The Best Tiki Bars in America
Soak up those tropical island vibes anytime at these Polynesian-inspired bars serving their own refreshing takes on classic tiki cocktails like mai tais, zombies and more.
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Portland, Oregon: Hale Pele
Add a few theatrics to the tiki experience with a visit to this Portland bar, where ordering a flaming Volcano Bowl cocktail cues a few of the booths to rumble. There is also an occasional thunder-and-lightening experience that happens throughout the evening, not to mention the colorful puffer fish lights that dot the ceiling. But despite all that, it’s the strong menu of drinks that keeps people coming back. Classics that pay homage to other famous tiki bars, and island-inspired small plates like Hawaiian bread and weebimbap, enhance the experience. Those worried about a few too many can order based on strength, thanks to a numbered legend by each drink.
New Orleans: Latitude 29
If credit could be given to someone for helping to resurrect the tiki movement, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry would likely receive many nods. Berry has resurfaced many “lost” tiki drink recipes, created a tiki app and, most recently, opened one of New Orleans’ hottest bars, naturally one that specializes in tiki drinks. The menu features many of the unearthed recipes, including the blended cinnamon-rum Nui Nui, along with Berry’s own takes on the classics; there's also a menu of playful cuisine, including a dumpling burger, a mahi mahi banh mi and chocolate-dipped wontons.
Chicago: Three Dots and a Dash
Named for a popular drink from Don the Beachcomber in the 1940s, this River North bar helped ignite Chicago’s passion for all things tiki. The space is like escaping to an underground Polynesian haven: Walking down the stairs, guests are instantly transported to an upscale tiki hut decorated with hand-carved tiki totems, bamboo walls and Hawaiian-print-clad servers. In addition to the classic, modern and large-format drinks — many sparked with flames, oozing smoke or garnished with creative touches like a banana dolphin — the bar offers rotating specials, nearly all served in namesake vessels, like porcelain sea anemones or giant treasure chests. There's even a bar within the bar: The Bamboo Room is an exclusive reservations-based lair, offering progressive rum tastings, unique cocktails and a true in-the-know tiki experience.
San Diego: False Idol
Tucked within Craft & Commerce, this hidden tiki getaway, has drawn from the best of tiki: the expertise of Martin Cate, the design of renowned tiki artist Bosko Hrnjak and designer Ignacio “Notch” Gonzalez. CH projects has stocked the bar of this Little Italy bar with over 350 rare and vintage rums. Their cocktail list includes the classics, and their own riffs like the Enigma de Muerte – inspired by the Demerara Dry Float made with unaged tequila, passionfruit, a heavy dose of lime and maraschino served with a 'side of danger' aka mezcal.
Washington, D.C.: Archipelago
Fruity drinks aren't all frills at this U Street tiki temple. The bar comes from a team of bartenders who've handled the drinks programs at some of the city's best spots, including Rose's Luxury, Bar Pilar and locations from Jose Andres' ThinkFoodGroup. Here, spirited hula-girl lamps and Tom Selleck memorabilia set the scene for island-inspired cocktails made from fresh-squeezed juices and quality rums. Drinks are served in kitsch vessels (all available for sale) like large blue parrots and shrunken green heads, garnished in creative fashion with classic orchids, orange suns, bendy straws and banana octopi. As for the drinks themselves, there’s a frozen Pina Colada, a revamped Banana Daiquiri, a classic Mai Tai and originals like the Lonely Mermaid, a blend of rums, lemon and buttered pineapple syrup. The concise food menu includes sliders, Chinese-barbecue nachos and a Cubano.
Chicago: Lost Lake
Modeled after the aesthetics of the original Don’s Beachcomber Cafe, this Chicago getaway is helmed by Chicago cocktail aficionado Paul McGee. Tropical vibes fill the space with banana leaf wallpaper, bartenders in Hawaiian-themed garb, and drinks dressed with fresh orchids and funky swizzle sticks. The cocktails, with colorful names like Curative Vibrations and Ruby May’s Second Surfin’ Bird, pack a punch, so the restaurant group opened Thank You, an American-Chinese takeout window that will deliver straight to the bar to help soak up those sweet spirits.
New York City: Mother of Pearl
A bright and tropical escape in the heart of the East Village, this Manhattan tiki bar incorporates palm tree accents into most design elements. The cocktails borrow from classics in clever ways for drinks like the Tiki Peat, an almond-infused Scotch cocktail. Bring a group for punches. The food leans vegetarian, including watermelon poke, jackfruit bahn mi and stuffed churros for dessert.
