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As the revival picks up and new tiki bars spring up across country, the number of original, mid-century faux Polynesian watering holes steadily declines. While the following classic, original tiki bars from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s are in no immediate danger, be sure to visit them soon—they could disappear faster than your last Blue Hawaiian.

Related: Check out these 5 incredible mid-century modern hotels

1. Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar, San Francisco, CA

This spacious, renovated Polynesian-themed room at the Fairmont San Francisco celebrated its 71st anniversary in 2016. Expect South Seas-inspired cuisine and classic tiki cocktails, plus a few showstoppers like the historic hotel’s original pool, which since 1945 has served as the bar’s lagoon, complete with a floating stage for live music. Regulars know, too, that if you hear thunder, alight tropical storm is on the way, ready to rain down from the ceiling (into the pool, not into your Zombie, don’t worry).

Tonga Room, San Francisco, CA

Tonga Room, San Francisco, CA

2. Hala Kahiki, River Grove, IL

While the drinks here are plentiful (there are more than 100 on the menu), they aren’t known for having the kick the tough-talking menu threatens/promises. But what the 1966 tiki bar lacks in its generous pour, it makes up for with its transformative tropical decor. Undeterred by its location on a desolate road about a half hour from downtown Chicago, the bar instantly transports you to a charming, imaginary version of the South Seas. Expect a sprawling series of cozy smaller rooms fully decked with bamboo matting, tiki statues, Witco carvings, puffer fish lights and all the other tiki necessities—and be sure to hit the gift shop on your way out to pick up a few of your own.

Hala Kahiki, River Grove, IL

Hala Kahiki, River Grove, IL CREDIT: Fuzzy Gerdes / Fickr

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3. Sip ‘N Dip Mermaid Bar and Tiki Lounge, Great Falls, MT

In the middle of Montana, inside the modest O’Haire Motor Inn, is a tropical dream so beautiful and strange, you might never want to wake up. The well-preserved 1962 Sip ‘N Dip Mermaid bar and Tiki Lounge, which GQ magazine in 2003 called the “#1 bar worth flying for,” features all the expected tiki accoutrements—bamboo, netting, palm fronds and tropical drinks galore. But the real attraction here is the live mermaid show. Watch through a glass wall as “barmaids” swim and frolic in the hotel’s pool, visible from the bar.

Sip and Dip, Great Falls, MN

Sip and Dip, Great Falls, MT

 4. Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL

This popular, thriving South Florida spot is one of the last-surviving, large-scale, opulent mid-century tiki attractions. Opened in 1956, the space grew over the years to include eight dining rooms, a bar, tropical gardens complete with waterfalls, and a gift shop. Among the other highlights here is the live floor show, the Polynesian Island Revue, which features live drummers setting the beat for choreographed interpretations of South Pacific village life at the turn of the century.

MaiKai Fort Lauderdale

Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale  CREDIT: January Overton

5. La Mariana Sailing Club, Honolulu, HI

No list of classic tiki bars would be complete without this hard-to-find, harder-to-forget, Oahu favorite, set on the shores of picturesque Keehi Lagoon. Founded in 1957 by Annette and Johnny Campbell, La Mariana keeps the Hawaiian tiki tradition alive, decorated with items salvaged from several long lost legends, including the Sheraton Waikiki‘s Kon Tiki Room, Trader Vic’s and Don The Beachcomber. The restaurant-bar seems to be as tenacious as tiki itself—it has survived five decades, two moves, the 2008 death of its founder, and multiple tidal waves.

La Mariana Sailing Club, Honolulu, HI

La Mariana Sailing Club, Honolulu, HI

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6. Tiki Ti, Los Angeles, CA

This tiny old-school, family-run tiki joint was established by tiki-bar vet Ray Buhen in 1961 in an old violin repair shop. His son and grandson now carry the proverbial torch, serving more than 92 different exotic cocktails. And this is the place for cocktail authenticity: Before striking out on his own, founder Buhen worked for several of the great original LA tiki bars, so many of the drink recipes date back to the 1930s. Be sure to try the Zombie, as close as you can get to Don The Beachcomber’s famous 1934 recipe, as well as the Blood And Sand, a Ray Buhen original.

Tiki Ti, Los Angeles, CA CREDIT: Minnaert / WikiMedia

Tiki Ti, Los Angeles, CA   CREDIT: Minnaert / WikiMedia

7. Kowloon, Saugus, MA

While scattered screens glowing with sports occasionally disrupt the Polynesian vibe here, this restaurant-bar about a half hour outside of Boston works hard on stoking the tropical fantasy in other ways. Regardless of where you’re seated, you’ll want to explore the massive 1,200-seat space’s many smaller rooms with their serene Hawaiian beach murals, palms, a mini lagoon, and live music and comedy acts. The spot was founded in 1950 by the Wong Family, and they still run it today.

Kowloon Restaurant, Saugus, MA

Kowloon Restaurant, Saugus, MA  CREDIT: Princess Pupule / Wikipedia

Experience these tiki bars for yourself! 

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Martina Sheehan

Martina Sheehan

Martina is a Chicago-based travel writer and editor who has written for the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Budget Travel, Forbes Travel Guides, and Time Out Chicago, among other publications. You can find her at http://martina-sheehan.com

10 thoughts on “7 original, old-school tiki bars you must visit now”

  1. You are joking right? First of all that place is too new, and second of all it doesn’t appear to have much of anything that is actually “Tiki”. Serving fruity drinks in a tropical atmosphere isn’t classic Polynesian Pop.

  2. Blood and Sand is not that guys original. It first appear in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail book. But who cares about facts right?

  3. We go to the Bali Hai in San Diego (Shelter Island) and it’s been here about sixty years. Boaters can dock and dine. Also, there’s Jinja’s in Santa Fe. It’s newer, at least twelve years old, but the decor is the best ever. Rumor has it that one of the larger oils hanging there was painted by Santa Fean, Gene Hackman.

  4. After several trips through Honolulu over the years, we finally went to La Mariana and fell in love with it. We used to always stay our 1st night at the Waikikian, a small old Hawaii hotel right next to the Hilton Hawaiian Village, and missed it after it was torn down. We found out that part of this bar was from the lounge that was part of that hotel. We won’t make another trip to Honolulu without stopping here. It is located in an industrial area about 5 minutes from the airport. Stop in for lunch before you leave for home or another island.

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