The greatest Tiki Bars in Palm Springs and area

 Photo by Rachel Claire from Pexels

Photo by Rachel Claire from Pexels

Story by Dave Ware, PalmSpringsTraveller contributor

If you’re looking for a night out in Palm Springs and want to try something a little different, what could be better than a tiki bar?

Best Palm Springs Tiki Bars

With music you’re not already tired of, wild and wonderful cocktails, and bursting with atmosphere, tiki bars are a guaranteed night full of adventure. Set in the wonderful desert climate of Palm Springs, the combination of warn weather and tiki fun can’t be beat!

The Origin of Tiki

The tiki bar concept was created in 1933 by Ernest Gantt when he opened “Don the Beachcomber” in Hollywood, California. The bar was decorated with artifacts and knick-knacks Gantt had collected in his travels to the tropics, and Gantt offered several Rum-based cocktails. Gantt’s ex-wife managed the chain of Don The Beachcomber bars, expanding over the years. There were 25 locations at its peak, including a Palm Springs location.

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Vintage tiki bar, courtesy

After serving in World War II, Gantt moved to Hawaii and opened Waikiki Beach, a bar that embraced the island lifestyle and had a hose system that created the effect of rain falling. He also had a trained myna bird that would entertain guests calling for a beer.

A few years after Gantt opened Don The Beachcomber, Victor Bergeron created a bar in Oakland, California called Trader Vic’s. The Mai-Tai, a staple of the tiki bar, was created at Trader Vic’s in 1944. After two decades of expansion, Bergeon licensed the Trader Vic concept to the Hilton Hotel organization, leading to more significant expansion and marketing of mugs and cocktail mixes.

The tiki scene was popular from its inception until the 60’s when it started to fade in popularity. As with many trends, the tiki bar began to resurface in the ’90s and maintains its popularity to this day, with many bars being throwbacks to the original tiki bars that created the genre.

Drinks and Tiki Mugs

bootlegger tiki, best tiki bars, palm springs, palm desert, drinks, cocktail bars

Tiki mugs and glassware. Courtesy

Due to its association with island culture and seafaring, Rum is the traditional go-to for tiki cocktails. Many tiki drinks use multiple types of rum (dark, light, spiced, etc.), along with sweetened liqueurs and simple syrups. Some well-known Tiki cocktails are the Mai-Tai, Rum Punch, Three Dots and A Dash, the Zombie, and the Singapore Sling.

The drinks are often garnished with orange, pineapple, or cherries and colorful umbrellas and swizzle sticks. Occasionally, they’ll also be set on fire before serving.

Tiki drinks are typically served in a fancy tiki mug or bowl, known for their ornate design. Collectors travel long distances or scour the internet to obtain special edition mugs. They’re often tall vessels designed to look like a statue or “moai.” Tiki bars often sell their stylized mugs to customers.

Where to find the best Tiki Bars in Palm Springs

Palm Springs is home to several unique and exciting restaurants, and the tiki scene is no different. You can find different takes on the tiki scene and try out all of the feature cocktails at these Palm Springs tiki bars.

bootlegger tiki, best tiki bars, palm springs, palm desert, drinks, cocktail bars

Courtesy: Bootlegger Tiki, Palm Springs

Bootlegger Tiki

Bootlegger Tiki is a modern version of the tiki bar, offering rum cocktails with umbrellas and fruit and plenty of tiki statuary. It’s located in old Don The Beachcombers location at 110 N Palm Canyon Drive.

Best to make reservations, which you can do in a one or two-hour slot, depending on availability. They require a $30 deposit for a table, $60 for a booth. They also sell pins, baseball caps, and mugs. Bootlegger has a “tiki-to-go” service, where they’ll send a bartender to your event.  Happy hour is 3-4 pm, with $3 beers and special cocktails at $5.

Some of their drink offerings include

  • Luck Be a Lady – Mezcal, Lemonhart 151, Fernet Branca, Lime Juice, Coconut, Grapefruit Juice, Cinnamon, Orange Bitters
  • Dr. Oaxaca – Doctor Bird Jamaican Rum, Paranubes, Lime Juice, Falernum, Passionfruit, Grenadine, Celery Bitters
  • Mr. Bird –  Doctor Bird Jamaican Rum, Plantation Pineapple Rum, Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur, Lime Juice, Orange Juice, Passionfruit, Orgeat (Almond Syrup), Falernum

Bootlegger Tiki

Photo Courtesy: The Reef Palm Springs

The Reef Palm Springs

The Reef Palm Springs is located at the Historic Caliente Tropics Motel, on the site of the infamous Conga Room restaurant at 411 E Palm Canyon Road.

