Tiki gone mad – Travel Photo Mondays

Tiki Culture

Tiki Culture


Tiki gone mad – Travel Photo Mondays


Where have I been all these years – I had no idea that there was an active Tiki cult scene that is thriving here in the Bay Area of California. Especially with all these cool divvy bars all around Northern California. For those that are not familiar, the Tiki culture and lifestyle is simply about enjoying the good life especially with a tropical drink in hand, wonderful music in the background and a fun, tropical environment, with the typical kitschy overtones..  Those following this Tiki lifestyle are craving an escape from the busy and frenetic life that we all seem to be living lately and why not create a little escape with a tropical drink, a pupu (appetizer) party or go to your local tiki bar when the mood strikes.


Tiki icons rule these bar scenes

Tiki icons rule these bar scenes



Tiki purist believe that the trend was inspired by the 1930 to 1950 Hawaiian/Polynesian pop culture and lifestyle. Creating a fun environment of blended Polynesian kitsch with fruity drinks,  pupu appetizers and tropical décor can be appealing for a quick getaway to a fantasy world away from the mundane and boring and just fantasizing for a short time frame. The whole ensemble with bamboo, thatch and rattan mixed in with real tropical plants and sounds of a waterfall or tropical tunes make for an inviting and short getaway.

Forbidden Island bar in Alameda

Forbidden Island bar in Alameda

Forbidden Island

One of the most iconic landmark destinations is on the little quiet island of Alameda across from Oakland. The Forbidden Island is a fantasy tiki bar with all the bells and whistles that make you gawk at everything and anything once you walk into the dark cavernous rooms. Very dimly lit, you immediately notice it seems like millions of inscribed dollar bills from various ‘sailors’ that have plied to this bar to make a wish and visit someday in the future to see if they can spot their good luck charm.



Serving up some fruity drinks at Forbidden Island

Serving up some fruity drinks at Forbidden Island



Truly exotic drinks rule the menu here with locally inspired places and personalities infused into the drink menu. Even reading the menu is fun and conjures an imaginary tropical journey that describes the drink and the exotic flavors. Some of these yummy drinks include their signature Forbidden Island, Beautiful Kauai, China Clipper and zany titles like Planet of the Apes, Painkiller and Sharks tooth. The drink menu is extensive, so take your time to enjoy the menu and little stories about  the drinks. Sitting by the long bar counter is definitely a better way to enjoy the action and see the drinks being poured quickly and with visual panache.



These drinks pack a tropical punch at Forbidden Island

These drinks pack a tropical punch at Forbidden Island


Don’t forget to tack on your dollar bill greeting on the ceiling!


Dollar bill ceilings at the Forbidden Island

Dollar bill ceilings at the Forbidden Island


The Tonga Room

While in the city, I met up with a my friend the Tami to make a pilgrimage to the very grand Tonga Room at the basement of the Fairmont Hotel. Now this joint truly imbues the complete Tiki culture with ponds, waterfalls, islands and thatched waterholes throughout the expansive club. It was Happy Hour and the place was packed with tourists and a few locals that wanted to much on the yummy pupu appetizers available with a price of a tropical drink. And boy do they also come out with the classic Tiki inspired cocktails including:  Mai tais, Singapore Slings, Daiquiri, Island Margaritas and the Zombie. I opted for the Zombie which is potent: a blending of three rums, pineapple and passion fruit juice with Angostura bitters.  I had to water it down with my glass of water since the rum mixtures were just a little too intense for me to sip slowly without getting tipsy right away (I’m a light weight)


Tonga Room pool at the Fairmont Hotel

Tonga Room pool at the Fairmont Hotel




Tropical drinks at the Tonga room

Tropical drinks at the Tonga room


The pupu appetizers are extensive and costs an extra $10, so come hungry if you want to fill up on this buffet comprising typically of spicy drumsticks, egg rolls, noodle dishes and some vegetarian options. I decided to try the pupu buffet, but I would opt out of this unless you don’t mind typical pupu offerings that are fairly standard and bland.



