We’re calling this list of Tiki Destinations “Central California” mostly to group them apart from their Bay Area and Los Angeles counterparts. These locations are in smaller and less urban cities and often have a local clientele orientation. Several of these destinations are a tropical oasis in what are otherwise small towns catering to wine tourism.
If you’re not already connected, be sure to check out the Central California Tiki community that holds meetups and events for locals in the area.
Cane Tiki Room (1)
1240 Park St., Paso Robles, CA 93446
Creeky Tiki (2) Currently “Closed for Remodeling”
782 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Harbor Hut (3)
1205 Embarcadero, Morro Bay, CA 93442
High Roller Tiki Lounge (4)
433 Alisal Rd, Solvang, CA 93463
Hula’s Island Grill – Santa Cruz (5)
221 Cathcart St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Hula’s Island Grill – Monterey (6)
622 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey, CA 93940
The Jungle Bird (7)
2516 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95816
Kapu Bar (8)
132 Keller St., Petaluma CA 94952
Maikai Island Kitchen & Groggery (9)
49A Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Reef Bar & Restaurant (10)
120 Union St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
The Sinking Ship Room at Tiki-Ko (11)
1927 K Street Bakersfield, CA 93301
1919 K Street Bakersfield, CA 93301
VenTiki Tiki Lounge and Lanai (12)
701 E Main St, Ventura, CA 93001
Wilfred’s Lounge (13)
967 1st St., Napa, CA 94558
These are the destinations that every tikiphile needs to experience and your visit to the city would not be complete without seeing these. These venues are generally the most immersive tiki experiences, known for high quality cocktails and (for some) food.
- High Roller Tiki Lounge
- Kapu Bar
- The Sinking Ship Room at Tiki-Ko
- Wilfred’s Lounge
Worth a Look
These destinations have something interesting to offer, and are sometimes great for locals and for those tikiphiles looking for “extra credit” destinations. But the theme and offerings may be somewhat lower than the must-sees.
- Cane Tiki Room
- Harbor Hut
- Hula’s Island Grill – Monterey
- Hula’s Island Grill – Santa Cruz
- The Jungle Bird
- Maikai Island Kitchen & Groggery
Only for Completists
If you’re one of the crazy people who like to visit every possible tiki bar around, like I am, then here’s the list. These generally are much further away from a tiki theme, or have significantly bad reputations for service and quality.
- Creeky Tiki
- Reef Bar & Restaurant
The Ultimate Mai Tai rating system for Tiki Bars based on the following four criteria:
Drinks: quality, variety, price, consistency
Ambiance: decor, immersiveness, seating, special features
Service: hours, ease of service, friendliness
Tiki Aesthetic: totems, Polynesian and/or nautical theme, music
|The Sinking Ship at Tiki-Ko||7||8||7||8||7.5|
|Cane Tiki Room||7||6||7||6||6.5|
|Makai Island Kitchen and Groggery||6||7||6||6||6.25|
|High Roller Tiki Lounge||5||6||6||7||6|
|VenTiki Tiki Lounge & Lanai||7||5||6||6||6|
|Hula’s Island Grill – Santa Cruz||4||6||6||7||5.75|
|Hula’s Island Grill – Monterey||4||5||6||6||5.25|
|Reef Bar & Restaurant||3||4||6||3||4|
A few notes:
- The Tiki Room at the Santa Cruz Hula’s location is larger and more immersive than the space as the sister location in Monterey, hence the higher rating.
- The Jungle Bird used to be listed in our must-see section. But their cocktails have become considerably more uneven in 2020-2021 and food remains very underwhelming. Recent management changes signal hope for a return to form.
- More about our Tiki Bar Rating System
Cane Tiki Room
Bringing tiki into downtown Paso Robles alongside wine tasting, craft beer, and cocktail bars, Cane Tiki Room does many things right. There’s cohesive decor and exotica music, along with great service and fine food. We found the cocktails to be mostly excellent, with a menu that provides a little bit or something for everyone and which includes some good riffs on classic recipes. We didn’t love the Mai Tai, unfortunately.
This casual restaurant and bar includes a light surf theme with some tiki elements. There’s a second very lightly themed tiki bar on the patio. The “Tiki Tai” includes Captain Morgan White and Spiced, Meyers’s Dark, Grenadine, OJ, and Pineapple Juice. So it’s that kind of place.
Strangely, they seem to have a good selection of spirts in all categories except rum (where Myers’s is by far the best rum available). A Blood Orange Mule was quite good.
A Morro Bay mainstay, there are Polynesian bones and some tikis throughout the property that includes a full-service restaurant and the Lil’ Hut Fish and Chips grab and go window. We had a pleasant visit, but there are too many service complaints to ignore for our rating.
Cocktails aren’t craft, though their signature cocktail The Big Kahuna aka “The Ultimate Mai-Tai” wasn’t too bad if Island Mai Tais are your thing. It was certainly the largest Mai Tai we’ve ever had!
