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A selection of cocktails
A selection of cocktails from North Hollywood’s Tiki No bar, including a Singapore Sling, left, Chief Lapu Lapu, Zombie and Blue Hawaiian.
(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

The ultimate guide to tiki bars across Southern California

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Ever since Don the Beachcomber debuted in Hollywood in the 1930s, tiki has ingrained itself in American bar culture. Nearly a century later, we still delight in drinking a Mai Tai from an elaborately carved mug beneath a palapa, all without stepping foot on a plane. No wonder tiki bars are enjoying a contemporary revival.

Maybe it’s our nostalgia for midcentury Americana, or simply a desire to retreat to a world where we can sip umbrella-adorned cocktails without a care in sight. The latter explains why Don the Beachcomber, offering a cheerful distraction during the Great Depression, was so popular in its heyday. The tropical-themed cafe laid the foundation for modern-day tiki bars like Belles Beach House in Venice. “Tiki culture was brought to Southern California as a way to create an escape for people,” said Belles general manager Chris Newcomer. “You walk into a room and have a drink that makes you feel like you’re somewhere else.”

With the recent tiki resurgence comes increased scrutiny of its not-so-sunny aspects, mainly the fact that the original establishments didn’t always approach certain cultures with sensitivity. Often, they created an escapist fantasy that appropriated Hawaiian or Polynesian iconography and aesthetics while sidestepping the uncomfortable realities of colonialism.

A product of its era, tiki bars offered a manufactured culture — one that borrowed from diverse regions and communities. “The Caribbean islands are represented in the spirits served in tiki cocktails, the food is Chinese-based and the decor is Polynesian-inspired,” said Kevin Murphy, co-owner of Tonga Hut, L.A.’s oldest surviving tiki bar. “To midcentury Americans, all of these locations were exotic, far-off lands that most had just a fleeting awareness of, a dream that most locals could never visit.”


But as the tiki bar found its footing in California, it acquired an eclectic flavor all its own — a cultural mashup that reflected the region’s diversity, creativity and ingenuity. “The tiki culture that exists now was born here,” said Sunni Aceves, a manager at North Hollywood’s Tiki No. “It’s been adopted across the nation, but the West Coast will always be its home.”

During the height of tiki culture in the ’60s, commercial air travel became increasingly accessible and more Americans were able to visit the faraway places that inspired their local tiki haunts. With that came a deeper understanding of tiki’s roots. “The world is a very different place now, and most people are aware that these places are more than just an exotic-looking space, but inhabited by people like us with rich cultures and interesting histories,” said Murphy.

After a decline in the ’70s, tiki bars continued to make a comeback again and again, most recently as an extension of the craft cocktail renaissance. “Some of the most classic cocktails fall under the tiki banner, and revising them is very much in the spirit of the craft cocktail movement,” explained veteran restaurateur Jared Meisler, who recently opened Gin Rummy in Venice.

Whether you’re looking for an old-school dive with cheesy decor or a polished new venue with fresh takes on classic tropical cocktails, here are 15 of our favorite tiki bars and restaurants in Southern California for your next escape. — Tiffany Tse

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Three colorful cocktails on a wooden table
(Danielle Dorsey / Los Angeles Times)

Belles Beach House

Venice Hawaiian Cocktails $$
Facing a bustling Windward Avenue just off the Venice Boardwalk, Belles Beach House spills across a dining room with fanning palms, wicker and bamboo accents and carved ceramic faces that serve as light fixtures onto a netted patio. Your experience here depends entirely on when you visit. Weekend brunch is breezy and bright, with egg dishes, toasts and granola bowls, plus invigorating cocktails like the Sun Kissed with your choice of spirit, fresh carrot, orange, turmeric, lemon and black pepper. From 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, golden hour brings $10 cocktails and wines, $6 beers and an assortment of discounted bites to pair with the relaxed vibes; dog lovers will want to stop by on Thursday, when guests are encouraged to bring in their pups for “yappy hour.” The Hawaiian-leaning menu is a great choice for a dinner date, spanning bao buns, crispy rock shrimp, decked-out sushi rolls, salads and poke bowls and large plates such as Hawaiian-style rib-eye and huli huli chicken. Post-dinner, a DJ usually takes over the turntables and a spinning disco ball attracts guests to the dance floor as the restaurant takes on a rowdier atmosphere. A lengthy cocktail list with classic, shaken, stirred, nonalcoholic and frozen options, in addition to shareable pitchers, helps keep the party going.
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The bar at Broken Compass Tiki with wicker barstools and wicker lights hanging from the ceiling
(Broken Compass Tiki)

