There are some great destinations in the Honolulu area, including some great tiki bars. Mai Tais are everywhere and most aren’t great, using too much pineapple and orange juice and low-quality rums. This list mixes commentary on the tiki bars on Oahu along with some of the better places to get a high-quality Mai Tai.
Arnold’s Beach Bar (1)
391 Saratoga Road, Waikiki, HI 96815
Cuckoo Coconuts Waikiki (2)
333 Royal Hawaiian Avenue, Waikiki, HI 96815
150 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
Hau Tree Lanai at Kaimana Beach Hotel (4)
2863 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815
Heyday at White Sands (5)
431 Nohonani St., Honolulu, Hi 96815
House without a Key – Halekulani Hotel (6)
2199 Kalia Rd, Waikiki, HI 96815
La Mariana Sailing Club (7)
50 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu, HI 96819
Lava Tube Waikiki (8)
2280 Kuhio Ave, Waikiki, Hawaii 96815
Mai Tai’s (9)
Ala Moana Center, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd Ste 3247, Honolulu , HI 96814
Monkeypod Kitchen Ko Olina (10)
92-1048 Olani St, Kapolei, HI 96707
Monkeypod Kitchen at Outrigger Reef Waikiki (11)
2169 Kalia Road, Honolulu, HI 96815
Mai Tai Bar, Royal Hawaiian Hotel (12)
2259 Kalakaua Ave, Waikiki, HI 96815
Skull & Crown Trading Co. (13)
62 N Hotel Street, Honolulu, HI 96817
Tiki’s Grill and Bar (14)
2570 Kalakaua Ave, Waikiki, HI 96815
Tipsy Tiki (15)
International Marketplace Food Court, 2330 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
Hau Tree Lanai
House without a Key – Halekulani Hotel
La Mariana Sailing Club
Mai Tai Bar, Royal Hawaiian Hotel
Skull & Crown Trading Co.
Worth a Look
Arnold’s Beach Bar
Tiki’s Grill and Bar
Only for Completists
Cuckoo Coconuts Waikiki
Lava Tube Waikiki
Arnold’s – Waikiki’s Best Tiki Dive Bar
There are a number of truly lousy “tiki bars” in Waikiki, appealing to the tourists looking for overly sweet drinks with plenty of booze. Some of these (Cuckoo Coconuts, Lava Lounge) aren’t worth visiting, but Arnold’s Beach Bar is a step above and demands attention. There a number of well designed tikis here, and the venue’s layout makes things feel cozy and friendly, even though the place is largely open air. Drinks here lean towards beers and traditional tourist cocktails, though I found their $10 Island Mai Tai to be quite good.
Cuckoo Coconuts Waikiki – Waikiki’s Strangest Tiki Bar
Do you love giant tikis made out of fiberglass? If so, this is your place. My Mai Tai was truly awful, served with a round slice of pineapple. Their website says it best: “Hawaii may not be the birthplace of the tiki tradition and Cuckoo Coconuts Waikiki may not be following the rules of Tiki traditions (Plastic cups, really?). Some may turn up their noses at our fun loving interpretation and approach to the culture of aloha and tiki, but what better place to drink a Freaky Tiki rum cocktail than Hawaii? We’ve got the beaches, the tropical weather, and the swaying palm trees. We’ve also got laws, rules, regulations, inspectors, landlords and vendors who insist how we have to operate (Plastic cups, REALLY!).”
Deck – Superior Mai Tai and Pool Deck Views
Deck is a restaurant and bar located at the far end of Waikiki on the 3rd floor pool deck at the Queen Kapiʻolani Hotel. This was around the corner from Tiki’s and proved to be an elevated cocktail experience with great views of Kapi’olani Park. The Mai Tai is a ’44 made with three rums from local favorites Kō Hana. This superior Mai Tai allowed the rum blend to shine brightly and lets you savor the unique taste of these Hawaiian Agricole rums. Really great.