Go to: Mother of Pearl
Minneapolis: Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge
The massive Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge takes over two waterfront floors with four themed bars and two patios, making it easy for anyone in Minneapolis to get lost in paradise, and hard to have the same experience twice. Cocktails are dated to inform drinkers of when they were created. Balance something old-school like a classic 1944 Mai Tai with another round that’s a bit more modern, like the Psycho Zombie (2010), a rum-soaked slushie made with cherry, lime or cola.
Tulsa: The Saturn Room
This tiki bar in the Brady Arts district has a patio that overlooks the whole city. When the weather allows, the Saturn Room even has a “swim up” window where visitors can walk up to a window and get a drink like a macadamia nut Chi Chi or one of their house cocktails made with freshly squeezed juices and homemade syrups. In keeping with the aquatic theme, puffer fish lights are scattered throughout the space as are giant fishing nets. Pick up one of their unique mugs – the Golden Driller is a nod to the Golden Oil driller statue in town.
Los Angeles: Tiki Ti
This half-century-old tiki bar has been passed down through one family since 1961. Ray Buhen was known as one of the greatest exotic-drink mixologists at Don the Beachcomber’s Cafe and elsewhere before opening Tiki Ti, which is now run by his son and grandson. One of the last standing tiki bars from back in the day, this bar is the place to sample sippers that taste almost identical to the originals. Sip on a Zombie — made with a secret combination of rums — while perusing the plethora of tropical tchotchkes from visitors throughout the years.
Detroit: Mutiny Bar
The Motor City’s only tiki bar, Mutiny Bar serves serious island vibes and a heavy dose of rum. The spot is a bring-your-own-food joint, which you’ll want in order to better soak up classics like the Painkiller made with rum, coconut, lime, orange and pineapple. Expect all the beloved tiki theatrics – kitschy mugs, flaming drinks and colorful twisty straws.
Washington D.C.: Tiki TNT
This three-story tiki temple sits right on the Potomac but differs in a few ways from a typical tiki experience. Sure you’ll find technicolor cocktails, funky furniture and plenty of bamboo, but you’ll also find rum made in-house by Potomac Distilling Company. The entire project comes from local spirits legend Todd Thrasher, who creates four distilled rums, which he serves in delightful concoctions at his scuba-focused tiki bar. You’ll also find a food menu of Polynesian hits created by chef friends like Erik Bruner-Yang and Bryan Voltaggio. Thrasher also lends his tiki mug collection to the venture, so don’t be surprised if you’re sipping a Zombie out of one.
New York: The Polynesian
This modern ode to tiki culture is helmed by self-proclaimed pirate and acclaimed bartender Brian Miller. The Polynesian’s concoctions use fresh juices and top-shelf spirits. The Vaya Kon Tiki mixes coconut rooibos tea-infused rums, a spicy cayenne-coconut cream, ginger, cinnamon, and tropical juice, all topped with a flaming piece of citrus and served in a custom skull mug.
To climb aboard this 19th century clipper ship, you’ll have to walk through Sip Coffee and Beer Garage and descend underground (via the stairs). Upon entry you’ll be greeted with large tiki idols adorning the bar and plenty of shipwrecked fun – even portholes to peer through. Cocktail menus come in chapters here with tantalizing tales of tiki lore surrounding selections like Fare the Cape made with yerba mate-infused cachaça, aged agricola rhum and flavors of apricot, ginger and mint, finished with lemon and soda.
San Francisco: Last Rites
Be prepared to feel stranded in the jungle the minute you leave the bustling San Fran streets for a stool at Last Rites. Airplane fuselage is turned into the back bar and airplane seats are repurposed as bar stools as dense jungle foliage covers stone booths and the lights flicker on and off. Ease your fears with cocktails like the Lover’s Quarrel with white rum and an overproofed rum blend, corn whiskey, grapefruit, lime, passion fruit shrub and coconut cream all served in a giant coconut and lit on fire.
Indianapolis: Inferno Room
Enter at your own risk – Inferno Room isn’t a cheesy tiki bar, but one that has collected real tiki artifacts – so you may even see a shrunken head or a few skulls lying around. In fact, they host one of the largest collections of décor and artifacts from Papua New Guinea outside of a museum. The cocktails harken back to yesteryear with many created by the legendary tiki masters – including Indiana’s Stephen Crane — and others borrowed from tiki bars and bartenders across the country. Pair rum-filled drinks like the lemongrass daiquiri with unique dishes like yucca nachos or yam kebobs.
