Uncle Tim Heitkotter—Blue Tiki Tattoo
Text and photos by Bob Baxter
The first time that I ever visited Hawaii, I stayed at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, when I was sixteen. The Royal had the prettiest female, Polynesian elevator operators in the world and, at that time, it was the only hotel on the beach. You could walk down the main boulevard and watch the surfers and body-boarders sailing shoreward through the foam. The experience was unforgettable.
On subsequent visits (one in which we got frazzled, left and went home after one day), there were so many tall buildings, resorts, retail stores and vestiges of so-called civilization, that the only way to view the fabled beach was by winding one's way through a maze of side streets, intimidating doorways and hotel lobbies and, after elbowing aside the hoards of tourists, marching defiantly onto the sand. The mai tais are served in plastic cups, forgodsake! Anything that resembles the Hawaii I enjoyed back in the '60s has vanished.
Not so with beautiful Kauai. Located one hundred and five miles northwest of Oahu, the "Garden Isle" is the fourth largest in the Hawaii chain and relatively unpopulated. Because of the treacherous volcanic geography, most of its small towns are located close to the water's edge and, where we stayed, at the Hanalei Colony Resort, the road narrows to such a degree that cars entering one of its many small bridges have to wait for traffic from the other direction to pass before proceeding. While zillion-dollar condos and resorts have worked their way onto the landscape, for the most part, the miles and miles of undeveloped terrain consists of jungle, jungle and more jungle. Plus, the view of the coastline, the rice paddies and rugged mountain tops are simply magnificent. Every corner you round reveals yet another picture postcard view.
It is on the North Shore where the resilient Uncle Tim Heitkotter runs his beautifully designed, intimate and cozy Blue Tiki Tattoo in Ching Young Village. Heitkotter, the well-known sign painter, tattoo artist and sage, had been asking us to visit ever since he arrived in Hanalei back in 2005. His descriptions and the dozens of photos he emailed to me were almost too good to believe. Well, believe it.
Unquestionably, the perfect host, Heitkotter sequestered us in the fabulous Hanalei Colony Resort, overlooking Hanalei Bay, with its crashing surf and swaying palm trees. The beautifully appointed apartments with their louvered windows, balconies and ocean views caused us to seriously consider nailing the doors shut and never leaving. The only problem being that, if we never left the Colony, we'd miss out on the best sushi we've ever had in our lives. The place is the Hanalei Dolphin on the Kuhio Highway, just south of Uncle Tim's. The fresh water eel with sweet unagi sauce, avocado and crumbled macadamia nuts was absolute heaven.
While we were in Hanalei, Uncle Tim was hosting his pal, Sailor Cam Cook from Tacoma, Washington, so we got a couple of excellent audio interviews for you to hear on our YouTube site (see below). There's also other sightseeing snippets to make you feel like you're right there where the trade winds blow.
Our visit to Kauai was proof positive that, although the location is remote and it's far, far off the beaten path, there is topnotch ink and dedicated artists to satisfy your most fanciful body art dreams. Let's hope this never changes.
Little Tsunami Tattoo
By Bob Baxter
Another significant artist on Kauai is Acacia Jones, an up-and-coming tattooist that welcomed us into the shop she co-owns with Chanel Anderson about forty-five minutes south in Kapaa. A town reminiscent of the beach cities in 1950's Southern California, Kapaa is a veritable metropolis compared to Hanalei, but, even though the traffic slows to a crawl and there's a mega-super market and actual stoplights, Kapaa is only about five minutes from one end to the other. I have also included photos from Acacia, so you can check out another talented tattooist working in this quiet island paradise.
Little Tsunami Tattoo
Ching Young Village
4-1586 Kuhio Highway