Florida is home some of the best traditional tiki bars in the world, as well as home to hundreds of open-air “tiki bars” that bear little resemblance to the “high tiki” establishments from the Don the Beachcomber/Trader Vic’s tradition. There are a few gems that every tikiphile needs to seek out when visiting the Sunshine State.
Aku Aku (1)
431 E Central Blvd, Orlando, FL 32801
Bahi Hut Cocktail Lounge (2)
4675 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34234
Esotico Miami (3)
1600 NE 1st Ave, Miami, FL 33132
3599 N Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308
Paradise Tiki Bar And Grill (5)
90 N Bryan Rd, Dania Beach, FL 33004
Secret Tiki Temple (6)
Speakeasy bar in Jacksonville, FL 32256
Strong Water Tavern (7)
6601 Adventure Way, Orlando, FL 32819
Suffering Bastard (8)
200 south Myrtle Ave, Sanford, FL 32771
Tambu Lounge (9)
1600 Seven Seas Drive, Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto (9)
1600 Seven Seas Drive, Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830
26 Wall St, Orlando, FL 32801
Wreck Bar (11)
1140 Seabreeze Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
Newly opened: Casa Tiki in Miami has just opened as of late October 2020.
1728 SW 8th St. Miami, FL 33135
As of November 2020, the Mai-Kai is temporarily closed due to roof and other maintenance issues but the venue is expected to reopen in some capacity later in 2022. The Atomic Grog Blog has details of the refurbishment.
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 food.
- Aku Aku
- Esotico Miami
- The Mai-Kai
- Secret Tiki Temple
- Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto
- Wreck Bar
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 service offerings may be somewhat lower than the must-sees.
- Bahi Hut Cocktail Lounge
- Suffering Bastard
- Tambu Lounge
While not specifically tiki themed, we think that Strong Water Tavern is worth seeking out, especially for those who are really into rum.
- Strong Water Tavern
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. There are a million patio-style “tiki bars” in Florida, of which Paradise is just one example. The average tikiphile likely won’t like these kind of tiki bars, nor do they have good cocktail reputations.
- Paradise Tiki Bar And Grill
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
|Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto||5||9||7||8||7.25|
|Secret Tiki Temple||6||8||7||7||7|
|Strong Water Tavern||7||5||9||1||5.5|
|Bahi Hut Lounge||4||4||5||6||4.75|
|Paradise Tiki Bar And Grill||3||3||6||2||3.5|
This downtown Orlando tiki bar is doing a lot of things right, starting with cozy seating and some authentic decor. The cocktail program improved and expanded in 2019, though rest assured that the infamous original cocktail The Tiger Fucker still remains a focal point. Service can be mixed depending on the bartender but even on a Saturday night when all the area bars are packed the vibe of the clientele at Aku Aku is relaxed and mellow. A substantial rum collection is available and there are various souvenirs available. This was the best Mai Tai in the state.
Bahi Hut Lounge
This historical tiki-themed dive bar has been serving Sarasota locals since 1954 and is the oldest tiki bar in Florida. The cocktail program went through a transformation in 2018, though this still isn’t the place for craft cocktails. Nonetheless, their secret recipe Mai Tai is a favorite among patrons of several generations and you can purchase several tiki mugs as well. Decor is a mix of traditional tiki and some dive bar elements. Ask for cocktails made with local rum Siesta Key. The bar is connected to the Golden Host Resort motel, which has undergone recent renovations and a mid-century makeover.
Inspired by Miami’s neon art style, this blend of Tropical Bar and Tiki Bar has a unique cocktail program from famed bartender Daniele Dalla Pola and over 250 rums on site. The drinks are sublime and often served in a cloud of dry ice that makes the cocktail instantly Instagram worthy. We liked the tiki touches here, including nods to Don the Beachcomber and vintage Exotica. There’s a patio outside for those who want to feel the energy of Miami’s arts neighborhood. Several tiki mugs are available for purchase.
The Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show
Everything they say is true. It is unbelievable how expansive the property is, so large it dwarfs any tiki bar I’ve ever been to. There are numerous unique and delightful features, starting with the relaxing tiki gardens in the back that have myriad tiki totems. There is a large gift shop with a variety of branded items for sale, plus additional related merchandise. And the Molokai Bar is itself larger than many other tiki bars, featuring a long L-shaped bar and rain effects on the windows. Inside the bar, live music is frequently offered and the Mai-Kai girls take your orders and serve cocktails from the largest menu you’ve ever seen (literally and figuratively). The main dining room has several sections, serving food in a traditional, formal style with a junior and head waiter. The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian revue is as well-done as any Hawaiian Luau we’ve ever attended.
Food here can be expensive but we thought it was all priced according to the quality and for the service offered. The cocktails here have a mixed reputation, which we experienced ourselves. Of the four cocktails we sampled, two were amazing (Black Magic and Derby Daiquiri) and two were among the worst ever (Mai Tai and Zombie). There’s so much to see, so budget and entire evening (or two!) to see everything and to take in the incredible decor and expansive menu.
