Where is ‘Kokomo’? People are still searching for The Beach Boys’ tropical island getaway

  • Casa Marina Key West used to call its private beach "Kokomo Beach" after The 1988 song "Kokomo" by The Beach Boys. Tourists still associate Kokomo with the Florida Keys. (Casa Marina Key West /TNS)
  • Casa Marina Key West used to call its 1,100-square-foot beach “Kokomo Beach.” People still associate the Keys with The Beach Boys song “Kokomo.” (Casa Marina Key West / TNS)

You know the catchy, relaxing lyrics: “Off the Florida Keys, there’s a place called Kokomo,” goes the 1988 hit by The Beach Boys.

Three decades later, people are still wondering, where is Kokomo?

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Whether it’s in the Keys, the Caribbean or stuck in your head, people continue to look for the fictional romantic island getaway “where you wanna go to get away from it all.”

Using social media, tourists and fans of the song mark the spots that look and feel like the alluring destination The Beach Boys reference, even though you won’t find Kokomo on a South Florida map.

On Instagram, there are more than 116,000 hashtags dedicated to #kokomo. Users post photos of sun-dappled beaches with palm trees and seas in various shades of blue dotted with sailboats.

The other day, Ryan Sancilio of Boca Raton posted a photo of himself sitting in front of the water at Sunset Pier in Key West. He gazed at the bright blue sky pocked with white clouds against the Atlantic and sailboats.

“Still looking for Kokomo,” he posted with the hashtag #kokomo and #islandlife.

The tune continues to bring good vibrations. At the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce, people inquire about the song and its inspiration, said Judy Hull, executive director. It’s still heard on the radio and at karaoke bars and has become a permanent part of people’s vacation playlists.

“You hear it down here all the time,” Hull said. “Because the song is still very popular, we do have people ask about it.”

In its heyday, the Holiday Isle Resort had a poolside bar called Kokomo. The owner at the time created the bar after hearing inquiries from tourists looking for Kokomo. The bar was formerly a birdhouse, according to the resort.

A sign at the bar plotted the distance to all the places referenced in the song, Hull said. Aruba, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahama, Key Largo, Montego.

Although the resort is now the Postcard Inn Beach Resort and Marina, people still make the connection between Kokomo and Islamorada. The resort has a re-imagined pool bar called Kokomo that serves cocktails, beer and wine and light fare from nachos to sandwiches.

Farther south, as in the end of the continental U.S., there was also a “Kokomo Beach.” Casa Marina Resort in Key West renamed their beach to reflect the song, along with a cocktail called “The Kokomo” for drinking by the beach and pool.

Although the 1,100-foot private beach is no longer called Kokomo, the song still carries an association with the Keys, said Maureen Holden, a spokeswoman for Casa Marina, a Waldorf Astoria resort.

“Definitely a song that will always have relevance and meaning for Key West and The Keys. Great state of mind,” she said.

The song was featured in the 1988 movie “Cocktail,” about an ambitious New York bartender (Tom Cruise) who moves to Jamaica and falls for a beautiful young artist (Elisabeth Shue).

The song was written to invoke the spirit of a tropical paradise where two lovers escape to.

“Bodies in the sand, tropical drink melting in your hand. We’ll be falling in love to the rhythm of a steel drum band, down in Kokomo,” The Beach Boys crooned. The ditty peaked at No. 1 in November 1988 and rode a wave of popularity on the charts for 28 weeks, according to Billboard.com

“It’s said to be our biggest hit single and everybody sings along,” Beach Boys front man Mike Love told KeysWeekly.com in April before the group performed in Key West.

“Kokomo was a name that originated with John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas,” Love told the publication. “Phillips wrote the melody and the verse, and I wrote the chorus, and our friend Terry Melcher produced the record, and he came up with the ‘Oooh I want to take you …’ and it was a true collaboration.”

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Although Phillips pictured Kokomo as a place off the Florida Keys, there really is no Kokomo in South Florida. There is a Kokomo Charters in Sarasota, a Kokomo city in Indiana, a Kokomo in the Fiji Islands and a community named Kokomo in Hawaii.

But the music video was filmed in Florida. The Beach Boys, with actor John Stamos on bongos, shot the video at The Grand Floridian before it officially opened.

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