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The 8 Best California Tiki Bars

The 8 Best California Tiki Bars

Step inside a tropical paradise and grab a colorful cocktail at one of these tiki-themed spots

Posted 4 years agoby Sarah Feldberg

If you’ve ever sipped a juicy, rum-drenched drink topped with a wedge of pineapple and a flirty umbrella, you can thank California for the pleasure. Tiki cocktails and their accompanying subculture were born in Los Angeles, when a young man returned from his travels abroad to open Don’s Beachcomber (later renamed Don the Beachcomber) in 1933. Although all of the California locations of Don the Beachcomber have since closed, the legendary bar launched a movement that lives on today in glowing, thatch-roofed tiki dives. Nodding to Polynesia and the Caribbean but truly authentic to no single location, these tiki-themed bars—listed here south to north—are worth a visit on your next trip to the Golden State.

1. False Idol, San Diego

Travel through a secret stainless steel door inside Little Italy’s Craft & Commerce and enter this theatrical speakeasy, where the walls are enshrouded with hand-carved idols by local artist Bosko.

Don’t miss: The postcards, swizzle sticks, and other memorabilia on display under the glass-topped bar, like a miniature museum celebrating San Diego’s tiki past.

2. Bootlegger Tiki, Palm Springs

This Palm Springs spot returns a former 1953 Don the Beachcomber location to its tiki roots, with rattan furniture, carved mugs, and potent cocktails.

Don’t miss: The New Originals section of the menu, with its distinctively modern pairing of rum with ingredients like cold brew, ancho chilies, and mole bitters.

3. The Pacific Seas, Los Angeles

Climb the hidden staircase to reach this bamboo-decked dreamland above Clifton’s in downtown L.A., where the décor is as polished as the carefully poured cocktails.

Don’t miss: The mai tai; deliciously bright when made with fresh ingredients.

4. Tiki-Ti, Hollywood

Opened in 1961 by one of the original Don the Beachcomber bartenders, this Hollywood dive covered in twinkle lights and license plates still serves no less than 94 tropical cocktails.

Don’t miss: The handheld Wheel of Tiki-Ti Drinks—give it a strong spin and leave your fate to the drink gods.

5. Tiki-Ko, Bakersfield

This “shady place for sunny people” welcomes visitors to a black-lit paradise, where drinkers seated beneath glowing Puffer Fish lamps sip on cocktails inspired by Gilligan’s Island and The Big Lebowski.

Don’t miss: The Mauna Ahi, a fruity booze bowl served in a flaming volcano vessel with its own signature chant.

6. Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco

Created by cocktail guru Martin Cate, this destination drinkery—which is part pirate ship—stocks more than 550 rums.

Don’t miss: The selection of rare international rums, available for sampling at up to about $300 an ounce.

7. Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar, San Francisco

Built in 1945 around a swimming pool of the Fairmont Hotel, the Tonga Room in Nob Hill is a glorious throwback. More than 70 years later, it’s still an exotic respite and one of the town's most entertaining tables.

Don’t miss: The Island Groove Band, which plays on a floating stage on the restaurant’s turquoise “lagoon.”

8. The Jungle Bird, Sacramento

This escapist saloon brings island vibes inland with tropical décor, a thatched-roof bar, boozy drinks, and pu-pu platters.

Don’t miss: The Maiden Voyage, with two kinds of rum, pineapple, and real Dole Whip.

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