arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up play-button plus tab-indicator dots close menu search facebook google-plus instagram pinterest rss twitter youtube rss-two heart Check FeaturedBadge linkedin minus apps placeholder linkedin

Tiki Bars

Exotic rum punches and smoking volcano bowls

It's no wonder tiki is alive and well in sunny seaside San Diego - who doesn't love good food, potent rum drinks in funny mugs, and uplifting music in a tropical ambiance. Exploring San Diego's tiki culture and scene reveals that it's not just a trend or lifestyle, it's a state of mind.

By: Ann Wycoff

Tiki Takes Off in San Diego

Exotic rum punches and smoking volcano bowls. Flower leis and fruit garnishes. Kitschy décor and flaming torches. Palm trees and palapa huts. Handcarved idols and Hula girls. Kool kats and kittens. The rummy Mai Tai stands as the anchor cocktail of tiki's "hep retro" culture, but there’s also Zombies, Grogs, PainKillers and Scorpion Bowls, just to name a few.

San Diego's tiki roots go way back to the 1950s with tiki evidence found in the architecture, art, bar scene, menus and more. And a new influx of tiki-style watering holes and eateries have recently opened their doors in San Diego celebrating this exotic lifestyle with its boozy beverages and Polynesian-inspired eats.

Mai Tais - Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa

Old Favorites

Crowne Plaza San Diego

Crowne Plaza San Diego (formerly the Hanalei Hotel) in Mission Valley is another mid-50s Mecca for tiki as it hosts the annual Tiki Oasis Convention each summer (August 18-21), drawing the country's largest gathering of tikiphiles for pool parties and tropical fun.

Where: 2270 Hotel Circle N, San Diego, CA 92108
> Find out more about Crown Plaza San Diego

The Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa

This Mission Bay resort boasts island-inspired architecture, tropical gardens, koi ponds and a tiki torch-lit outdoor bar called Moray's, a winsome spot for a Mai Tai and some sushi. The resort also hosts summertime luaus - Polynesian feasts with music, hula and torch dancers.

Where: 3999 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109
> Find out more about the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa

Kona Kai Resort & Spa

Kona Kai Resort & Spa inspires more tiki-style fun with its thatched-roof tiki bar and poolside cabanas for mojitos and Mai Tais.Belly up the bar for a Perfect Storm - Black Magic rum, ginger beer and lime - which pairs nicely with chef's seafood poke, plump with tuna, salmon, and shrimp in sesame ginger ponzu with taro chips.

Where: 1551 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about Kona Kai Resort & Spa

Bali Hai Restaurant

A naval town and gateway to the Pacific, San Diego has long embraced all things tiki. Bali Hai, on Shelter Island, set the tiki tone in 1954 as a Polynesian paradise, replete with hardcarved sculptures, Polynesian artifacts, tapa cloths, and Mr. Bali Hai ceramic mugs cradling potent, rum-infused Mai Tais. Their Pacific Rim-style menu spotlights beautiful fresh fish, poke, Hamachi, papaya and shrimp salad, and more.

Where: 2230 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106

False Idol

New Wave of Tiki

The Nolen

The new high-design rooftop spot, The Nolen, has a tiki menu with five colorful refreshers like their Painkiller on draft with pineapple, orange, rum, coconut and freshly grated nutmeg. Or order up an off-menu Junglebird from their spirit savant, bar lead Andrew Larson. He will create a little fire element to the rum and Campari drink by igniting cinnamon. Bar grub like carnitas-jalepeno-salva-verde flatbreads or chili-glazed meatballs over Idaho potato frites soak up the rum.

Where: 453 6th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about The Nolen

Cat Eye Club

While myriad bars and lounges are slinging tiki-style cocktails all over town, the Cat Eye Club offers up one of the best local tiki experiences in San Diego. Set in the East Village, a neon green tiki sign welcomes guests into the low-lit swanky lounge-think retro 50s-style, mod, pop culture tiki with its Mondrian glass wall, tiki carvings, fern wallpaper, lava lamps, and swimming fish on a flat screen.

A gorgeous hand-drawn menu helps imbibers navigate the map of fun libations with everything from Mai Tais on tap to artful group drinks like Goonies Gone Wild that arrive in treasure chests with billowing dry ice smoke and kitschy garnishes like golden coins and candy. Their cat-with-giant-eyes ceramic mugs are stylish, fruits garnishes outrageous and drinks super potent with various rums.

As owner and dedicated tikiphile Frank Miller likes to say, "Tiki is an aloha state of mind. It's vacation or an exotic escape from reality." Cat Eye Club’s tropical tiki vibe is furthered enhanced by live music, karaoke weekly and island-inspired nibbles like tasty salmon poke with toasted quinoa and sesame seeds. Their must-try machetes--elongated quesadillas (housemade corn tortillas stuffed with kalua pork, manchego, and pineapple habanero salsa) - are delish.

