Outsiders might never discover this on their own, but Oceanside – the beach city just south of Camp Pendleton – has some serious tiki spirit.* If you’re in town, try this self-guided Oceanside tiki tour.
Take the Mission Avenue freeway exit and head for downtown. You can see a tiki-inspired fence at the corner of Seagaze Drive and Clementine Street. (Please don’t bother the homeowners.)
Close by, on Horne Street, the Kona Kai Apartments (built in 1964) are still standing. (Again, please don’t bother the tenants.)
And now…on to the heart of downtown.
The California Surf Museum is dedicated to the history and culture of surfing. It’s well worth a visit if you’re into surf culture or Southern California history. But, there are some tiki-related items in the museum’s permanent collection (and who knows what future rotating exhibits may bring?)
The Tiki was, according to local legend, made from a telephone pole in the 1930s by an unknown carver of Hawaiian extraction. Supposedly, the Tiki stood at Windansea Beach in La Jolla, but was stolen by surfers from Orange County and later stolen back to San Diego County.
(Does anyone else think Tiki Farm should make a tiki mug based on this guy? I bet the California Surf Museum could sell them in the gift shop to raise funds. I’d buy one, anyway.)
The California Surf Museum has a special permanent feature you won’t find anywhere else: The Secret Spot.
I won’t ruin the whole thing for my readers, but I will say it is hands-down the most brilliant thing anyone has ever done with a disused loading dock.
When you’re done enjoying the museum, head back to Coast Highway (aka the 101) and go south. Just before Oceanside turns into Carlsbad, you’ll see two more tiki sites on the same block, across the street from one another.
(One friendly word of warning: parking is tricky on this stretch of the 101. Business owners – understandably – only want patrons in their parking lots. There are lots of towing signs, so pay attention.)
On the west side of the highway, the Moose Lodge appears to be undergoing an update. In the past year, some carved wood tikis appeared.
Across the street from the Moose Lodge, Otterlei Coastal sells Hawaiian-inspired decor. While not as tiki-heavy as Oceanic Arts, Otterlei does sell new rattan furniture, glass floats, small tikis, and other tiki-friendly items. (The decor does skew more Hawaiian/beachy chic than tiki. Do ask to see a lei vase** – when I dropped in, the owner had one on display with plumeria blossoms.)
It’s not quite Shelter Island, but it is a fun afternoon.