There’s something comforting about a place like Waikiki. And awkwardly compelling too, like a bright Hawaiian shirt. Let’s focus on the second comparison for now. Like loud prints of hibiscus flowers and orange sunsets, the bar is a little kitsch, but it’s perfect for fun times, especially with alcohol floating about. But this isn’t to say that Waikiki is offensive. Quite the opposite, actually. It’s just that they’ve really rolled with the whole tropical theme, with tiki hut décor, rattan furniture, fairy lights, and a fish tank behind the bar. Think this shows commitment? Wait till nature calls and you have to visit the loo – even the toilet seats comply with the seaside theme.
With many other bars going for swish, contemporary looks, the décor here may seem a little dated. But it’s a reliable spot, and though seaside it isn’t, you do get a stunning vista of PJ Palms Sports Centre’s pool from the bar’s balcony. Squint (or drink) hard enough, and presto! You have yourself a beach. But back to the earlier point about the bar being comforting. Founded in 1996, Waikiki was the exact place that the city’s clubbers used to flock to when all the other clubs in town had played their last tune and chucked out their last party monsters onto the streets; Waikiki stayed open late, and served drinks afterhours too. It was a haven for the still-thirsty, but though the place shuts at regular hours these days, little else has really changed about this joint.
We visited on a Saturday night and it started off quiet, but things picked up by 10pm, proving that this spot can still draw a crowd. Bottles of liquor sat on tables around us, all the rattan chairs in the house were filled, and folk – an older crowd, mind – were busy chatting away. To drink, we sadly report that there’s nothing particularly different here. Beer and standard cocktails like frozen daiquiris feature on the menu, but the bar does have a signature cocktail that fits perfectly with the whole tropical thing that it’s got going on – Waikiki Breeze (RM25). A spin on the classic piña colada, this one boasts vodka instead of rum, as well as copious amounts of coconut milk and a dash of blue curacao. Not a tough man’s drink, obviously, but if you like a sweet cocktail with a kick and you aren’t too worried about the state of your hips, then slurp away.
Waikiki has a pool table at the far end of the bar, but the real entertainment lies up front with the live band. There’s a different act each night of the week, but when we visit, Magnifico were covering classics like Santana in their first set. ‘Ho-hum’, we thought, but when the lead female vocalist started belting out Adele’s ‘Set Fire to the Rain’, we almost fell off our (rattan) chairs. Worth popping into Waikiki just to check out the lungs on this lady. And also worth considering are Waikiki’s ladies nights, which are on Tuesdays (all night) and Saturdays (5-9pm).
Still, make no mistake: you won’t be coming here to later brag about the experience to your yuppie friends. But as far as PJ goes, this is one classic that refuses to budge and it’s one that can still pull a decent crowd. That says a lot. And if you haven’t got a seaside holiday lined up for the next couple of months, we say dust off those tropical tees and get yourself here for a cocktail. And yes, no biggie even if you turn up in flip flops and smell of sunscreen. Rachel Jena