It’s hard to believe it’s already been two months since I returned from this whirlwind vacation I’ve been affectionately referring to as my personal 2017 tiki tour. Life as usual takes hold and quickly returns to a working class pace. Fortunately the sweet, citrus aromas of my home bar take me back every so often, and keeping up with my blog keeps the memories fresh.
My very brief time spent in Palm Springs was like a dream. The warm air, the cool pools, the desert flora. The food and drinks enjoyed with friends. And just the leisure of it all. Of course, that’s not necessarily a sustainable reality, but it all just seems so synonymous the spirit of escapism it’s hard not to crave it. As I sit here in my chair at home, it’s tempting to imagine myself living in such a place. In lieu of that though I guarantee Palm Springs has not seen the last of me.
At any rate, I did make one last tiki related stop before departing Palm Springs. The historic Caliente Tropics Resort and the Reef Bar. There’s a lot of interesting history to what was originally just known as “The Tropics”. Critiki gives an excellent summation of that so I’ll direct you there instead of rehashing it. The most notable things I would say about the Caliente Tropics however, is that it still exists at all! As most of you probably know, round about the 50’s and 60’s during the boom of “tiki” and Polynesian themed… well, everything. There were exotic, over the top, imitation Polynesian palaces all over the country. Try out a Google search of “Vintage Poynesian themed architecture”, it’ll blow your mind!
You may also know then, that during the 80’s and 90’s a large number of these places, for varying reasons, lost their appeal and were razed to make way for far less interesting structures. Sadly, we may never again see the type of wealth and eccentricity that needed to exist, at just the right point in time for these places to have ever been realized, which makes it hugely important to preserve the ones that hold on.
Which brings me back to the Caliente Tropcs Resort, which went through an unfortunate sordid phase and even stared death in the face on more than a couple of occasions. In part, though, because it was probably just too overwhelming to dispose of, but mostly thanks to the efforts of some noble entrepreneurs who saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and some tasteful renovations, it lives on to bask in the tiki resurgence.
I didn’t actually spend any time inside the hotel, since I wasn’t a guest but I toured the grounds and the pool area and I can tell you that it absolutely vibrates with Tropical and Tiki appeal. Lush palm trees, sparkling pools, little tiki sculptures all about, and lets not forget the enormous A-frame portico! I knoooow! (#CharlesPhoenix) The only downside for me personally, (and fortunately I’m not an actual life and leisure blogger) so I can openly declare my distaste for the number of screeching children and tasteless swim wear in the pool area. That said, if it keeps them in business, then I’m all about it…
I was also very excited to visit the newly resurrected Reef Bar while I was there. The bar didn’t actually die, per se, but the fate of the bamboo clad, tropical poolside bar was all but sealed before Rory Snyder, who you may know as the host and founder of Tiki Caliente, and Mod Palm Springs, swooped in and literally saved it. This all happened only about a month or so before I visited. Suffice to say, he was still very much in the process of breathing life back into the place. For that reason I want to suspend a bit of judgement, but it would be counter productive for me completely withold my critique.
First off, this is a hotel bar. It’s not technically a Tiki bar, but more of a poolside, tropical bar. Rory himself was happy to greet us and throw us some of his trademark charm. Busy bee that he was I managed to pin him down for a bit of a chat about the undertaking. He’s very mindful of the road ahead for the Reef. As of our conversation he was between bartenders and still trying to lure in new potential. As for the drinks, well, for the $12-14 price point, lets just say I would most likely head back to bootlegger. When it comes to the atmosphere, as I subtly eluded to earlier, the decided lack of rowdy hotel guests over at the Tonga Hut would definitely draw me there first. So, I would say there is definitely some room for improvement but no doubt Rory has big plans, so I have high hopes that the Reef will hit it’s stride and find it’s place among the Palm Springs tiki elites and do the Caliente Tropics right.
I leave you with this picture of my lovely wife who seems to be deeply contemplative… or rum drunk? It’s hard to tell. She often says that rum drinks make her sleepy.
A huge aloha and mahalo to everyone that made my time in Palm Springs so memorable! Old friends, new friends, hosts and hostesses, smiling faces, ohana in it’s truest. The last leg of my 2017 tiki tour, runs through Las Vegas. You all know these ones. Or maybe you don’t. Either way, keep an eye out, that’ll be coming soon!