Ok, so major disclaimer up front: these are not our recommendations for the best 8 tiki bars in California. This entry is instead focused on the top 8 places we HAVEN'T been to yet in this state but would really like to check out (and, if you're really curious, you can scroll down to the bottom to find out which tiki bars we've already conquered).
So why are we writing about places we haven't been to yet in California? Well, I was pumped to go to the Tonga Room for the first time next weekend but unfortunately got sidelined by a last-minute trip I've got to take back home to Long Island instead. I guess I'll just have to substitute with a visit to Otto's Shrunken Head in New York - still a new spot to check out, so that's good! Plus, we might be traveling up to the Bay Area in May, so a San Franciscan tiki excursion is still in sight!
In anticipation of that trip and other explorations, here are the top 8 Californian tiki bars we've got on our bucket list (sorted roughly from North to South):
1. The Tonga Room - san francisco
From what we've heard (especially at conversations that took place at The Coconut Club), the Tonga Room is a special place. It's located under an old hotel, it RAINS inside, and there's a band that floats around on the water inside on a barge. What?! Sounds amazing and like it would totally transport you to another place and time.
What we'd like to try: Tonga Mai Tai + Pineapple Royal
2. Smuggler's Cove - san francisco
We've heard that Smuggler's Cove is a close second to the Tonga Room when visiting San Francisco. The decor is a little more cluttered nautical but the drinks are supposedly better than the ones they've got at the Tonga Room. The menu alone looks really impressive. We had trouble picking our top choices for what we'd like to sample. Oooh and apparently they have something called the Rumbustion Society which looks a little similar to the Tonga Hut's Loyal Order of the DB. Nice if you're a local!
What we'd like to try: Puka Punch + Tradewinds
3. Trader Vic's - Emeryville
This place is a classic founded by the legendary Trader Vic, creator of the Mai Tai, himself. For that reason alone, it's pretty necessary for us to pay a visit to this place soon. Located just outside San Francisco, it seems like a great destination to check out while taking a tiki tour around the city. Bonus points: it's right on the water.
What we'd like to try: 1944 Mai Tai + Scorpion
4. Longitude - Oakland
While Longitude looks a little more bright and modern than your traditional tiki bar, it looks like they still have some good offerings. I'm not itching to go here as much as the three spots above, but I'll see if I can swing it on my Bay Area tiki tour. The food and drinks look great from the pictures we've seen!
What we'd like to try: Navy Grog
5. Forbidden Island - Alameda
This place looks like just what we'd imagine most tiki bars to look like - dimly lit and windowless. Its proximity to San Francisco makes it seem like a perfect pick to round out a tiki tour before heading back to LA. There are so many options on their drink menu that I think we'd just start with their signature drink (and mug) whenever we get a chance to visit.
What we'd like to try: Forbidden Island
6. VENTIKI TIKI LOUNGE & LANAI - VENTURA
This place keeps popping up in my social media feeds and I keep thinking, this isn't too far from LA - we could definitely pair a trip to Ventiki with a day at the beach. Unlike most other tiki bars, it looks like this spot is great to enjoy the great California weather out on the patio. It also looks like they have a drink card where you can mark off drinks you've tried for repeat visitors. From the Tiki Chick's review, it looks like there are some great prizes for completing your drink journey too!
What we'd like to try: Jet Pilot + Scorpion
7. Purple Orchid - El Segundo
With the amount of times I traveled in and out of LAX last year (at one point it honestly felt like once a week), I'm surprised I still haven't checked this place out! It seems like the atmosphere is what you'd expect - dark and campy - but the drink purists of the tiki world don't seem too impressed. Still, I'd like to know how this one fares compared to the other LA offerings. Maybe I'll swing by before my flight out to New York tomorrow night...
What we'd like to try: Volcano Bowl
8. Bali Hai - san diego
This place seems big and like the place to go if you're in San Diego and looking for a tiki drink (and some great food). This one seems to have a cleaner, sleeker look overall than most spots but doesn't appear to be any less "tiki" in their offerings from what we've read. Plus, who can turn down sweeping views of the Pacific? We'll be checking out Bali Hai as soon as we have an excuse to drive down to San Diego. Or maybe it's an excuse in itself? I have been wanting to get my hands on one of those iconic mugs...
What we'd like to try: Mr. Bali Hai
And just in case you're wondering, here are the spots we HAVE been to in California:
- Tonga Hut - North Hollywood (home of our grog logging adventures)
Our favorite so far: Chief Lapu Lapu | We'll be back to try: Voodoo Juice (after we complete our Grog Logs of course)
- Tiki No - North Hollwood
Our favorite so far: Suffering Bastard | We'll be back to try: Scorpion Bowl
- Damon's - Glendale
Our favorite so far: Mai Tai | We'll be back to try: Monkey's Uncle
- Tiki Ti - Los Angeles
Our favorite so far: Scorpion | We'll be back to try: Milky Way
- A-Frame - Los Angeles (ok, not totally tiki, but has a new "Aloha" theme and tiki drinks)
Our favorite so far: Pineapple Express | We'll be back to try: Pina Cholada
- Don the Beachcomber - Huntington Beach
Our favorite so far: Painkiller | We'll be back to try: Zombie
- Trader Sam's - Anaheim
Our favorite so far: Uh Oa! | We'll be back to try: Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum
- Tonga Hut - Palm Springs
Our favorite so far: Tonga Hut Treasure | We'll be back to try: 3 Dots and a Dash
- Bootlegger Tiki - Palm Springs
Our favorite so far: Pod Thai | We'll be back to try: Gooney Goo Goo
What are your top tiki bars in California (or any other state)? Did we miss any? Let us know - we love to explore!