The next time you feel like Mai Tais, flaming punch bowls, and maybe even a hula show (see: all the times), but don’t feel like going to Smuggler’s Cove again, consult this: a list of all 22 Tiki bars in the Bay. (Then go to Smuggler’s Cove again, too.)
Nob Hill The ultimate in old-school, over-the-top Tiki awesomeness (OHMYGOD IT RAINS INSIDE THE BAR!! AND COVER BANDS PLAY ON A RAFT IN THE MIDDLE OF A SWIMMING POOL!!!!), The Tonga Room opened in 1945 and is now one of those places where you more or less have to go and make some poor rum-induced decisions before they give you your San Francisco citizenship card.
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Hayes Valley The Tonga Room may be “so San Francisco” in its storied past and present-day kitsch, but Martin Cate’s Smuggler’s takes the title for one of the very best bars in town, Tiki-themed or not. In addition to its badass, Pirates of the Caribbean-esque decor, this is a hardcore, seriously serious rum bar -- Smuggler’s is where you come to sample the types of badass, navy-strength grog that your sailor great-grandfather used to drink. Expect delicious, thoughtfully executed cocktails -- far cries from a lot of too-sweet, fluorescent-colored Tiki drinks (not that those don’t hold a hard-and-fast place in our hearts) -- that also happen to be really freaking strong. You will probably have a hangover after a night out at Smuggler’s, but one that will be 1,000% worth having.
North San Jose Obviously we love Tiki bars that are hidden in the back of things, so get this: Bamboo Lounge is a Tiki bar that’s hidden in the Island Grill... which is hidden in a nondescript hotel! Uh huh. In addition to this awesomeness, they’ve got open mic nights and karaoke. And booze, which you’ll need to participate in either of these things.
Chinatown If a Tiki bar is your favorite kind of bar, then your second favorite kind of bar is definitely a Chinatown dive bar. Luckily, you can get the best of all possible worlds at Hawaii West, a Tiki-themed Chinatown dive, complete with a pool table, jukebox, cold beer, and totally questionable drinks like a spiked Shirley Temple. Also, it’s right across from the police station because OF COURSE IT IS. This bar is perfect.
The Marina Mauna Loa is to the Marina what Hawaii West is to Chinatown (a neighborhood-y kinda dive bar), just with a whole lot more bros. It’s mostly Tiki in name (and there are a couple of surfboards and stuff on the walls), but we’re willing to forgive this based on the super-rad roster of bar games (Pop-A-Shot!) that they have on offer. That dude who spit his Fireball all over the bar, however, is another story.
Fisherman’s Wharf You know all about Forbes Island and its excellent drinking-with-a-view characteristics. In case you’ve forgotten, one of the places to drink on Forbes Island is a Tiki-themed Tahiti Lounge. A Tiki bar with a waterfall on a boat? Need we say more?? Yeah no, we need not.
The Marina In addition to the fact that this Union Street hotspot has an actual palm tree growing in its front patio, the Palm House boasts the tagline “Let’s Get Tropical!,” has an island-themed food menu that’s actually super solid, and has been known to make use of rubber duckies during boozy weekend brunch.
Outer Sunset Another neighborhood, another kind of divey Tiki bar filled with regulars. But Tiki Haven in the Outer Sunset has something about it that we can’t help but love... namely, boozy flaming punch bowls. Also, happy hour specials. Also, a snack vending machine in the back. Okay, Tiki Haven, fine. You win. We love you.
Outer Richmond If the old-school sign (since 1937!) and fully tricked-out Tiki decor don’t win you over, the multiple, heavily spiked “bowls” will. That’s right, Trad’r Sam’s has multiple drink options that come in bowl form, complete with a bunch of straws for drinking races with your friends (like good grown-ups do). Just accept the fact that you’re taking down at least one Scorpion Bowl here.
