La Mariana Sailing Club:
Old Hawaii Is Still Afloat

By: Kevin McQuarrie
Oahu Island News

Tucked away just a few minutes from Honolulu’s airport, on Sand Island Access Road, there is a restaurant, La Mariana, where Father Time has simply not visited. Oh, he may have driven by, looking for the place, but he kept missing the turn and gave up with a shrug.

Let’s go back a moment to 1955, when La Mariana Sailing Club was established. At that time, the location, Keehi Lagoon, was not exactly the ideal spot for a yacht club. Much of the land was submerged and whatever poked above water was apparently a wreck. Yet after 1,008 truckloads of fill, solid land emerged and a band of thirteen boaters - none of them with boats bigger than 13 feet - joined together. The initial club fee was $2; the monthly dues, 50 cents.

Since that shaky start, La Mariana has clung tenaciously to existence, surviving a 1958 tidal wave and even a multimillion-dollar takeover bid from a Japanese company. The entire operation - clubhouse, docks, boats and trees - was moved 50 feet over in 1978, but kept right on ticking. 

Time may not have found the sailing club, but you certainly can. You’ll see some very shaky-looking docks, boat masts backlit by splendid sunsets, and a charming restaurant straight out of 1963.

A biting bird named Corky welcomed us at the front door. (The restaurant is open to the air, with no air conditioning, so dress lightly.) The décor itself is a wonder and includes a fountain, rope signs, fishnets, puffer-fish lights, scallop-shell chandeliers and Christmas lights. It all feels like the rec room of your dreams, where tiki music plays and girls in pointy bras serve Blue Hawaiis. In reality, it’s a lovely little restaurant and our server is a nice lady wearing ordinary clothing.

We started off our meal with a round of mai tais, which turned out to be excellent and authentic. We then moved on to the sashimi (priced daily, and when available; ours was an ahi). The portion was large, and the fish tasted fresh and clean. We also sampled the lumpia ($5.25), which is like a spring roll with vegetables inside. It came to our table piping hot and with a sweet, crushed chili pepper sauce.

For our entrées, we ordered the shrimp scampi ($16.25), which was delicious, but as it was swimming in a white cream sauce, should really have been called an alfredo. My meat-loving friend ordered the Angus prime rib ($17.75 for 10 oz. or $16.75 for 8 oz. serving), a generous portion topped with rich gravy. The pork chops ($13.75) arrived breaded to perfection and with a yummy mushroom-sherry sauce. The stuffed eggplant au gratin ($17) was listed as a “must-try,” and I have to agree. The egg-dipped eggplant is filled with seafood and then baked until it is puffy and irresistible. (None of this food could be called healthy, but it’s so tasty, it’s hard to care.)

If you prefer chicken or a burger, you’re covered, but vegetarians may go home a little hungry. Overall, the entrées really aren’t pricey at all when you consider that each comes with your choice of soup or salad, starch (rice, mashed potatoes, French fries or linguini), vegetables and a hot roll. 

Throughout our meal, we enjoyed excellent service and live piano music. La Mariana Sailing Club is like a little time machine into the world of a Hawaii gone by. Just because Father Time hasn’t dropped in doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

La Mariana Sailing Club
50 Sand Island Access Rd.
Honolulu, HI      848-2800
(look for the red on white sign hanging on a fence)

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.  every day, except
Fridays, when the restaurant is open until 10:00 p.m.