Honolulu

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

Deck (3)
150 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

House without a Key – Halekulani Hotel (4)
2199 Kalia Rd, Waikiki, HI 96815

La Mariana Sailing Club (5) 
50 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu, HI 96819

Lava Tube Waikiki (6)
2280 Kuhio Ave, Waikiki, Hawaii 96815

Mai Tai’s (7)
Ala Moana Center, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd Ste 3247, Honolulu , HI 96814

Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman Oahu (8)
92-1048 Olani St, Kapolei, HI 96707

Mai Tai Bar, Royal Hawaiian Hotel (9) 
2259 Kalakaua Ave, Waikiki, HI 96815

Skull & Crown Trading Company (10)
62 N Hotel Street, Honolulu, HI 96817

Tiki’s Grill and Bar (11)
2570 Kalakaua Ave, Waikiki, HI 96815

Tipsy Tiki (12)
International Marketplace Food Court, 2330 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

Must Sees

House without a Key – Halekulani Hotel
La Mariana Sailing Club
Mai Tai Bar, Royal Hawaiian Hotel
Skull & Crown Trading Company

Worth a Look

Arnold’s Beach Bar
Mai Tai’s
Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman Oahu
Tiki’s Grill and Bar
Tipsy Tiki

Only for Completists

Cuckoo Coconuts Waikiki
Lava Tube Waikiki

Visitors Guide

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 KōHana. 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.

House without a Key – Waikiki’s Best Mai Tai

If you like white table cloths with your cocktails, then House without a Key is your jam. 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 rep and for good reason: it’s probably the best Mai Tai in Waikiki. The drink is an interesting hybrid between a traditional 1944 recipe and the Hawaiian style. 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 many 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. 

Cocktails aren’t exactly craft-inspired, though I really loved my Island Mai Tai. 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. Current status: La Mariana has reopened with a refreshed interior by local tiki artist Gecko.

Lava Tube – At Least They’re Trying

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 might be 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 “classic attire” 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 $9 Mai Tai isn’t great, but at least is now a 1944 style.

Monkeypod Kitchen – Upscale Dining and Divisive Mai Tai

This Mai Tai was voted the best in Hawaii in numerous polls. Contains Kula organic silver and dark rums, with macadamia nut Orgeat and honey lilkoi foam. They say this one is the best. But it is not. It wasn’t even as good as the one at Arnold’s for less than half the price. I find that the foam as 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 our visit two young people were playing ukulele and it sounded wonderful.

Skull & Crown Trading Company – 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 MaiTais 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 – Best Food Court Mai Tai You’ll Ever Have

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 tribute to Donn in the treehouse near the entrance. And for sure don’t overlook the small bar in the food court all the way in the back. Tipsy Tiki (formerly The Myna Bird) features craft cocktails and is connected to La Piña Cantina just outside. We loved their Island-style Mai Tai.

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.

Honolulu and Waikiki Talk on Tiki with Ray (October 2019)

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