When the original Don's Beachcomber opened in 1933, Hollywood became the official birthplace of the Polynesian themed Tiki culture reflected in architecture, fashion, and movies. Decorated with items that Donn Beach (aka Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt) scavenged from the ocean shores, the bar later known as Don the Beachcomber served “exotic” rum drinks with flair. The island escapism offered by his imaginative Tiki concept and its many imitators flourished for decades before nearly being killed off in the disco era.
Tiki's current resurgence owes a lot to the craft cocktail movement, which recognized the potential in the elaborate tropical concoctions made with house syrups and fresh juices. With a new generation of bartenders leading the way, the LA tiki scene is once again thriving, and nothing says summer more than a fancy fruit garnish and a little paper umbrella.
LA’s oldest tiki bar still in operation, the Tonga Hut opened in 1958 and has returned to its roots as North Hollywood’s Polynesian pop paradise. Tonga Hut is the home of the Loyal Order of the Drooling Bastard (ask the bartenders), and also hosts rum tasting seminars once a month at the Rhum Rum Club. Every second Sunday, the Sunday Surf Stomp features surf instrumentalists, the Glasgow Tiki Shakers.
Opened in 1961, Silver Lake’s legendary Tiki-Ti has earned a global reputation for its tropical libations and longstanding aloha spirit. The tiny bar serves as both a neighborhood watering hole and a pilgrimage spot for tiki-philes. Tiki-Ti was founded by Ray Buhen, one of Don the Beachcomber’s original bartenders. Buhen worked at numerous tiki bars and went into business for himself with his signature recipes. Relax under the warm glow of illuminated glass floats, listen to the gurgle of the fountain (if you can hear it over the throngs of locals), and admire the placards on the walls from legends and locals alike.
Located on Hollywood Boulevard, LONO opened in June 2017, introducing a sophisticated version of Polynesia to the birthplace of Tiki. Umbrella Hospitality (which brought LA the delectable Melrose Umbrella Company and also operates The Corner Door) is behind this refined space, which is lit by glass and wicker lamps and accented with banana and palm trees. Named for the Hawaiian god of fertility and music, LONO has a lush interior with nautical details and a cocktail menu that focuses on the classics. Expect punch bowls for the table along with a killer Zombie, Hawaiian inspired bites, DJs and live music in an airy setting beneath an atrium that's perfect for LA summer nights.
Pacific Seas - Clifton's Republic
After acquiring the beloved Clifton’s Cafeteria (now Clifton's Republic), developer Andrew Meieran embarked on a multi-million dollar renovation of the massive space to open multiple themed bars within the landmark venue. Opened in the fall of 2016, the long-awaited Pacific Seas is a thing of tropical beauty and glorious overindulgence. Accessed through a mirrored door and a hidden staircase to the third floor, Pacific Seas is stuffed to the brim with vintage Tiki items saved from defunct watering holes Bahooka and Trader Vic’s. A trip to the Pacific Seas is a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds. Stop by for top-notch Daiquiris but remember the dress code - aloha wear encouraged! Currently open Thursday - Saturday, follow Pacific Seas on Instagram to stay updated on live bands, DJs and Polynesian dancers performing on stage and the Chris-Craft boat.
Tiki Tuesday - Sonny's Hideaway
Highland Park is a hotspot for cocktails and dining, and Sonny’s Hideaway on York has become a fixture of the scene. Every Tiki Tuesday, the exotica plays, the rum flows, and the tiki attire abounds. Enjoy specialty drinks and "Tiki Eats" like the Pineapple Spam Burger.
Located in the heart of the NoHo Arts District, Tiki No features an interior built by the legendary "Bamboo Ben" Bassham, a third-generation tiki designer who utilized the natural thatch and bamboo you'd expect to see in an island village. Serving up a mix of classic and original cocktails since 2005, Tiki No offers live music, karaoke, and Happy Hour seven nights a week. Special annual events include a summer solstice celebration every June 21 and Piña Colada Day on July 10.
Opened in 2014, Kahuna Tiki is a North Hollywood restaurant with plenty of aloha spirit. Filled with rattan, tiki torches and surfboards, Kahuna features a menu focused on sushi, pupus and Hawaiian style plates. The bar works only with beer and wine, so inventive drinks like the Waikiki Wipeout and the Makuakane Mule showcase the wonders a creative bartender can do without rum. On Sundays, Kahuna hosts an authentic Polynesian luau complete with dancers, live music and plenty of food.
If you’re looking for a fine steak and a tasty Chi Chi while sitting in a vintage booth surrounded by tropical murals, then Damon’s Steak House in Glendale is your place. Opened in 1937, Damon’s is an old school joint that represents the origins of Tiki - a restaurant with faux tropical items like blue drinks, coconut shrimp and "palm trees." Charming and quaint, Damon’s harkens back to a simpler time with Mai Tais and twice-baked potatoes.
A former neighborhood dive bar in El Segundo, the Purple Orchid transformed into a tiki bar under new ownership in 2001. Complete with the requisite carved tiki idols and glowing pufferfish, the bathrooms are wallpapered with The Book of Tiki by historian Sven Kirsten. Purple Orchid serves their signature French Zombie to thirsty travelers who wander in from nearby LAX, and the small stage plays hosts to surf and garage rock bands passing through town.
An Evening of Tiki - The Spare Room
Located on the mezzanine of the historic Hollywood Roosevelt, The Spare Room features vintage bowling lanes and a gaming parlor setting that provides a little respite from the chaos of Hollywood Boulevard. Every summer, The Spare Room presents “An Evening of Tiki” with guest bartenders from across the country. Each night presents a unique tiki menu plus specials from The Spare Room team like the fantastic Cabana Club. This summer, An Evening of Tiki featured Arizona's Undertow, Nashville's Pearl Diver, Brooklyn's Maison Premiere, Portland's Hey Love, and Austin's Nickel City.
Tiki Night at the Egyptian Theatre
Another highlight of the summer Tiki calendar is the annual Tiki Night at the Egyptian Theatre. Presented by the American Cinematheque, the event features an afternoon Tiki Marketplace, live performances, and a special screening. The 15th annual event in July celebrated the 60th anniversary of Hawaii's statehood and hosted a themed double feature - Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) with Deborah Walley; and Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966) starring Elvis.