Inspiration Distant Shores, Nearby Pours: The Best Tiki Bars in the World

Distant Shores, Nearby Pours: The Best Tiki Bars in the World

January 29, 2023

From rum-fuelled pirate hideaways to galactic taprooms and heritage tiki bars that have been shaking cocktails for over a century, this is one sippin’ safari you won’t want to miss… 

Feeling thirsty? Tiki cocktails – once abandoned as a questionable cultural quirk from a time when international travel wasn’t as prevalent as it is now – have made a roaring comeback into the 21st century. Join the newly sophisticated tiki scene and be wowed by intergalactic recipes, a history-making Singapore concoction and a grandma-chic Sydney-sider staple. There’s no better time for ice, spice and a hefty pour of something nice.

Join us as we unveil some of the best tiki bars in the world and uncover an enchanting world of mind-bending recipes, unpronounceable ingredients and sips of paradise that linger merrily on the tongue.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out our guide to New York City's Best Hidden Bars & Under-the-Radar Restaurants.

The LuWow, Melbourne

The LuWow (image used with permission)

In a city famous for top-notch mixology, The LuWow stands in a league of its own. This unapologetically over-the-top oasis reinvents tiki classics in a setting that’s rich with kitsch – skeletons haunt the roof, surf vinyl oozes through the bar and leopard-spotted leather booths beckon. Don’t let the owner’s skipper’s hat fool you – decades of hard-earned experience mean the cocktail menu’s a guaranteed libation sensation. If you’re feeling peckish, the bar also serves the perfect complement to its magical concoctions: California-style tacos stuffed with flame-grilled barbacoa, slow-roasted jackfruit and more.  

Top pick: Zombie-Lu-Wow, a deadly elixir consisting of rum, cinnamon, rum, fresh grapefruit juice and more rum.  

Eager to discover Melbourne’s best sips? Stay in laneway luxury at Quincy Melbourne

Mothership, San Diego 

Discover a galaxy’s worth of flavour at Mothership, a cocktail lounge with a sci-fi twist that’s quickly rocketed into fame upon its 2022 crash landing in San Diego. Here, Roswell meets the reef – dozens of twinkling stars dot an antimatter-black ceiling, false windows peer into otherworldly landscapes and drinks are just as likely to be poured into eye-popping alien cocoons as they are collins highball glasses. Mothership’s whimsical ‘Mission Operations Directorate’ (the menu) is a delightful illustration-filled puzzle itself, filled with sumptuous vegan plates and bold cocktails showcasing exotic ingredients like fig honey, pistachio orgeat and cumquat juice, guaranteed to wet your whistle at warp speed.  

Top pick: Time Capsule, a thrilling blend of rum, brandy, gin, orange liqueur and pineapple juice, served in a ceramic bowl and best shared between two. 

Ready for California sunshine? Stay at the oceanfront San Diego Mission Bay Resort

Grandma’s Bar, Sydney 

A true Sydney hidden gem, Grandma’s Bar offers the level of warmth and hospitality of a Nanna’s hug that’s reserved for her favourite grandchild. Discover a world of knitting baskets, technicolour porcelain teacups and spaghetti-filled jaffle sandwiches – this is escapism with a generous dash of Australiana summertime nostalgia. The bar’s small menu emphasises a commitment to quality that guarantees every sip, slurp and bite is a genuine delight.  

Top pick: Peanut Butter Colada, an intoxicating blend of rum, lemon, pineapple, coconut and peanut butter. 

Ready for your Sydney escape? Enjoy five-star glamour in the heart of The Rocks at Shangri-La Sydney

Long Bar, Singapore 

Raffles Singapore’s charm, heritage and old-world ambience is legendary. In 1915, Ngiam Tong Boon, a bartender at the hotel’s prestigious Long Bar, changed cocktail history with the invention of the Singapore Sling, now the city-state’s national drink. An intoxicating, rose-hued elixir designed to masquerade as fruit juice, the Singapore Sling’s original target market was its female patrons flaunting the nation’s then-strict drinking laws. Today, Long Bar stands restored and revitalised, packing a renewed commitment to sustainable bartending while still dripping in old-world splendour. Cocktails are served amid elegant Malayan-inspired decor, opulent architecture and Singapore’s extraordinary colonial history. Wash it all down with a Sling and a grin. 