North Beach Should you find yourself on Broadway for any reason other than 1) a visit to one of the many “gentlemen’s clubs” in the vicinity, or 2) a visit to one of the best hidden-down-an-alleyway bars, it’s probably because you’re going to Bamboo Hut, a badass Tiki dive with multiple flaming volcano drinks for sharing, bumpin' tunes for embarrassing dancing, and sometimes, free pizza!!!! A suggestion: blame the volcano(es) for your impending visit to the strip club. #winwin
Tenderloin Tradition is not only one of the best cocktail bars in town, this awesome spot from the Bourbon & Branch team has a dedicated Tiki section of its menu, celebrating the tradition of tropical-inspired drinks (get it?!??!). They’re completely delicious, as is expected from this crew, and -- if you make a reservation in advance -- you can even enjoy them in the Tiki-themed snug (sort of like a drinking confessional for four), complete with carved masks.
Japantown At Pa’ina Lounge, the vibe is Hawaiian, the massive shareable drinks are called goblets, and most importantly, they have kalua pig cheese fries (zomg). They’ve also been known to have Polynesian dance performances, and definitely won’t judge you if you have one too many goblets and forget about the movie you were going to go to next door.
Emeryville Trader Vic’s was one of the first and most successful Tiki bars in the US (the original 1936 location was on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland), and is the Home of the Original Mai Tai. Enjoy a taste of history or, really, rum, while taking in the view at Trader Vic’s newish Emeryville home -- and by newish, we mean it opened in 1972. Trust us, bay views and Tiki bars make a very excellent combination.
Alameda In addition to the fact that its name sounds like a ride at Disneyland, Forbidden Island is a rad place to get your rum-drinking on -- it has a huge list thanks, in part, to Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove fame. You know what else it has? Live music, movie nights, an annual luau, and, oh yeah, happy hour. Plus, Alameda is an island, so it’s even more like you’re drinking in Tahiti.
Downtown Oakland One of the newer Tiki bars in the Bay, Oakland’s Longitude is quickly becoming one of our favorite drinking destinations. The adventure-themed spot has a thoughtful drink menu heavily inspired by Tiki history -- you’ll find tasty versions of everything from a pirate-themed grog to the aptly named Zombie (which features three kinds of rum and absinthe). You can even get a pu pu platter for two to help soak it all up and prevent you from eating brains.
North Oakland Bamboo walls, an erupting volcano, Scorpion Bowls, and AN ERUPTING VOLCANO make Kona Club Oakland’s own little slice of neighborhood Tiki bar heaven. It also has a pool table and Connect Four. And did we mention the volcano which sometimes erupts?
Downtown San Mateo For those times you’re looking to party in Downtown San Mateo (DTSM), which is all of the time, Downtown Tiki Lounge is your spot. Flaming bowls, Mai Tais, little drink umbrellas, plus things like nachos and Hawaiian sliders are all definite selling points, as is this Tiki bar’s proximity to Mr. Pizza Man for necessary late-night slice action.
Downtown San Jose Da Kine has a dedicated “Legendary Cocktail Menu” showcasing classic Tiki drinks made with fresh juice and fancy ingredients (some of which are served in pineapples!!). Also: a killer craft beer selection, an “Aloha Hour,” and sometimes, live music and hula dancing.
Downtown San Jose RIP, San Francisco location of Hukilau! Good thing the San Jose iteration lives on, complete with tasty Hawaiian grub (poke!), tropical cocktails, and a location in Honolulu to really further its Tiki cred.
Downtown Santa Cruz Big, strong drinks and a fittingly big food menu to soak them up make Hula’s in Santa Cruz the kind of place you can hang out in for way too long. This is particularly the case during happy hour, which runs all night long on Tuesdays, and features $6 Tiki drinks (Mai Tais! Painkillers! Crap!) and bites (mac ‘n’ cheese, thank goodness).
Downtown Santa Cruz Housed in the same space as Pono Hawaiian Grill (hello, poke bar), Reef Bar has the requisite tropical drinks, a killer roster of live music (reggae Thursdays!), and the kind of vibe that might cause a passerby to assume that you too had been out shredding gnarly barrels earlier that day, too. If said stranger had had a few Mai Tais beforehand, anyway.
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Lauren Sloss is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and strong proponent of drink umbrellas. Challenge her to Scorpion Bowl races on Twitter at @laurensloss.