High Roller Tiki Lounge
High Roller is a combination wine/tiki bar where the “cocktails” are entirely based on wine or lower ABV rice-based spirits (but they use double the amount). It reopened in 2020 in a new larger location replacing the original that opened in 2016. The Danish-themed village of Solvang seems like an unlikely location for a wine-focused tiki bar, but the area features numerous respected wineries and as a tourist town the competition for patrons helped to develop this unique offering.
I enjoyed the sweet-leaning Mai Tai made with “rum” and the Mermaid Bowl was a highlight. High Roller was a lot of fun and worth seeking out. The new location continues the tradition with a strong tiki theme, but with a venue that is larger and more open with some patio seating and a second room that’s open on the weekends and features live music. Plenty of souvenir mugs and glasses are available to remember the visit.
Hula’s Island Grill – Santa Cruz
This is the second location of the Hula’s chain (which includes several Hula’s Modern locations in the Phoenix area), and has a more elaborate tiki decor. The main room is a restaurant with surf, Hawaiian, and tiki elements, and also includes the bar. There’s a Tiki Room that’s used mostly in the evening and is a wonderfully appointed dark, traditional tiki lounge. We like the beach-inspired food, though the cocktails aren’t up to par with current craft trends. There is a fairly substantial rum selection. Hula’s is a lot of fun and is conveniently located in downtown Santa Cruz.
Hula’s Island Grill – Monterey
The original Hula’s location is a few blocks from Cannery Row and is a little less elaborately decorated than the Santa Cruz location. The surf-inspired food is very much on point, but the cocktails here are just average and lean toward the touristy/sweet side. The tiki room section is pretty small and less dark than Santa Cruz’s, hence our slightly lower rating. The tropical Lanai out back is nicely decorated if outdoor dining is your pleasure. Check out the adjacent speakeasy bar, appropriately named Next Door.
The Jungle Bird
Located in Sacramento’s mid-town neighborhood, the Jungle Bird is the top tiki destination in the area. The front room houses the bar and some lounge seating, while the well-appointed back room provides a darker hut-focused experience. Out back there’s a small patio and also a large tent set up during COVID times. The cocktails at Jungle Bird are of mixed quality, and we’ve had a very uneven experience with the food here. Management changes signal a hopeful return to form.
The Jungle Bird has hosted the Sippin’ Santa holiday pop-up since 2018. An Aloha Shirt/tiki store named Swanbergs on J is two blocks away.
Kapu is a sensational destination in downtown Petaluma, featuring a large interior, a big U-shaped bar, and two themed side rooms. The strong cocktail program features tiki classics and a set of interesting frozen cocktail options. Food is Asian and Hawaiian inspired and high quality, but not that portion sizes are small. We enjoyed the vibe including an eclectic music selection and found that the friendly and prompt service was superb. Kapu is earning rave reviews and has some souvenir mugs available with more on the way.
Makai Island Kitchen & Groggery
Located on Santa Cruz’s picturesque wharf, Makai offers a good tiki experience while still appealing to a wide audience. The interior includes work from Bamboo Ben and the rear bar and seating area rotates to give everyone an ocean view. Food is family-friendly and reasonably priced, including Pupus, sandwiches, bowls, and island-inspired entrees. The cocktail menu has a number of original that are more than worthy considering the general-audience clientele. A large selection of mugs and other merchandise is available for purchase.
Reef Bar & Restaurant
The Sinking Ship Room at Tiki-Ko
Nautical decor is the focus in the gorgeous basement level of the Tiki-Ko complex called The Sinking Ship Room, featuring decor by Tiki Diablo. The space is even more immersive and cohesive than Tiki-Ko’s upstairs space with nautical decor and classic 1920s music. While the cocktail menu is largely similar, The Sinking Ship has a separate entrance and different hours than Tiki-Ko. We enjoyed the frozen cocktails served here. Drinks are ordered at the bar that features just a few bar stools, and the drinks are delivered to your table in a space that has a lounge feel.
Everyone who visits says they can’t believe that such a high quality tiki bar is out in the middle of an aging section of Bakersfield, but Tiki-Ko has been doing it right since they opened in 2016. A large room features some cozy booths and lounge seating, plus a large U-shaped bar. Staff here are notoriously friendly and the drinks are really good. The lighting and music are classical tiki, and the place is just plain fun to hang out in.
This bar and restaurant has a small interior with a few seats at the bar, plus a larger patio out front. There are some vintage tiki items on display, plus artwork and glassware/mugs by local favorite Tiki tOny. We liked our cocktails and food, but the small space presents challenges for visits. Four different Mai Tais are available, including a top-shelf one for $35 that includes a souvenir mug.
Hawaiian and tiki art is available at Aloha on Main a block away.
This bar and restaurant is located on the river in downtown Napa and is a high quality tiki destination with top notch food, decor, music, and service. The superb cocktail program was initially led by Doc Parks (ex-Zombie Village), who has since departed. In our experience, Wilfred’s is doing everything right, though seating inside is limited and the windows will turn off purists. Mugs, glassware, and shirts are available for sale.