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13 Terrific Tiki Bars in the Bay Area

Take a vacation in a glass (or ridiculous mug)

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Tiki, an aesthetic based on vague visions of real and imagined Pacific Islands, blossomed in mainland America in the years after World War II. Bars like Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood and the original Trader Vic’s in Oakland created an idealized Polynesian escape for poorly travelled Americans, combining geographically disparate elements like Caribbean rum, Hawaiian art, and Cantonese cuisine. The result: A generalized Pacific paradise that resembled nowhere in particular, a fabulous fantasia of kitsch — with occasionally problematic, racist undertones and conflations that many modern-day Tiki enthusiasts have tried to address, historicize, and stamp out.

While the Tiki craze faded over the years, the Bay Area retained some of its classic examples, including crown jewels like the Tonga Room. Meanwhile, modern bartenders have embraced the careful concoctions of fresh juices and strong rums devised by early Tiki gurus, and new bars like Smuggler’s Cove (from contemporary Tiki nut Martin Cate) have brought about a new wave of Tiki bars and revitalized old ones. Here, 13 bars to escape to right away.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Trader Vic's Emeryville

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Trader Vic’s Emeryville is the last local port of call for a tiki empire that once spanned California, starting with an Oakland location that’s long since closed. Founder Vic Bergeron invented classic tiki drinks like the Mai Tai, and even dreamt up faux exotic dishes to match like the crab rangoon. You can still get all that and more in Emeryville, where the large location has been the chain’s flagship since 1972. It’s still seriously popular with families for its banquet hall dinners, and with drinkers for its big bar and lounge with waterfront views.

Kona Club

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Piedmont Avenue’s friendly neighborhood Tiki bar is an all-day oasis for area regulars and one of the Bay’s best Tiki bars overall, with beautiful wood carvings (straight from Tiki hub Oceanic Arts) and lots of kitschy details (the Volcano behind the bar erupts from time to time). The drinks, like classic Navy Grogs and Zombies a la Don the Beachcomber, are delicious and affordable, though plenty of locals will just get a beer and shoot pool in the side room.

Caleb Pershan

Luau Lounge at Players Sports Bar

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The novelty of this tucked away bar is that it’s relatively unknown to SF locals — but after journeying through the Pier 39 gauntlet of tourists and shops, then following signs for the bar through the Players video game arcade (a hellscape of buzzing things and loud children) you’ll understand why it escapes notice. You’ll also require a strong, pineapple-spiked Painkiller or two — and fortunately, Luau Lounge has that aspect covered, plus some bar bites, and pleasant views of the Bay complete the escape.

Caleb Pershan

The Kon-Tiki

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The Kon-Tiki opened in 2017, but it’s already achieved a timeless feel (and attracted big weekend crowds). Owners/rum enthusiasts Christ Aivaliotis and Matthew Reagan are to thank: They took over the former Tiki-leaning bar Longitude and went all-in with immersive decor. Grab a creamy coconut Uma Uma and a seat in a palapa. To prevent hangovers, order a burger, chicken sandwich, or pu pu platter from Hawker Fare alum Manuel Bonilla.

Bamboo Hut

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With DJs bumping music on weekends and big groups getting trashed off volcano bowls, Bamboo Hut is as much a dance and party bar as a Tiki one. But bonkers details like a talking stone head on the wall (that will could give you a heart attack when it leaps to life) make it a worthy destination for a night on the town.

Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

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Ah, the Tonga Room: A vacation land in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel where, in 1945, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer set designer transformed an underused swimming pool into a lagoon (with a floating stage for bands and hourly “rainstorms”). It’s also a restaurant with a mix of Chinese and Hawaiian food that betrays the odd cultural conflations/general ignorance of the white American men who invented Tiki. But if you can stomach it all, the total effect is sort of marvelous. Anthony Bourdain once called it “the greatest place in the history of the world,” and it’s not clear how much he was kidding.

Pagan Idol

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The Future Bars team (Bourbon & Branch et al) went big with their Union Square Tiki temple, featuring two bars for perfected classics and details like twinkling stars that transport drinkers to paradise at twilight no matter the time of day. Start out in the front room, a “captain’s quarters” filled with nautical details, and then make your way to the back room where there’s an erupting volcano and palapas aplenty.

