A Tiki Bar in San Francisco and Beyond for Every Mood
When you hear the word “tiki bar,” an image instantly comes to mind – maybe it’s a carved wooden mask or a palm tree, perhaps a notion of simpler times and easy living. This ode to the South Pacific has surfed through American culture since the 1930s, falling in and out of vogue, and it is back again with a delightful vengeance.
Designed to pull on the heartstrings of sailors who spent time at sea, each feature of a tiki bar is more deliberate than you may have thought. The smell of coconut or pineapple, the flick of the flame on a tiki torch, the thatched leaves of Indo-Pacific huts – all play into the vibe that is “tiki.” It’s primitive and simple without being plain, and of course, comes with a smile.
After much thought and rum punch, we decided there is no best tiki bar in San Francisco and beyond, but rather, a tiki bar for every mood. So, we present to you a list of tiki bars in San Francisco and beyond for every occasion.
Mood: I feel like escaping
441 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94102
This new tiki bar brought to you by Future Bars Group (the creators of one of our favorite speakeasies, Bourbon and Branch), is worth a visit. As you walk in through the speakeasy-like entrance, the first thing you notice is the awesome ceiling mimicking stars in the sky. Coupled with a giant fish tank, this tiki bar in San Francisco has lots to look out for. As you venture around the two-story tiki bar in San Francisco, it never breaks character. Every corner is well crafted to create a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the Tenderloin.
The cocktail menu at this tiki bar in San Francisco is not too shabby, either. The drinks are both well thought out and executed to a T. The menu features some island favorite flavors like coconut, passion fruit, and pineapple. Better yet, lots of drinks come with flowers and tiny umbrellas. It is the simple things, you know…
One thing to note, the tables are a bit oddly placed, which makes it hard to navigate through a crowd. We think the best way to experience this tiki bar in San Francisco would be to go on an off hour. It is just too cool to not be able to walk around.
Mood: I feel like drinking in the Mission
2240 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
The Den is admittedly a very “Mission” version of a tiki bar. This grungy hole in the wall serves PBR and sake in a can. It’s far from your average tiki bar, but it’s a very San Francisco tiki bar – just 100 square feet, with spinning, LED lights on the sidewalk out front. There’s standing room, rum punch on draft, and good vibes – that’s about it.
This “tiki bar” in San Francisco is intimate in its own right but intrusive in the way that you can eavesdrop on your neighbor’s conversations. It’s perfect for starting the night out on a high note and weird enough for you to keep guessing. Grab 2 friends and make it a party at this warm, personal tiki bar. It won’t disappoint.
The Kon Tiki
Mood: I feel a little hipster
3906, 347 14th St, Oakland, CA 94612
If you’re looking to start the night with a dinner & drinks combo, there’s an artifact of interest in the East Bay that you should be paying closer attention to. Born out of the desire to not have to venture over the Bay Bridge and simultaneously live the paradise life, The Kon Tiki is Oakland’s crown jewel of exotic drinks and bites.
Large-leaved plants, neon red signage, and tropical vacation vibes without your dad’s Tommy Bahama getup is what makes this spot stand out. If that’s not cutting it, maybe the 28 unique island-inspired beverages will change your mind. Full garnish, the kind of crushed ice that we all like, and great glassware – there’s no complaining about this tiki bar in Oakland.
The Kon Tiki boasts a noteworthy rum collection and knowledgeable bartenders to scratch the craft beer lover’s itch – a craving to know exactly what they’re drinking, who made it, and the story behind it. These guys and gals can tell you more about rum than you can about the creases in your own hand. Noteworthy: Wednesdays, “Ohana Night” is celebrated by escapists braving the streets on a weeknight in search of camaraderie and Mai-Tais. It’s always worth it.
Mood: I feel like forgetting something
6150 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121
What’s a Bay Area Tiki recommendation without Trad’r Sam? Although divey and potentially in a state of disrepair, this is the OG tiki bar of tiki bars in San Francisco. This gem, in the outskirts of the Richmond district, has been pouring Scorpion Bowls for locals since the 1930s. Since most of life on sea revolves around what’s under the water, being divey makes sense to some degree, right?
As time takes its toll on Trad’r Sam, there’s an important aspect of acceptance that the space and its patrons have welcomed with open arms. Don’t get us wrong, Trad’r Sam’s is on the list because you can still get your tiki drinks here, but it will come with a side of a Giant’s game and a light beer. This place is also great for some Hurricane day drinking but be prepared- one bowl might make ya forget a little too much. Cash only, come prepared.
The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar
Mood: I feel like being a tourist today
950 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108
Iconic and overpriced, this spot is the quintessential San Francisco tiki bar. Originally an indoor swimming center under the Fairmont Hotel, the Tonga Room was reinvented as a different kind of watering hole in 1967. Although somewhat touristy, The Tonga Room does have its charms, including the repurposed indoor pool that has intermittent ‘rain’ every half hour. If you time it right, you can even be serenaded by the floating band as you sip on a tasty Mai Tai. It’s not an everyday drinking kind of joint like Trad’r Sam but the Tonga Room is still worth a visit to witness its elaborate spectacle. As you sip from your ceramic bowl, you feel like you’ve been transported back to the 1950’s… in a good way. In the words of the late Anthony Bourdain, “Only one word can sum up this experience: Cowabunga!”.
