If we've learned anything from "The Brady Bunch," it's that a trip to Hawaii involves sand, surfing, airport leis, ukuleles, luck-laden tiki idols and an addlebrained Vincent Price lurking in caves.
And guess what? You can get all that without the airfare right here in the Bay Area! Except for Vincent Price, since, well, he's dead and all.
OK, I admit, I've never been to Hawaii. But I have several friends who consider the islands their second homes, and they've provided some suggestions for pockets of Polynesian paradise within a pineapple's throw of home, give or take. Things like killer mai tais, tropical gardens, a surfing museum and ukulele classes. And, if all else fails, ideas to rent or stream famous Hawaiian movies -- or at least the two-part Vincent Price "Brady Bunch" episode.
Tai one on: It's true that a fruity, mellowing mai tai might be best enjoyed with a tropical sunset, perhaps after a long, fun day on the ocean. But the cocktail is just as sweet at its purported birthplace: Trader Vic's.
Yes, others have claimed mixological responsibility, but as the story goes, Vic "The Trader" Bergeron grabbed a bottle of 17-year-old J. Wray & Nephew Jamaican rum in 1944, added dashes and splashes of lime, Dutch orange Curacao, rock candy syrup and French orgeat and served it to some friends from Tahiti, who instantly declared, "It's mai tai roa ae!" meaning "out of this world -- the best!"
From your perch in a bamboo-backed chair under the stoic eyes of tiki statues, you can order a mai tai flight of guava, Maui and mango versions that come on a little surfboard. Or go alcohol-free with the No Tai Mai Tai, and watch the sun set over the Emeryville marina.
Hidden tropics: Up in the Berkeley hills, above Memorial Stadium, seems an unlikely place to experience the tropics, but amid the 34 acres of global vegetation at the University of California Botanical Garden, you'll find the Tropical House filled with rain forest plants, and an outdoor collection of palms and cycads from tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions of the world. Make your way past succulents and cacti in the Arid House, alongside the hilly terrain of the Asian and California sections, then turn right at the towering Canary Island date palm into a tunnel of fronds and encephalartos trispinosus from South America, Greece, Hong Kong, Australia, Mexico and the Himalayas.
Surf's up: A yellowed newspaper article from 1885 in the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum offers proof that surfing came to the mainland when three Hawaiian princes were spotted riding the waves on redwood planks off the coast of Santa Cruz.
The sport swelled worldwide from there, and the small one-room museum inside the brick Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse is a radical ride through surfing history, jammed with memorabilia, posters from surf-related movies and photos from idyllic summers and beach parties in the '50s and '60s. Plus boards, boards, boards from every era -- from hollow paddle boards to early foam and fiberglass, hanging from the ceiling and the brick walls. There's even a cool little shark attack section with a board with a bite taken out of it. After your visit, walk over to the cliff edge and watch real surfers in action.
Aloha on your sleeve: There are plenty of places to get aloha shirts in Santa Cruz, but take a short hop down Highway 1 to the Big Kahuna shop in Capitola. A step inside and you can almost feel the warm trade winds blowing through the palms and hear the slap of surf on a quiet beach. There's a huge selection from Reyn Spooner, Hilo Hattie, Kamehameha and more.
Spam, Spam, Spam: Have a poke dinner with seared ahi and tako at the Hukilau in San Jose's Japantown. The dinner comes with mac salad, rice and Spam musubi. Yes, Spam. Grilled and wrapped in rice and dried seaweed. The way the tiki gods intended it to be.
Four strings attached: Everything just sounds happier on a ukulele. You could probably play the theme from "Halloween" and people would smile and tap their toes. There are lots of local places to pluck your uke, but check out the San Jose Ukulele Club. It started three years ago with about six people and now has regular meetings with up to 45 and more. All skill levels are welcome, and they meet in the banquet room at the Denny's on Hillsdale Avenue in San Jose, strumming everything from "Ain't Misbehavin' " to "In a Little Hula Heaven." Check the website for upcoming meetings.
Tune in: If you just want to listen to the music of the islands, try Aloha Friday on KKUP, 91.5 FM, from 7 to 9 a.m., hosted by Uncle Vernon and Auntie Luana.
Hula halau: The Academy of Hawaiian Arts is a performing arts school in Oakland offering hula classes for dancers of all ages, plus training in Hawaiian music, ukulele, singing and workshops in Hawaiian crafts.
Homeward bound: The shortest Hawaiian trip of all is to your Netflix account. Get in the island mood with a binge fest of Hawaii-related movies. Either ones about Hawaii and filmed there, such as the 1966 "Hawaii," or films that used it as a backdrop, like the various iterations of "Jurassic Park." There's "South Pacific" (1958), "From Here to Eternity" (1953), "Tropic Thunder" (2008) and even the pilot for "Gilligan's Island."
Follow Angela Hill on Twitter.com/giveemhill.
We may technically be a couple thousand miles from the beaches and beauty of Hawaii, but there's plenty of island inspiration right here at home:
in hula dancing and more; www.academyof