Broken Compass Tiki

Burbank American Cocktails $$
Brimming with nautical accents and pirate-themed knickknacks, Broken Compass looks and feels as if a pirate ship has crash-landed in the Valley — and everyone inside is raiding the place for frozen Painkiller and Navy Grog slushies. Just minutes from the Burbank airport, this whimsical oasis attracts families, neighbors, travelers and tiki-philes who work in the nearby studios and pop in for High Seas Happy Hour. The drink menu is half traditional, half original, with a few creative concoctions for nondrinkers. Meanwhile, food offerings take a playful turn with what co-owner and chef Erica Abell calls “Polynesian pirate fusion” — her take on what a band of pirates might eat after shipwrecking on an island. The answer? Ahi tuna poke nachos you won’t be able to stop reaching for, gourmet burgers and dynamite shrimp tacos.
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A False Idol signature tiki cocktail in a mug that looks like a barrel
(Brogen Jessup)

False Idol

San Diego Cocktails $$$
This dark, moody tiki sanctuary is hidden away, which makes it all the more fun when you discover it in the back of Little Italy’s Craft & Commerce. Conceived by CH Projects, a San Diego-based group that’s behind some of the city’s most iconic restaurants and bars, False Idol promises a completely immersive experience that starts the minute you walk through a cave-like tunnel to reach the Polynesian-decorated bar, replete with an indoor waterfall, flaming volcano and island memorabilia. On weekends, you’ll find a full house of revelers sipping potent yet palate-pleasing drinks from all over the world, such as the Hawaiian-inspired Mac Nut Chi Chi, the traditional Barbadian Corn ’n Oil and Martinique’s Ti’ Punch. If you’re with a group, indulge in one of the shareable punch bowls, which sets off tropical-storm-inspired sound and lighting effects.
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A Painkiller cocktail for two served in a pineapple and a guava daiquiri from Gin Rummy bar.
(Danielle Dorsey / Los Angeles Times)

Gin Rummy

Venice Cocktails Bar Bites $$
Opened earlier this summer in the former Nueva space by restaurateur Jared Meisler and husband-and-wife David and Patti Reiss, Gin Rummy is a spacious, indoor-outdoor retreat serving up tropical cocktails in ceramic mugs embellished with orchids, aloe leaves and paper umbrellas, plus safari-print bar stools, wicker-wrapped light fixtures and vintage pinball machines that provide the ambience. The drink menu from beverage directors Danilo Kim and Marcus Ragas has something for everyone, including frozen daiquiris and margaritas, a handful of beers paired with different shots, highballs, shaken or stirred options, mocktails and a selection of classic tiki cocktails like a Piña Colada or a Painkiller for two that’s served in a hollowed-out pineapple. Groups will want to turn their attention toward the shareable scorpion or fish bowls for four. The food is bar fare done well, with a selection of tacos that come three to an order, snacks like crispy cauliflower and coconut shrimp and larger-than-average chicken wings that can be grilled, fried or buttermilk-brined, with sauce options like buffalo, lemon pepper and mango habanero. Gin Rummy hosts karaoke on Tuesdays beginning at 8 p.m., with live music and DJs rotating on other nights of the week.
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Two cocktails under the neon lights at Kahuna Tiki
(Kahuna Tiki Tu)

Kahuna Tiki Tu

North Hollywood Hawaiian Cocktails $$
The sister location of North Hollywood’s Kahuna Tiki, this Valley Village outpost has been serving stiff drinks and serious aloha spirit since opening during the pandemic in late 2020. While the atmosphere is unquestionably tiki, there’s a dusting of Disney magic and a hint of Rat Pack allure in the delightful decor, which includes original artwork by local and Hawaiian artists, life-size dioramas scattered throughout and an 8-foot-tall Moai carving that gazes over the main room. Choose from a vast food menu that showcases Hawaiian appetizers, tiki-inspired sandwiches and big plates, as well as an equally impressive drink menu with over 40 distinctive rums and 36 cocktails. The Brainkiller stands out as a favorite, offering a heady twist on the classic drink with its blend of three rums, but you also can’t go wrong with Pirate’s Parley, a rich rum maple martini, or the Pink Pussycat, a fresh watermelon and lilikoi juice piña colada.
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A cocktail in a tall glass sits in a skull dish that oozes dry ice steam
(The Royal Hawaiian / Wales Communications)