Top pick: Singapore Sling, an enchanting mix of gin, Benedictine, cherry liqueur, pineapple juice and more. 

After the perfect Singapore escape? Discover a five-star Marine Bay stay at Mandarin Oriental Singapore

Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco 

Smuggler's Cove (image used with permission)

To those in the know, Smuggler’s Cove isn’t just one of the world’s best bars – as voted by the Sunday Times London and World’s 50 Best, among others – it’s a revelation. Since opening in 2009, the bar has been at the forefront of the tropical cocktail renaissance and now works tirelessly to celebrate rum in its countless forms. A dim-lit, rope-filled ‘Age of Sail’ aesthetic pays homage to classic tiki as the menu zigzags joyously between historic pirate libations, old Havana classics and cutting-edge sips. Though always busy, Smuggler’s Cove doesn’t shy away from doing things right – even the most laborious, dozen-ingredient cocktails are painstakingly, individually handcrafted. Most excitingly, the bar features the largest rum collection in the US including bottles that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Top pick: Why not try them all? Smuggler’s Cove offers a complimentary punch card to track your sips, and a secret club for those who manage to get through the bar’s 80+ drinks. 

Looking for the ultimate San Diego escape? Stay close by this indulgent downtown escape

Mai Tai Bar, Hawaii 

Just steps from Waikiki Beach’s famed flawless sands, The Royal Hawaiian’s Mai Tai Bar offers laidback beachfront sips backed by the images of endlessly rolling Hawaiian surf. One of The Royal Hawaiian’s many claims to fame is that they invented the most enduring iteration of Trader Vic’s original ’44 Mai Tai – add a splash of fresh pineapple and orange juice, shake with spirit and garnish with a fresh orchid and you’ve got a mouthwatering Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai. This tropical escape in a glass is the perfect accompaniment to Waikiki Beach’s famous sunsets. Besides mai tais, the bar also serves a range of contemporary Hawaiian dishes and craft cocktails showcasing the state’s diverse range of local spirits. 

Top pick: Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai, a refreshing combination of local rums, fresh juices, orange curacao and orgeat, garnished with pineapple, orchids and a maraschino cherry. 

Ready to say ‘aloha!’ to your next Hawaiian escape? Stay at this stylish urban oasis, The Laylow, Autograph Collection.  

Azul Beach Club Legian, Bali 

Azul Beach Club (image used with permission)

Sweeping from Legian Beach’s iconic golden sands up to a dazzling sky-high infinity pool, Azul Beach Club is Bali’s first and finest tiki bar. Celebrating the Island of the Gods’ extraordinary local flavours, Azul’s signature cocktails are lovingly poured into glassware that’s been custom-made to complement every sip. A rotating schedule of DJ-spun events and a menu consisting of locally focused, laidback beachside bites mean that you can easily laze the day away beneath the bar’s open-air bamboo pavilion, catching the spectacular Balinese sunset as it falls. 

Top pick: The Treasure Box, a treasure trove of vodka, hibiscus and ginger punch that’s served in a pirate’s chest. 

Craving your Bali bliss? Check into the nearby Montigo Resorts, Seminyak.

Trader Vic’s, Tokyo 

When Trader Vic started mixing up a mai tai storm in 1944, he changed the cocktail scene forever – and exhausted the world’s supply of Wray & Nephew rum. Today, Trader Vic’s has locations across the globe, but its most celebrated location is in Tokyo on the fourth floor of Hotel New Otani. Sip your way through history between priceless swathes of original decor from the city’s golden age, in what is essentially a living museum of tropical mixology. Feast upon smoke-filled Chinese char siu delights, fired to perfection in the bar’s traditional wood-fire oven, matched perfectly with a free-spirited swizzle and soaring views of the hotel’s centuries-old Japanese garden. 

Top pick: Navy Grog, a mix of rums, dram liqueur, citrus, honey syrup and more. Not only is it the favourite cocktail of former US President Richard Nixon, but Trader Vic’s Tokyo is also the only bar in the world that still serves cocktails according to the original specifications.  

Featured image: Azul Beach Club (used with permission).

Dreaming of that Tokyo escape? Stay close to the action at The Okura Tokyo.

About Nate Robinson
Mad for travel and an incorrigible foodie, Nate is as at home in a Mexican taqueria as he is at Tsukiji. When he's not abroad, you can always find Nate with a book in one hand and a tiki cocktail in the other.

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