Zombie Village

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After their runaway success with second wave Tiki bar Pagan Idol, the Future Bars team re-imagined their classic cocktail destination, Tradition, as another Tiki fantasy: Zombie Village. Daniel “Doc” Parks, the team’s Tiki mastermind, helped plan the two-level design at Zombie Village, which is rich and elaborate, with a second, upstairs bar dubbed “Doc’s Voodoo Lounge.” As for the drinks: “We definitely went a little more progressive here [than Pagan Idol], says Parks, “having some things that are a step outside of Tiki, but still relevant to that tropical vibe.”

Trad'r Sam

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Trad’r Sam is technically the longest-running Tiki bar in the world, opened by Sam Baylon in 1937. Sadly, the year’s haven’t been kind, and while the place still has the classic drinks and some vintage decor, it’s veered in the direction of neighborhood dive. There are those who love it, warts and all, but this paradise ain’t what it used to be.

Smuggler's Cove

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To the pantheon of Tiki talents like “Trader” Vic Bergeron on Don the Beachcomber, add Martin Cate, whose recent book Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki received a James Beard Award. Smuggler’s Cove, which Cate owns with his partner Rebecca, provides a trip from Hayes Valley to a fully-realized fantasia: It’s like a small, three-level treehouse full of incredible decor (including artifacts from now-closed Tiki classics). The Smuggler’s cove menu could win a Beard Award, too: It’s a lengthy exploration of rum, Tiki drinks, and American bar history. Read and drink up.

Smuggler’s Cove Smuggler’s Cove

Forbidden Island

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Martin Cate’s original Tiki bar in Alameda (before he left to open Smuggler’s Cove) opened in 2006. It’s low key, laid back, kitschy, and relaxing with gentle island music rolling in. The drinks, like a Sidewinder’s Fang with fresh-squeezed juice, are perfect. This might be the best Tiki bar out there, period.

Last Rites

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Built from parts of an actual airplane, Last Rites gives drinkers the impression they’ve crash landed on a desert island. While there’s lots of dense, tropical foliage, the bar lacks actual Tikis — the term for big carvings of Polynesian gods that’s lent itself to the genre as a whole. Still, it’s got everything that makes Tiki bars great: Classic rum drinks and fun variations on them (from the team behind Horsefeather) in a completely immersive environment.

Albert Law

Tiki Haven

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There’s Tiki in the name and some fun bamboo decor inside, but Tiki Haven is really just a solid neighborhood bar with fun decor in a quiet part of the Sunset. They’re serving stiff drinks to those who need them, no frills (just basic garnishes). Hungry? There’s a vending machine inside the bar.

Caleb Pershan

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Trader Vic's Emeryville

Trader Vic’s Emeryville is the last local port of call for a tiki empire that once spanned California, starting with an Oakland location that’s long since closed. Founder Vic Bergeron invented classic tiki drinks like the Mai Tai, and even dreamt up faux exotic dishes to match like the crab rangoon. You can still get all that and more in Emeryville, where the large location has been the chain’s flagship since 1972. It’s still seriously popular with families for its banquet hall dinners, and with drinkers for its big bar and lounge with waterfront views.

Kona Club

Caleb Pershan

Piedmont Avenue’s friendly neighborhood Tiki bar is an all-day oasis for area regulars and one of the Bay’s best Tiki bars overall, with beautiful wood carvings (straight from Tiki hub Oceanic Arts) and lots of kitschy details (the Volcano behind the bar erupts from time to time). The drinks, like classic Navy Grogs and Zombies a la Don the Beachcomber, are delicious and affordable, though plenty of locals will just get a beer and shoot pool in the side room.

Caleb Pershan

Luau Lounge at Players Sports Bar

Caleb Pershan

The novelty of this tucked away bar is that it’s relatively unknown to SF locals — but after journeying through the Pier 39 gauntlet of tourists and shops, then following signs for the bar through the Players video game arcade (a hellscape of buzzing things and loud children) you’ll understand why it escapes notice. You’ll also require a strong, pineapple-spiked Painkiller or two — and fortunately, Luau Lounge has that aspect covered, plus some bar bites, and pleasant views of the Bay complete the escape.