Hau Tree Lanai – Elegant Beachfront Dining
We’ve loved this location ever since we first visited in the 1990s to see Arthur Lyman play solo performances at lunchtime. Today, this open air restaurant is just steps from the beach and still serves great food with a formidable Mai Tai. We loved our brunch, including the Ube Cinnamon Roll. Mornings are recommended as you’ll be in the shade of the Kaimana Hotel tower
Heyday – Fun Pool Bar in Central Waikiki
The retro vibes of the White Sands Hotel include a delightful bar adjacent to the pool called Heyday. You’ll find some inspired cocktail options include a really good 1944 Mai Tai. Most of the bar’s seating is in swings, which looks great on Instagram but is less practical than you might think. There are a few traditional bar stools on the back side near some nice water features and tikis. We found this to be a fun place to hang out even if you’re not staying at the hotel. White Sands also has a new speakeasy style entrance for the Green Lady Bar, open evenings. Look for door number 8.
House without a Key – Historically Great Mai Tai
Elegance and sophistication is the hallmark of House without a Key. Right out in the back of the hotel facing the ocean, it’s a wonderful place to sip their amazing Mai Tai. The Halekulani Mai Tai has a great reputation over the years. This is similar to the original Hawaiian Mai Tai (sans pineapple juice) and the float of Lemon Hart 151 really adds a lot of flavor. I like the presentation with the sugar cane stick too. Service here was spot on and they have live music and hula dancing most nights. If you can’t score a reservation, ask if seating is available at the pool bar. One of the highlights of any trip to Oahu.
La Mariana Sailing Club – Hawaii’s Oldest Tiki Bar, with a New Lease on Life
La Mariana. Perhaps you’ve seen it on recent seasons of Magnum P.I. The show wasn’t really filming there, but the bar on the show is inspired by the actual restaurant and bar that’s been serving customers since 1955. Functioning as an actual marina, La Mariana is located off the beaten path near Keehi Lagoon. You’d never just run into this place, which makes the effort to get here so worthwhile. This is truly a special place, incorporating decor and artwork from the tiki bars of yesteryear including Trader Vic’s and Don the Beachcomber. The interior of the venue was refreshed recently by local tiki artist Gecko.
Cocktails aren’t exactly craft-inspired, and it seems even the Island Mai Tai is no longer even average. Food and service are family friendly and there is music here on some days (I saw IntoxiKA play here, what a treat!). La Mariana made news a couple years ago due to uncertainty over their lease. Thankfully, an arrangement was made and a new 20 year lease was signed in 2019.
Lava Tube – At Least They’re Trying a Little
Generally forgettable, serving a cheap mango-forward Mai Tai, at least Lava Tube has some special effects and indoor seating to provide at least a little bit of a traditional dark tiki bar. This is affiliated with Cuckoo Coconuts (not in a good way), but the staff here was friendly and seemed to be more locals oriented. They seem to have a little bit of everything on the food menu, so this might be a good spot to try some affordable Loco Moco or a Lau Lau Plate. The lava effects are not great, but at least they tried.
Mai Tai Bar – Best Beach Views
Today you can get the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai and also a 1944 Trader Vic’s Mai Tai at the outdoor bar and restaurant. Beach and Diamond Head views are amazing here, and this is basically hallowed sand in terms of Waikiki tourism. Literally ground zero for where the Mai Tai became world famous. Service here is efficient and friendly, though the cocktails are free poured and the quality will vary. On our last trip we were surprised how much we preferred the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai over the 1944. Perhaps the view had something to do with it.
Mai Tai’s – Party Bar at Ala Moana Center
Mai Tai’s at the Ala Moana Center is reimagining of the old Mai Tai Bar that was in this location for decades, complete with DJs/local musicians playing live music, plus the same “dress code” for the comely waitresses. That’s me in a photo, circa 1999.
When Mai Tai’s reopened under new management it was originally called Makai Bar, but they quickly rebranded to a more familiar name. Mai Tai’s is on the upper floor or Ala Moana Center and is a great place to unwind after shopping. Their $11 Mai Tai isn’t great, but at least is now offers a 1944 style along with an Island Mai Tai.