Royal Hawaiian

Laguna Beach Hawaiian $$
Pull off the Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach to visit the Royal Hawaiian, originally opened in 1947 by Laguna residents and World War II veterans Francis Cabang and Harold “Hal” Hanna. The historic landmark was recently reopened by L.A.’s Boulevard Hospitality Group, with a design refresh spearheaded by Ignacio “Notch” Gonzalez of Top Notch Kustoms. Original mugs and dioramas were incorporated into the space along with new touches like jade-tile dividers, hanging lamps with fossilized sea creatures by Woody “Kahaka” Greenwood and iconic Bumatay tikis carved by Vic Hernandez and inspired by the original mid-’60s versions that stood guard at the restaurant’s front door. The Royal Hawaiian is open for brunch and dinner daily, with Guam-born chef Jae Hee Lee, most recently of Yamashiro Hollywood, bringing his Korean American roots to a large menu that also takes influences from Hawaiian, Filipino, Chamorro and Japanese cuisines. The drink menu is trim but strong, curated by Employees Only’s Dushan Zarić, who separates the drinks into categories of original and modern cocktails. Originals include stalwarts like the Mai Tai and Painkiller, as well as options like the Chief Lapu Lapu, a beverage first made famous by Cabang in 1947, with light and dark rums, passion fruit and orange juice. From the modern menu, go for Dragon’s Milk, a creamy concoction that blends pandan leaf syrup and young coconut puree with green tea vodka and pineapple rum. All drinks are $18, except for the Zombie, which will run you $22, and the large-format Bali Bali cocktail bowl for two, $30.
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A spread with coconut shrimp, French fries, onion rings, a tiki-style mug and bottle of rum.


Orange Hawaiian American Cocktails $$
After leaving Tustin’s Union Market at the District, Stowaway co-owners Leonard Chan and Dominic Iapello moved their concept into a former dive bar with midcentury bones on Newport Avenue in Tustin early summer. Considerably larger than the former space, Stowaway offers multiple experiences in one place: Pool tables are refurbished in safari-print felt and a straw roof hangs over the bar, while a cave complete with a waterfall feature and a cabana lounge area can accommodate intimate gatherings. Tiki designer “Bamboo Ben” Bassham built custom bamboo A-frames over each booth and artist Josh Agle, known professionally as Shag, designed Stowaway’s logo and custom wallpaper for the bathrooms. The “grub and grog” menu includes shareable bar snacks like Spam nachos and lightly battered shishito peppers, plus a spirits list of over 100 rums. Don’t leave without trying the Tropical Margarita; it may sound unassuming, but the mix of tequila, banana liquor, pineapple, coconut and lime feels like getting the best of a good marg and a Piña Colada in one drink. Classic tiki drinks are available too, like the Painkiller, Mai Tai and a blended Dole Whip with your choice of Mt. Gay rum. Large-format drinks are available to serve three to four thirsty people, and you can set any drink aflame for an additional $2. Reservations can be made online, which you’ll want to do on the weekends, when it gets busy. During the week, however, it’s easier to come aboard.
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A Painkiller cocktail in a tiki-style mug at Strong Water in Anaheim.
(Sarah Mosqueda )