Where: 370 7th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

Kindred

South Park's revved-up vegan restaurant Kindred hosts "Permanent Vacation" Thursdays, a pop-up, tiki takeover with tropical elixirs and eats. Expect a rotating menu of nuclear rum drinks with fresh juices from bar whiz David Kinsey and Polynesian bites like orange miso-glazed seitin with grilled pineapple and a mango sweet potato aioli dipping sauce. Orchids and mid-century Exotica music add to the ambiance.

Where: 1503 30th St, San Diego, CA 92102

The Grass Skirt

The owners of Little Italy's social hub, Kettner Exchange, also have tiki on the brain. The Grass Skirt, their Polynesian-styled speakeasy, will descended upon Pacific Beach with a daytime poke eatery out front.

Where: 910 Grand Ave #101, San Diego, CA 92109

False Idol

Undergoing a redesign, Craft & Commerce in Little Italy will be home to False Idol, a high-design tiki bar featuring classic drinks nodding to old school tiki haunts like Trader Vics and others, curated by rum-meister Martin Cate. Their Coronado Luau Special features aged pot still rum with VSOP Armagnac, Grand Marnier, orgeat, fresh orange and lemon juice, a recipe originally created at the Luau Room at Hotel del Coronado, circa 1940s. Chef JoJo Ruiz will dish out a protein-hearty menu centered around Craft & Commerce’s new custom wood-fired grill.

Where: 675 W Beech St, San Diego, CA 92101

Find a place to stay

Book online or call 1-800-350-6205 to speak with a local expert

Related Articles and Features

Deals just for you

Childcare Services

Kids Free Rental Item from Toddler's Travels

Toddler's Travels
Valid: Oct 1 - Oct 31, 2018

Reserve one deluxe item (Crib, Toddler bed, Premium car seat, or City Mini GT/BOB Revolution Stroller) with Toddler's Travels and add any non-premium item of equal or lesser value from the...

Tours & Sightseeing

$5 off Harbor Cruise

Hornblower Cruises & Events
Valid: Mar 19, 2018 - ongoing

$5 off any one- or two-hour narrated Hornbower Harbor Cruise or Sea Lion Adventure on Hornblower. Sightseeing cruises run daily with 6 cruises each day departing from 970 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego,...

Accommodation

The Art-Minded Meeting Planner Special

Hilton Garden Inn San Diego Downtown/Bayside
Valid: Apr 9 - ongoing

Book your next meeting or event at the Hilton Garden Inn San Diego Bayside valued at $10,000 and receive a Complimentary One-Night Stay and Two tickets to a San Diego Museum of your choice.  ...

Events to check out

Event

Comic-Con International: San Diego

Jul 19 - Jul 22, 2018

Comic-Con International is the largest comics and pop culture event in the United States, attracting thousands of artists, celebrities and fans of comic books, movie memorabilia and all things related...

Event

A.S. Roma vs. Tottenham Hotspur F.C.

Jul 25, 2018

The International Champions Cup is bringing together two of the best soccer clubs in the world to SDCU Stadium this summer - AS Roma and Tottenham Hotspur.

Event

Supergirl Surf Pro

Jul 27 - Jul 29, 2018

The world’s top professional female surfers are back in Oceanside, CA for the 11th Supergirl Surf Pro, a 3-day event July 27-29, 2018. The weekend will be jam-packed with world-class...

Stay in touch

Sign up to receive the latest news, events, and updates about San Diego. Our monthly and weekly newsletters will keep you informed about the latest and greatest happenings in the destination.

Sign Up

Visitor planning guide

For the ultimate guide to planning your San Diego vacation, view and download the San Diego Visitor Planning Guide, packed with useful information that will help you plan the perfect San Diego getaway.

Read More

Partners

Explore

Plan

Stay

Follow Us

Language:

English | Change Language

Select your country or region

China FlagChinaGermany FlagGermanyGreat Britain FlagGreat BritainJapan FlagJapanMexico FlagMexicoKorea FlagKoreaSwitzerland FlagSwitzerlandBrazil FlagBrazilFrance FlagFranceAustralia FlagAustraliaCanada FlagCanada USA

Or use Google Translate

Afrikaans Albanian Arabic Belarusian Bulgarian Catalan Croatian Czech Danish Deutsch Español Estonian Filipino Finnish Francais Galician Greek Haitian-Creole Hebrew Hindi Hungarian Icelandic Indonesian Irish Italian Japanese Korean Latvian Lithuanian Macedonian Malay Maltese Nederlands Norwegian Persian Polish Portuguese Romanian Russian Serbian Slovak Slovenian Swahili Swedish Telugu Thai Turkish Ukranian Vietnamese Welsh Yiddish