Monkeypod Kitchen – Upscale Dining and Divisive Mai Tai
This Mai Tai was voted the best in Hawaii in numerous polls. It contains Kula organic silver and dark rums, with macadamia nut Orgeat and honey lilkoi foam. They say this one is the best but the foam on top can be devisive. I find that the foam adds too much tartness, and the rums aren’t stellar, but I liked it better in a recent trip than on my previous visit. The food program here is much better and perhaps worth the drive out to Ko Olina and fighting the crowd (making a reservation is recommended). Definitely a nice relaxing tropical vibe here. On one visit two young people were playing ukulele and it sounded wonderful.
There is now another location in Waikiki at the Outrigger Reef Hotel with wonderful ocean views.
Skull & Crown Trading Co. – Tiki Meets Vintage Hawaiiana
What if a tiki bar opened in Honolulu’s Chinatown in 1920 and rather than closing instead continued on to present day. Well, the Skull & Crown is a close approximation. This craft cocktail bar and restaurant opened in 2019 and truly represents a fully immersive tiki experience. Their cocktail program is top notch, including three different Mai Tais on their menu. We preferred the 1944 style Maunakea Mai Tai that uses three rums. There are some truly antique artifacts on display, providing a Hawaiian twist on traditional tiki bar decor. Best of all, the place feels perfectly sized to be the kind of place that would be your neighborhood bar if you lived nearby. Staff here is friendly and efficient, and don’t overlook the lush garden out back. This is truly one of the best tiki bars I’ve ever visited.
Tiki’s Grill and Bar – Family Style Restaurant
This is a family style restaurant and tiki bar that is definitely in the “tiki tourist” mode, though you could do far worse than the second level views of Waikiki Beach. They’re doing some things right, like serving a 1944 Mai Tai. But that Mai Tai is served in a pint glass, so… The interior is currently undergoing renovation but the lava rock and red paint do provide an interesting design. Reviews on Yelp are mixed but leaning positive.
Tipsy Tiki – Another Regression, Sadly
The International Marketplace that Don the Beachcomber launched in the 1950s is no longer there, replaced a few years ago by an upscale mall (to compete with all the other upscale malls in Waikiki). Be sure to check out the Don the Beachcomber tribute in the treehouse near the entrance. There is a small bar in the food court all the way in the back. Tipsy Tiki (formerly The Myna Bird craft cocktail bar) features cocktails from the adjacent La Piña Cantina cantina, so unfortunately they no longer have a craft/tiki cocktail menu. Our bartender was able to whip up an off-menu Island Mai Tai that was pretty decent and he went out of his way to garnish with an orchid, too. It is too bad this place can’t keep its footing as a craft cocktail location.
A better cocktail option at the International Market Place for the rest of 2023 is the Skull & Crown Trading Co. popup at Donn’s Treehouse on Fridays and Saturdays. The drinks are great and relaxing under the historic banyan tree is quite a delight.
Gone but not Forgotten
Wiki Waki Woo Tropical Bar – Tiki Speakeasy
Eyebrows were raised when this place landed in a list of highest reviewed tiki bars on Yelp, but it was indeed worth the hype. Located on the second floor of the Home of the Brave World War II museum (909 Waimanu Street, Honolulu), the Wiki Waki Woo was a cozy extension of the museum that served tropical drinks and even hosted trivia contests. Our bartender was dressed in a vintage military uniform and this place felt like it could have been an Officer’s Club in 1943. Note that this was truly a speakeasy – you’d need knock on the door in Morse code and flash a special hand signal. Hint: fans of Don the Beachcomber’s WWII inspired cocktail may not even need to search the internet for the special knock.
Sadly, the Wiki Waki Woo closed in late December 2019 due to economic impacts including a location that lacked any sort of parking. The team is looking to possibly relocate but for now we’ve lost a unique destination that really stood out as being interesting and different. Another reminder that if you want to visit a place – then visit it. Patronize it. Tell your friends about it. And then patronize it again and again, before it’s lost.