The tiki bar is an essential part of cocktail history. After all, the tradition has brought us flaming cocktail bowls, Mai Tais and tons of rum! Dating back to the 1930s, that rich history of tropical, Polynesian fusion food and drink began in California and erupted right here in the Bay Area. One icon of the genre is on this list (hey, Trader Vic’s!) and the founder of that bar brought the world The Original Mai Tai in 1944.
Modern twists, historic landmarks, authentic decor and traditional flavors come together in this guide for a cocktail tour of tropical proportions, featuring a crash-landed plane, a pirate ship and the largest rum selection in the country.
North Beach | Facebook
The Bamboo Hut is a classic, old-school neighborhood tiki bar that branched off from the HiBall Lounge and became its own distinct destination in 2000. When you step inside, you’ll find bamboo-covered walls, a seven-foot tiki carving from the 1940s and a true dive bar atmosphere. From the drink menu, you can select a bottle of beer, a draft, a round of shots or a classic tiki beverage. Of course, we recommend the Flaming Volcano Bowl.
For more fun and cocktails, the same team runs the bright and tropical Del Mar as well as a lounge and nightclub, Mr. Smith’s.
Alameda | Facebook
Photo courtesy of Zero Coordinate, Inc. via Forbidden Island
Complete with tiki statues, glowing puffer fish and velvet Tahitian paintings, Forbidden Island packs a full tropical vacation into one neighborhood bar in Alameda. Since kicking off the party in 2006, the team has grown their tropical-themed bar into a tiki haven, and their classic tiki mixology has resulted in some of the Bay Area’s best cocktails. Come by for the annual luau, a special event, or just a regular afternoon, but be sure to bring a group so you can share a Scorpion Bowl, the infamous mix of juices, rum, brandy and sparkling wine.
Oakland | Facebook
Photo courtesy of The Kon-Tiki
Brought to Downtown Oakland by Christ Aivaliotis and Matthew Reagan, The Kon-Tiki is a tropical oasis complete with classic tiki drinks with tons of run and handmade syrups alongside mid-century tiki cuisine. Their tropical drink menu includes the four-person Volcano Bowl as well as individual cocktails like The Kon-Tiki Grog, a top-secret recipe that comes in a traditional tiki mug. Pair that with Salmon Crudo or Beef Tongue Fries and you may just find your new favorite spot in Oakland.
Oakland | Facebook
At Kona Club—a neighborhood bar on Piedmont Avenue—you’ll find all the tiki essentials: bamboo walls, genuine blowfish lights, a life-size hula girl, and even a volcano behind the bar that occasionally erupts. As a neighborhood bar, you can grab a beer and shoot pool in the side room, or go for the full tiki experience and order a tropical, flaming cocktail bowl.
Duboce Triangle | Facebook
Brought to San Francisco by the same team behind the Divisadero cocktail bar, Horsefeather, Last Rites offers a darker spin on the tiki bar aesthetic. Decked out in dense foliage, towering skulls and even airplane seats lining the bar, you may feel like you’ve crash-landed on an island, but the handcrafted, artisan cocktails will ensure it’s a great trip.
Financial District | Facebook
At Pagan Idol, they’ve taken the traditional tiki bar experience up a notch with a full island getaway—starry night sky and erupting volcano included. Housed inside a historic space that was once home to the infamous Tiki Bob’s Mainland Rendezvous, the bar now feels like the belly of a pirate ship. And the modern Tiki cocktails and endless selection of rum makes the adventure feel even more authentic.
Fillmore District | Facebook
You’ll find Smuggler’s Cove on most San Francisco cocktail roundups thanks to its famous cocktails—covering more than three centuries of rum history—and its rum selection which is the largest in the United States. Pair that with ingredients like housemade syrups and fresh citrus juiced in-house daily and it’s easy to see why this bar is a must-visit. And we haven’t even talked about the vintage tiki artifacts and historic nautical décor yet!
Outer Sunset | Facebook
At Tiki Haven, it’s all in the name. This neighborhood bar in the Outer Sunset offers kitschy island decor, torches, tiki carvings, beers on draft and in bottles, and island-themed beverages. For the full experience, order The Fire Bowl, a flaming two- to four-person bowl made with rum, vodka, gin and fruit.
Nob Hill | Facebook
Located inside the Fairmont San Francisco hotel, the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is a historic tiki bar that every music, food and cocktail fan should see. The story begins in 1929 when the hotel added a 75-foot indoor swimming pool on its Terrace Level. In 1945 the pool was transformed into a lagoon complete with a floating stage for the orchestra. Today, you can enjoy live music from that stage, food from the Polynesian-inspired menu, artisan cocktails, and even the occasional tropical rainstorm complete with thunder and lightning.
There’s a good reason Trad’r Sam is on every Bay Area tiki bar roundup. As the oldest and longest-operating tiki bar in the city, it’s practically a piece of living history right here in the Richmond District. That history dates back to the bamboo bars of the 1930s, and though the neighborhood bar feels more like a dive today, it still boasts kitschy, Polynesian decor alongside rum-based tropical drinks.
Emeryville | Facebook
The Trader Vic’s story begins with Trader Vic himself and a cozy, little saloon in Oakland. After a trip to Cuba, Vic turned Hinky Dinks into Trader Vic’s and updated the menu with island-style cuisine and rum cocktails to create one of America’s first fusion restaurants. Over the years, the concept spread and Trader Vic’s expanded across the country and the globe. Today, you can track down 17 global locations, including one of just three US locations here in Emeryville. Be sure to take your time with the menu; it features more than 200 Trader Vic’s signature cocktails, including The Original Mai Tai created in 1944.
Hayward | Facebook
The star of the show at the World Famous Turf Club is the huge outdoor patio complete with tropical foliage and a festive tiki bar. In that picturesque setting, they host frequent live music events and outdoor dance parties. So, whether you’re looking to dance or just stop by for a beer and a game of darts, you’ve found your new favorite spot in Hayward.
Tenderloin | Facebook
Photo courtesy of Patricia Chang via Zombie Village
Brought to us from the same team behind Pagan Idol, Zombie Village opened in San Francisco in 2019 as an homage to the Bay Area’s rich tiki history. In fact, it takes its name from Skipper Kent’s Zombie Village once located right across the street from the original Trader Vic’s on San Pablo Avenue. Though that tropical escape burned down in 1967, its spirit lives on in the Tenderloin. And it’s made modern through a combination of South Pacific and Caribbean elements, authentic tiki artwork and design, and some of the best cocktails you can get in the city.
Do you have a favorite?
If you have a favorite Bay Area tiki bar—whether it’s on our list or not—tell us about it in the comments below!