Paradise Tiki Bar And Grill
There are a million lightly themed patio bars or thatch bars that are labeled “tiki bars” in Florida. These places can be fun but don’t have much in common with traditional tiki bar style started by Don the Beachcomber. The music is maybe reggae if you’re lucky and the cocktails are “boat drinks” where the Pina Colada might be the most authentic item on the menu. Forget about getting legitimate or even passable Mai Tais.
Paradise Tiki is an example of this kind of Florida-style tiki bar, which rubs many tikiphiles the wrong way. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our visit for lunch on a Saturday. Service was friendly and the food reasonable. Located off one of Florida’s myriad canal waterways, the bar is tucked behind a boat storage facility.
A couple large iguanas roam free but despite the name I made fast friends with Godzilla.
Secret Tiki Temple
This speakeasy bar is located inside a vintage Chinese restaurant in Jacksonville. Check their website to make a reservation, after which you’ll be provided with directions and the secret word to enter. Inside you’ll see a cozy space with several seating locations that feel more like a home bar than a commercial one. A small menu of cocktails includes some classics as well as a few Secret Tiki Temple originals. Dim-sum is available and service and hospitality are noteworthy.
View the video for more details and an interview with the manager.
Strong Water Tavern
Most resort bars don’t come close to the quality of the rum collection you’ll find at Strong Water, but the bar inside the Sapphire Falls resort at Universal is the real-deal. Small bites are available and while the theming isn’t extensive, we think all rum nerds will have a great time. The cocktails are very high quality and we’ve been impressed by the staff’s willingness to experiment or go off menu. Their Mai Tai is quite good. The local Florida Rum Society meets here occasionally and despite being a bar nominally oriented to transient customers, the staff treat regulars like kings.
This very small but immersive tiki bar is located inside Tuffy’s Bottle Shop & Lounge. The cocktails are said to be the best in the state and the tiki decor is top notch thanks to local artist Typhoon Tommy. If you can get in, you’re likely to have a great time. But therein lies the rub. We’ve heard too many stories from too many people that it is often very difficult to get in (even with reservations), expectations aren’t properly set around wait times, and that staff are frequently lacking in hospitality.
This bar and seating area is adjacent to the Ohana Restaurant on the second floor of the Walt Disney World Polynesian Village Resort. The layout is much more in line with outdoor tiki bars, so not really immersive unless you count being able to hang out in the Poly’s vast lobby. The cocktail menu is completely different from Grog Grotto downstairs, and while it leans towards Disney’s standard resort cocktail menu (hello, Pina CoLava), there are a few gems. The Lapu Lapu is served in a fresh pineapple, and does have cult following among Disney Parks fans. Also of note is the “Polynesian Mai Tai” that hews close to the 1944 recipe. As hotel bars go, this one’s pretty good.
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto
Located inside the Walt Disney World Polynesian Village Resort, Grog Grotto is the second Trader Sam’s location following the Enchanted Tiki Bar at Disneyland. Inside, it’s a feast for the eyes and ears as the decor borrows from various Disney properties including the Enchanted Tiki Room, Jungle Cruise, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Many of the cocktails are common with the other Sam’s location, including the HippopotoMai-Tai, Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum, and the Shrunken Zombie Head. WDW originals include the Polynesian Pearl and the Nautilus, both offered with souvenir vessels.
The special effects inside the bar and jokes by the bartenders are dialed way up here compared to Anaheim, so the focus is often more on the show and the acting than the mixology. Unlike Anaheim, the bartenders don’t know what a 1944 Mai Tai is, and they don’t even have simple syrup to make it (not kidding). Still, most guests love the theatrics and we’ve made friends with strangers on several visits.
The bar opens at 3:00 pm and seating is limited, so arrive early if you can. Otherwise they’ll issue you a pager and call when there is space inside (this doesn’t always mean there is a seat, though). There’s a patio outside with the same menu, but inside is worth waiting for.
WaiTiki is one of several bars located inside the gated Wall Street complex in downtown Orlando. When this place opened it must have looked great. Sadly, the years have not been kind and now the artwork is either in bad shape or being overrun by sports logos and neon signs. The bar food was fine, but the “tropical” drinks were no better than the country bar next door. Walk 10 minutes to Aku Aku for a much better experience.
This elaborately themed bar at the B Ocean Resort has framed off views of water surrounding you from three sides and looks like the dark underside of a sunken ship. While aquariums are present, the focus is the large set of window behind the bar. Here you’ll experience Mermaid and Mermen shows led by Planet Earth’s leading performer in this genre, the charismatic MeduSirena – Marina the Fire-eating Mermaid. The late night shows are burlesque oriented and for adults only – and it’s a party atmosphere with a DJ, large groups, and more. There’s tiki here in the form of the cocktail menu, drinks that come in mugs, and some tikis on the wall. More nautical than true tiki, we had a great time and think you will too. Make reservations in advance and they might sit you front and center at the bar for the best views of the show.