Caleb Pershan

The Kon-Tiki

The Kon-Tiki opened in 2017, but it’s already achieved a timeless feel (and attracted big weekend crowds). Owners/rum enthusiasts Christ Aivaliotis and Matthew Reagan are to thank: They took over the former Tiki-leaning bar Longitude and went all-in with immersive decor. Grab a creamy coconut Uma Uma and a seat in a palapa. To prevent hangovers, order a burger, chicken sandwich, or pu pu platter from Hawker Fare alum Manuel Bonilla.

Bamboo Hut

With DJs bumping music on weekends and big groups getting trashed off volcano bowls, Bamboo Hut is as much a dance and party bar as a Tiki one. But bonkers details like a talking stone head on the wall (that will could give you a heart attack when it leaps to life) make it a worthy destination for a night on the town.

Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

Ah, the Tonga Room: A vacation land in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel where, in 1945, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer set designer transformed an underused swimming pool into a lagoon (with a floating stage for bands and hourly “rainstorms”). It’s also a restaurant with a mix of Chinese and Hawaiian food that betrays the odd cultural conflations/general ignorance of the white American men who invented Tiki. But if you can stomach it all, the total effect is sort of marvelous. Anthony Bourdain once called it “the greatest place in the history of the world,” and it’s not clear how much he was kidding.

Pagan Idol

The Future Bars team (Bourbon & Branch et al) went big with their Union Square Tiki temple, featuring two bars for perfected classics and details like twinkling stars that transport drinkers to paradise at twilight no matter the time of day. Start out in the front room, a “captain’s quarters” filled with nautical details, and then make your way to the back room where there’s an erupting volcano and palapas aplenty.

Zombie Village

After their runaway success with second wave Tiki bar Pagan Idol, the Future Bars team re-imagined their classic cocktail destination, Tradition, as another Tiki fantasy: Zombie Village. Daniel “Doc” Parks, the team’s Tiki mastermind, helped plan the two-level design at Zombie Village, which is rich and elaborate, with a second, upstairs bar dubbed “Doc’s Voodoo Lounge.” As for the drinks: “We definitely went a little more progressive here [than Pagan Idol], says Parks, “having some things that are a step outside of Tiki, but still relevant to that tropical vibe.”

Trad'r Sam

Trad’r Sam is technically the longest-running Tiki bar in the world, opened by Sam Baylon in 1937. Sadly, the year’s haven’t been kind, and while the place still has the classic drinks and some vintage decor, it’s veered in the direction of neighborhood dive. There are those who love it, warts and all, but this paradise ain’t what it used to be.

Smuggler's Cove

Smuggler’s Cove Smuggler’s Cove

To the pantheon of Tiki talents like “Trader” Vic Bergeron on Don the Beachcomber, add Martin Cate, whose recent book Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki received a James Beard Award. Smuggler’s Cove, which Cate owns with his partner Rebecca, provides a trip from Hayes Valley to a fully-realized fantasia: It’s like a small, three-level treehouse full of incredible decor (including artifacts from now-closed Tiki classics). The Smuggler’s cove menu could win a Beard Award, too: It’s a lengthy exploration of rum, Tiki drinks, and American bar history. Read and drink up.

Smuggler’s Cove Smuggler’s Cove

Forbidden Island

Martin Cate’s original Tiki bar in Alameda (before he left to open Smuggler’s Cove) opened in 2006. It’s low key, laid back, kitschy, and relaxing with gentle island music rolling in. The drinks, like a Sidewinder’s Fang with fresh-squeezed juice, are perfect. This might be the best Tiki bar out there, period.

Last Rites

Albert Law

Built from parts of an actual airplane, Last Rites gives drinkers the impression they’ve crash landed on a desert island. While there’s lots of dense, tropical foliage, the bar lacks actual Tikis — the term for big carvings of Polynesian gods that’s lent itself to the genre as a whole. Still, it’s got everything that makes Tiki bars great: Classic rum drinks and fun variations on them (from the team behind Horsefeather) in a completely immersive environment.

Albert Law

Tiki Haven

Caleb Pershan

There’s Tiki in the name and some fun bamboo decor inside, but Tiki Haven is really just a solid neighborhood bar with fun decor in a quiet part of the Sunset. They’re serving stiff drinks to those who need them, no frills (just basic garnishes). Hungry? There’s a vending machine inside the bar.

Caleb Pershan

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