Crusty pressboard walls are hung with vintage posters, old family photos and pictures of island celebrities and events that have occurred there over the years. The latest is a shot of George Clooney and Beau Bridges under the bamboo and rattan roof of the horseshoe-shaped bar, with its orange countertop and raffia skirt. Bar stools are tiki carvings covered with vinyl seats. The ceiling is plaited with printed tapa cloth, its native patterns barely visible under decades of grime and soot.
The food is surprisingly good for a place that looks as gritty as this. Kalua pork sandwiches served at lunch are made from the pig roasted whole in a pit out back for the Wednesday night luaus that offer an authenticity the resort hotel feasts don't even try to replicate. Whitford makes an excellent mai tai. She'll let you watch, but she won't tell you what's in the mix she pours from a plastic bottle to accompany the rum.
And if you happen by when the Pone Kane Trio is holding forth on the tiny stage under a koa wood model of an outrigger canoe, you'll probably agree that there's no better moment to be had on the island of Kauai — either on the big screen or in real life.
IF YOU GO:
Director Alexander Payne lived on Kauai for several months to get a feel for the island that he wanted to express in "The Descendants." You can visit all the locations he chose and more in a much shorter visit. Here's how:
HANALEI BEACH AREA
All the beaches in Hawaii are public property, so there's no problem visiting Hanalei Bay beach and pier. There are three or four public access areas with free parking, some of them with restrooms and showers.
The house that Brian Speer rents is called the Nalu Beach Cottage, one of two that are mirror images of each other. They front on Weke Road and actually are rental properties, handled by the Hanalei Land Co. 808-826-1454; http://www.hanaleiland.com.
The St. Regis Princeville resort hotel can be reached via the main entrance to the Princeville condominium development. Parking for nonguests is limited, but if you do manage to score a space, the lobby is opulent and the bar opens onto a spacious lanai with a superb view of Hanalei Bay far below. The hotel has its own lovely little beach, not shown in the film, but accessible via a public footpath from the grounds. But it's a long climb back up. http://www.stregisprinceville.com.
OUTLOOK AT KIPUKAI
There is no public access to Kipukai, unless you were to go by kayak. But be aware that King Kamehameha I tried twice to conquer Kauai by landing his war canoes at Kipukai, only to be blown off course by storms. So you might want to settle for the ATV tour that at least gets you to the lookout point in the movie.
Kipu Ranch Adventures offers an exclusive three-hour guided tour on single, double or guide-driven all-terrain vehicles. It starts out calmly with a drive through a tunnel of towering Captain Cook Pines, named for the 18th-century British explorer who introduced the trees as a source of replacement masts for European ships. But it quickly becomes a rollicking Indiana Jones-style thrill ride on steep, winding, rut-filled trails across a spectacular unspoiled landscape to the viewpoint. 808-246-9288; http://www.kiputours.com.
The Tahiti Nui is easy to find, right on the main highway in the town of Hanalei 5-5134 Kuhio Highway (on the right if you're headed north). Luaus are every Wednesday, 5-8 p.m. Call 808-482-4829 for reservations or just stop in for a drink or a casual meal.
Roberts Hawaii operates a fascinating and fun-filled six-hour movie tour of Kauai with an expert guide and clips from the more than 100 movies filmed on the island, some of them hilariously bad. At press time, they were in the process of updating the tour and video presentation to include more information about "The Descendants," but the current tour does include a stop for lunch at Tahiti Nui, as well as some of Kauai's more spectacular waterfalls and beaches. 800-831-5541; http://www.robertshawaii.com.
You can learn more about films made on Kauai from the Kauai Film Commission website, http://www.filmkauai.com, and from "The Kauai Movie Book" by Chris Cook, which features spectacular landscape photography by David Boynton and information about local characters who have worked with the production crews and sometimes appeared in the films. But the book was last updated in 2008, so you won't find anything about "The Descendants."
The story of land grants and the commercial exploitation of the islands that forms the historical core of "The Descendants" has been told many times, most recently in the comprehensive and engaging "Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, The Sugar Kings and America's First Imperial Adventure" by Julia Flynn Siler, published earlier this year by Atlantic Monthly Press (480 pages, $30).