The first ever tiki bar turned up in Hollywood in 1933 and since then they've spread all over the world like a pleasant rash.
The mixture of strong cocktails, fire, palm trees and Hawaiian shirts seems irresistible to loads of bar and club owners the world over – with some being brilliant, and others not so much.
My most favourite (and by that I mean worst) experience with a tiki bar was in a shady area of South Philadelphia – where I ended up on a night with a bald bloke from Liverpool. The extent of the ‘tiki’ consisted of two inflatable palm trees next to the bar and a random pineapple plonked on one of the drip trays. We didn’t stay long.
When they are done right though they are fantastic – so I’ve collated a list of my 7 best tiki bars in the world. Add them to your list when you go to visit…
Trader Vic’s – Munich
A pretty big chain of tiki bars spread all over the world, Trader Vic’s have been going for donkey’s years. The brainchild of owner Victor Jules Bergeron, Jr. he also actually claims to have invented the Mai Tai cocktail. You’re in a safe pair of hands when you go to a Trader Vic’s – much like a trip to a Wacky Warehouse but with better cocktails and less annoying clientele. Apparently the best is in Munich (I’ve only ever been to the London one) – located in the basement of a 5-star hotel it’s one of the best places in the city to really let your hair down (but not too much – you don’t want it catching fire on your Zombie!)
Trader Vic’s, Promenadepl. 4, 80333 München, Germany
Tiki-Ti – Los Angeles
Considered by many to be the epitome of the tiki bar and one that you’ll find on pretty much every single ‘Best Tiki Bar’ list ever – Tiki-Ti on Sunset Boulevard in LA is absolutely bloody brilliant. It’s a tiny little building – not much bigger than a garage – that’s inconveniently placed right next to a huge Scientology building. Once you’re inside though you’re greeted with a fantastic selection of rum and booze and one of the best places in the whole city to down cocktails and get messy. I went over Christmas and had the best night ever.
Tiki-Ti, 4427 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA
Mai-Kai – Fort Lauderdale
Named the ‘Best Tiki Bar in the World’ in 2015, Mai-Kai has always aimed to remain as close to the traditional aspects of tiki bars and restaurants as possible and as such is probably the closest you’re ever going to get to the 50’s heyday of these Polynesian palaces. Located in the rather dodgy Fort Lauderdale in Florida, if you find yourself in this area Mai-Kai should definitely be at the top of your list of things to do – if only to watch the Polynesian show with a piled up plate of shrimp and as many Zombies as you can handle.
Mai-Kai, 3599 N Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308, USA
Kahala – Barcelona
I went to Kahala a few times while living in Barcelona and I must say that it’s a rather refreshing change from the usual barrio bars and super clubs you find elsewhere in the city. I never ate here but I certainly drank here – downing fruity rum cocktails like they were going out of fashion. It opened back in 1971 when there was a massive Tiki craze taking over the city – with a peak of 14 of the buggers dotted about at one point. Kahala is one of the few remaining and it’s clear to see why – they do everything you’d expect from a tiki bar and they do it damn well.
Kahala Barcelona, Avinguda Diagonal, 537, 08029 Barcelona, Spain
The Liars Club – Manchester
You don’t have to travel halfway around the world to visit one of its greatest tiki bars – there’s one right on your doorstep in the guise of The Liars Club. They’ve won loads of awards for their cocktails in here – and there’s such a big range of rum that even Jack Sparrow would be a little bit overwhelmed. The definitive tiki experience in Manchester – The Liars Club also benefits from a proper good soundtrack – usually the best in old school hip-hop and reggae – perfect to go alongside a massive blue drink that’ll blow your grass skirt off.
The Liars Club, 19A Back Bridge St, Manchester M3 2PB
Smuggler’s Cove – San Francisco
You’ll find Smuggler’s Cove not just on the ‘Best Tiki’ lists but also the ‘Best Bars’ lists – it’s an absolutely phenomenal 3-floored venue filled with over 550 rums, a waterfall, pond and even a bloody great big cannon hanging from the ceiling. Once again it’s a tiny venue but what it sacrifices in size it makes up for it in atmosphere – it’s always a bit rowdy in here and always a top laugh. The cocktails are exceptional, the staff know more about rum than probably anyone else ever and if you don’t have one of the best nights of your life in here – sorry, you’re boring.
Smuggler’s Cove, 650 Gough St, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA
Honi Honi – Hong Kong
Like most places in Hong Kong, Honi Honi is accessed through a small little door with a tiny sign next to it, up some steps and into a cavernous skyscraper filled with all manner of restaurants, bars, offices and the odd internet cafe. Get yourself up on the 3rd floor and you’ll be walking into the first ever tiki bar in Asia, packing over 200 varieties of rum and serving from a huge menu of cocktails both classic and new. This one is a little bit more polished than the other tiki bars on this list but don’t let that put you off – even though I went over 6 years ago – I’m sure it’ll still be amazing.
HONI HONI Tiki Cocktail Lounge, 3/F, Somptueux Central, 52 Wellington St, Central, Hong Kong