Strong Water

Anaheim Polynesian Cocktails $$
The interior of Strong Water Anaheim feels like a sunken ship with tight quarters and seating for just about 50 people. Co-founder Ying Chang and her husband, Robert Adamson, the duo behind popular speakeasy the Blind Rabbit, opened their second watering hole in 2019, aiming to create an immersive experience that came with a backstory. The name references the rip currents that forced the “ship” to sink, giving the atmosphere a romanticized drama reminiscent of Disneyland’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride. Octopus tentacles wrap around the decor and the capsized vessel is dark and moody. The menu tells the story of Strong Water and Lady Clementine, the ship’s matriarch and benefactor. The beverage side explains why tropical drinks are traditionally served over pebbled ice and lists classic rum cocktails, as well as those made with Lost Voyage Hamilton Rum, Strong Water’s own spirit that won the bronze at the 2023 L.A. Spirits Awards. The classics are meticulously updated, like a Taro Colada that adds taro cream to spiced rum and coconut rum, making for an ube-adjacent flavor. There is also a zero-proof section that gets as much attention as the rest of the menu. Food offerings are substantial, like the popular Loco Moco burger that stacks an 8-ounce Wagyu beef patty, Spam, fried egg, tempura-battered onion and bone marrow gravy on a Hawaiian bun. Make reservations to ensure you get seated inside the ship and not on the outdoor patio, which isn’t nearly as immersive. Park in Ctr Cty Promenade’s Car Park 4 for two hours of free parking with validation from Strong Water.
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Two hands cheers with tropical cocktails at the Bamboo Club.
(The Bamboo Club)

The Bamboo Club

Long Beach Pan Asian Cocktails $$
Designed and built by Bamboo Ben, a renowned third-generation tiki bar builder, this laid-back neighborhood dive instantly transports you to the tropics with its thatched ceiling, hut-like booths and bamboo-covered bar. The drink menu fuses tradition and innovation, featuring all the classics in addition to a few popular concoctions crafted by beverage director Dustin Rodriguez. The River Dragon is made with Ming River baijiu infused with Sichuan peppercorn and Thai chile, while the mezcal-based Fire Walker is enhanced with pineapple, passion fruit, falernum and a touch of habanero bitters. While the Bamboo Club is the perfect spot for a nightcap, its robust Hawaiian-inspired food menu makes it a great dinner destination for date nights and group gatherings. The only not-so-traditional twist? After 9 p.m., the dance floor opens up and vinyl DJs and live bands perform into the late hours. Bonus: The tent and outdoor patio are dog-friendly at all times.
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A line of four cocktails on a wood table at the Grass Skirt.
(The Grass Skirt )

The Grass Skirt

San Diego Pan Asian $$
Locals and out-of-town visitors alike flock to this lively speakeasy in the heart of Pacific Beach, an homage to tiki cocktails and Southeast Asian cuisine from corporate executive chef Brian Redzikowski. First you’ll have to find the space, which is accessed through a freezer door and past a dark stone hallway. Once you’re ensconced in one of the booths or by the artisan-carved outdoor fireplace, you’ll wade through an array of imaginative drinks with names like We Owe It All to the Guava and Babes in Boyland. No detail has been spared — from the festive parrot-shaped glasses to the fiery punch bowls and amusing theatrical moments (think: smoke, flickering lights, volcano flames). From Thursdays through Saturdays, you’ll find DJs, live bands and the occasional magician entertaining merrymakers, while on weekdays you’ll see diners chowing down on mouthwatering grilled shrimp pad Thai or dan dan noodles.
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Four colorful cocktails on a table
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Tiki No

Cocktails $
If you’re just driving by, you might miss this unassuming watering hole in North Hollywood’s eclectic Arts District — and that would be a shame. Decked out with tiki huts, bamboo-clad walls and glowing puffer fish that dangle from the ceiling, this intimate space engulfs you in island vibes the moment you step through the door. Traditional tiki drinks and delectable umbrella cocktails, such as the wonderfully refreshing Coconut Mojito or Lychee Luau, are well-made and thoughtfully presented. The Toasted Marshmallow, garnished with a flaming rum-soaked marshmallow, provides dramatic flair in spades. While Tiki No doesn’t have a kitchen, it welcomes outside food, so you can enjoy dinner from a neighboring restaurant at this charming faux-tropical venue. Look out for DJs and karaoke nights twice a week, which draw plenty of locals eager to show off their pipes.
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Tiki Ti, a tiny tropical bar on Sunset Boulevard, is filled with tiki decor and patrons in aloha shirts.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Tiki Ti