Pupu appetizer buffet at the Tonga room

Pupu appetizer buffet at the Tonga room

There is live music that gets under way around 8pm, but since we went there at the opening (5pm), we opted from staying too long. I would recommend going to the Tonga Room around 7pmish, if you want to still get a table and watch the live performances and if you do, please tell me how it went.


Hope that you enjoyed this tour and post of Tiki gone mad for Travel Photo Mondays, if you did please do share it with any of the social media buttons on the post. Also, please do visit the other contributors for todays link up below.

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19 Responses to Tiki gone mad – Travel Photo Mondays

  1. chandrakishore February 5, 2015 at 10:25 pm #

    Awesome post. It was not only an interesting article but it offered me great tips to use in my blog! Thanks a lot!

  2. Marilyn Jones January 17, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

    How fun and interesting!! And, as always, your photo are great!!

  3. travelnwrite January 16, 2015 at 9:03 am #

    OMG! I loved this post. What a great idea, this mainland Tiki culture and lifestyle. Need to work on that in the Pacific Northwest!

  4. Muza-chan January 14, 2015 at 8:35 pm #


  5. Carole Terwilliger Meyers January 13, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

    I love tiki bars. I have been wanting to go to the Forbidden Island in Alameda forever, and I celebrated a birthday once at the Tonga Room (did you get to experience a tropical storm?). Here’s another one for you next time you’re in town–Trader Vik’s in Oakland–where you can get what they claim is the original Mai Tai (it’s yummy), some decent food, and a great bay view. http://berkeleyandbeyond.com/Northern-California/S-F-Bay-Area/Emeryville/emeryville.html

  6. Shelley January 13, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    Ahhh this brings back memories of fruity drinks and Hawaiian music. We used to have a Tiki Hut restaurant in Calgary, where we really need a tropical escape now and then!

  7. Anita @ No Particular Place To Go January 13, 2015 at 2:45 am #

    The Tiki cult scene sounds like it has the right idea – laid back and tropical with lots of good tasting drinks to try! Forbidden Island sounds like a delightful place to sample drinks and make a wish and the Tonga Room seems like a good place to get away from city life.

  8. Rhonda Albom January 13, 2015 at 12:38 am #

    Interesting and beautiful. I love the colorful photos.

  9. Life Images by Jill January 12, 2015 at 4:20 pm #

    wow looks like very vibrant night life!
    I hope to be back to Travel Photo Monday’s soon! In the meantime, thanks for stopping by my blog last week.

  10. Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru January 12, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

    We always drop in to a Tiki Bar wherever we find it! There’s one in the Schwabing District in Munich (the name of the place escapes me) that’s really hilarious. Last night here in Brisbane’s West End, we saw a little hole in the wall that’s closed on Mondays, so we’ll be returning this evening to check out how Australians do Tiki. Love it!

  11. Cindy - thetravelgal January 12, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    And I want to note that the blowfish lamp at the top of the post is really, really freaky.

  12. Cindy - thetravelgal January 12, 2015 at 10:21 am #

    Fruity rum drinks and pupu platters. Can’t think how life gets much better. . . unless they are being served under a palm tree on some tropical island!

  13. santafetraveler January 12, 2015 at 6:51 am #

    I’ve always found tikis to be a bit kitsch and a lot creepy. Wonder if this weird cult phenomena is just in San Francisco. I always avoided Trader Vic’s like the plague.

  14. Michele Peterson ( A Taste for Travel) January 12, 2015 at 5:00 am #

    What a fun post! I had no idea there was a Tiki cult scene anywhere in the world. But it looks like great fun ( those cocktails at Forbidden Island especially!)

  15. Lisa Chavis January 12, 2015 at 3:59 am #

    LOVE you Tiki photos! Who knew there was such a Tiki culture going on anywhere but the islands? This is a perfect way to start the week 🙂

  16. Rajlakshmi January 11, 2015 at 5:56 pm #

    Oh my that’s scary and interesting at the same time 😀
    the first picture is so awesome 😀 You have so much of different travel experiences.

  17. Amila January 11, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

    Interesting to know details about Tiki culture and lifestyle ,nice photographs of the place.


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