The original tiki bars were a post-Prohibition celebration of warm skies, sweet drinks, and easy living, and later became a symbol of midcentury kitsch. Almost 90 years after Don the Beachcomber opened his eponymous bar in Hollywood, tiki has come and gone as a trend – and now it's back again at tiki bars coast to coast.
From their tantalizing drinks to their perfectly kitschy atmosphere, these tropical oasis’ will help you escape your day-to-day grind and dive into an intoxicating world of whimsy, wonder, and rum. Definitely rum. Check out these nine tiki bars for lavish garnishes, flavorful cocktails, and a world entirely its own. Like Jeff ‘Beachbum’ Berry put it, “If we’re going to feel like zombies, we may as well be drinking them.”
False Idol – San Diego
False Idol was brought into this world by renowned tiki expert, Martin Cate who has quite literally written a book on all things tiki. Hidden within a bar, False Idol delivers a completely immersive experience. Patrons enter the bar via walk-in cooler adorned with fresh fruits, skulls, even (fake) severed heads.
Guests are greeted on the other side by a rock wall with various water and fire theatrics. Every inch of this space was constructed with the utmost detail and the drinks were given the same type of care. Their menu is balanced between classic tiki cocktails as well as their own modern takes. You will definitely find something for everyone in this, quiet gem literally, hidden in San Diego.
Tonga Hut – Los Angeles
The oldest tiki bar in Los Angeles, established in 1958, will transport you back to the heyday of vintage tiki. At Tonga Hut you’ll find exotic classics, house originals and seasonal cocktail options.
Hale Pele – Portland, Oregon
It’s hard to forget the first time you visit Hale Pele in Portland, Oregon. A true tiki paradise with whimsical bartenders floating around the room, igniting the air with sparks of fire by combining high proof rum and cinnamon as they deliver perfectly potent drinks to various visitors. Never short on the theatrics, there are many surprises in store for those seeking escape within its walls. If you go, be sure to bring a friend as their communal cocktail bowls are not to be missed.
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Navy Strength – Seattle
Navy Strength is the brainchild of industry veterans and power couple Chris Elford and Anu Apte-Elford. Within its doors you’ll discover a tropical paradise with no shortage of rum and exotic flavors. Whereas tiki is traditionally known for its focus on Polynesian culture, Navy Strength changes its menu twice a year to celebrate the flavors and drinking customs of different places around the world.
Don’t worry, you can still find your favorite tropical concoctions and can even try out some beloved favorites from past travel menus. Navy Strength took home the title of “Best New American Cocktail Bar” at the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards in 2018, so you know you’re in for a treat at this Seattle watering hole.
Latitude 29 – New Orleans
We have Jeff "Beachbum” Berry to thank for doing a lot of the grunt work when it comes to reviving what many thought to be forever-lost tiki cocktails (many recipes died with their creators). Berry embarked on a mission, investigating old cookbooks, menus, magazine articles and conducted numerous interviews with bartenders and bar patrons of the time to piece together the drinks we thought to be long gone. You can now drink his research at Latitude 29 in New Orleans’ French Quarter. If you go, you’ll find no shortage of revived tiki classics and even a couple of his own creations.
Pearl Diver – Nashville
This tiki-esque bar is best known as an exotic lounge that focuses heavily on sugarcane and agave. Inside Pearl Diver, you’ll find a space adorned completely in midcentury style, complete with old-school surfing videos and even a postcard service to send a note to a loved one far away. Their daiquiri made with fresh-pressed sugarcane is a delightful treat not to be missed. If you go, be sure to check out their drag queen brunch hosted the second Sunday of every month by local DJ and event producer Joe Copeland as well as well-known Nashville Drag Queen Vidalia Anne Gentry.
Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge – Minneapolis
The "Mender of Broken Dreams", Psycho Suzi’s is a waterfront lounge that classifies themselves as, "tiki gone made". With three different bars, one incredible view of the Mississippi River, and a space engulfed in leopard print, this is a place where you can let your hair down and suck down some killer tiki drinks. Their menu reads like a timeline throughout history allowing you to try drinks from the 1950’s to the 2000’s while soaking in all of the Minneapolis macabre it has to offer.
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Lost Lake – Chicago
Lost Lake comes to us from one of tiki’s most notable names, Paul McGee. This Chicago bar is no stranger to awards, having taken home many including Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards Best American Cocktail Bar in 2018 and Imbibe Magazine’s Cocktail Bar of the Year in 2015.
Lost Lake definitely lives up to the hype with its iconic banana leaf wallpaper, and intricate garnishes on every drink. Not to mention the drinks themselves which balance flavor and strength with whimsy and delight. Walk in the doors and be ready to go on a "mini vacation". Their travel guides (aka bartenders) will take you on a trip you won’t soon forget.
Max’s South Seas Hideaway – Grand Rapids, Michigan
A multi-level paradise in Grand Rapids, Michigan complete with water features, aquariums, multiple bars, and enough bamboo, rattan, and tropical plants to make you think you actually boarded a flight to Hawaii. Mark Sellars teamed up with Martin Cate (renowned tiki expert) and Gecko who is a highly regarded Hawaii-based tiki and Polynesian artist to create a space and cocktail menu to rival Don the Beachcomber’s himself. This "Polynesian Pop fantasy world" features Sellar’s own array of mid-century and modern tiki artifacts— making Max’s South Seas Hideaway one of the largest collections of its kind in the world.