Mood: I feel like going on a date
650 Gough St, San Francisco, CA 94102
No windows, low lighting and the smell of spiced rum. As we stepped into this place, it took a moment for our eyes to adjust – and you better believe that’s how they want it to be. Generally seen with a line out the door, Smuggler’s Cove is uncharacteristically local for how well done it is – the type of place you’d expect to be overloaded with tourists in town to waiting to get their kicks.
When your eyes finally dial things in, they’re met with overload – this place is big – like three rooms big, but intimate as a result of tactful and tasteful decor. Light-hearted but talented, the staff is the core energy of the bar. When you come for a beverage, be prepared for a good time. This tiki bar in San Francisco’s menu spans 75 drinks and quality is the name of the game. With an overwhelming number of options, it’s important to remember that asking questions is the norm and part of the experience. The staff is highly knowledgeable and can even assist in telling the history of how each rum came to be. Try the El Dorado or the Ron Pampero Aniversario – they are our favorites.
It’s important to realize that while this place is decorated for tiki, owners Rebecca and Martin think of it as a rum bar – which is why they’ve placed such emphasis on the wide selection and in-depth knowledge of each spirit. That said, they’re smart folks and realize rum doesn’t do it for everyone. If you fall into that category, take the edge off with one of their Polynesian-style drinks that opt for bourbon or gin. But let’s get one thing sorted out, there’s a good beverage in everyone’s future here.
Mood: I feel like going on an adventure
1304 Lincoln Ave, Alameda, CA 94501
Now we know there are a lot of tiki bars in San Francisco, so it is hard to venture all the way to Alameda, but do it. Forbidden Island is the perfect blend of local patrons and tropical flavor. One might even argue this is the most authentic tiki bar of all, since it is on an actual island.
Forbidden Island is Alameda’s only tiki bar and the history of the island’s naval activity perfectly plays into this classic, lovable tiki bar. With a curated, detail-driven vibe, these guys spin 1960’s jukebox hits on vinyl, keeping the party flowing. Not pretentious or particularly showy, just fresh squeezed juice, quality rum, and good times night after night. It draws a fun crowd and fills up, so get there early.
Mood: I feel like ballin’ on a budget
4401 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611
This Bay Area tiki bar treasure has the perfect blend of low prices (for the Bay Area that is), and classic tiki vibes. Although this is not a tiki bar in San Francisco per se, it is still worth the adventure over the Bridge. Kona Club has a particularly fun decor, including a moving hula lady statue in the corner, puffer fish lamps and a volcano on the wall that ‘erupts’ with no warning. It is a bar with a lot to see. It is the perfect place to grab some friends to play one of the many games in the bar, including giant connect four and pool. The punch bowls are mega strong and half the price of some of the other bars on this list, making this a perfect place to pre-game. The one minor drawback is that it is a bit far to walk to other bars in the area. That, however, can be solved with a 10-minute Uber ride to downtown.
Mood: I feel like drinking after work
375 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94104
A trip back across the Bay Bridge lands you in the Financial District of San Francisco – a place where weary sea travelers originally made landfall and courageously reinvented themselves throughout the history of San Francisco. With travelers at the origin of its story, it makes sense that there are a couple of great Pacific Island tiki bars in the area. A long day at the office undoubtedly detours a crowd of escapists to good rum.
There’s more than one tiki bar in San Francisco’s FiDi, but we’re tipping our hats to Pagan Idol. It oozes escapism as you find yourself, literally, in the hull of a wooden ship as you enter the bar. Sailor’s knots, stained glass windows, and skull motifs capture the tiki essence and deliver nothing short of a fully committed sensory experience.
As for the beverage of choice – let’s just say you’re in good hands. Polynesian-inspired cocktails, crafted from the minds that brought us Bourbon & Branch, Local Edition and Devil’s Acre, line the menu. While the Mai-Tai is obviously a safe choice at a tiki bar, we’re hoping you advance in the more exotic direction.
Mood: I feel fancy
718 14th St, San Francisco, CA 94114
This is not your traditional tiki bar in San Francisco, and could arguably be called the fanciest of the bunch. With a very well thought out craft cocktail list and no Mai Tai to be seen, each drink is a little work of art. The vibe is similar to what one would imagine if the set of Lost was transformed into a bar. Last Rites’ interior really does remind of us a movie set, with tables and chairs made from old airplane jump seats and a bar shaped like the belly of a plane. This tiki bar in San Francisco makes you feel as if a plane crashed in the jungle and someone decided to open a fancy cocktail spot in the middle of it all. Further supporting its intrigue, the menu is written as a manifest and there are enormous skull and crossbones statues on the walls.
One thing to note is this tiki bar in San Francisco likes to keep the low key vibe alive. In order to do this, you might need to wait outside for a bit to get a table. But no fear, Last Rites sits inconspicuously next door to Churchill, so just pop in there for a drink while you wait. For more info, take a look at their website here https://www.lastritesbar.com/.
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So, when the clock strikes 5 and your mind drifts towards the nearest crashing wave or Instagram post of the beach, remember that an escape is less than 15 minutes in any direction… and maybe sooner if you have good rum at your office 😉
If you enjoyed this blog post, you might be interested in one of our awesome experiences! For more of our favorite SF bars, join us on our Cocktails and Aphrodisiacs walk, or check out our other food walks and custom events for your next office or holiday party.
Drink up me hearties, yo ho!
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