The Reef’s owner, Rory Snyder, created an annual event called Tiki Caliente every May in Palm Springs. He also launched “Mod Palm Springs,” which celebrates Mid Century style combined with Tiki.

There are several regular events at The Reef, including Yacht Rock Thursdays and Hemingway Hump Day ( $10 Daquiris). Happy Hour is Mon to Thurs 1-5 pm.

They offer a full menu of burgers and entrees, including Kalua pork and coconut shrimp, as well as a bar menu of snacks, including Spam Tacos. Their drink menu includes non-alcoholic cocktails. Some of their specialty drinks include

  • Elegant Bastard – Don Q Anejo Rum, Spicy-Sweet Ginger Beer, Fresh Lime Juice
  • Hot Hula Hibiscus – 100% Agave Tequila, Hibiscus Syrup, Jalapeno.
  • The Treasure of La Amadarita – Multiple Rums with grapefruit juice, honey, creme de banana, and spices. You can also buy the mug it comes in.

The Reef Palm Springs

  • 411 E Palm Canyon Rd, Palm Springs, California
  • (760) 656-3839
  • Mon- Thurs: 1 PM-9 PM
  • Friday: 1 PM-10 PM
  • Saturday: 11AM-10PM
  • Sunday: 11 AM-9 PM

bootlegger tiki, best tiki bars, palm springs, palm desert, drinks, cocktail barsTonga Hut Palm Springs

The Tonga Hut was established in Los Angeles in 1958 and is L.A.s longest-running Tiki Bar. They’ve opened a Palm Springs location that has a real old-school tiki vibe. They have a secret room hidden behind a telephone booth that can be rented for a $50 booking fee and holds up to 12 people.

They have a menu with fish sliders, pineapple fried rice, kalua pork, and a pupu platter, among other staples. No reservations are accepted, first come, first served. Some of their specialty drinks include:

    • Gin Ricky Tiki Tavi – Ford’s Gin, Falernum, Pimm’s, lemon, grapefruit, and orange juices
    • Chai-Tai – rums, chai syrup, liqueur, and citrus
    • Kraken the Dole Whip – Kraken rum and vanilla rum, macadamia nut, coconut, and pineapple.

Tonga Hut Palm Springs

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Courtesy: Toucans Tiki, Palm Springs

Toucans Tiki Lounge

Toucans Tiki Lounge is the home of the longest-running drag show in Palm Springs, and it was voted “The Desert’s Number One gay bar.”, This bar might not scratch the itch of the traditional tiki bar enthusiast, but it certainly won’t be a boring visit.

Toucans offers several live shows and events and has a Tiki Happy Hour event that features drinks like “Tiki-Colada, Tiki-Tini, Tiki-Rita, and Tiki-Sunrise”. They also have a gift shop with t-shirts and trinkets. They offer Happy Hour specials Mon, Thurs Fri from  5-7 pm.

Toucans Tiki Lounge

  • 2100 N Palm Canyon Drive Palm Springs, CA 92262
  • 760.416.7584
  • Mon 5 PM -Close
  • Tues- Wed Close
  • Thurs- Fri 5 PM -Close
  • Sat-Sun 4 PM -Close
bootlegger tiki, best tiki bars, palm springs, palm desert, drinks, cocktail bars

Courtesy: Tommy Bahama

Tommy Bahama’s Marlin Bar

While not a traditional Tiki Bar, Tommy Bahama’s Marlin Bar shares the esthetic and spirit of the tiki and the ideals of relaxing in island comfort. The decor is certainly more upscale than the standard tiki bar, adding a touch of elegance and class. They offer outside dining on their patio, with no reservations needed.

They offer tacos, sandwiches, salads, and bowls (including a Cuban Sandwich, Ahi Poke Bowl, and blackened Shrimp Taco). Happy hour is 3-6 pm daily, and they offer non-alcoholic cocktails as well. Some of their signature drinks are:

  • Cucumber Smash – Hendrick’s, St-Germain Elderflower, Lime, 13 Cucumber, Q Soda
  • Bahai Sangria –  Brandy, Red Wine, Pomegranate, Orange, 11 Green Apples
  • Pineapple Coconut Mojito – Bacardi Lime, Cruzan Coconut, 12.5 Pineapple, Lime, Mint, Q Soda

Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar

  • 111 N. Palm Canyon Drive Suite 150, Palm Springs, CA 92262
  • 760.778.0019
  • Sun-Thur: 12-8 PM
  • Fri-Sat: 12-9 PM

If you love tiki culture and collect all the kitsch, or you’re just looking for a fun, unique place to hang out in Palm Springs, try one of these amazing tiki bars on your next visit.

Dave Ware