail to discerning visitors and residents alike. Cherry vanilla puree, Amaretto di Saronno and Govinda’s orange and pineapple juices give oomph to this uber-popular umbrella drink.

The Guy Tai at Chart House Waikiki
1765 Ala Moana Blvd.

Guy Tai, Chart House

Named after Chart House’s head bartender, Guy Maynard, the Guy Tai is as good as they come. You can’t go wrong sipping on this $7.50 happy hour special as you overlook the Honolulu Yacht Harbor. Served over crushed ice in a custom Chart House pint glass is a custom blend of Orange Curaçao and orgeat syrup, Bacardi gold, homemade lemonade and limeade, pineapple juice, fresh lime and plenty of Meyer’s rum. This mouthwatering masterpiece is then garnished with mint, an orange wedge and, of course, a cherry on top.

The Duke’s Mai Tai at Duke’s Waikiki
Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, 2335 Kalakaua Ave.

Duke's Waikiki Mai Tai

At Duke’s Waikiki, tiki glasses are filled to the brim with a mix of Hana Bay Gold Rum, fresh juices (pineapple, passionfruit, orange and guava, to be exact), some simple syrup, Orange Curaçao and topped with Diamond Head Dark Rum. This hot spot is pretty much always packed, but Sundays are especially lively. Duke’s on Sunday with a Mai Tai in hand, listening to Henry Kapono as you overlook the ocean—now that’s a quintessential Waikiki moment.



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