Los Feliz Cocktails $$
This charming, well-worn dive on Sunset Boulevard was opened in 1961 by Ray Buhen, one of the Filipino bartenders who made drinks behind the scenes at Don the Beachcomber in the 1930s. Ray went on to mix cocktails at other iconic tiki spots like the Seven Seas and Sugie’s Tropics before bringing his loyal customer base to the still-standing bar that’s now run by Ray’s son Mike and grandson Mike Jr. The cozy quarters fit only 12 stools and a few tables pushed against the walls, but Tiki Ti overflows with worn-in charm, including shadow lanterns that glow in a variety of colors, a bubbling and fogging waterfall complete with fake human skulls and an expanding collection of custom carved mugs that tease from behind the bar, plus kitschy details like out-of-state license plates, garlands of tinsel, fake-flower string lights and a ceiling that’s crowded with notes from previous customers. But it’s the cocktail menu that keeps this place packed from open till close, with classic, rum-driven drinks like a Navy Grog and Mai Tai sharing space with Tiki Ti creations including Ray’s Mistake, which has remained the bar’s most popular cocktail since the late owner created it in 1968.
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A carved tiki and colorful glass fishing weight lights at the Tonga Hut tiki bar.
(Tonga Hut )

Tonga Hut

Valley Glen Cocktails $
Tonga Hut hasn’t changed much since brothers Edwin and Ace Libby opened it in 1958, after Ace spent time bartending at Samoa House, a now-shuttered Polynesian restaurant in Van Nuys. This beloved North Hollywood institution is the type of place where aloha-shirted regulars come to sip on house specialties like the Nutty Chi Chi, an irresistible variation of the Piña Colada with vodka and macadamia nut, or the Bermuda Dunes, a rum concoction infused with notes of citrus, almond and allspice. If you’re interested in expanding your tiki palate, sign up for the legendary “Grog Log” challenge, where you’ll have a year to try all 78 cocktails from “Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log,” an archive of classic tiki recipes by author and tiki historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. Finish within the timeframe and not only will you earn bragging rights but you’ll also get to join the “Loyal Order of the Drooling Bastard,” with your name immortalized on a wall plaque. Only those with strong livers need apply…
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A bartender lights a tropical cocktail on fire
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar

Anaheim Polynesian $$
Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar is named for the popular character in Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise attraction. Although he was cast off from the ride in an effort to remove culturally insensitive depictions at the park, Trader Sam’s gift shop still remains at the end of the ride and his tiki bar opened for business at the Disneyland Hotel in 2011. Tucked next to Tangaroa Terrace Tropical Bar & Grill, Trader Sam’s is ideal for those who prefer their kitsch with a sprinkle of Disney magic. More than 1,600 items decorate the bar, taking inspiration from Indiana Jones, the Jungle Cruise and Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. Reservations are the best way to secure indoor seating, where ordering a Krakatoa Punch will trigger a volcanic eruption in the faux window and a Shipwreck on the Rocks will send a ship in a bottle above the bar sinking. If seated on the patio, you’ll lounge on bamboo furniture surrounded by tiki torches and occasional live music. Bar snacks, like panko-crusted long beans served with togarashi aioli for dipping or pork gyoza are staples along with more substantial plates, like a Hawaiian platter of short ribs with jasmine rice, macaroni salad and slaw. There are two large-format tiki drinks, Uh-ao! and Sea Monster Embrace, served in souvenir tiki bowls. There are nonalcoholic options and a kids food menu too, but after 8 p.m. the area is open only to guests 21 and over.
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An overhead shot of a tropical cocktail on a wood table, with netting in the background.
(VenTiki Tiki Lounge and Lanai)

VenTiki Tiki Lounge and Lanai

Polynesian Cocktails $$
In the 10 years since VenTiki has opened, this local hangout has developed a reputation for hosting first dates that turn into marriages. Maybe it’s the transportive ambience, which whisks you away to the islands with a cascading waterfall, flickering tiki torches and a cozy fire pit for chilly evenings. Or maybe it’s the intoxicating drinks, like the deliciously authentic Mai Tais made the way they were invented by Trader Vic, without a hint of grenadine or pineapple. Whatever it is, this Ventura bar does escapism right and sets the mood for enchantment. If you’re an art lover, you’ll also appreciate the decor elements: The last Moai carving by legendary artist LeRoy Schmaltz presides over the space, and there’s artwork by local creators like Tiki Tony and BigToe Art. Guests are welcome to purchase limited-edition, artisan-designed tiki mugs to take home or store at VenTiki for personal use.
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