A Halloween Trip to the Coconut Motel

: : I love motels. : :

: : And I’m not alone. There’s an ever expanding group of aficionados out there who crave the blinking neon marquees, low-slung look, musty smell, steamy ice dispensers, and mismatched furniture that you could never find at a HoJo’s. I always get a thrill just after I’ve checked in: clutching the diamond-shaped plastic key-fob (with the gold lettering), I wonder what the room will look like as I pull my car up to the front door. : :

: : I don’t know why I feel this way. Maybe because motels take me back to family vacations of the 1970’s, maybe because they take me to a time I never lived. Readers of Mai Tai will remember my waxing poetic about Wildwood, N.J. (Issue #3), an entire town of late 50s and early 60s motels. Of course, we stayed at a Tiki-themed motel called the Kona Kai and while the decor was good, it was really nothing to write home about. A mask here, a spear there, a tiki-totem standing guard in the lobby but not the wall-to-wall Polynesian extravaganza we expect at a restaurant. We were happy nonetheless, since it was as authentic as we thought we’d find on the eastern seaboard. But we at the Montreal Tiki Appreciation Society never, ever thought we’d find a Tiki motel in Canada. And one with a bar/restaurant attached... Ha! Dreaming in Technicolor! : :

: : But thanks to Dag-Tiki and his frequent business trips to rural Quebec we’ve found what is perhaps the greatest Tiki-bar/motel in all of Canada: The Coconut Motel in Trois-Rivières (Three Rivers), Quebec, about halfway between Montreal and Quebec City. As Dag-Tiki told us in his article in Mai Tai #5, the motel has been run by the Landry family since 1958 and was converted to it’s current Polynesian theme in 1963 after the owners had made several trips to Tahiti. A great deal of the stuff that adorns the Coconut was shipped over by the owners themselves at what must’ve been great expense. It’s clearly been a labour of love and it shows. : :

: : The Coconut, within spitting distance of TR’s giant bridge over the St.Lawrence river, is a huge complex by early 60s standards. In fact, we all wondered aloud how they could possibly fill all these rooms, the bar, and the restaurant with paying customers. The Coconut is outside of the town proper, in a suburb that looks typical of the late 50s. From the outside of the motel, you know immediately you are about to have a Tiki experience. : :

: : Giant off-kilter bamboo letters announce “COCONUT” from the roof and the building’s shape is the tried-and-true ship’s prow that we’ve seen elsewhere. There are masks outside (which have never been defaced or stolen!), arrows pointing the way to the bar and a few lone wooden sentries standing guard (one stood shivering on a patio wishing it was July). : :

: : We arrived in the afternoon on a frosty Saturday in late October. After an efficient and friendly check-in, we immediately bolted to the bar, which had been described to us with much enthusiasm by Dag-Tiki. We were not disappointed. Dark... cozy... low ceiling... loooooong bar with an aquarium behind it! Tikis with padded heads for sitting on! Every square foot covered with something wonderful: bamboo, masks, spears, shields, fish, nets, statues, and lamps EVERYWHERE... whew... even a few rough-hewn boats hanging from the ceiling! Red vinyl semi-circular booths! And that was just the bar! The adjoining dining room had even more stuff, like a stuffed shark over the fountain and neat non-Tiki things, like these amazing plaster columns with abstract square motifs! It was almost too good to be true. We all went back to our rooms giddy with excitement. : :

: : At night, we celebrated our good fortune over dinner. We were happy to see the drink list was one of the longest we’d come across with at least 50 choices. And tasty too. Big winner of the night was the Blue Hawaii: fizzy bright blue vanilla-y goodness in a glass! Here’s my VISA card, let’s have another! The dinner... well, it was perhaps the only disappointment of the evening. Few choices, small portions and quite expensive. The appetizers were good, particularly the shrimp cocktail... but overall we were left wanting more... more food, that is. And there were none of the old standbys like bo-bo balls, chow mein, spare ribs or egg rolls like we’ve come to expect at Polynesian joints (so chicken balls aren’t Polynesian... but neither are flaming drinks served in giant ceramic volcanoes). : :

: : After dinner, we sampled as many of the drinks as we could and then tried to stay upright on the dance floor. We must’ve been drunk since we initiated a cruise ship “conga-line” and got everyone involved. On Hallowe’en, anything is possible I guess. We even won a bottle of champagne for our “costumes” (if only they knew we ALWAYS dress in Aloha shirts!). : :

: : The next morning we had breakfast in their sunny breakfast room, which was more subtle in its decor but still very Tiki. The breakfast was big, well made, and tasty, which made up for the dinner the night before. We all agreed we’d be back very soon, since the Coconut Motel was already being placed at the top of many of the M.T.A.S. member’s lists. : :

For more details, visit:

7531 Notre Dame

Trois-Rivières Ouest

Québec G9B 1L7

Phone: 819-377-3221

Toll free: 800-838-3221

Fax: 819-377-1344

Dave LeBlanc © 2002

2005 UPDATE:

The Landry family sold the Coconut Motel in December 2005 but everything still appears to be up and running as usual.

2016 UPDATE:

New photos on the WATCH page.

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