Alameda, California: Forbidden Island
Michael Thanos and Martin Cate yearned for an era of tiki they couldn’t find in 2006, so they created it themselves. The result was Forbidden Island, a tiki bar of yesteryear – one that recreated the mythical Polynesian bars that were so popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s. All of the mood lighting and puffer fish, a free-play juke box with era-appropriate tiki soundtracks, and beloved cocktails like the hurricane and the large-format scorpion bowl. The juices are all fresh-squeezed and syrups house-made, of course. Their mug program is huge, with well-known tiki designers creating highly sought-after limited-edition mugs.
Las Vegas: Golden Tiki
This tiki bar sticks to the classics when it comes to drinks and design, but the bar shows its true Vegas style with over-the-top accents, including a talking animatronic skeleton, a secret back door, video casino games, and a calendar packed with DJs and live entertainment. Also in typical fashion, the bar is open 24 hours a day, meaning it's tiki time anytime. The cocktails range from tried-and-true classics to creative selections like a classic Martinique Ti cocktail (rum, cane syrup, lime juice) made tableside. Barrel-aged and infused options are also available.
Kansas City: Tiki Cat
It isn’t easy to find this tiki-inspired speakeasy. Located in the basement of craft beer bar Hopcat, the only way to enter Tiki Cat is to find the door behind the bamboo wall. The intimate space is made up of retro huts with cool vintage furniture and shag carpet all designed by tiki expert “Bamboo” Ben Bassham. The cocktails – with all of the juices and syrups made on site – range from the classics like the Painkiller with fresh coconut cream, fresh squeezed pineapple juice and orange juice, fresh-grated nutmeg and plenty of rum, to more creative cocktails like the Cat Bird Seat made with three types of rum, blackberry brandy, fresh lemon and lime juice, orange Curacao, demerara syrup, and orange bitters.
Cleveland: Porco Lounge and Tiki Room
Tropical drinks and Polynesian vibes offer a welcome escape from the Midwest’s brutal winters. Many of the decorative accents were salvaged from the bars of yesteryear, including outrigger canoes and a tiki statue from Cleveland’s Kon Tiki (which closed in ’76), as well as chairs from Detroit’s Chin Tiki (which closed in ‘80). The drinks are equally classic and take no shortcuts. Bartenders schooled in each drink’s history make the libations with fresh juices and housemade syrups for customers.
Photo courtesy of Gus Chan
Arlington, Texas: 4 Kahunas Tiki Lounge
Four friends (aka 4 Kahunas) with a love for tiki opened this island escape deep in the heart of Texas. Using housemade juices and handcrafted syrups, they developed a menu that pays homage to classic tiki drinks and incorporates new creations like the Canadian Castaway made with Canadian whisky, imported maple syrup and housemade falernum syrup. The décor is eclectic, with a nod to Texas-bred Tiki artists.
With plenty of shareable cocktails and classics with a twist, like the Adrift Old Fashioned with single-barrel rum, bourbon, espresso, coconut and angostura bitters, bar goers can relax while staring up at 70-year-old, hand-carved totems as a centerpiece of the bar. Don’t bypass the food — the South Broadway locale is known for their Polynesian fare as well, including guava barbecue baby back ribs, pu pu platers and spicy Hawaiian chile shrimp.
San Francisco: Smuggler’s Cove
No pirate could rival the rum affections of Martin Cate. Boasting a collection of nearly 600 rums — many of them rare and vintage — Cate has turned his Fillmore bar into one of the best destinations for rum in the world. Fittingly, entering the bar feels like walking into a scene of a pirate’s shipwreck, with dim lighting and nautical accents, including rope, wooden planks and barrels, throughout the intimate space. The menu is packed with more than 70 rum-filled concoctions, including the flaming Volcano and Scorpion bowls.
Photo courtesy of Allison Webber
When Milwaukeeans want a mai tai, they head for this tiny, kitsch-packed tropical oasis, where the classic orgeat-rum-juice concoction is the house specialty. The shelves are packed with an inspiring amount of nautical bounty, including scavenged shells, nets and an aquarium of fish. Many of the drinks — Pirate’s Grog, Polynesian — are served in funky tiki-style glasses that can be taken home at the end of the night. Food isn’t served in the bar, but guests can order in from elsewhere. Owner Don Nelson does an excellent job of planting a taste of the tropics in the Midwest, saying it’s his job to “bring the traditions of Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic to the people of Milwaukee.”